WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2008 Review
|Release Date:||November 9th, 2007 (UK)|
THQ's Smackdown series has had the wrestling game market to itself in recent years, what with the steady decline in competition to the WWE's throne. WCW and ECW have each been absorbed into Vince McMahon's empire, and with TNA being the only wrestling brand that's anywhere near the WWE, the Smackdown series has been pumping out yearly updates with the odd tweak here and there but nothing groundbreaking. Sadly, WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2008 is another prime example of this mediocre rehashing.
After several loading screens just to get to the main menu, the game's several game modes and its plethora of match types are revealed. There's no doubt that there are more ways to recreate the WWE superstars' antics than ever before, what with numerous one on one match types and various others catering for up to six wrestlers at a time. The only match type still missing that fans want is the Inferno match, but as that's only used once in a blue moon anyway, its absence isn't too much of a disappointment.
The range of single-player modes has been cut down in Smackdown 08 with the 24/7 mode being the culmination of last year's modes. It's fair to say, it's poor at best. You pick a wrestler, either from the game's lacking roster or your own created superstar, and then try and make it to the top and become WWE Champion. It's the usual story, but as well as competing in matches you're also required to interact with other superstars via your mobile phone, arrange events such as press conferences and interviews in an effort to boost your popularity, and train and rest appropriately. It might sound like fun, but it really isn't. Training events are tame and repetitive, and just getting to play an actual match can sometime take a ridiculous amount of time, thanks to all the other things you have to engage in. If you enjoy upping stats and making sure your wrestler is in top shape, popular with the fans, and has all sorts of feuds going on, then you might get more out of it - but for people who just want to go through a season, having only one mode that forces you to deal with all the behind the scenes stuff is disappointing.
Tournament mode and the new Hall of Fame mode, in which you play in famous matches from the WWE's history, are a welcome distraction from 24/7, but the multiplayer and online modes will be where most players get their enjoyment. As mentioned earlier, there are certainly plenty of match types to choose from, and some changes have been made to how these actually play out. When choosing a wrestler, you'll notice that they now have two different fighting styles. Someone like Jeff Hardy for example is a 'high-flyer' and 'showman', while Kane is a 'powerhouse' and 'brawler'. One of these is selected before the match, and once the in-game power meter is full, you'll be able to initiate a different move or ability depending on the style chosen. It's a nice addition and means that character's moves are more realistic in terms of what they actually do in the real WWE shows.
For some reason the controls in this year's game have been changed and simplified, and while this might make it easier initially for first-time players, it limits the number of moves you can do compared to previous years and just feels less flexible. The Ultimate Control moves are still included, and a new mechanism involving the rotation of the right analogue stick is used for applying pressure or escaping submissions. Another new control method is that of the weapon wheel that appears when reaching down to grab a weapon from under the ring. While it's a good thing that you can now decide what weapon you're armed with, the way that everything stops until you've taken as long as you like to pick and choose is somewhat unrealistic, and can be irritating in multiplayer.
The character models are, as always, top notch with every wrestler being instantly recognisable, and the entrances are great too, especially the more impressive ones like Triple H's or the Undertaker's. Sadly there are still some collision detection issues during gameplay, and the AI of the computer opponent's can, at times, be laughable. The commentary doesn't help make the matches feel anymore real either, with terrible repetition, phrases repeated from Smackdown 07 and JBL sounding like he has a cold.
The few decent additions, such as the introduction of ECW superstars and the long overdue custom soundtrack option, can't hide the fact that Smackdown 08 is essentially the same game it has been for the last few years with only a couple of bells and whistles added. You sometimes wonder if developers of games like this deliberately hold new features back just so they have something they can proclaim as "New!" in next year's edition.
WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2008 is a still a decent wrestling game, and still the best out there (thanks in part to it being the only one out there), but with almost nothing new of any significance and some flaws that should have been ironed out by now, Smackdown 08 is hard to recommend for owners of 07's version, but a safe bet for newcomers wanting an entertaining wrestling game.
- Wrestlers and their entrances look great
- Plays a decent game of wrestling
Not so good stuff
- Awful commentary
- Dodgy AI
- Limited single-player appeal