You hear the roar of the crowd as you and your partner stand behind the curtain, waiting for your moment. You are both pumped up and ready to grab the glory and prove yourselves. Suddenly, the crowd gets louder as your theme song starts. You and your buddy exchange a glance, nod, and then come out from behind the curtain and make your way down to the ring. Fireworks shoot off, laser lights are careening about the arena, and as you make your way down to the ring you see your opponents for the night… your boss and your buddy’s boss, the dreaded tag team known as “The Executives”. You enter the ring, staring down your opponents, and then the bell rings and the match begins. As you grab your boss and apply a rear naked choke hold submission move, your partner runs to the outside of the ring, grabs a chair, brings it in, and smacks his boss on the head as he tries to save his tag team partner from tapping out. A few minutes later, as both “suits” lay bleeding in a heap on the mat, you and your partner stand above them in victory, and place your controllers down long enough to deliver a triumphant high-five, and then set up the next match in an old-fashioned Hell in a Cell.
This is the beauty of what makes the Smackdown vs. Raw series such a great co-op game…you and your friends have complete control over it. If you’re a huge wrestling fan, you and your friend can assume the role of your favorite tag team and go to town on the competition. However, what is a lot more fun is when you create your own characters and wreak havoc as your own personal wrestling incarnation. Nothing is more fun than you and your friend creating your own versions of what your dream wrestler is, and then using them to fight the lamest wrestlers you can think of, whether they are politicians, celebrities, or just some guy that you both hate.
I think that people are afraid to try the game because they say “it’s a wrestling game, and I hate wrestling.” That is far from the truth…to me, the game is one of the only (and the BEST) co-op fighting game around. In fact, it’s more than just a fighting game…it’s like a fighting/beat ‘em up hybrid in many ways. The sense of co-op is everywhere in the game. You and up to two friends are able to fight up to another group of three, and it is a blast all the way. By fighting as a team, you have to protect each other and make sure one of your partners is not trapped in a submission move and on the verge of tapping out, and you have to always be ready to stop a pin attempt on one of your partners by an opponent. But it doesn’t stop there…there are also a multitude of tag team co-op moves, where one player can grab an opponent and wait for their partner to come over and grab him also, which results in a devastating co-op move. And don’t worry…the Smackdown vs. Raw series is gender-friendly, meaning that there are female-only matches which have just as much action as any other match, and if you want to mix it up there are “inter-gender” matches, where a male and female tag team take on another. After making a wrestling character for my wife, she was moved enough to actually play through a few matches with me!
There are a ton of different match types to choose from, whether it’s the traditional tag team (one legal man, one man on the side), a tornado tag team (my personal favorite, where all the wrestlers in the match are legal, so it’s a constant free-for-all), or a specialty match. Co-op is extremely important in the ladder matches, where one player must climb a ladder to grab a belt suspended above the ring. Having a real partner by your side really helps since he or she can keep your opponents busy towards the end and give you time to climb up and grasp victory. Other specialty matches consist of tables (opponent is eliminated after being thrown through a table), cage (both tag team members have to successfully climb out of a cage) and the totally awesome HELL IN A CELL match, where you can break your way out of a giant cage, climb to the top of it, and bring the fight up there! The different matches and modes really brings a nice variety to the game, and you and your buddy will have hours of fun “laying the smackdown.”
If you’re looking for something a little deeper than just random matches, then you are in luck, because the last two iterations of the series (and presumably the upcoming 2011 version) has a co-op story mode. Mind you, it’s short and limited, as there is a select tag team that has this story so you have to play as one of the pre-determined wrestlers, but it’s still nice to be able to experience the stupid, ridiculous storylines that only the WWE can provide. For example, a few years back there was a storyline where my partner got turned into a “diva” by some voodoo magic or something like that, and it just makes you stop and say “what the heck is this, and are there really people who believe that this stuff is real?!”
The Smackdown vs. Raw series continues to be the best co-op series for me, and I purchase the newest version every year. I will spend hours creating characters and then playing matches with my friends and family locally. Sadly, the biggest flaw for the game is that, while there is an online co-op tag team mode, it continues to be an extremely laggy experience, regardless of which version you have or which console you have it on. It is a fun, fast-paced, and diverse game that offers plenty of co-oppurtunities for you and your friends as you each create your own wrestling persona and take on the best the WWE (and your imagination) have to offer. So go ahead, grab your buddy, and tag him or her in for a great co-op experience!