Phil Larsen
06 Dec, 2006

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 Review

360 Review | All pain, no gain.
Pro Wrestling is a behemoth of entertainment, with huge stage shows and superstars hanging out and beating the brains out of each other. For years it has been re-created for the consoles, usually with decent enough results. WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2007 is the latest update for the series, and seeks to be bigger and badder than ever. Fans will go slightly mental as each new installment is released, despite the combat remaining very standard. The Xbox 360 version provides the most content thus far, but simultaneously proves that anything in excess is bad for you.

As soon as the disc is in the drive, a multitude of game options are immediately available. First-timers may wish to start with a short Exhibition match to test the waters, while veterans may dive right into the Season and General Manager modes. To put it simply, anyone wishing to get as full an experience as possible will spend countless hours playing through match after match and customising everything, from wrestlers, match rules – and even locker room layout. The entire wrestling world is open to explore, and no criticism can be made about the intentions to create an immersive experience. But, you can’t pay the bills with good intentions – keep that in mind.

Stepping in to the ring opens up an array of customisation. A huge roster has been assembled, both male and female. Leave your brains at the door, though, because this is primitive stuff. Don’t misunderstand – nothing is wrong with wrestling, and WWE has certainly proved its worth as a valid form of entertainment. Regardless, this is a game that strives to put as much authentic control as possible into the hands of the player, unfortunately without achieving much success in the staying power of the combat engine. The right analogue stick is the main tool, and supporting the stick movements are the face and shoulder buttons for the running, climbing and grappling commands. The sticks seem to be the way to go for next-gen sports gameplay, which is usually implemented well. This method of control works with wrestling, but takes a long time to get used to – and even when one becomes familiar with the commands, it still feels fiddly and inefficient rather than intuitive.

Auditioning for STOMP! The Musical.

Auditioning for STOMP! The Musical.
For a game (and sport) that requires constant human contact, as well as complete accuracy, timing and placement of moves, WWE does a fairly mediocre job of recreating the experience. There are constant hit detection issues, and the limbs of the combatants seem to mold into one another every so often. Heck, watch the tutorial videos - where one would expect the best possible examples of quality gameplay, yet even basic punches swing right through the opponents head. Each move seems to be a pre-determined animation, with little dynamic or contextual sway.

This means that if one wrestler starts a move (and misses) while the other is, say, running towards his opponent to execute a jumping attack, the two players will just clash in a flurry of poor execution. The jumping wrestler will simple glance off the other and complete his move bearing no ill effect to his opponent, whereas the other wrestler’s arm may somehow pass through someone’s body as a failed grapple move is executed. Pinning moves are equally dodgy – go for the leg pin, and the camera will swoop in for a very cinematic angle of a leg passing through the head of the opponent. As mentioned, the entire sport (its status as a “sport” is debatable, admittedly) is built around hand-to-hand combat, so if the hand-to-hand combat suffers from sloppy hit detection and unrealistic movements, it takes away a large chunk of the game’s merit.

Speaking of movements, you’ll end up seeing different wrestlers moving in the exact same way. For example, there are stamina bars which need to be filled by holding down B. If your main man gets a little exhausted, expect some classic swaying on the spot, in a dazed fashion. If both opponents are equally tired, they will both begin swaying, using the exact same animation. It’s actually a little reminiscent of Mortal Kombat matches, but this time around no Fatality is available. If running while tired, your wrestler will slow down and stumble to his knees – which looks the same regardless of which character is chosen. Too many corners have been cut into the next-gen gameplay capabilties; sacrificing true development quality in order to cram the game full of extraneous features.

Nothing says awesome like yellow underwear.

Nothing says awesome like yellow underwear.
Tap any button repeatedly. This is the most common phrase to see when playing WWE. Put in a choke hold? Tap any button. Knocked down? Tap any button. Combine being put into a choke hold, after which your opponent drops you to the floor, expect a good 20-25 seconds of button tapping. Change the modes and the time spent tapping will skyrocket. Two team members simultaneously issuing a beat-down results in a solid one and a half minutes of tapping. Finally recover to your feet, and then the exact same thing could (and does) happen again. Why have the contrast of experimenting with smoother and more intuitive analogue stick control for attacking and defence, while immediately after said attacks, gameplay reverts to being as archaic and mindless as “tap any button repeatedly”?

