Before we get serious and talk about WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 for the PSP, it's important that you know where I'm coming from. I am not a wrestling fan. In fact, I have never been a fan of wrestling. While I respect the athleticism and the amount of punishment these guys can take, there was always something about the scripted aspect of the show that turned me off. This disdain for the sport influenced my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the various wrestling games, which I always felt were like fighting games with really terrible controls.
It's important to know this about me because if you're one of those people who loves wrestling, loves all of those crazy steroid-enhanced characters and, most importantly, loves wrestling games, then you should just stop reading this review immediately. I'm serious, if all you're looking for is a fun portable wrestling game with tons of characters and options then you should definitely pick up WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 for the Sony PSP. This is a solid handheld wrestling game, and at the end of the day that's all you need to know.
Okay, now that all of the wrestling fans are on their way to their nearest game store let's have a candid conversation about WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009. Even if you only have a passing interest in wrestling games you will know what to expect from this PSP game. It gives you a wide assortment of muscular characters (over 60 in all) and all of the content you could ask for, all while offering good controls and authentic sound effects. Heck, even the graphics are exceptional. Throw in four person multiplayer and you have the best portable wrestling game you could hope for. There's just one problem, I can't stand playing it.
I've tried, trust me I've tried. I went through nearly all of the different modes, used most (if not all) of the characters and even found myself getting pretty good at pinning fools to the ground. But try as I might, there's just something about this game (like all wrestling games) that just feels wrong. Although the characters have a lot of different moves, the way the game is laid out makes it seem very limiting. The game certainly gives you a lot of options, there are tons of special moves and every character has their own unique specialty move. Yet none of this got my blood flowing, it just didn't feel like I was actually getting anywhere ... even when I was.
WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 gives gamers a bunch of different options, including different story modes, exhibition modes and more. There's a story mode, but I found myself growing impatient with the non-stop load times. This is one of those games where you start the mode and there's a long load screen, then a short video, then a load screen, another short video, another load screen. There must have been four or five lengthy load screens before I even entered the rind, and when I did I was ultimately underwhelmed.
Thankfully there are fewer load screens in the other modes, but sadly the underwhelming gameplay is present no matter where you go. The basic problem is the game's movement, which is controlled by the D-pad. For the most part this isn't a bad thing, but when it comes to running and other common functions I found that the controls just weren't adequate for the task at hand. For whatever reason you can't use the PSP's analog stick to control your character, since it is reserved for the various taunts. Taunts? Are you kidding me? Now, I know that wrestling is about trash talking and adding as much personality to the fight as possible, but this is a video game. A video game's goal (beyond simply being fun) is to have good controls and make things as easy for you as possible. This is not the case with WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009.
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