A look back at the Smackdown vs. Raw franchise.
In this retrospective I take a look back at how the Smackdown! Vs. Raw series has evolved with the WWEâs TV product, the different grapple systems, ports, and varying rosters.
The SvR series spanned seven years - from âRuthless Aggressionâ, through to the current âPGâ era. It started on PlayStation 2 back in late 2004, in the âRuthless Aggressionâ era, which was a borderline Attitude Era - you wouldnât see a bra and panties match in a modern WWE game - or on TV, for that matter.
The original was developed in the twilight of the PlayStation 2âs life, and developers had gotten a good handle on the hardware. With a roster boasting top talent such as Shawn Michaels, Triple-H, and my personal favourites Rob Van Dam, the late Chris Benoit, and Rhyno (whoâs currently in Ring of Honor.)
While the GameCube and Xbox had the Day of Reckoning and Raw franchises, respectively. SvR was the most successful, and spawned sequels across all major next generation consoles - even the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS had versions.
The games reflected their respective eras well; itâs like walking into a time machine. Want to see an extreme rules match? Just pop in SvR 2008 or 2009. How about one-on-one matches with divas fighting superstars? Any SvR prior to 2010 will let you have those. Now deceased wrestlers? Unfortunately, most of them contain a few of them on the main roster â Umaga, Chris Benoit, and Lance Cade to name a few.
From SvR 2006, the series would see ports to Sonyâs PlayStation Portable and Nintendoâs DS would also receive a few ports by various developers beginning with SvR 2008. The PSP port of SvR 2006, when linked to the PlayStation 2 version, would unlock Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Unfortunately, SvR 2006 was inferior to the previous yearâs iteration with bad referee AI - they would constantly get in the way during matches and, if you had DQ turned on, would disqualify you at the slightest bump; âI didnât mean to tap you with my fist, ref, honest.â
Evolution of the controls - from button-based grapples, to right stick grapples - and the Chris Benoit Incident
The next generation would bring SvR 2007, and with it the gameâs storyline including a feud between the Undertaker and the - now infamous â âCanadian Cripplerâ Chris Benoit. If you're not familiar with it, the game featured a promo in which The Undertaker threatens Benoit. In a bizarre and tragic twist, 2007 was the year Benoit himself would prove to be a real threat to his own family when he committed murder-suicide on his wife Nancy Benoit and their child Daniel. The crime would (understandably) see WWE distance itself from Chris Benoit, having him excluded from every SvR title, and any future WWE game - in addition to changing facts regarding the history of the numerous titles he won.
People who couldnât afford to upgrade machines would continue to receive yearly instalments on the PlayStation 2. Of course, they were missing out on the glorious HD sweat; in all seriousness though, HD was the way to go. The game also introduced a new twin stick grapple system. However, it would take another instalment before it was perfected.
In late 2007 SvR 2008 was released, bringing improved controls and a roster full of ECW superstars to the mix. The matches were more intense - you had barbed wire wrapped around the two by fours, for example. Unfortunately, it was a bug-filled mess; in elimination chamber matches, the characters would keep running at the chamber wall. ECW wrestlers were well represented, though â you had Sabu, The Sandman, and Tommy Dreamer among others.
SvR 2009âs roster could be merged with the Legends of WrestleMania roster (provided you had saved data from SvR 2009 on the console.) If you did, you would be in for some incredibly funny gameplay; CM Punk could throw a seven-hundred pound Andre the Giant across the ring. It was ridiculous!
By the time SvR 2010 rolled around the existing grapple system was growing a little stale. So, developer Yukeâs took the existing grapple system and allowed you to swap positions at the flick of the right stick. Although this added a little more strategy to the gameplay, it slowed the pace down slightly. In addition to the new grapple system, they removed the ability to beat up divas with Umaga - truly a low point of the franchise.
By 2011 the brands â Smackdown and Raw - were no longer in âcompetitionâ as Raw was a âsuper showâ inclusive of Smackdown wrestlers, so Smackdown vs. Raw was put to sleep and future games were simply known as WWE.