Reviewed: January 11, 2009
Released: November 9, 2008
WWE is a world-renowned professional wrestling organization that delivers the best in sports entertainment to the masses. The WWE (formerly WWF) started releasing video games to promote their company back on the original NES console, and since have built their games into an annual juggernaut. The SmackDown vs. Raw series began on the PS2 with the self titled release. Later it was followed by several sequels including SmackDown vs. Raw 2006, 2007, 2008, and the latest version, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009. 2009 is the second installment for the PlayStation 3.
Each year SmackDown builds upon itself in a similar fashion to other sports franchises, keep what works, and improve upon anything that there was a complaint about. The goal is simple, achieve the best possible simulation for your fans to enjoy.
SmackDown brings many changes from the 2008 version. The minor adjustments are the obvious roster changes and updates, new authentic backstage areas, new match types, new tag team moves, and a Create-a-Finisher mode. The more major adjustments come in the gameplay and the options given to the player.
The adjustments to weapon variety, weapon attacks, and environment usage were pretty substantial in this release, giving players the ability to manipulate the objects and place them in several situations to achieve maximum carnage. Also added were character abilities that allow you to fully utilize a player to his/her best talents. Each character has 6 Fighting Abilities, such as the Hammer Throw in which you can toss an opponent out of the ring by using a strong Irish whip.
Adjustments made to the AI were also quite drastic. The ability for players to control sliders to adjust the AIís thinking is a major step towards realism. This also comes in handy with the new Tag-Team Explosion. The improved AI also allows your tag partner to assist you in pulling off some of the most devastating tag-team moves ever.
WWE has been a frontrunner in professional wrestling for years, and to maintain their dominance the company must constantly have its wheels turning. This year the game includes an all-new Inferno match in which the ring is surrounded by fire. The winner is the wrestler that first throws his opponent into the fire. Coming up with new and exciting match types is something to keep all fans coming back each year, and the Inferno match is well worth the hype.
Also added for 2009 was the Road To Wrestlemania mode. This story based mode allows a player to take part in one of 7 different storylines. Chris Jericho, Triple H, the Undertaker, CM Punk, John Cena, and Rey Mysterio/Batistia all have angles that are unique to their own stories thanks to original voiceovers, branching storylines, cutscenes, and more.
With over 60 characters and 14 one-on-one match options SmackDown really brings a lot to the table. Create-a Superstar mode allows you to add your own personal twist to the action. Creating your players can be an long and arduous process, or as simple as pressing a few buttons, depending on how in depth you are willing to go. Once you create a new superstar, you can also customize his finishing move in the new Create-a-Finisher mode and his entire entrance, including the option to add your own custom music for him to enter too. With create-a-finisher mode, step by step you can determine what you Superstar does to end his victimís time in the ring.
After creating the ultimate move of destruction, you can put it to use in the Career mode to build your players attributes and get him ready to challenge for a title. Another great feature added to the 360 version is the Highlight Reel, which allows you to save your characters greatest moments to share with friends. Did you pull a vicious body slam off the Hell in the Cell? Moonsault off a ladder to smash an opponent through a table? If so, just simply save the replay and let your friends marvel at how hardcore you are!
SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 is a standard PS3 game in terms of graphics. As common with wrestling games there are several graphical glitches and inconsistencies, but overall itís a solid release. Smackdown doesnít seem like a major step from its predecessor from 08 as far as graphical output, but the hardcore wrestling fan wonít mind much due to the added content. Offering only 720p output could be the reason why the game doesnít look as good as you would hope. Hopefully, WWE will make the jump to true HD in the upcoming years.
Sound is always an area of concern for me with sports games. The ridiculously repetitive announcers always annoy me behind belief. Unfortunately, SvR 09 is no different. The soundtrack is solid and keeps the menus fresh, but the in-match sounds are destroyed by the constant jabbering of the announcers, whom you will most likely want to murder after playing a few games.
SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 is a solid release for wrestling fans to enjoy, but for the casual gamer thinking about purchasing a new copy, it would probably be better advised to wait to find a used copy or to save the extra dough and get a cheap copy of 2008. The upgrades are nice, but not enough to warrant the extra cost from the 2008 version used. The game offers some decent replay value in multiplayer situations, but the single player modes will become repetitive soon after you complete your first Road to Wrestlemania. Even the extra add in of the Wrestlemania XXIV main event between Edge and Undertaker isnít enough to sway my decision. Unfortunately, there just wasnít enough to really make me think the $60 price tag was suitable.