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THE GAME ZONE!

Welcome to The Game Zone! Here, The Staff will look at Varying Wrestling Video Games, past and present, providing  reviews, tips & create-a-wrestlers;(if applicable)

 
 
 
 

Game Zone Review:

 WWE SmackDown Vs. RAW

It actually takes a lot to pull my big ass from a computer these days, but one thing that has always managed to make me break my self-imposed “No Effort Policy” has been a quality video game; and as far as wrestling titles go, few have been as consistently excellent as the SmackDown series from THQ.

It seems like every year at this time, the good people at THQ release a SmackDown title, with each usually improving on the previous versions shortcomings. (for example the strange body types in the original game featuring an apparently anorexic Kane, not to mention a nine foot, seemingly pigment free blockish blob that was for intents and purposes supposed to be Test.)

All in all, this has probably been the most celebrated wrestling franchise ever. And for good reason: it brought us, John Q. Fatbody, from a world of digital wrestlers with baseball mits for hands, whom walk like they’ve been constipated for 5 years, that much closer to actually being in the middle of the action. Hell, any closer and you’d be hearing from Triple H why you aren’t ready for that main event “push”.

So, with all this said, as you can imagine I was out there as fast as my weary body could carry me when this badboy hit the shelves. And all in all, I have to say it’s definitely worth the money. BUT, with that said, there is still room for improvement.

Gameplay Modification and Selling features:

Where as “Here Comes The Pain” pretty much changed the way the grappling system had worked in the previous titles, very little of what you can do in the ring has changed in this version as far how to pull off basic maneuvers. (For first timers to this particular engine, please read my HCTP review here) However, there are several new tweaks that need to be mentioned. First of all is the addition of pre-match min-games liker stare-downs, that will test you from everything from shoving your opponent to getting off the first strike, plus much more. Also, as in real wrestling, you can now take your opponent to the corner and light his ass up with chops that would make The Nature Boy cream his powder blue trunks in envy. From there, they’ve even upgraded the bra and panties match to include “spanking” your opposition (which I’m sure the ladies will just love) before stripping them down to their unmentionables. And for the record, good luck explaining why you spend more time attempting to pull the polygonal panties off Torrie Wilson than you do making love to your “real” girlfriend. (Hey, maybe you should try spanking her!)

Anyway, another cool addition is the implementation of the dirty/clean meter, and I’m not talking about your disgusting hygiene, cowboy. This new function simply allows you to choose either a squeaky clean disposition, or that of an evil “heel”, and based on how many honorable/sneaky things you do in the confines of the match, the meter will grow until full, and at that point you’ll either be able to become invulnerable to pain ala The Hulkster or deliver a bevy of tasteless tactics including the super low-blow, which does the damage of a finisher in this state.

Another major change, and it’s quite significant, is the Royal Rumble. Where as before you simply had to Irish-whip your opponent in the ropes direction, then tip him out, now, each competitor is equipped with a Rumble meter, and can’t *officially* be eliminated until its completely exhausted. However, the manner in which they’re pitched out is still the same, the only difference is now you’ll have to lay a beating on them as the stand on the ring apron. This is both good and bad in my opinion. Good in that it limits you accidentally being bumped from the ring during the fracas and bad that now you can no longer eliminate your foes at a rapid-fire pace.

Now, where the game has taken a significant turn is that TWO new create-a-functions have been added. Create-a-belt and Create-a-PPV. And while most people can remember a similar ppv mode in SmackDown 2 for original PS, the real treat is the belt mode, in which you fashion your own custom title from a slew of discarded belt parts (including the ORIGINAL Intercontinental belt~!) and name your title whatever your little heart desires. From there, you can “defend” your title in the PPV mode, and with each victory, your belt becomes more valuable. Also, at any time, you can sell you belt back to Shopzone for cash. (However, much like the real world, you won’t get nearly the price you paid for it). All in all, it’s a cool little function and a treat for those of you who always dreamt of adorning your ridiculously over made CAW with a title belt of his very own.

