WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 Review

Tights? Check. Big dudes? Check. Well-endowed women? Check. Add that all up and you pretty much have World Wrestling Entertainment down perfectly. THQ and Yuke’s have tagged up for a third time to bring all you WWE nuts out there your wrestling fix. While this game does have its share of problems, what you will be receiving is a feature-filled package that will keep you occupied for a surprising amount of time. [Well, you did say well-endowed women – Ed]

It doesn’t hurt that the game plays fairly well, either. For new entrants to the series, the controls will probably feel a little strange for a bit. It took me personally about an hour to get the hang of the controls and start “smacking the yellow off of my opponent’s teeth.” However, if you’re familiar with the series, you should have no trouble popping right into this game.

The basic control scheme is centered around the right stick, which when flicked up, down, left or right performs a regular grapple. If you press RB along with a flick of the right stick, you will perform a “power grapple,” which allows, as you would imagine, a more powerful move to occur. In my experience though, I just stuck with the normal grapples unless my opponent was worn down significantly. With the power grapple, there is a chance that the AI will actually get the move off instead of you, whereas with the regular grapple, the only thing you have to worry about is a counter-move. Despite this flaw, the system still works because it has such a variety of moves that you can do. There are different attacks for a multitude of situations; if you’re facing your opponent, behind him/her, when he/she is woozy and hanging on the turnbuckle and more. Seeing as there are so many different moves that are at your disposal, the gameplay manages to stay fresh.

Another big part of the gameplay is the momentum meter that fills or drains depending on how you are doing in the match. Once the meter is filled, you can complete your superstar’s finishing move, which triggers the superstar’s trademark move. It has a nice balance to it, because just hitting a finishing move does not guarantee a pinfall or a submission. One more thing that adds nice balance to the game is the stamina system. When you perform grapple attacks, punches or run, you lose stamina. If you don’t take a break and hold the B button to regain some of your stamina, you’re just going to fall down in a heaping mess. This adds a small bit of strategy to the game, where you have to decide when to stop your attack and regain some of your energy back.

There are three other notable gameplay features in the game. The first is the “hotspot” feature, which allows players to interact with the environment to cause massive damage to their rival. [Hit their weak-spot for massive damage! -Ed] For example, my personal favorite was to remove the padding on the turnbuckle and then Irish Whip my challenger chest first into the turnbuckle. If that isn’t your taste, you could also slam his or her head on the steel steps or fight on the announcer’s table. Next, you have the “possum” feature which allows you to fake an injury and that baits the opponent into a situation where you could get a surprise pinfall. The feature is a nice thing to have and adds some depth to the gameplay, but for the most part you’re not going to use it. That is also the case with the last major gameplay feature, which allows you to completely drain the other character’s momentum bar. All you have to do is execute his or her special taunt without getting hit. The catch is that you have to a finishing move stored and in draining their momentum bar, you lose that stored finishing move. Why would anyone use this? It is much more devastating to just use the finishing move on a finishing move.

Another gripe I have about the gameplay is the reverse system. Basically, to reverse a strike, you hit the left trigger. To reverse a grapple, you hit the right trigger. Why have two different buttons for the same basic act? Players will have a hard time remembering which one is which, especially in the heat of a match. Hopefully, Yuke’s will look into changing this to just have the right or the left trigger deal with reverses.

Lastly, the submission system in Smackdown vs. RAW 2007 is sadly pretty hit or miss. On one hand, there are some moves that have you frantically tapping any button to get the meter to hit “tap out” if you’ve got the hold locked in, or “escape” if you’ve found yourself in a predicament. This is an awesome system and playing alongside a buddy or Xbox Live can produce some funny moments where you are both tapping as fast and hard as you can. Then, on the other hand you’ve got a system where you have to tap the A button as the pointer goes over an escape area or a reverse area. If you miss too many times and you are worn down, your character will tap out. What makes this even more difficult is that the other character can tap the X button to put more pressure on you. It is just overtly difficult to get out of, or maybe I just have poor timing.

