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1PStart Review: WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2008

by JW

In my youth I was a huge wrestling fan. I was lucky enough to start watching wrestling at the height of the WWF/WCW wars of the 1990s, and actually switched my allegiance from WCW to WWF during what is now known as the “Attitude” era. Hell, I still own Stone Cold Steve Austin shirts, and I still wear them with pride.

Just not in public.

THQ has been pumping out the WWF/WWE games since 2000, and in fact has been involved the development and publishing of wrestling games since 1997’s atrociously bad WCW Nitro. Apparently, after a decade of practice, they still can’t get it right.

And it only enhanced the bad tastes Conan left in my mouth. (If any one of you sons of bitches makes a comment on that, I will hunt down your entire bloodline)

The WWE SmackDown vs. RAW franchise is a prime example of “never fix or update anything, but throw more and more stuff on top”. The game engine is essentially the same as it was in WCW/nWo Revenge, only THQ has thrown so many new bells, whistles and facelifts on the damn thing that like an unbalanced Christmas Tree, it has now toppled over onto its side and cannot hope to pick itself up.

SvR 08 keeps in line with the THQ/WWE mantra, including a bevy of game modes and match types, and the inclusion of the ECW brand opens the door for the inclusion of the ECW “Extreme Rules” match-type. What makes this new match option different from, say, a hardcore match is the inclusion of a weapon selection wheel. When you go under the ring to grab a weapon, rather than getting the usual chair/hammer/barbed wire 2×4, a small wheel appears in the lower left portion of the screen, and you navigate it using the left thumbstick and has a selection of eight or so weapons options ranging from kendo sticks and chairs to trash cans, ladders and tables. While I like the option to pick my own weapon, it is inexcusably disappointing to not have this feature in hardcore matches.

Other than Extreme Rules matches you’re given your share of typical WWE matches, from hardcore to iron man, last man standing, hell in a cell, cage, parking lot brawls, etc, and they all play exactly as they did in last year’s game.

The core gameplay remains largely unchanged from last year’s game, which is about as close to a compliment as you’ll get out of me. The grappling system has been streamlined slightly, allowing for more smooth commands to be given. One big omission is the inclusion of any kind of manual target control. I don’t know why they decided to not include it, but not being able to manually pick my targets makes certain portions of the game far more of a hassle than it needs to be, and makes handicap matches nearly impossible to finish. However, you won’t really notice the streamlined control commands during a match because the AI is so incredibly short bus that you could draw the foe out of the ring, go back inside the ring and win via count out as he simply stares at you.

I would know. I’ve actually done it.

Other AI hiccups include AI players climbing up ladders when there is no prize, YOUR player climbing up the wrong ladder whenever two ladders are close to each other, and my personal favorite, climbing up the side of a cage only to do a super duper high flying elbow drop when it could have very well climbed down and won the match. These AI flubs are only made worse by the new fighting style system.

Each wrestler (I refuse to call them Superstars, as you probably haven’t heard of, or care about, 2/3rds of the roster) in SvR 08 is categorized into one of eight fighting styles, each with their own special abilities. Brawlers can pummel your face into a mushy pulp, Powerhouse wrestlers can throw you like a ragdoll off of them during a pin, and Dirty wrestlers can use the referee like a damn heat-seeking missile to knock you down and stun you for an overly extended period of time. None of these would be any problem if not for the fact that the AI does it at every-conceivable-opportunity.

My favorite game mode (I use the term “favorite” in relative terms to the rest of the game) was easily the Hall of Fame mode, where you get to play through classic matches in WWE history, such as Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin in a submission match. By completing these matches, you can unlock wrestlers to buy in the WWE Shop, or attire for the likes of D-Generation X.

The big draw for SvR 08 is the 24/7 mode, where you play out what is alleged to be a year-long story mode (or you can play as a GM, but if you are into that sort of thing you’re better off with Football Manager 2007 for the PC). I say “alleged” because what they consider to be a storyline apparently consists of several unconnected month-long plots that either boil down to feud for the title or a war between brands. Occasionally the game will throw a love triangle storyline into the mix in an attempt to break up the monotony, but in the end it turns into something more apt for the Maury Povich show than it does for wrestling. The storylines are further disjointed by the fact that half the time the story progresses through voicemails and magazine articles, really taking any feeling of control out of your hands. When you do get a cutscene (which, as you’ll read on, is painful to watch), they don’t really progress the story much, and often times don’t really make a lick of sense. If I’m feuding with Shawn Michaels, why in the hell does my guy shake hands with Michaels backstage? Also, during the opening entrances sometimes the descriptions of each wrestler will be reversed, and JR will talk about me while Carlito is walking to the ring, and talk about Carlito when I’m walking to the ring.

