WWE Smackdown vs Raw
So yes, it’s true that I stopped following wrestling around the time the Ultimate Warrior left the WWF(E) on the second (or was it third-) occasion sometime in the early-‘90s. His wrestling proficiency mightn’t have been much, and he only had, like, three moves, which he endlessly repeated. But damn he looked cool, and his entrance was the shit.
And on that note THQ’s forthcoming Legends Of Wrestlemania is the one that’s really re-ignited my passion for flying shoulder blocks, press slams and body splashes. But since I don’t yet possess it – a fact that pains me about as much as assessing the chafe factor of Andre The Giant’s ring garb, god rest his large soul – I’ll put my bias aside and concentrate on Smackdown vs Raw 2009 instead. Which is, it should be stressed, a bloody good fun, markedly improved addition to the massive-selling license, even in spite of its lack of tassels, face paint and hockey bollocks about places called ‘parts unknown.’
Looking marginally better than the 2008 outing, the wrestling sim is graphically pretty reasonable. Granted facially the characters may look a little bland at first, but open up a gash on your opponent’s forehead, target it with a couple of snappily executed headbutts and watch ‘em wince; yes, it’s as satisfying as it sounds. Due care has been especially paid to capturing the colour of the live wrestling experience – the wrestlers’ entrances, the throngs of people baying for carnage, it’s all been rendered to make you feel like you’re in the thick of the action.
The control system – a slightly unwieldily mish-mash of button combinations, with the left stick moving your wrestler and the right executing assorted grapples – takes some getting used to, and even then isn’t the most graceful on the block. But then for the blood and sweat of the squared circle, that’s somehow appropriate.
But what really makes Smackdown vs Raw rock the competition is its sheer wealth of options, from match type (‘Inferno’ comes hugely recommended if you fancy frazzling your foe) to playing the surprisingly engrossing story mode which guides you toward Wrestlemania, fame and fortune. Which we’ll happily take; at least until the Ultimate Warrior sprints back toward the ring in March.