Before the age of the PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, there was a game which I had much love for. Of course, we now have access to the latest consoles and accessories, such as my favorite, the PS4 arcade stick, which games this type of game awesome. Let’s now go back in time and review a classic: Smackdown! 2005.
If you’d asked me last November which of 2005’s sequels I would predict to be “Most Improved”, THQ’s Smackdown! series wouldn’t have even come into my mind. It seems that every year, the series doesn’t get any better and when the developers do listen to the fans, they put one or two requested features in at the expense of several other more important ones. This year is different. Let me just explain that our review copy of the game came with a seven-page A4 manual which just laid out the differences between SvR2006 and the prequel. Given that most sequels usually manage to detail every single improvement on the back of the new game’s DVD case, this is impressive.
So, let’s ring the changes. The most noticeable difference for the single player is the massively improved season mode. Noticeable on the PS2. Storylines that rival the real-life shows for action and drama are on display here, along with a somewhat unfortunately themed set of plot twists featuring The Undertaker and the now late Eddie Guerrero. Still, that couldn’t be helped. Also of note is the quality of the wrestler’s vocal acting this time around. Last year, everyone seemed to be as wooden as could be, but a noticeable improvement is clear to see here. The ability to give your created characters one of a selection of different voice types is a bonus too – especially when you see your creation in the season mode’s cut scenes, talking it up with just as many lines as the superstars of the WWE.
The “create-a-wrestler” mode doesn’t seem to have seen any improvements in the usability stakes though, and scrolling through the available creation pieces is just as slow and annoying as it was before. This is simply because every time you highlight a new piece, the game instantly shows you a preview on the right-hand side. I know that I’m not going to choose the blonde pigtails as my 6ft 4ins, 300-lbs wrestler’s new haircut, so why force me to wait so that I can see what it looks like? I was particularly pleased with the addition of “Ken” and other regular names to the list that the ring announcer can introduce your creation with, too. About time, I say.
In the ring, Smackdown! vs. Raw 2006 features some grand new innovations that really set it apart from the rest. A new momentum system runs through the entire game, giving it a completely different feel. Things such as kicking out of a pin on the two count as a “clean” fighter against a fan-hating “dirty” opponent causes your momentum bar to shoot up, which eventually allows you to perform your finishing move, should you fill it. If you don’t want to pull off that finisher now, you can store it by pressing both of the left-hand shoulder buttons together. Only one finisher can be stored, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see Triple H hitting the “Pedigree” five times in a row as you would have before. Also, hitting those finishing moves whilst you have a full momentum bar causes more damage to your opponent than if the bar was half-full. A “stamina” system similar to the one that was in the GameCube’s Day of Reckoning 2 has also been added. Run around the ring like a madman, missing punches and diving over the ropes unsuccessfully will tire your character out, and they then won’t be able to do anything until they’ve rested up for a little while. Stamina can be regained by holding down the “select” button, but you can’t be doing anything at all whilst this is going on – so the game suddenly becomes very tactical on this level, causing you to pick your spots carefully.
New minigames take place during the action, on top of the initial opening move minigame that was present last year. Beating your opponent down until his head is “yellow” on the damage meter allows you to initiate a sleeper-style submission minigame, where you lock the move in and wait for him to – ahem – go limp, so to speak. The referee steps in and raises your semi-conscious enemy’s arm to see if it’ll drop, or if he’ll hold the arm up of his own free will and continue to fight. Your opponent must press the “X” button as a dropping ball passes through a highlighted area on the screen to fight back, or he’ll be declared unable to fight. You get three chances, so you have a fair shot. The same system comes into play for some other submission moves too, with the addition of a “reverse” area that – if you stop the cursor in it – causes you to reverse the hold.
Of the new match types, the “Buried Alive” match is the highlight, with the objective being to force your opponent into a coffin, with the winner only being declared when the lid is closed. Again, a minigame determines whether or not the lid will shut fully, or whether you’ll force it open again in the nick of time. The addition of a “General Manager” mode will while away a few hours too, as you take over either Raw or Smackdown! and are put in charge of finances, booking talent, starting rivalries and the like. It isn’t perfect or massively details, but it’ll certainly do as a first attempt.
I hope this game review was able to take you back in time. This game will remain a classic in my collection. How about you? Be sure to let me know!