|WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 (2007)
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PS2
Déjà vu. Is it already time for another ”Smackdown vs. Raw” game? Has it really been a year? Why, it seems like only yesterday I was playing last year’s version of the game and marveling at its mediocrity. Looks like I get to do pretty much the same thing this year as well. No, I’m still not the world’s greatest wrestling fan, but having had the chance to review this game two years in a row now, I can safely say that while this year’s installment has had a few interesting “improvements,” underneath it all it’s the same old wrestling game experience you’ve come to either know and love or just feel indifferent about.
Personally, I always hope these games are going to be exciting and lots of fun. They certainly have the potential to be. But perhaps the kind of fun I’m looking for would have to be created by actually dumbing down the game itself, or at least just making the whole thing a bit easier to control and/or play all around. I get that wrestling fans want to be able to perform all their favorite moves, taunts, finishers – what have you that their real-life counterparts do – but is it that necessary to have controller mapping that seemingly does ten different things for each button press depending on how hard the button is being hit and the direction in which I’m moving?
I know, some will say I don’t like the game as much as I could because it’s “too hard” for me to play. No. I just recall when the WWE’s video games were just “easier” by nature to play when it came to control and therefore more easily enjoyable and fun overall. Is a separate block button really needed for both strike and grapple attacks? Not at all. Back in those good old days, we had one button to block. Go figure. Similarly, those good old WWE titles didn’t have a bazillion moves mapped out for strike and grapple attacks. Sometimes less really is more.
But if you enjoyed last year’s game, then this year’s entry should be pleasing as well. This time around, a new “24/7” mode has been thrown in that allows players to take a wrestler and move him or her up through the ranks by partaking in matches as well as other activities such as starring in movies, doing interviews, contributing to charities, working on skill sets and practicing in general. Most of these activities are done to accumulate cash to spend in the WWE store and to improve fan popularity. Pretty soon, though, as with other versions of this game in the past, things get pretty monotonous fast.
Somehow, the storyline mechanism became broken in development, with other wrestlers hating and loving you all within the same day or two of action that has nothing to do with how you’re performing. It all seems very willy-nilly. Then there’s the god-awful commentating. You’ll be ready to scream after the 50th time you hear the guys talk about having gas and eating barbecue within the first five minutes of a match. And did I mention there’s absolutely no variety in the yearly schedule? And why the hell does the calendar not actually advance through the years as the game progresses and instead eternally remains 2008? For all the other attention to details, you’d think THQ would have bothered to work on some of the more obvious ones.
Still, they did bring back in the ECW guys this time around as well as gave the player opportunities to recreate some classic matches. For diehards, those inclusions alone could be worth the price of admission. And, as usual, players can create a character, a stable, a championship, a set of moves and so forth. They can even use their own music of choice for themes and entrances, which is always a nice touch. God knows the included tracks in the game pretty much sound the same from song to song.
So if you like this series in general, this year’s entry should keep you happy. Like other sports titles, though, this one’s no different in that it’s basically the same old game with a new coat of paint and a different roster. That’s enough for some people, though. For me, I’d just like to see an all-new wrestling game created that has more of an arcade type feel. Hell, they do it for football, basketball, baseball and hockey games, so why not here? If it was done right, it would almost be guaranteed that the WWE would score even more fans of its video game product. Until that day arrives, though (if ever), fans will have good old “good enough” to keep them going.