Smackdown Vs. RAW 07 Review

You’re Triple H. You lumber into the ring after having thoroughly dosed the crowd with excellently rendered water and spit and prepare to lay the big sweaty smackdown on your sorry opponent.

  Using the new grapple system, you tear your opponent a new one, throwing them into the crowd and repeatedly smashing them over the head with a crutch stolen from a fan. You haul your fatigued body up a colossal scaffolding structure and leap off, landing an elbow into your opponents face, busting him wide open and letting the blood spill onto the floor in real time. This is SVR07, and it’s bloody fun.

Whilst not a big step up from developer Yuke’s offering last year, SVR07 adds enough new features and enhancements to make a wrestling fan start perspiring as much as the guys on screen they are controlling, or at the very least, until SVR08.

The most exciting thing about Yuke’s newest wrestle-em-up is not one single feature, but in fact the all-round astounding collection of gameplay features and modes to play. Every type of match combination that has ever been broadcast on Raw, Smackdown or any other Pay Per View you would care to excitedly blabber to me about has been included. Matches such as ‘The Elimination Chamber’ in which 6 wrestlers are confined to cages until a timer ticks down and they pile into the ring one by one, or the ‘Money in the Bank’ mode, where a briefcase stuffed with money hangs high above the ring, requiring you and up to 6 big hairy men to climb a ladder to retrieve it, are both firsts for the series.

These matches can be contested/acted out in a multitude of accurately modelled arenas such as Taboo Tuesday, or *snigger* The Great American Bash *snigger*. These arenas aren’t just aesthetically and innuendo-ingly pleasing however, they are also interactive. Take a groggy opponent over to the barricade which separates fully clothed people to the men in pants and context sensitive controls allow you to determine the amount of damage dealt. Pulling the thumbstick up will hoist your enemy into the air, while pushing it down will slam them onto the barricade. This is also true for the steel ring steps, the announcers table, the wire mesh surrounding a steel cage, and the ring ropes, which all have their own context sensitive actions. Throwing an opponent into the crowd is also incredibly satisfying, especially when you see them realistically scatter so you proceed to pummel your opponent with the many weapons that just happen to be lying around. It’s a shame that the only ‘backstage’ part of the arena you can enter is restricted to a single corner, but nevertheless, it makes a change to the grey canvas.

The ‘create-a-modes’ have been revamped and deepened thanks to the new additions to the ‘create a wrestler/entrance/move set/belt/tag team’ modes. The extra sliders that let you customise your wrestler’s face and body aren’t just there to make the process extremely laborious (which, incidentally, it manages), but instead to make it easier to get that mono-brow and hooked nose just right. Entrances are now completely customisable, allowing you to choose specific camera angles, screen effects, lighting and fireworks, as well as the usual entrance theme, video and animation. It would’ve been cool to edit together your own video and import your own music in the vein of NBA 2K7’s ‘Highlight Reel’ mode, but I guess watching your creation enter a stunned arena while hearty bantering from the TGSN Podcast blasts out from the speakers will have to wait until next year. The create-a-move set lets you dictate the moves you’ll use in the ring. There are so many categories, i.e. submissions holds, taunts etc, that sometimes it’s easier to just assign your wrestler a pre-created move set.

Creating a tag team consists of you choosing up to 6 people to team up. You can then give them a name (such as my lame name Team TLC) and allocate them team moves to perform, such as the leapfrog play, which isn’t as disgusting as it sounds, or the Dudley Death Drop, re-named ‘Death Drop #3’ due to the absence of the classic ‘Dudley Boys’ tag team from the game.

Yes, there are a few glaring omissions from the wrestler list of SVR07, such as the fearless ladder-loving freak Jeff Hardy, but the developers more than make up for it by introducing a slew of legends to unlock. Over 10 classic superstars are on offer for those who play through the career mode, from everyone’s favourite baldy Stone Cold Steve Austin, to the now probably pushing 80, Hulk ‘How are you still alive?’ Hogan. The already outdated list will no doubt disappoint WWE and ECW followers, as apart from the Big Show and RVD, no ‘Extreme’ wrestlers get a mention, while wrestlers such as Kid Kash who hasn’t appeared in a match in some time and Kurt Angle who has ditched the WWE a while back, steal the limelight. However, the wrestlers that are on offer benefit from ‘next-gen face-scan’ technology and really look the part, with some of the most amazing (and quite nauseating) sweat marks seen since those shiny ballers in NBA 06.

A wrestling game is only as good as its career mode (as well as its Divas). Luckily, SVR 07’s career mode has equally plentiful measures of both. You’ll start off in your apartment which acts as a menu screen where you can access various options. You can walk over to the PC and view your messages, have a flick through the magazines on the coffee table which get updated with news about your character’s progress and current storylines you’re involved in, take a walk upstairs and make your head swell with pride by gawping at the trophies you’ve won, or head over to the punching bag and spend the experience points that you earn after each match on making your wrestler a more vicious wrestling machine. Along with these experience points, each winning victory gains you WWE currency which can then be spent sprucing up your apartment with stuffed moose heads, collectable figures and even a giant poster of yourself. It may sound as gimmicky as ‘Gamer Points’, but it really is addictive customising your apartment with all manner of wrestling memorabilia. The ‘Sims’ type gameplay addition really makes a change to the wrestling one.

Like Splinter Cell: Double Agent, the career has branching storylines. This means that should you allow that fat nonce the Big Show to pin you, you may find yourself teaming up against him with the ‘white and nerdy’ John Cena, whereas if you managed to get a 3 count over said fat nonce yourself, you could wind up being number one contender for the championship belt. Unlike SC: DA’s much hyped gameplay mechanic; there aren’t just 3 decisions to make. Instead, each match can change the course of your career. The storylines have been created by actual WWE writers, so you can expect a whole lot of betrayal, romance, and Vince McMahon bursting in the ring and making surprise matches like he owns the joint. Oh wait, he does. The voice actors are questionable, but as all the voices have been recorded by actual WWE superstars, this says more about the wrestlers’ talent than the developers.

It’s not the career, but rather the online mode that provides SVR 07 with most of its replay value, provided you find yourself a few similarly minded wrestling friends. Sure, playing a match against strangers over Live is undoubtedly a smooth and responsive experience with the framerate only dipping in hectic moments where the ring fills up with people and weapons, but nothing can contend with beating your buddy over the head with a fire extinguisher and getting a pin count just so you can brag about it in the lobby. You can also create, trade and contend for belts over live. This feature wouldn’t be the same if you simply lost a belt to some random schmuck from Siberia however. It’s far more entertaining creating a belt which you and your friends fight for every week.

SVR 07 is a predictable wrestling experience. The new grappling mechanic context sensitive controls and backstage areas do well to freshen up the stale engine for a few matches, but players of last year’s game will know what to expect. If I were to rate this game using certain wrestlers’ catch-phrases rather than a score, I’d be more inclined to describe the lack of a revolutionary next-gen wrestling game by shouting the Rock’s slogan ‘Just bring it!’ rather than John Cena’s ‘The champ is here!’