Yet another change in format is the Season Mode, with true life voiceovers in lieu of the old dialogue caption boxes. However, as amusing as it is, the audio itself sounds as if it was recorded in a cavern. Also lackluster, is while certain stars come across naturally, others are as wooden as a medieval dildo, as it’s really obvious A LOT of the talent read directly from cue cards. One such voice was that of Batista, whose voiceover was SO monotone and emotionless it hypnotized me and when I awoke I was naked and alone, having no idea where I was (Ok, maybe I’m making that last part up)

And finally, there’s the online feature, arguably the most anticipated option of this game. However, as highly touted as it was, there are several draw backs. The Bad news is you are only able to compete in regular singles, or bra and panties matches. All other modes and gimmick matches are not available online. The good news? You can bring your CAW (create-a-wrestler) online and match him up with other people around the globe. (Although there are no statistics or official championships) Anyway, with this addition you can finally find out if your poorly constructed mess of a player has what it takes to be the best in the world.

You can also communicate through a keyboard pad to talk trash, although it would’ve been much better if a headphone set like Xbox was employed, that way some poor hapless sonbitch abroad can hear you talkin’ trash in real time (I find that talking in a loud abrasive “Jim Ross” voice during play tends to throw people off, especially if its unrelenting. “I promise you it’s over!!!! Good Gawd all mighty, they killed him!!!”, etc.)

Graphics and Characters:

The first complaint I have on this game is the most obvious: The poor choice of the final roster. With the company departure of mega-stars like Steve Austin, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar earlier this year, the playable roster was left thinner than that one Olsen twin. And as much as I dream of taking Chuck Palumbo to unspeakable glory, I have to say I miss the depth of the previous roster. I mean, it’s obvious that people like Eugene and Gene Snitsky would be absent from the game as it was likely finalized just past Wrestlemania. However, there are several noticeable absences here including La Resistance whom as tag team champions for basically the last 6 months, should have had seniority over say Garrison Cade whom unless your last name is “Cade” I can’t imagine too many people taking an interest in.

One positive though, is that after FIVE LONG YEARS, they have finally realistically captured the visage of Edge who unfortunately for the past half decade was animated to resemble a woman suffering from severe Down syndrome. However, the aforementioned Garrison Cade takes this year’s honors in the “What the fuck is with that face” award for looking like he opened the Ark of the Covenant before he came through the curtain. Also somewhat disturbing is the face of Shawn Michaels in this game who’s animation leads you to believe he has been decomposing underwater for the last 14 months. However, in his defense, they did at least realistically capture his receding Dutch boy.

Another huge anticipation was that of the legends, particularly that of Bret Hart who to THQ’s credit has been flawlessly designed, given his REAL ring entrance and even comes out to his WWF theme song. Hell, he can even compete at Survivor Series again... and all without completely mentally self-destructing! (just kidding) The other legends included are the LOD with full intro & theme, Andre the Giant, Roddy Piper with kilt and bag pipe theme, and Brutus Beefcake who is not accompanied by a duffle bag full of anthrax as I had hoped. Also featured are The Rock, Mankind, “masked Kane” (lazy bastards) Original 1991-look Undertaker, and finally, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, who despite my best efforts can’t get high in the game and kill his girlfriend. All kidding aside, I find myself actually more into the prospect of the legends of this game than the standard roster, and secretly hope they create a video game featuring only legends (or at the very least comprising half. A WWF vs. WWE game would RULE.)

Another great thing about the legends is that they’ve done away with those silly ring carts, which while a nostalgic visual, tended to take away from the seriousness of the characters. For example Original Taker tends to be slightly less intimidating when he can’t make it to the ring on his own power.

As far as the CAW’s (create-a-wrestler) go, it takes some getting used to. For one, THQ has done away with the face templates from the previous two games in favor of allowing you to fashion your own facial features from scratch. And while this wouldn’t matter to those who make their characters from the bottom up, it makes duplicating stars like Curt Hennig and others a lot harder as their pre-made facial templates are no longer there to choose from.

One thing they did improve on though is the build of the wrestlers itself, who now look more realistic is stature than say the previous disproportioned anime-like builds that most CAWs have had.

