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Matt Keller
14 Nov, 2007

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 Review

360 Review | Slobberknocker or snore-inducer?
For the past decade, THQ’s wrestling games have been the best games in the history of the industry, without a doubt. Some would say that wrestling games peaked in 2000 with WWF No Mercy, while others would disagree and point to 2003’s WWE Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain as a better measuring stick. The thing is, since the release of Here Comes the Pain, wrestling games have seen a downturn in quality. Raw 2 and Wrestlemania XXI on the Xbox were abominations, and the last three versions of Smackdown have become successively worse, with last year’s game only garnering a measly 5.5/10. The new generation debut of WWE was not very successful, and what was once a tentpole release for November has become something much less. However, we had high hopes that THQ and Yukes could turn the series around, and WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 shows that they are committed to doing so.

The biggest new feature of Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 is the new superstar fighting style system. Eight styles are available; brawler, dirty, hardcore, high flyer, powerhouse, showman, technical and submission. Each superstar fighting style offers a distinctly different experience to the way a wrestler controls – brawler allows for more pounding moves, showman will let you steal taunts and finishers, while dirty will let you pull out some brass knuckles to strike the other wrestler while the ref’s back is turned. The existing WWE superstars each have two fighting styles to choose from, while you can assign any two to your created wrestlers.

Another major new in-ring feature is the struggle submission system, which is far superior to last year’s button mash-fest. Simply put, when the player puts his or her opponent in a submission hold, one must apply pressure to the hold with the right analogue stick. Every so often, the stick must be returned to its neutral position to allow the hold to be tightened again. Inversely, if the player is caught in a submission hold, they have to wiggle the right stick to get out of the hold when the hold is in the neutral position. An on-screen indicator will demonstrate whether the hold is in place or about to be broken.

Triple H has been known to try to pick others' noses

Triple H has been known to try to pick others' noses
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There are a couple of new game modes this year, and some major changes to the career and GM modes. The new Hall of Fame mode allows you to recreate classic WWE moments against WWE Legends – you can take on Bret Hart with Shawn Michaels in an iron man match, or Mick Foley versus The Undertaker in their famous Hell in a Cell match and more. Hall of Fame also has rewards for winning the Royal Rumble as the #1 entrant, or winning GM of the Year. The ECW side of the WWE has been included for this year’s game, with a handful of wrestlers included (though they cannot be used in 24/7 mode), along with the ECW Extreme Rules match type. A tournament option has also been included so you can participate in the King of the Ring, Road to Wrestlemania, Race against the Clock and Money in the Bank tournaments, as well as custom tournaments of your own creation.

The career mode and GM mode of years past have been merged together into a new mode called 24/7. That said, the process of playing hasn’t changed that much – playing as a wrestler or a general manager are still distinctly separated experiences, and you don’t have the opportunity to play as both at the same time, or switch between the two. Last year’s career mode interface has been scrapped, which is probably the best design decision of the year – rather than the fiddly first person navigation, players simply manage their work from a neat little visual interface. The GM side of things is essentially the same as last year – fulfill a bunch of objectives, make your brand the best and try to become Vince’s favourite.

Playing as a wrestler is more realistic and involved than last year, as players will have to determine their training schedules, movie and fan appearances, manage injuries and ensure they get to their matches on time. Injuries, while a realistic addition, have been pretty poorly managed this year. The game will advise players that their wrestler is injured and advise them to take a rest – the only problem is that there is no option to rest up. Wrestling with an injury will result in the injured area being red at the start of a match – constantly having this problem without the opportunity to rest is a huge oversight. Not every superstar is available for use in the career side of 24/7 – only 19 superstars or your created superstar can be used. Fans of the legends, ECW or divas need not apply.

The Undertaker and Triple H partake in some cagey antics

The Undertaker and Triple H partake in some cagey antics
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The creation side of wrestling games has always been a fan favourite – we’re a little disappointed in the lack of progression on this side of the game. Only minor updates have been made to the create-a-superstar mode, with a few extra parts here or there. There are some good additions though; players can rip any song to their hard drive and use it as their theme in create-an-entrance, and created superstars can be traded online. That should help to make up for the fact that the game has a significantly smaller roster than Smackdown vs. Raw 2007.

