This year’s edition of Smackdown! vs Raw is a mixed bag. In some instances THQ improved on some of the shortcomings from last year’s titles. In other areas THQ not only didn’t improve but they made some things worse than last year’s version. While THQ would love for this title to have mass market appeal it is clearly marketed to wrestling fans, and more specifically, WWE fans. With that being the case any WWE fan is going to immediately notice what is wrong with this title as they try and go through the “season” mode as well as everything else. One of the most noticeable things is of course the roster of WWE superstars that is in the game. There are some notable omissions to the roster which does not make any sense. For example, Shelton Benjamin is not in the game. He is one of the most athletic wrestlers on the entire WWE roster as well as having appeared on previous iterations of this title which makes his absence from this title all the more puzzling. One of the main things that wrestling fans have to deal with every year is that the game is always out of date when it is released. That is especially evident this year by THQ not incorporating the tag team champions into the game. Now I fully realize there are deadlines for when new characters can be put in the title, but THQ could easily fix this problem with downloadable content. They could easily put in new characters and roster updates and just issue an auto update over Xbox Live like every other title does. It would go a long way in making their fans happier if this title was continually supported.
The “season” mode for this year’s title has been completely revamped and titled “WWE 24/7”. They use this calendar system which is very similar to Akklaim’s old WWF title “Attitude”. Using the calendar you get to choose what you do each day. If you are on the Raw roster then you have to participate on Raw each week, but every other day (except weekends) is free for you to do whatever you want. You could attend an autograph signing in an attempt to gain more fans, shoot a movie as either the hero or the villain, visit someone in the hospital, participate in a commercial for the upcoming pay per view and things like that. While it is a great idea in concept, they simply didn’t go far enough with it. When you choose to go to an autograph signing, you don’t actually go to in. You just get a box with a picture that pops up on the screen and says it was a success. You can also work on improving your skills by going through on camera training and things of that nature. Once again it is a great concept but they did not go far enough with it. It is kind of like an RPG in that aspect as you try to build up your superstar’s abilities and characteristics such as stamina, charisma and things of that nature. This new feature however is marred by a couple of questionable design decisions. Among building up your characteristics you also have to keep an eye on your superstar’s health. If you go to long without taking a day off for a little R&R then you become more susceptible to injury. However the problem is that if you do elect to use a day for R&R then you get penalized by using losing 15 fans. This is counter-productive to their whole concept of trying to build up your star. They basically force you to choose this option, at least one in a while, and then penalize you when you do. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Once you start feuding with different superstars you will also notice quite a bit of problems. My superstar was involved in a feud with John Cena for the #1 contenders spot to the WWE Championship. After I finished that feud and became the #1 contender I was then notified that the champ John Cena was talking trash. If Cena was the champion, why was I feuding with him for the #1 contenders spot for the title he held? That storyline made absolutely no sense and it wasn’t the only one like that. There would also be video of me walking around in the back towards the ring and I would come across the person I was feuding with. Well in this little cut scene at times they acted like they were friends, not the enemies that were currently feuding. It was all very surreal and very disappointing from a continuity standpoint. It was almost as if THQ had two separate teams of writers writing for this game and then they just smashed both scripts together without checking any of them.
As far as actual game control is concerned, the controls have been changed up a bit since the 2007 version. There are tutorial videos available at the beginning which I highly recommend that everyone looks at, especially if this is your first WWE game in a while. Once you get used to the controls you will find that they are pretty intuitive and easy to control. The characters move around pretty smoothly and the frame rate was very smooth. The character models look absolutely amazing as they manage to look better year after year. The crowd is also incredibly lifelike and a lot of times will hold up signs relevant to the situation. For example if Torrie Wilson is out in the ring you might see a sign in the crowd that says, “Divas Rule” or something along those lines. The arenas themselves look really good and look almost exactly like their real life counterpart. The announcing in this game is decent; however it could be a lot better. A lot of times the commentary is repetitive and in some instances they simply cut and paste audio in from the 2007 version.
One great thing about this title is the variety of matches that are available to you. You have pretty much everything in the WWE available to you from the ladder matches to Buried Alive matches to Hell In A Cell matches. This year ECW has also been included in the game so there are hardcore ECW matches with flaming tables and the like. There are quite a few unlockable characters in the game such as Shane McMahon, Rick Rude, Bret Hart, Stone Cold and more. Play over Xbox Live also seems to run really well. When I was fighting someone online it ran very smoothly with absolutely no lag at all. One returning feature from last year is that you can create your own championship and then defend it on Xbox Live. There are actually some achievements that tie in to that as well. You are also able to create your own wrestler as well as your own entrance for that wrestler. You can use Randy Orton’s music with HHH’s video alongside Kane’s pyrotechnics if you choose to do so.
If you are a WWE fan you are going to be disappointed by the accuracy and authenticity of various aspects in this title. If you are not a WWE fan then most likely you won’t notice any of them. Overall this is a fun game to play, which is one of the most important things. In addition to being a wrestler you can also run the show as a general manager which should keep you busy for some time. I would definitely recommend that you rent this title and check it out. If you want more of the same then you will probably enjoy this title. Otherwise just wait for next year’s version and hope that this title is actually improved upon.
Originally posted on Totally Gaming Network