The other bonus here is that there are many new entrances and themes to choose from including “real” songs like Bring The Noise by Public Enemy that brought back memories for me of my junior year in High school, wearing baggy pants and saying “G” a lot. I was a sad, sad man.

Anyway, with all this said, here is the full roster of talent:

Wrestlers:

  A-Train

  Garrison Cade

  Rico

  Batista

  Hardcore Holly

  Rob Van Dam

  The Big Show

  J.B.L

  Sable

  Booker T

  John Cena

  Scotty 2 Hotty

  Bubba Ray Dudley

  Kane

  Shawn Michaels

  Charlie Haas

  Kurt Angle

  Shelton Benjamin

  Chavo Guerrero

  Mark Jindrak

  Stacy Kiebler

  Chris Benoit

  Matt Hardy

  Tajiri

  Chris Jericho

  Molly Holly

  Torrie Wilson

  Christian

  Randy Orton

  Triple H

  Chuck Palumbo

  Rene Dupree

  Trish Stratus

  D-Von Dudley

  Rey Mysterio

  Undertaker

  Eddie Guerrero

  Rhyno

  Victoria

  Edge

  Ric Flair

Legend Wrestlers:

  Andre The Giant

  Hawk

  Mankind

  Animal

  Jimmy Snuka

  The Rock

  Bret Hart

  Legend Kane

  Roddy Piper

  Brutus Beefcake

  Legend Undertaker

 

Non-Playable Characters (NPC):

  Earl Hebner

  Jonathan Coachman

  Tazz

  Eric Bischoff

  Michael Cole

  Vince McMahon

  Jerry Lawler

  Mike Chioda

  Jim Ross

  Paul Heyman

Gameplay

If anything, SmackDown Vs. Raw even exceeds Here Comes the Pain for quality of play. The flow of the game seems even more realistic as to what you’d actually see on WWE TV, which is certainly a lot better than the kick punchy engine Acclaim used for their WWF releases. The motion capture is top notch, the moves look crisp and even the texture mapping has improved to the point where the superstars no longer look like their dispersing their molecules and passing through their opposition like fucking Nightcrawler. All in all, it gives the gamer a good sense of realism.

Anyway, to me, the most important thing I judge in a wrestling game besides its create-a-player mode is its Season mode. And in my opinion, this is the one area where the games lacks, and it’s a shame considering how much work THQ put into other areas like vocals and commentary. The season mode on this game is just too linear. There’s really nothing remotely unique as there was in the previous incarnations (like Kurt Angle’s head shaving, the milk/beer trucks, etc.) The thing is, no matter whether you use your CAW or ANY male WWE star, the story is exactly the same with only two real choices at one time (the face choice and the heel). This was kind of disappointing to be totally honest as the previous Season modes had more of a unique feel to them where certain talent  even had sub-storylines going on. However, one thing that struck me funny was the amount of raunchiness this game had. EVERY single storyline you find yourself in with a diva potentially ends in SEX as you get the idea that the game designers were probably locked in a room with no women for a year while their balls turned bluer than Pluto. I just can’t tell you how funny it was to see the zombie-like Undertaker sweet talk Torrie Wilson into the shower where the deadman more than likely “buried a stiff” if you know what I mean. It’s just crazy. These Divas are absolute whores apparently who’ll let you bed them for of all things busting Renee Dupree open with a chairshot. Fucking Torrie in the women’s shower? Check! Lap dance from Stacy? Check! Erotic massage by Sable? (which revealed the most disturbing coital expression EVER when Undertaker’s usually stoic demeanor turned to flat out orgasmic jubilation.) Check!  And then there’s Trish putting out for you after winning a ladder match with her panties hanging precariously above the ring. Good times.

Anyway, for whatever reason, the Tag team Championships on both brands are absentee in this game, as is the cruiserweight Title. Also not making the cut is the Women’s title. All you have to work with in season mode is the World & Intercontinental Titles on Raw and the WWE & U.S. Titles on SmackDown. Also, to my knowledge you cannot official play the Season mode as a WWE Diva. With all this said, it makes you wonder what the point of labeling your  CAW’s weight (Heavyweight, Super Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, Cruiserweight and Diva weight) is if it has no baring on the Season? (You can create weight class Titles in the Create-a-belt mode however)

Also, once again much like HCTP, unlocking the locked items is easier as everything is “bought” in cash instead of earned by winning at a particular pay-per-view. Also, there is a list of challenges you can compete in on Exhibition mode which will allow you to earn cash without even having to start the Season mode. This comes in handy when you want to earn a quick payday to say, purchase a better championship belt.

