Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2007

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Electronic Theatre ImageTHQ’s WWE SmackDown! games have been considered the definitive console wrestling titles for some time now. Despite EA’s stranglehold on the official rights for most sports titles, all SmackDown! related games since the PlayStation era have been published by THQ. Unfortunately, given the frequency of new SmackDown! games, this years WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2007 being the eight edition in the annual series, there is the risk of the series’ production becoming stale. Yuke’s promise a whole new Analogue Grapple System and numerous new additions to gameplay for WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2007, however, with their age-old Engine starting to look a little dated, is this enough?

 

First and foremost, if you like the wild and wacky world of professional wrestling, WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2007 is the game for you. The Menu Screens, the storylines, the characters and the music all bring the madness of sports entertainment straight to your living room. As in previous editions, the game allows players to compete in several official Pay-Per-View Matches, in loads of one-off Exhibition fights and, of course, in an entire season of SmackDown! or Raw, using their very own character or one of the many stars of WWE. While this will not shock fans of the series, the ample generosity of the franchises previous titles means that they would not expect any less.

Using the same Engine as last year’s iteration, WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2007 generally plays very similarly. The all new Grapple System does work very differently however, with players initiating moves through directional gestures of the Analogue Stick. Initially, with characters pulling-off moves logically related to the player’s direction, the new system seems far more immersive than the traditional Face Button method. However when the move takes a few seconds, the immersive feeling is lessened and the player is left wondering if the change was really worth it. Slightly better are the Mini-Challenges when the player attempts an over-the-head manoeuvre or a technique in an Environmental Hotspot. The player can damage opponents by moving the Analogue Sticks in a manner displayed on-screen. For instance if the player’s character holds an opponent above their head, rotating the Analogue Sticks allows them to spin the opponent around before pulling of a move, thus causing more damage and gaining a Momentum Boost. As another nice touch, WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2007 also allows players to fight in the crowd. On the other side of the barriers are various weapons and Environmental Hotspots, however, unless the Match has the “No Disqualification” rule active, this is likely to lose you the Match.

Unfortunately, many of problems from WWE SmackDown! Vs Raw 2006 have returned. The is a huge sense of detachment from the experience when you are caught in a seemingly unending combo by your opponent, with only the slim chance of pressing the right counter button at the right time offering any escape. The storylines also seem to make the game as pre-meditated as the real thing, with early storyline Matches being very difficult to win, before the storyline backs your character and the Matches become a lot easier, sometimes even disregarding the fact that you’ve lost in order to play out the story. However, there are a lot of different storylines based on the character you use and the show you participate in. The game is also very hard to pick-up-and-play for amateurs given its complex Grapple and Control System. Allied AI characters are also highly unpredictable and regularly clueless, very rarely coming to your aid in Tag Matches. However, enemy allied AI seems all too eager to aid their partner, which is frustrating to say the least. Finally, WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2007 seems to load for the sake of it at times. Loading Screens are frequent and lengthy, which does seem unnecessary given the time developers have had with PlayStation2 hardware.

Repeated instances of rigid animation still mar the visuals of the series, even after them being one of the larger problems with WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2006. Polygon Cross-pollination is also still an issue, all-in-all making WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2007 seem a lot more dated than the previous instalment, especially on the eve of the Next-Generation. However, Character Models are of a high quality, as are the Arenas. Although the commentary quickly becomes old, the voice-acting is varied depending on your chosen wrestler and no more rigid than that of the show. WWE SmackDown! Vs Raw 2007 also features plenty of the music you expect from WWE, including each wrestlers’ official Intro Theme.

Overall, despite its new features, WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2007 really feels like it needs an overhaul and players of last years iteration will not find it that much different to previous entries. Although the new gameplay additions are good, they don’t really address the major problems that plague the series. The games overly complex moves and the ridiculously small amount of Stamina of the wrestlers is also likely to put of casual gamers. WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2007 is still the pinnacle of its genre, but should THQ wish to hang-on to the franchise, they may have to up their game.Electronic Theatre Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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