X-Box 360

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008

Published by THQ

Developed by Yukes

Genre: Wrestling

Rating: Teen (Alcohol Reference, Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence)

Price: $59.99

Reviewed by Jon Minners


            Once again, THQ and Yukes puts the WWE action into the publicís hands and this yearís entry into the popular Smackdown series speaks volumes about its direction.              The Smackdown series of games has long been a favorite of most wrestling fans who anxiously await each edition.  But as is the case in every popular sports franchise, weaknesses have started to show, suggesting that Yukes needs to change its strategy for upcoming versions of the game. 

            Noticeable negatives include the Artificial Intelligence of the game, which at times appears to not have any intelligence at all.  Characters climb ladders for no reason and sometimes blindly swing at opponents with weapons.  A big problem occurs in a tag-team match where it appears the partner has forgotten that in certain situations, it becomes necessary to make a crucial save.  Itís tough to play a wrestling game when the actual match doesnít feel like the ones you watch every week due to mistakes, which also include collision detection issues and clipping problems. 

            In addition, gamers may have a significant problem with the 24/7 mode, which tries unsuccessfully to combine a story mode and general manager mode.  The basis of every game is to take a character and guide him to the top.  You must win the world title.  No matter how staged wrestling may be, wrestlers go into the trade to become a world champion and this game is no different.  Thatís the goal, but getting there may leave some confused by the sometimes nonsensical storylines that appear.  Events just occur without rhyme or reason and that may just irk more than one consumer. 

            But there are a lot of positives that make this game worth purchasing.  The best new feature is the fighting style component that adds a unique dimension to the game.  Make your wrestler a powerhouse, grappler and so on.  There are several to choose from, each with its own significant character traits.  And they are not for show either.  The fighting styles really change the style of game play.  Batista will have an edge on Rey Mysterio, because his powerhouse moves can crush his opponent faster, but thatís the fun of it all.  Those tired of seeing Rey Mysterio manhandle the Big Show in gamesí past will now enjoy finding other methods to take the Animal down.  This addition makes the game even more realistic than ever before. 

            The new submission system that has controllers using the right analog stick to apply pressure or escape a hold is another welcome addition. 

            Also, while there have not been any real changes made to the create-a-wrestler mode or the online mode, they are back in this version.  Gamers are forgiving in these categories.  The create-a-wrestler mode is still deep enough to make wild creations or just base characters on other wrestling greats.  Girls will even enjoy this mode, as it allows them the opportunity to play dress-up.  Taking the created star through a season of wrestling, a battle amongst friends or just online will provide gamers with hours upon hours of fun.  Fighting other characters online also adds a dimension to the game it was seriously lacking several years ago.  It would be nice to have new elements added to the feature, but the ability to trade characters and test your skills against seasoned pros makes up for it. 

            In addition, once you create a character, you can upload your favorite songs to a play list and use said song as your new starís entrance music.  My personal favorite is 50 Cent and Akonís hit ďIíll Still Kill.Ē

            Moreover, the addition of an ECW brand allows consumers to play Extreme Rules matches and as their favorite ECW stars, including Sabu, Tommy Dreamer and the Sandman.  And although Booker T, Cryme Tyme and Marcus Cor Von are no longer in the WWE, it is nice to have the ability to play as them, too.  Jeff Hardy is also back.  For the first time since 2002, the Rainbow Warrior is a playable character.  Given his recent success, this is a real bonus for most wrestling fans. 

            A legend mode also allows you to relive classics, including the 60-Minute Iron Man Match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.  Thatís a nice touch and in later years when they really add to the legends already included in the game, it would be an even more welcome addition to recreate other classic encounters.  This legends mode has a lot of room to grow and could end up becoming a game within itself one day, blowing away that other failed wrestling title from years back. 

            Other than that, Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 is still the best looking wrestling game ever seen with character models that look very much like their real-life counterparts.  The action is also as intense if not more so than the real thing.  At least in this game, Tommy Dreamer can get the push he deserves. 

            Next year, they may want to restart the franchise Ė expand the legends mode, fix the storyline to make it more intriguing, increase the AI, get rid of the graphical glitches, do something to make the voice acting and cut scenes less generic and add to the online and create-a-wrestler depth. 

            In the meantime, this is still the most fun anyone could ever have without stepping foot in the ring. 


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