And speaking of belts, as previously mentioned, the create-a-belt option will allow you to create your own customized championship. Everything is customizable from strap, to the plate to the decorative effects. The only thing is that it’ll cost you a FORTUNE to buy, so save your money up, because a quality belt (the choices range from “plastic” to platinum”) will cost you upwards of 100,000 dollars. (I’m not kidding)

 

Sean’s Tips

All the tips I gave in “Here Comes The Pain” last year are still relevant so I’ll once again post them below, but before I do that let me list a few new tips:

-Unfortunately each CAW starts with a minimum of around 25% or so Experience points, and well, let’s just say Stephen Hawking would be more a more dominant force in the ring than you with these statistics. So, with that said, as much as you’d like to unlock the legends first (or whatever else) I suggest you use an established WWE star on Season mode first and stock pile your money to about 60,000 dollars. From there, purchase the most expensive bulk package of experience points (which I think will give you around 10,000 individual points) and build up one of your CAWs. And here’s the tip: SAVE the game on a SECOND memory card, then reset the game and go to copy a created player in options and upload the enhanced CAW from that 2nd card and save him over your old useless one. Now, not only will you have a new dominant CAW, but your money is all back because you never saved that data on the 1st card! Repeat this procedure with your other CAWS. Believe me, it takes A LOT of time to do it the old fashion way.

-When you’re in the Royal Rumble, often a computer controlled opponent will be attempting to empty someone else’s Rumble meter. Well, you can go help him and together you can exhaust it faster and eliminate that player. This is a good tip because less men in the ring means better chances you won’t be blindsided, and thus you can more easily control the match’s tempo.

-On season mode, after winning the “services” of certain divas, you can have them come to the ring as your manager. From there, you can actually control different functions of said manager and this can be REALLY handy when you’re in trouble. First, by pressing up on the left analog stick, your manager will climb onto the apron and the referee will be distracted. This comes in handy when you’re being dominated…or even while you’re getting pinned! (it’ll break the count and the distraction usually lasts long enough to guarantee you kick out). The 2nd controllable function is you can order your manager to retrieve a foreign object from under the ring. All you have to do is press down on the left analog stick and your manager will slide a chair into the ring. Now, here comes the best part: If you incapacitate your opponent, quickly call for the object (Left analog down) then quickly press left analog up so your manager will distract the referee and then CLOBBER your opponent with a chair shot. And just for the record, it may look like the referee can still see your infraction, but trust me, he cannot.

-When in a one on one ladder match, one trick I usually employ is incapacitating my opponent and while he’s out briefly, I position the ladder ahead of time (it’s still too early to attempt a climb, he’ll more than likely recover and tip you). From there I have steel chair waiting and I wear his ass out. With him unconscious, and with you not having to mess with positioning the ladder, you can easily ascend and grab the belt.

-When in a multiple person match (like a 4 way, Elimination chamber, 6 person Hell in the Cell, etc.) It’s smart to sometimes stand back and pick your spots. Only a moron charges headlong into battle, so stand back, let other people do the damage and finish them off. Also, when in a Hell in the Cell, it’s smart to get up on top of the cage itself. Stupid opponents will follow, and be left open to you swatting their stupid asses off. (A fall from the cell does the most damage in the game). Also, since falls count anywhere, you can collect an easy pin with time to spare before the other 4 opponents climb up and break the cover;

Anyway, here’s the list of Sean tips from HCTP that are still applicable here:

-If you're serious about going all the way with your "created superstar", I strongly suggest you pick moves that coincide with wearing down your opponent for your unique finisher. While I'm sure there are some meatballs out there who have stocked their jumbled mess of a player with every high-spot known to man, and while this looks "pretty", I GUARANTEE you that a logical technician would annihilate your flip-floppy "fun-boy" every time out of the gate. Remember, although real wrestling is staged, its presentation utilizes actual logic in wearing down an opponent, and if you choose to use a finish like the jackhammer or F5, I suggest you utilize suplexes and hard slams to wear down the body first. The same logic goes for submissions as well, if you use a submission, build your superstar with holds that damage that particular body part. You won't be sorry you did.

