WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2007 Review
|Genre:||Fighting / Wrestling|
|Release Date:||November 10th, 2006 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Matthew Irvin (Hobgoblin)|
There's something about the WWE that attracts its many fans, and it certainly isn't the acting. Whether you want to admit it or not, there is almost certainly some aspect of it that most will like, be it the giant muscle-bound men, the gorgeous divas, or even the outrageous stunts. The WWE has something for pretty much everyone. SmackDown vs RAW 2007 is no exception to the rule.
While I don't claim to be a hardcore WWE fan, I have watched the franchise on and off since its heyday in the late 80's and early 90's. In those days it was the WWF. The Ultimate Warrior ran rampant. Hulkamania was a force of its own, and Ric Flair was the dirtiest and oldest wrestler in the game, oh wait he's still that isn't he? Ahh the nostalgia, I almost want to weep... almost.
Aesthetically, Yukes have captured the WWE almost perfectly; the wrestlers look quite lifelike and act exactly as they do in real life. Take the Boogeyman for example, he comes crawling out from behind the curtain on his hands and knees with a clock in his mouth and then proceeds to walk down the aisle in a way that can only be described as creepy, muttering what I can only assume to be curses. Then when he wins the fight he fills his opponent's mouth with worms and seals the deal with a kiss.
However, those great looks evidently come with a price, as the game's load times are just shy of unbearable. The improved load times in the create-an-entrance mode apparently didn't make it to the rest of the game, because you'll find yourself sitting around, waiting for things to load almost as much as you will find yourself wrestling. When you start up a match, it has to load the initial face-off screen, then load each individual wrestler entrance, then load up what you think is the match, but it actually turns out it's a load to another loading screen, then it finally gets you into the match. Once the match is over, it has to then load the celebration movie at the end. In season mode, every cut-scene takes several seconds to load as well. You'd think that with the power of the Xbox 360, things might run a little quicker.
The arenas are one thing in this game which I really can't fault, and seem very realistic. They are filled with what has to be the best crowd I have ever seen in a sports game. Normally we have 4 or 5 people cloned a few thousand times, and constantly repeating the same gesture over and over again. Here however, the developers seem to have put the Xbox 360's power to good use, and have lavished us with a crowd that almost seems to have a life of its own. You have to really look to spot a clone and each person takes it in turn to hold up different placards with funny quips on them. It's this attention to little details that makes a game good in my humble opinion.
For reasons known entirely to them, Yuke's have completely reworked the game's grappling engine, even though it wasn't something that really needed reworking. Whereas most past wrestling games have relied entirely on the notion of a grapple button to start up grappling moves, SmackDown vs. RAW 2007 maps all grappling functions to the right control stick. Simply flicking the stick up, down, or to either side while facing your opponent will pull off one of your wrestler's quick grapple moves, and by holding down the right bumper then flicking the stick, you'll go into a stronger grapple, one that depends on the direction you pressed. With the opponent locked into a grapple, you then press a direction on the stick once again to pull off a move. I assume that this reworking of the grappling system is to make you feel like you've got more of a sense of freedom. In my opinion, the system isn't better than what was there before, but it's not any worse, either. It's just different.
One really cool addition to the controls is the ultimate control system. It's like this: you put your opponent into a strong grapple and then click the right stick down. You will then pick up your opponent and are able to walk around the ring and dispose of him in one of a few different ways. For example throw him out of the ring or slam him face first into the floor. It's a nice way to get your opponent out of the ring and especially helpful in a royal rumble
Another nice touch is the environmental hotspots, which are peppered throughout the arena. These hotspots are basically places in which you can use the environment to damage your opponent. For example, strong grapple your opponent while in the ring and drag him over to the ropes, you will then pick him and drop him onto the ropes. Then you are given the opportunity to move the right stick up and down and while you are doing this your character bounces the rope up and down thus negating your poor opponents chances of having children in the future. There are many such things you can do such as grind your opponents face against the side of the cage in a cage match or slamming his head multiple times into the metal stairs. Quite a nice addition, especially if you have a sadistic side.
AI is something that could stand to be improved. On easy there doesn't seem to be much in the way of competition, but if you play on the normal difficulty the computer seems to put up a bit too much of a fight. AI opponents seem to rely almost entirely on perfectly timed reversals that happen to be significantly tougher to time on your end, and it's not terribly hard to get stuck in an unbreakable string of attacks from your opponent if you aren't deft with the reversal timing. Considering the only way to get up off the mat is to mash buttons like a lunatic, it's tough to balance that with timing your reversals.
What you simply can't complain about is the breadth of content. Every single match type, game mode you can think of is available, from the usual table, cage, and hardcore matches to big-time gimmick matches like buried alive, elimination chamber, and backstage brawls that take place either in a parking lot or a bar, you're unlikely to run out of ways to pummel opponents any time soon.
The season mode offers a wide variety of storylines to keep you entertained in between matches, each of which centre around some kind of feud or situation leading up to a Pay-Per-View battle. The storylines themselves are basically on par with what you'd find on the show, with feuds centring around title shots, Royal Rumble slots, and various divas and such. The only thing that's a bummer in the storylines is that the dialogue and commentary don't seem to fit around whichever wrestler you're using quite as well. The commentators refer to you generically as a "superstar" in most cases, and the cut-scenes often go out of their way to make it so you don't talk much, save for when it's most necessary. Still, there's plenty of wrestler dialogue to be found, and most of it is good. Sometimes it's real stiff, but not necessarily any more so than what you'd see on TV. And certain wrestlers, such as Mr. Kennedy, do a masterful job bringing their persona to the game.
Stiff wrestler dialogue aside, audio presentation in general is quite uneven. The commentary that pops up during the entrances is actually quite good because it's actually storyline specific and quite relevant, but the in-game commentary is where it all falls apart. The commentators will recite just about every line they have in every single match and after a while stops being funny and just becomes very tedious listening. The soundtrack however is a really good collection of heavy rock songs, which is of course what you would expect from the WWE.
On-line features are pretty much par for the course. Games are easy to find and plentiful on Xbox Live. They're also lag free which is a crucial thing in sports games particularly. The only thing that I found annoying was the fact that there is no downloadable content. I would have found the ability to download new additions to the ever changing WWE roster rather welcoming.
WWE SmackDown vs RAW is ultimately a decent game. Atmosphere is one thing that WWE has in abundance and WWE SmackDown vs RAW 2007 provides us with a healthy chunk of it. Even with its glaring weaknesses, I would definitely recommend it to anybody who is a fan of the genre. If you aren't a wrestling fan then it may still be worth a look-in just for the fun factor…and the divas!
- Superb graphics
- Decent player models and voice overs
- Lots of content and match types
- Excellent soundtrack
Not so good stuff
- Long loading times
- Poor commentary
- Poor AI
- Lack of downloadable content