In this continued look at wrestling video games throughout history, a massive leap forward will be taken with the sixth generation. Developers were slowly but surely wrapping their minds around 3D graphics. The blocky, rigid models of old became smoother. Low-resolution textures became more refined. During this generation, consoles brought equal parts enhancements and innovations. Simply put, this was where 3D gaming started to become more sophisticated and the Sony PlayStation 2 was a prime example.
Released in 2000, the Sony PlayStation 2 was a follow-up to the company’s previous effort. The original PlayStation was a landmark console, without question, but this newer platform brought with it multiple new additions. First, the PS2 was backwards compatible, meaning that any old PS1 games and DualShock controllers could be used. Second, in addition to audio discs, the PS2 could play DVDs. Keep in mind that this was before services such as Netflix and Hulu became standard. At this time, DVDs were.
No gaming console is complete without software, however, and the PlayStation 2 plenty. “Grand Theft Auto” titles such as “Vice City” and “San Andreas” were landmark titles on the platform. The “Metal Gear Solid” franchise continued on the PS2 as well; “Sons of Liberty” and “Snake Eater” were incredibly popular in their own respects. These were just a few examples of well-regarded PS2 titles, but much like with prior consoles, there was no shortage of wrestling video games. Here are some of the most memorable wrestling games on the PS2.
WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2007
Following the final entry in the “WWE SmackDown” series – we will get to this later – THQ decided to move in a different direction. Thus, the “SmackDown vs. RAW” series was born. Bringing over the same style of gameplay, the series in question offered a number of new additions, such as unique creation options and game modes. When it comes to entries in this series on the PS2, it can be argued that “WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2007” was the best of them all.
Released in November of 2006, and developed by Yuke’s, “WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2007” maintained the same gameplay. However, it was the litany of changes that helped make this a popular entry during that year’s holiday season and beyond. Perhaps the most noticeable was the new analog control system, which allowed players a greater degree of movement. Instead of players being limited to set directions, they had more freedom to move. This made actions such as fighting within the crowd that much more engaging.
Though “WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2007” is best played with others, there were enough single player offerings as well. General Manager Mode put players in the proverbial driver’s seat. Additionally, the game featured an extensive Season Mode. Throw in a host of unlockables, which kept players around for longer, and it’s easy to see why this game became so fondly remembered by fans. Without question, this is one of the wrestling video games worth revisiting or experiencing for the first time.
Def Jam: Fight for NY
World Wrestling Entertainment wasn’t the only company that had a presence in the sixth generation of consoles. Enter the “Def Jam” series, which was designed to bring stars from the hip hop world together in combat. Method Man, Ice-T, and Snoop Dogg were just a few stars that crossed over into this series. It began with “Def Jam Vendetta,” which saw a 2003 release, but it was its direct followup that proved to be the more complete experience. Though it saw a release on the Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft Xbox, “Def Jam: Fight for NY” felt most at home on Sony’s platform.
If the core gameplay of “Def Jam: Fight for NY” feels familiar, it’s because it should. Released in 2004 in North America and Europe, “Def Jam: Fight for NY” was developed by AKI, the company associated with the host of Nintendo 64 wrestling video games we covered in a previous piece. In other words, the gameplay feels fresh but familiar as well. However, different combat styles such as streetfighting and wrestling help to keep the various fighters varied.
“Def Jam: Fight for NY” utilized its crowd better than other wrestling games up until this point, too. Case and point, when people are surrounding the fighters, they will push said fighters back if they’re too close. Furthermore, they may get physically involved by providing weapons. This may be a wrestling-focused title, but at its core, it’s a fighting game with ample grit. For those that may not be into the simulation-based gameplay of the mainline WWE games, give the “Def Jam” series a shot.
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns
Staying on the subject of non-WWE wrestling video games, enter “Fire Pro Wrestling Returns.” While this series saw its official domestic debut on the Game Boy Advance, Spike and Agetec weren’t content to leave the series there. Released in 2005 in Japan and 2007 in North America, “Fire Pro Wrestling Returns” hit the PS2. It went on to become arguably the most unique wrestling game on the platform and one can make this distinction by its presentation.
Though the PS2 was capable of smooth 3D graphics, “Fire Pro Wrestling Returns” opted for sprite-based graphics; this would become the standard for the series moving forward. Despite what many believed to be an archaic presentation at the time, it got things right with its timing-based gameplay, another “Fire Pro Wrestling” mainstay. Players had to be strategic with moves to use, from the opening bell to the final pin. Button-mashing players would be in for a world of trouble.
“Fire Pro Wrestling Returns” didn’t skimp out on content, either. In addition to over 300 wrestlers from the get-go, the game allowed players to customize their own fighters. Even today, the depth is impressive. It also included various modes, including Matchmaker, where players would book shows to receive the best score. “Fire Pro Wrestling Returns” is home to several fan modifications, too. Take a look online to see just how devoted this fan community is to offer the most up-to-date rosters.
WWE SmackDown: Here Comes the Pain
When discussing wrestling video games on the PS2, few are as intrinsically linked as the fifth entry in the “SmackDown series.” Released in 2003 in North America and Europe, “WWE SmackDown: Here Comes the Pain” offered numerous changes to the established formula. In addition, to being the final game to carry the core “SmackDown” game, it offered new match types and a grappling system that the future “SmackDown vs. RAW” series would build upon.
“WWE SmackDown: Here Comes the Pain” provided players with a host of wrestlers, both current and old. In addition to a modern roster, during this game’s release, the game saw the debut of legendary stars. Sgt. Slaughter, The Road Warriors, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper were just a few examples. Legends would be commonplace in future WWE games. However, what kept players around was the robust Season Mode, which was incredibly interactive. No two playthroughs would be exactly the same.
During the time of its release, “WWE SmackDown: Here Comes the Pain” became one of the best-reviewed wrestling video games. Even to this day, it’s a title that fan fondly look back on. Whether this was due to the aforementioned Season Mode, the inclusion of a more in-depth submission system, or the various creation options is a matter of opinion. This title might have marked the end of an era, but to say that it went out on a high note would be underselling its importance.
The PlayStation 2 was notable in the scene of wrestling video games. It saw the end of one series, the birth of another, and the inclusion of titles that non-WWE fans could sink their teeth into. These titles were important and, depending on who’s asked, among the best in the genre. Next time, we will continue our look at the sixth generation of consoles as we examine the most memorable wrestling games on the GameCube.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.