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Latest wrestling 'SmackDown' lets you fight online

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

"SmackDown! vs. RAW" offers up more than 40 pro wrestlers who resemble their real-life counterparts.
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(CNN) -- It's difficult to top last year's "SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain," a near-perfect title that set the bar high for wrestling games, but THQ managed to deliver another robust wrestling sim with "WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW."

This Sony PlayStation 2 exclusive once again pits the world's top fighters against one another in a series of no-holds-barred matches. New game modes, including online play, add thrills to the proven franchise.

For the first time in the series, gamers can go online via the PS2 Network Adapter to lure friends into the ring.

Two types of games are available: a single one-on-one bout or a "bra and panties" catfight, where the object is to strip down the opposing diva to her undergarments. Fans may be disappointed at only two game modes and the lack of an Internet leaderboard or downloadable extras, but broadband subscribers should still get a kick out of long-distance, lag-free gaming as WWE Superstars.

"SmackDown! vs. RAW" offers up more than 40 pro wrestlers, each of whom looks so close to their real-life counterpart that television passers-by may do a double-take. All wrestlers have signature fighting styles and "finishing" moves.

Superstars provide voice-overs and commentary, plus players can also take control over a number of wrestling legends, including Bret "The Hitman" Hart and Andre the Giant. Gamers can also build a new superstar from a seemingly endless offering of physical attributes and fighting styles.

Design matchups

You can also create a unique WWE belt to fight for, or more ambitious gamers may opt to design their own Pay-Per-View event. Fans can even watch or play through classic PPV matches such as Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania XX or Judgment Day.

"SmackDown! vs. RAW" introduces a strategic reward system that dishes out bonuses for fighting "clean" or "dirty," each of which has its advantages. Also new to this series is a collection of pre-match minigames, such as the familiar in-ring "Stare Down" challenges and backstage shenanigans, including breaking chairs over a rival wrestler's back. Players can also take the action to the parking lot.

With its numerous game modes, a hearty collection of contemporary and legendary wrestlers and deep fighting mechanics, there is a lot to like in "SmackDown! vs. RAW." While the online game mode could have been so much more, the game is still worth picking up for WWE fans looking for a way to pass the time between televised matches.

REVIEW

'WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW'

Platform: Sony PlayStation 2

Genre: Wrestling

Publisher: THQ

Web site: www.thq.com

Price: $49.99

Rating: Teen

Score: 4.5 stars out of 5


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