The options in 24/7 mode are laughable at best. If you choose to create your own superstar and build him up from scratch, you can do activities to build up his stats. If your character needs help on his strength, do a strength training exercise. If you need to brush up on your microphone skills, drop down the $5,000 to bump that skill up. If your character is too fatigued, you can take some R&R and gain back your strength, albeit at cost of popularity. I’m not entirely sure why they decided to put this feature into the game, though it may have something to do with trying to manage yourself so you don’t get injured. Regardless, it’s an absolutely pointless feature that becomes more tedious than beneficial as you play the game longer and longer.

Now while I may hate the gameplay mechanics as well as game modes, I do have to admit that the game looks pretty sharp. The crowds and rings all look fantastic and the character models all more-or-less look like accurate representations of their real-life counterpart… until their mouths move. In normal matches the character models look fine, but once they tried to make these characters even remotely human for the 24/7 mode, something went horribly wrong. Even the most basic of facial expressions look hideous, and when the characters lips move, and divas especially, it looks as though their jaws become completely unhinged in an attempt to swallow your entire face.

Thankfully the facial expressions match the audio from each wrestler, as they are both equally horrid. While the ring music and basic effect such as punches and slams to the mat and floor are all represented adequately, but once you get to the spoken word everything goes south in a hurry. The announcers are quick to annoy, with the repetitive one-liners and quips, which are often-times inaccurate in regards to what is actually happening in the ring. While Tazz and Joey Styles have added a bit of commentary (seeing as ECW is now a recognized brand), I would be willing to bet real money that Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, Michael Cole or John Layfield have stepped foot in a recording booth in at least two years. It’s the same rehashed, over-used lines you’ve heard in SvR 07, SvR 06, and in the case of Lawler and Ross, the original SvR. The wrestlers themselves do voice-overs in the 24/7 mode, and it quickly becomes obvious why Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the only wrestler to become a successful actor. Some of the better VOs (Stephanie and Shane McMahon) are a notch above deadpan, and at its worst, they are simply unbearable.

A few fairly detailed create-a-[blank] modes and a decent online mode can’t help save this game from being at the bottom of the barrel. The broken, dumfounded AI combined with a season/story mode that goes from bad, to worse, to tedium of the highest degree suck any replayability out of the game. While there are many game types available for single match play, there really is no incentive to play through them, and after a while you’ll just lose interest. Someone at THQ needs to take a step back and give this franchise a long, hard look. The five year-old game engine has finally run its course, and if Yukes and THQ hopes to continue to cash in on the WWE, they’re going to have to completely rebuild this franchise.

In the end, however, the very few positives can’t save this turd. It can’t even make said turd smell less. This game is absolutely garbage. If you buy this game for yourself you’re a fool, if you get it as a gift you need to ask for a receipt, and if you buy it for someone else you don’t love them. Avoid it at all costs. This game gets a 1 out of 5 simply because I can’t give it a zero.

…no, you know what? Screw that. This is my review. I’m the lead editor. It gets a zero. The end.


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7 Responses to “1PStart Review: WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2008”

  1. Dblueguy Says:

    haha dude this review is awesome keep up the good work

  2. PS3 Updates and News » Blog Archive » WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 Preview! Says:

    [...] Courtesy: Date November 18th, 2007 Filed in PS3 Game [...]

  3. Touhid Says:

    good one ! i will give the game 1.5/5

  4. Paul Dennett Says:

    Just a quick comment, JBL wasn’t a commentator in SvsR 2007, it was still Tazz and Michal Cole on the Smackdown side.
    Other than that, pretty solid review, though a zero is a bit harsh, there is still some minor fun to be had.

  5. Darascon Says:

    Conan had been eating alot of fruit huh?

  6. john cena Says:


  7. L Says:

    fuck you this game ruled

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