WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007 Review

Like other sports (or in this case, sports entertainment), the WWE’s annual release of their SmackDown! vs. RAW series makes its first appearance on a next-gen system. Once you’re finally able to load up a match (which is a process in and of itself), you’ll find a surprisingly fun fighting game. To some, the wrestling will be a major turnoff and will undoubtedly turn many away from picking this one up. But wrestling fans and fighting game enthusiasts alike will be able to easily pick up 2007 and have a good time.

If you go in expecting a bonafide deep fighting game, you’ll come away sorely disappointed. 2007 is by no means that sort of game — although it is a more accurate analogy than real-life WWE action and actual fighting. The game does a wonderful job of emulating the feel of the WWE on all levels: the over-embellished attacks, the cheesy, back stabbing-filled storylines and lots of large, muscular men whom don’t wear much in the way of clothing.

2007 is packed to the brim with modes and different match types. From TLC (tables, ladders and chairs) to Hell in a Cell and Iron Man matches, one session is usually drastically different than the next. It’s this diversity that helps to prevent the game from becoming boring — something that would surely happen, due to the fact that the fighting isn’t particularly deep. This is by no means a button mashing-fest, but it isn’t exactly Soul Calibur or Street Fighter, either.

Controls are simple enough that the game is pick-up-and-play friendly, but retain enough complexity in various forms to keep things challenging until enough time has been spent learning the intricacies. The controls have been re-done from a year ago, now mapping grapple moves to the right analog stick. It’s extremely intuitive and is nothing short of a wonderful addition. Building upon that, you’ll also have access to what are called ultimate control moves, whereby you can directly influence and choose what sort of attack to do, and when to do it. For instance, The Undertaker can grab someone by the throat and then chokeslam or throw the opponent to the mat, or he can walk around while holding the opponent up by their neck. Sounds useless, but the attack becomes more powerful the longer you hang on, provided you don’t run out of stamina.

My feelings toward stamina are a bit of a mixed bag. It’s quite obviously necessary so that you can’t punch and bodyslam an opponent for 20 minutes straight — this is, to a degree, supposed to be a simulation. But at the same time, you might fight for a few moments and then run around the ring, only to find your wrestler hunched over, gasping for air. As you’ll hear from the commentators over and over (and again and again…and again), these WWE superstars are made out to be the most superior athletes on the planet. If that’s true, why exactly do they have the endurance of an asthmatic toddler?

And when I say you’ll hear about how wonderful these wrestlers are over and over, I can’t over-emphasize that. In just my first few hours of play, I could sing along, so to speak, with the commentary once I heard the first word or two. Much like the posters that spectators hold up above their heads, the commentary — even with two separate teams in Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler for RAW and Michael Cole and Tazz for SmackDown! — becomes hideously repetitive. Worse yet is the fact that the play-by-play will often precede an action that has actually happened. The commentators know precisely what is going to happen in a few seconds, even if there is no clear indication of what it is.

That could be said about commentary in most games, though. The fact that you can turn off commentary make these problems a moot point. What you can’t turn off, though, is something that plague this series: long load times. When I say long, I mean go-to-the-bathroom or get-a-snack long. Not only are loads long, but they occur frequently. From the Press Start screen, you’re looking at as few as 5+ individual loads which take place when navigating parts of the menu, in between entrances, after the match prior to the winner’s celebration, and more. It’s unbearable to the point where you simply don’t want to play because of the large investment of time it takes to get into a game.

And while things are good-looking, the load times are frustrating enough that all you’ll just mash the A button until you can fight. By that point, you won’t care how nice things looks. It’s a shame, since the character models are quite accurate and the arenas and crowds get the job done. Overall, though, the collision detection issues in cutscenes are distracting enough to make you notice that this game isn’t the highlight of next-gen graphics.

In this sort of close-contact game, the physics need to be spot-on in order to maintain the illusion of realism. For the most part, 2007 is able to do a fine job in this department. Most of the issues occur outside of the game in cutscenes, as opposed to during matches. During cutscenes, it’s readily apparent how hair looks static and unnatural, people holding hands are holding nothing but thin air, and championship belts are a great juxtaposition when wrapped around a wrestler’s waist. Additionally, the game doesn’t handle situations well where two things collide incidentally. For instance, if you slide a table into part of a ring where a wrestler is already laying down, the wrestler will magically slide across the mat to make room for the table.

Speaking of magic, Season mode pits you in some ludicrous situations, including one where you are turned into a woman by a magic wand. It’s completely random and out of place, and while I very well may have missed the night of Raw or SmackDown! where that happened, it’s just stupid. Outside of some situations such as that, the entire feel of your typical WWE storyline is captured well. The mode plays well, as you forge alliances and attempt to become a WWE champion. Being able to influence your wrestler more during those moments where betrayals and important decisions occur would have been a nice addition, though. The way the game plays out feels more like you’re going along a linear path that’s already been mapped out for you.

All in all, SmackDown! vs. Raw is a solid wrasslin’ title. The new control scheme works wonders and is infinitely better than its predecessor. The authenticity of the entrances and wrestlers, and nostalgia via unlockable old-school wrestlers keep former wrestling fans such as myself coming back for more. The only real problem is the horrible load times — for some, it could really be what prevents them from enjoying the game. If you don’t have a hatred for wrestling and can stand to sit through some (i.e. lots of) load times, then 2007 is definitely worth a look.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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