-As for the finisher itself, the ropes in this game play a huge part, and even if you have a great high impact finish, often your opponent will somehow land near the ropes forcing the break. From a purely strategic point of view, I suggest you utilize either the Lionsault or the People's Elbow, as no matter where you are in the ring, the computer will re-adjust your opponent to the center of the ring, EVERY TIME. But for my money, I'd go with the Lionsault, which has the added bonus of having you land in a pinning position, making it impossible for your fallen foe to counter.

-While most of the opposition is predictable, there are certain characters that seem extra difficult (cough*HHH*cough). One trick I utilize is bailing out the ring. Your stupid opponent, being void of any common sense, will follow in your direction, and when he gets close enough to the ropes, press the directional key and the "circle" button to whiplash your opponents neck off the top rope from the outside. He will stumble backwards completely stunned every time, and you can then slip in quickly and finish him if your SD meter is full. Never underestimate computer stupidity.

-"The Ultimate Warrior offense" almost always works. This is also useful when playing against real people. The Ultimate Warrior offense is just about swatting illegal immigrants back over the border, but in fact well timed clotheslines. You see, most people you play will want to use the "showy" sports entertainment moves, and thus will try to entice you into a grapple. What you need is the element of surprise to catch them off guard. What you do is back up, and as they ignorantly approach, begin a quick short-run and clothesline the shit out of them. EVERYONE falls for this, as most people expect the bulk of the match to take place in the grapple. Gotta love that Warrior. Who’d have thunk that wrestling’s most offensive wrestler would have the best offense?

-While you have your opponent down (depending on their skill level) I suggest once again NOT grappling as some people with an itchy trigger finger can counter your grapple and leave you open for attack. My suggestion is to instead stomp the shit out of them on the ground with kicks, elbows or stomping. It doesn't take as much energy off, but the goofball is HELPLESS every time.

-Just because it's a game doesn't mean you can't be a coward. Only the truly stupid plunge ahead and dive headfirst into battle. Use your head and pick your spots. When you are in a Title match, they negate countouts, so let the floor be your friend. Sucker your opponent to the outside and whip his ass there. YOU can't be beaten on the floor, so any offense he gets in means nothing there. Wear him down, then lead him back to the ring, sucker him and you win, no problem.

-Another move I always add to my wrestler repertoire is the "turn around" feature. This is your single biggest ally in the game. Tap "circle" twice to pick up your opponent backwards then as he has his back to you stunned, spin him around with "turn opponent around" and "Smackdown" his ass. Also running towards your foe and sliding between his legs, floating behind, will allow you to also quickly use "turn around" and proceed with your finish or high impact move.

-When you compete in a Tagteam match, always call your partner into the ring when as you make a cover on your beaten opponent. He'll attack the guy's partner and allow you to pin your fallen opponent without the annoyance of him breaking up your pin.

-When you're in a Tagteam cage match, often it is smart to allow one of your opponents to exit the cage. This gives you and your partner the chance to smoke him two on one, then when he's spent, you both simultaneously exit the cage on opposite sides. Works every time.

-One of the hilarious changes in this game is that the Referee is no longer a push over. knocking him out is often a lot more difficult than handling your opponent.

Final Thoughts

Although there were some areas that still needed improvement, this game definitely is worth the money I paid for it. This game engine is particularly fun to play against actual people, if only to see the frustration grow on the faces of your opponents as you dictate the pace of the match while they mash the controls like a retard.  All in all, if you’re a fan of the previous SmackDown games, you’ll definitely enjoy this. Thumbs up.

I'm Sean.

Credit to IGN.com and Gamespot for the screenshots.

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TWF FLASHBACK

November 2006

SATIRE: DISCONTINUED WWE XMAS PRODUCTS!

by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).