The bigger and badder additions include Ultimate Control moves, Environment Grapples and Finishing Moves. These are all good ideas in theory, but end up being shoehorned into the clunky analogue control scheme. These are also coupled with poor on-screen instructions which flash a bevy of required button presses for a split second, expecting the player to read a mess of arrows and “press” icons instantly for some hardcore carnage. It works when it works – but for the new player, it’s very off-putting. You’ll miss what the instructions say the first time, then stumble around the arena again trying to put yourself in the same situation, in order to have the button prompts reappear. All the controls work, and the combat still passes the grade, but there are so many evident problems it simply never feels like the way a true wrestling sim ought to.

Pull my finger.

Pull my finger.
Aside from the aforementioned clipping and collision issues, the graphics look quite decent. The body textures are particularly detailed, and react well to external lighting. The arenas are slightly less impressive – not ugly, but definitely not outstanding. For a game with a comparatively low amount of content aside from the combat, more effort needs to be put into the surroundings to support the centre-screen action. The entrance animations are nice, however always a lack certain aesthetic quality. For instance, Big Show may erupt into the arena ready for combat, but the limited facial expressions and personality never once give the much-needed feeling of realism. It certainly detracts from the brutal action when what should feel like a living, breathing character comes across as a pretty action figure.

The story cutscenes are entertaining, aside from poor lip-synching. The plot is typical WWE nonsense, with the same wrestlers endlessly involved in a complex political-esque struggle for any manner of championship titles while buxom babes jump around at their sides flashing some skin and acting silly. Fans will like it, but wrestling is available much of the time on TV, so why not just watch that? Look past the big noises and shiny things, and you will find a core game that suffers from one too many technical issues.

WWE Smackdown Vs. RAW 2007 achieves nothing new for wrestling games. Aside from using a bunch of poorly implemented analogue stick controls, and stuffing the game with as large a wrestler roster as possible, it feels no different from the classic WCW vs. NWO or WWF Warzone/Attitude games back on the Nintendo 64. Including a larger number of moves doesn’t help either, considering half of them don’t look or feel nearly as satisfying as they should to pull off. This isn’t a “bad” game overall, just a very average one. It has all the bases covered, but none stand out or give an impression of a passionate development process. If the core premise of wrestling – smooth and accurate combat - can’t be developed well, no number of bells and whistles will push this game to a height it doesn’t deserve.
The Score
It's a passable wrestling game that never gives any impression of credibility. Going through the motions of making a game without any unique concept or vision is fine - if it hasn't been done many times before.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 years ago
This just makes me want to get the TNA wrestling game.
7 years ago
From personal experience, I think you've been a little harsh on the game.

No matter how much more realistic the game will be, the Arcadey Button Mashing will still be there to make the gameplay simpler for the kids, which the game is mostly targeted at, to fit with the WWE's product.

Body parts moving through bodies have, and will always be in these sorts of games, as Pro Wrestling is such a free and open movement sport, the same animations will never fit all the wrestlers that are all different shapes.

I totally think the opposite to the new controls for SvR 2007 - I felt they were more easier and more fun to use, and the Ultimate Control Moves may need a little refining, after a while, the player will be able to memorize the 3 Controls you could do while the move occurs.

I've seen that you haven't even touched on the new Ladder Match and Money in The Bank Ladder Matches, with the lack of actual button mashing to grab the belt. While it may be a little annoying when the opponent teleports to the top, and hits a suplex off the ladder, I find the analogue stick hands on the "Sweet Spot" a great and original idea.
7 years ago
I think it deserved more than a 5.5 however I pretty much agree. It's somehow worse than last years installment and is no where near what No Mercy was.

Bring back AKI!
7 years ago
I have this game on the PS2, its controls are pathetic and everything else is the same as the last one except the roster.

After whats been happening with Paul Heyman and the new ECW (you could just call it WWECW) i'm turning my back on WWE full stop and hoping TNA iMPACT! will make it to aussie TV very soon because bittorrent can only do so much
7 years ago
i see we have another TNA fan.
7 years ago
^ *raises hand*

I heard iMPACT! was supposedly starting on Mainevent although I don't really know details, just something I read somewhere.

Anyways.. I have to say I just assumed the game would score 7+, haven't played but am quite suprised.

And Retro please add more to this than 'I see another TNA fan' We can all read and can pick it up ourselves, k? (no, don't reply)
7 years ago
TNA Pwns, however PWG and Chikara are far better.

Stick to Smackdown game though please. <_<
7 years ago
off to get the Simpsons Wrestling icon_lol_old.gif
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