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WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW PlayStation 2

Published by THQ
Developed by Yuke's Co., Ltd
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Another year, another wrestling game that doesn't differ wildly from the last one. The PlayStation has had a continuous stream of wrestling titles since it was first launched and whilst there have been slight improvements here and there, you can't help but feel that the incremental changes are only appealing to fans of wrestling rather than the general public. WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW is one of the best wrestling games on the PlayStation 2 to date but it doesn't offer any major improvements upon what's gone before.

New features include the addition of superstar voice overs and commentary which right away is useless for deaf gamers. An all new season mode has been included as has the ability to create PPV events and championships. Online play has been included too and if you're one of the few who uses their PlayStation 2 online this might appeal. However with only a Single match as an option it feels like a last minute addition. A parking lot brawl option has been added and the Bra and Panties mode has been improved but these do little to make up for the fact that WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW features around a dozen less wrestlers than WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain. The wrestling itself is quite impressive and new grapple mechanics as well as some new controls have been included along with a few mini-games such as Test of Strength have been added. You'll also see meters appear for shoving and spanking contests etc.

Modes include a Create Mode which allows you to create your own WWE superstar, create a move set and create a stable. The process of creating your own wrestler is a deep and satisfying one. You'll get to pick your tactics (clean or dirty), choose your fan logos, decide on moves and the frequency with which you'll use them and then it's off to create your wrestler and there's options for just about everything you can think of. Other modes are Exhibition, Season, PPV Mode and online. Season mode has been improved with more surprise events than in previous games and it's quite enjoyable. You can choose to begin with a wrestlers original statistics or start from scratch and develop them yourself, if you want to. The PPV Mode allows you to create a PPV or Championship that you and your friends can participate in and again it's a welcome feature but hardly a selling point.

Graphically I think the wrestling games have hit a ceiling on the PlayStation 2. The game claims to have updated graphics but in all honesty you'd do well to spot differences between this and the previous version. To be fair to Yuke's though I can't see how the game can look any better on the PlayStation 2. It's not the only games series where graphical improvements have been really small this year. In fact most games that are released on an annual basis have offered little in terms of visual improvements. Maybe the next jump in graphical quality is going to need the PlayStation 3 for it to be possible. The wrestlers still don't animate as well as they could in my opinion but the animations are as good as in any other wrestling title to date and the loading times have been kept respectable.

The commentary in WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW isn't subtitled, as you've probably guessed already. The speech on the games introduction isn't subtitled either. The season mode, by default isn't subtitled but there is the option to enable subtitles (called captions in this game) so you'll be able to enjoy the banter that occurs between fights. The announcer comments that are given on the entrances are not subtitled though and although this doesn't really spoil anything it would have been a nice touch had they been subtitled. Countdowns and other decisions during a fight, such as 'Rope Break' etc., are given in text. In every other respect the game is fine for deaf gamers with all other information being given in text.

Don't get us wrong WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW is a great wrestling title but the chances are unless you're a wrestling enthusiast you're going to feel disappointed that more changes haven't been made. If this is the first wrestling game you've seen on the PlayStation 2 you'll think it's excellent and if you are in that position it's definitely one of the wrestling titles that I'd recommend. Although with WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain at only £19.99 that might prove to be the better choice as it has more wrestlers. It's only when you compare it with previous titles that you can see what little progress has been made over the years. Essentially there's little to moan about, (because there's not much wrong) but there's also little to get excited about (because there's nothing wildly different here).

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10
Taken in isolation WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW is a great wrestling title. However if you've been buying the yearly versions of the WWE games you might feel that it could have been quite a bit better.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No real problems except for the commentary not being subtitled.