One of the coolest things that you can do is create your own WWE superstar. Yuke’s included an insane amount of customization options in the game. You can affect pretty much every aspect of your superstar’s body; from their eyebrows, their eyelashes, the depth of their calves, the width of their arms, or what kind of six-pack they have. The possibilities here are limited only by your creativity. [Or sadistic tendencies -Ed]

However, the biggest strength of the game is the features it manages to pack into it. There are two main gameplay modes outside of the regular exhibition mode: Season and General Manager Mode. The most appealing of these two is the season mode, where you can either have a current WWE superstar go through the mode, or have you bring your own created superstar through a grueling WWE season. What surprised me about the season mode though is how I actually cared slightly about the narratives, at least for a while. They follow a lot of the same plot-lines you come to expect from the WWE: At some point, someone betrays you. If you have seen the first feud, you have seen them all. They have some slight variations why things are occurring, and I suppose that is all you can ask for. The WWE is not known for their tremendous story-telling and Yuke’s did a commendable job with what they have to work with.

The season mode will send you through the gambit of the different match types that you fight in. You’ll have ladder matches, tag matches, triple threat, fatal four-ways, parking lot brawls, steel cage matches and much more. Some are better than others, though. For example, the tag team matches and the ladder matches are full of little bugs and random annoyances. For example, in tag team matches your partner rarely can intercept the other person’s tag team partner when you go for a pin/submission because the referee, you or the other person is in his way. The AI doesn’t know enough to go around them. So you had to knock them both out before you could get a pinfall, which could be extremely frustrating. Then, with the ladder matches, there are two main problems. First, the setting up the ladder sometimes just doesn’t work right. Sometimes the ladder will fold up instead of you wanting to go up the ladder to get to the belt, or vice versa. Then, when you get past that, there is just one “title meter” for both competitors. So, for example, one person could be grabbing at the belt for 99.9% of the time and get knocked off the ladder at the last minute, and the other person gets it instantly. It is just a bit unfair. Otherwise, there is a ton of variety in the match types and even despite these problems; are extremely fun to play.

The GM mode will probably appeal to people that like a lot of micromanagement or want to create their dream matches. In this mode, you become the general manager of either the Smackdown or RAW brand and try to beat the other GM in the amount of ratings and fans. You have to create rivalries and develop these by making sure the two or more people involved are continuously fighting each other. It probably won’t interest everyone though, because you’re not fighting the matches, you’re just creating the match-ups.

The visuals in the game are solid. The character models all look like their true live counterparts; there are some really nice dynamic sweat effects that give the stars a nice glisten as the match goes on. All the wrestlers have their introduction music and their original ways on how they come out to the crowd, which adds a lot to the presentation. The environments all look pretty crisp, with the audience all in full 3D. However, the game suffers from some pretty bad clipping, especially with long hair.

Smackdown vs. RAW 2007 features some great audio. When you are fighting on the RAW brand of the WWE, you’ll hear commentary from Jim Ross and Larry “The King” Lawler, whereas when you’re on Smackdown, Michael Cole and former wrestler Tazz take over the reins. Like most sports commentary, it gets old after a while, but the four do a fine job. The rest of the sound effects are all solid. When you drop a nice body slam on your opponent, you hear a satisfying thud. Punches, kicks and slaps have an appropriate fleshy sound. One of the surprising parts of the audio is the soundtrack, which actually features some solid tracks from the likes of Nonpoint and Three Days Grace. The best part of the audio is performed by the superstars via in-game cut-scenes and voice messages that you will receive throughout the season. The dialogue is well-written and well performed and adds to the feeling that you are actually a superstar in the WWE.

If you want to take your skills online, you’re not going to get a tremendous package here. You have your basic player and ranked matches, all the match types at your disposal and the ability to take your superstar online. While playing online I never encountered any lag, so you should get a smooth multiplayer experience.

Overall, this is easily the best wrestling experience to be had on the Xbox 360. [Like Rumble Roses XX had a chance. -Ed] There are a lot of minor problems in the game that might turn some people off, but what you are getting here is a game that has enough included in it to last people until WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2008 comes out next year. If you have any interest in wrestling and the WWE, give this game a look.

Originally Written By: Art Green

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