WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 Review «

WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 vs. TNA Impact! is a total squash match: THQ’s annual grappler makes Midway’s debut competitor look like a curtain-jerk jobber. The win’s well deserved, too — SVR09 is by far the best game in the series. OK, I know, that should be as obvious as a screwup from Raw general manager Mike Adamle, but it’s well known that THQ has been slow to fix the nagging complaints that have been tearing up Smackdown’s tights: piss-break-long load times, wonky animations, and ho-hum story modes. Well, this year THQ patched up all of its problems to create an awesome package any fan will surely want to grab.

The first thing you’ll notice when you boot up SVR09 is the surprising lack of load times. Past games in the series were severely plagued with waits so painfully long that it felt like you were watching a Great Khali Iron Man match. Thankfully, things are a lot quicker now. Developer Yuke’s has also put some much-needed grease on the game’s animation system, which leads to Superstars that actually move around (somewhat) realistically. I still noticed a few instances where my chosen wrestler sauntered around like a ring-smart robot, but compared to last year’s game, the Superstars definitely aren’t as rusty.

Click the image above to check out all the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 screens.

The best improvement is by far the revamped story mode entitled “Road to WrestleMania.” Last year’s career mode, while ambitious, was a complete mess. So to keep things simple, THQ opted to focus on a few popular Superstars. While it’s a bummer that only seven fan-favorite grapplers made the cut (sorry, Jimmy Wang Yang fans), the storylines for the top-carders are almost WWE-quality. Seriously, I’ve never been so compelled to play through the story mode in a SmackDown game. The variety helped fuel the addiction, as each Superstar’s path to WrestleMania is unique enough to warrant playing through different storylines. The presentation is superslick, too: You start out a few months away from WrestleMania and work your way up to the main event of the WWE’s flagship show. Along the way, you grapple dudes each night on either Raw, SmackDown, or ECW. But instead of focusing on the whole show, the game only concentrates on your selected Superstar. And to that effect, it feels like you’re actually watching a WWE broadcast; the announcers actually focus on your storyline during matches, and each bout ends with your respective brand logo signifying the end of the broadcast. For grapple gurus like myself, it’s great fan service. And each wrestler’s angle is different enough to keep you coming back to the ring. For instance, in Chris Jericho’s storyline, a mysterious masked man (no, it’s not Rey Mysterio!) is keeping him from winning the WWE title. So, along the way to WrestleMania, you receive the option to interrogate various suspects to figure out the identity of the costumed bully. And even though I’m insanely smart and easily guessed the identity of the perpetrator (remember, I reviewed Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir), I can’t deny that I was hooked the entire time.

Along with the variety, the occasional bonus stipulation keeps matches fresh. These optional tasks (ranging from using a submission to win to pinning your opponent in a certain amount of time) are not only fun to do but also reward you with unlockables.

Click the image above to check out all the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 screens.

If you’re not sold by these few necessary improvements, then you’ll surely mark out for these innovative new features: create-a-finisher and WWE Highlight Reel movie creator. The former is self-explanatory (you, uh, create your own finishers), and the latter lets you record in-game clips and cut ’em up for all your friends to see. And when I say cut ’em up, I’m serious: The video-editing tool in the WWE Highlight Reel mode gives you a ridiculous amount of options to fool around with. Hell, you can even create a DVD box for your little clip. And you thought you’d be spending all your time in the create-a-wrestler mode….

To all the SmackDown haters out there: If you’re going to jump back in the ring, this is the year to do it. Both of these exciting new additions, along with the aforementioned improvements — and the upcoming downloadable content — make SVR09 this year’s grapple-game champ.


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