In the ring, there has been a lot of fine tuning to the analogue control. Fans of older Smackdown games are just going to have to grin and bear the new control style, because it looks like it’s here to stay. On an extremely positive note, the ultimate control grapples of last year have been greatly refined, and the moves required to do them have been greatly simplified. Wrestlers don’t seem to be packing as many moves as they did in older games, but the moves they do have are a bit closer to the moves they would use in a real match. The problem here is that some moves are ridiculously overpowered – Triple H’s weak down grapple delivers a knee to the opponent’s chest – six of these and it’s game over. The environmental moves have been expanded and now actually feel like they’re an option for use within a match.

To be frank, Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 has terrible AI; rather than increasing skill or variety when you increase the difficulty, the game only really changes the frequency of the counters that the computer controlled opponent will employ in any given match. Even on the easiest level, the counter rate is ridiculously high in the CPU’s favour – sliders are available to turn it down, but that kind of feels like cheating. Computer controlled opponents always seem to have an advantage in the time it takes them to get up off the mat when their damage meter has been maxed out – play the Money in the Bank ladder match, and you will see.

Speaking of match types, Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 has them by the bucketload. One on One, Tag Team, Cage, Hell-in-a-Cell, TLC, Royal Rumble, Buried Alive, etc. – if you can think of a WWE main event, it’s probably going to be in the game. Some game types are a little more refined than others, and we still aren’t particularly fond of the Royal Rumble elimination system. Still, throw these match types in with 24/7, tournaments, Hall of Fame mode and online play, and you’ve got a game packed to the brim with content. Online play seems a lot better when compared to last year, with noticeably less lag. This year’s achievements in the Xbox 360 version of the game are also a little more on the sane side, though there is still a large number of lengthy online achievements.

Invisible air chair!

Invisible air chair!
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The Smackdown games on the PlayStation 2 were easily some of the best looking games on the system, and last year, Yukes fell short on delivering what we felt was a distinctly next-gen graphical experience. The same can be said for Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 – resolution aside, it just doesn’t look that much better than the games on the PlayStation 2. Sure, the wrestlers sweat and bleed, and the shadowing is better, but that’s not really enough to cut it. Animation and clipping still remain unaddressed – it’s ridiculous that we still have animations in the game that were in the original Smackdown on the PlayStation in 2000. It’s about time that Yukes decided to re-animate everything from scratch.

In terms of sound, all of your favourite entrance themes are available, and there’s a good selection of rock tracks on the menu. Commentary is provided by the three different WWE commentary teams – Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler for Raw, Michael Cole and JBL for Smackdown and Joey Styles and Tazz for ECW. Unfortunately, the commentary still sucks – one second you will be told about how Bret Hart is one of the all time greats of the WWE, only to hear the next second that the two wrestlers in the ring will have long careers in the WWE. Voice acting from the wrestlers has been limited to only the 19 available in the 24/7 mode due to what THQ claimed as quality restrictions on their behalf. Some wrestlers sound disinterested, whereas others, particularly Vince McMahon, really get into it.

We opened this review with a note about how Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 shows Yukes’ commitment to improving the game after last year’s debacle – and they’ve done a reasonably good job of doing so. The problem is that they have failed to address issues in the game that pre-date last year’s less than stellar iteration. There is still a heap of legacy animation in the game, the AI is wretched, the career and GM modes are a bit stale, and the game just doesn’t look like it is taking advantage of the power of the new generation systems. Despite having a number of issues, Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 is still an incredibly fun game to play, particularly with friends. There’s nothing we could say that would stop WWE fans from grabbing this one, but at least this year, they do so with our blessing.
The Score
Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 fixes a few of the problems from the 2007 game, but there are still a number of serious issues yet to be addressed. It's still a lot of fun, though. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
6 years ago
I just bought the US version of this on the PS3 last night. I love the CAW mode in these games, I create all my friends, invite them over and we bash each others brains out. Playing online should add to the lifespan of the game too, as long as it doesn't lag horribly like 2007 apparantly did.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  15/11/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  THQ
Genre:
  Sports
Year Made:
  2007

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