Jeremy Jastrzab
27 Dec, 2006

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 Review

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Whether you think that “professional wrestling” is truly a sport for the spectators or just an over-choreographed dance routine with over-muscled meatheads and well-endowed women, there's no denying that wrestling is a superpower in the world of entertainment. Over the years, there have been several upon several video games based on wrestling that have come and gone with the times. Since prominent publisher Acclaim went belly-up, the main publisher providing the mass with their wrestling fix has been THQ. It wasn’t long ago that gamers had a large choice of wrestlers, now it seems that one title has become the most prominent. WWE Smackdown Vs Raw returns in the form of WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2007 for PS2, PSP and Xbox 360 in 2006.

It seems that the WWE Smackdown Vs Raw series is going to be given the “EA” treatment, with the core gameplay being kept intact and developers looking for new ways to either control the game or new modes for players. Thankfully, WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2007 hasn’t gone the way of EA ’07 range and looks to actually improve upon the previous instalment. For all intents and purposes, the PSP version is pretty much identical to the PS2 and Xbox360 versions of the game in terms of content.

Whereas the PS2 and Xbox 360 versions gave you a handy introduction video into the new features for the game, this is absent from the PSP version. Instead, you’re thrown into the action without so much as a tutorial to help you through. The absence is likely due to the PSP’s lacking of a second analog stick, so the controls are pretty much the same as they were last year. However, the rest of the additions to the console versions haven’t eluded the PSP version. It has meant that a lot of functions have been crammed into fewer buttons, but the game manages to pull it off.

No shortage of glitz

No shortage of glitz
While next to the opponent, pushing the circle button and the d-pad in any of the four directions will initiate a quick grapple, and doing so while holding the R button will initiate a strong grapple. By pressing up and R, you will initiate a clean/dirty hold, down will initiate a submission and left and right will start Category 1 and Category 2 grapples respectively. The holds and grapples are generally unique across characters and they can be changed/customised in various ways, depending on the style.

What this does, is that it opens up the face buttons for specific uses, with the X button used in context, Circle for grabs, Square for attacking and Triangle for running and other manoeuvres. Additionally, stamina is recovered by holding the Select button, movement is controlled by the d-pad but this has left the analog nub with taunts, as well as Hotspot and Ultimate Control moves - this seems a bit of a waste though. Reversals have been dedicated to the L and R buttons, while L also governs your finishing moves.

Another addition to the controls has been the Ultimate Control moves. When in a grapple state, the player can press a button to pick up their opponent and preform moves on them with total control, for example, picking them up over their head. Players then follow the prompts in the HUD, primarily using the analog nub. This can be used to put some serious damage into their opponents, though you’ll have to be mindful of your own stamina, as you’ll lose a lot by performing these moves.

Environmental hotspots have been added into the game as well. When you put your opponent into a strong grapple, you can drag them over to one of these hotspots and a sequence will initiate. Again, using the prompts in the HUD and the analog nub, you can put some serious damage into your opponent. Some of the environments include the rope, the corner or the edge of the arena. For example, one such sequence will have you pushing up and down on the right analog stick to simulate the movement of your punch, not dissimilar to what was seen in games like God of War or even Fahrenheit. The last major addition to the game is that of “Fighting Area in the Crowd”. Here, both wrestlers can jump out into an area between the fans and duke it out there. This leaves the opportunity for different kinds of weapons, such as crutches and adds a bit more to the immersive feeling for the game.

And this little piggy went to market...

And this little piggy went to market...
There are several different kinds of Exhibition modes that cover virtually everything in the wrestling world, from Single to 'Hell in a Cell' matches. Most wrestling fans will probably spend most of their time in the Season and General Manager modes and the create-a-wrestler modes. The Season allows you to take a real or user-made wrestler through a full season and there are plenty of colourful scenarios to play through and plenty of options to enjoy. We’re a little disappointed that the General Manager mode is still a bit of tedious exercise. There are a lot of menus and hoo-ha that needs to be navigated through, though some of the more hardcore fans could tolerate it and may even love the micromanagement and hands-on stuff. Furthermore, it doesn’t quite reach the same level of glitz as the Season mode.

Creating your own wrestler is a deep and satisfying exercise. You’ve got plenty of looks to choose from, as well as wrestling moves and styles. Best of all, you can play through the game and further develop them and take them online. You can also take your created tournaments online as well. The PSP version is a little different in how it handles its online modes but they come off just as well as you could expect. The game has almost everything, in terms of content, that a wrestling fan could want.

If you’re a wrestling fan first and a gamer second, you won’t think twice about getting this game. However, there a few issue that still linger over this game. Issues that include clipping and either overly dopey or overpowering AI. Despite general improvements over time, the wrestlers will still feel a lot of the time as if they’re too hard to move. A couple of PSP specific problems have arisen as well, such as slight issues with targeting. Another issue that some may have is the lack of variety between wrestlers, but this is something that could be negligible to a wrestling fan, more so than for say, a fan of “real” fighting games.

While the PSP version is a decent port and it replicates the console gameplay very well, the major issue is that this game is simply not designed for portability. The load times are still on the borderline of ludicrous, with the game taking 5 minutes and over to actually get into the game. This does include introductions if you chose to keep them. However, matches can take over 20 minutes and there is no way to save or get around it sometimes. This can be acceptable in a lounge room but not on the go. Simply, this game has no portable appeal and looks like it needed some tweaking or optimising for the system.

Here comes the big sweaty man!

Here comes the big sweaty man!
In terms of the graphics, the PSP version does a very commendable job recreating the game both in terms of technical ability and presentation. As expected, the presentation is way over the top and replicates the actual wrestling well. Models are fantastically recreated, as are the arenas. Still, there are issues with robot animations and clipping but they have been improving. The PSP actually does reasonably well and looks cleaner than it did last year, although there is a noticeable gap in quality. In terms of the sound, there is plenty of heavy, hard-hitting music and sound effects to accompany the big hits and scripted scenes. The voicing is impressive, though a few of the bytes sound a tad muted. The commentary is absent from the PSP, which can be interpreted as a good thing.

Overall the PSP version of WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2007 is a very good recreation of the console versions and provides a good game of wrestling, even with lesser details and slightly crammed controls. However, the lack of portability and obtuse load times mean that it has no advantage over the PS2 or Xbox 360 versions - that, and you'll be paying the same, if not more than the PS2 version. If you MUST have a portable wrestler, this will do the job but for most people, there is no reason to play this game outside of their lounge rooms.
The Score
WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2007 is a good wrestling game for the PSP but the lack of portabliltiy greatly diminshes its appeal. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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