In this exciting fighting game for the Wii, even people who are not fans of wrestling will find many things to love. The jumping, running, hitting, slamming, flexing actions are what the Wii remote and nunchuk were made to do. The action is as big and loud as a professional wrestler and equally entertaining in a popcorn and cotton candy kind of way.
Since this is wrestling, it's best to turn your brain off and just hop into the arena right away. Choose your champion from a beautifully rendered cast of heavily muscled men or big breasted women and play in tournament mode, tag team, co-op campaign, or online multiplayer. Then it's time to start the show.
Before hopping in the ring you've got to pump up the crowd with a big entrance. By vigorously pumping and waving the remote through a series of moves you will make the crowd roar with approval which rewards you with more energy in the ring. Every character has their own personal moves and entrance music so there will always be some new and novel form of show-boating to see.
Once the chest pounding is through the bell sounds and the real action begins. This is not the kind of Wii game that can be played sitting down or with limited space. The amount of shaking and swinging needed to play requires the full range of motion. This very physical control in this very energetic game is what makes the Wii and WWE SmackDown vs. RAW totally shine. Players really do get into the action and get their blood pumping. Bouncing off the ropes, body-slamming, jumping, punching, pinning are all carried out by gestures with the controller, with very little button pressing.
The control scheme is very intuitive, if somewhat imprecise, and simple gestures will have any player climbing the ropes, throwing their opponent out of the ring, and making the crowd roar in no time at all. Some would say this simplicity sacrifices precision and depth. However the Wii is meant to be as accessible and fun as possible and WWE SmackDown vs. Raw certainly meets these objectives.
Waving around your controller to smack your opponent around builds up your energy and when it fills up it's time to launch into a signature move to really dish out some pain. While most fighting games require a series of buttons be pressed to perform a special move, here you must must move your controller as the game directs as furiously as possible in order to complete the move. If you succeed you are rewarded with your character delivering an impressive acrobatic blow to your dazed opponent.
Both the single player and coop Road to Wrestlemania campaigns are surprisingly entertaining. As you wrestle your way to the championship title there is as much smack talk, surprises, and betrayals as one would expect from pro wrestling or an episode of Desperate Housewives. You'll also experience some of the more unique game modes like the 30 man Royal Rumble or the ladder match where the first player to set up a ladder in the middle of the ring and climb to the top wins. Plus you can unlock shiny new tights and costumes for your characters along the way.
The character creation mode is amazingly robust. Complete customization of the shape and size of almost the entire anatomy is available to create any wrestling star imaginable. Add in dozens of customizable costume pieces, hairstyles, tattoos, masks and body paint means no wrestler need look alike again. Plus the entrances and signature moves can all be edited as well, giving the player complete freedom to create a unique wrestler. There are definitely people out there that will spend hours in character creation mode tweaking their creations.
The newly created character can then be played through a career mode. In career mode fights points are earned depending on your performance in the ring to increase your wrestlers stats after each match. After fighting to the top of one bracket of opponents, you'll move on to the next tier of opponents and put your fighting skills to the test. This process doesn't take too long though since most fights are over in under five minutes.
The career mode is definitely the most repetitive part of the game. Not only must you defeat your opponents, but the judges must award you enough stars in each fight so that you can challenge the person at the top of your current bracket. This means you might have to redo some bouts and perform more grapples, throws, and signature moves in order to earn more stars. Having to fight an opponent again that you just dominated is frustrating.
While the gameplay is usually fun, this game does have its share of problems. While the wrestler models are well done, the crowd is plain ugly. The ugly little polygon people pumping their triangles in the air is a sorry sight to see. There are clipping issues as well which can be expected in fighting games. The difference of quality in the in-game videos is also distracting. While some videos are in high definition, others appear to be of YouTube quality.
The sound in the game is decent. The wrestler entrances feature current bands and music and are very appropriate for the game. The commentators that provide a play by play of the action of screen will often repeat themselves and can always be heard over the sound of punches and body slams, which lack the proper amount of gusto.
Gamers and wrestling fans looking for something uncomplicated, fun, and action-packed should check this game out, even though it lacks some polish. Those of you who need strategy, depth, and precision in order to have fun should not try this at home.