Game Review: WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 for the XBox 360

 Figures and More Contibuting Editor Peter Trifiatis steps into the ring with WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2008 for the X-Box 360. Does it emerge a Champion? Read on and find out.

I am not a fan of wrestling games. I have played most of them over the years and had my share of enjoyment from them, but I have never considered myself a fan. I always enjoy fighting as one or more of my favorite wrestlers in the business, but the games have always fallen short in comparison to other fighting games. That being I will be open minded and try not to nitpick too much in this review. I want to give you as honest and unbiased an opinion as possible.

In WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 for the Xbox 360, there have been a number of changes. For one thing, ECW has been added. That in itself is cool as hell. The advent of the ECW Extreme Rules match definitely is a plus for this game. This is perhaps the most enjoyable match I have played. The inclusion of so many weapons under the ring at my disposal is amazing. The weapon wheel is a great addition. When you go to pull a weapon out from under the ring, you get a wheel of eight weapons that you can choose from using the left stick. This really adds to the realism of the game. How often in a WWE match does a wrestler go under the ring for a weapon and choose the first one. There are always multiple weapons for them to choose from. While this option is only included in this particular match type, it is a welcome change of pace and I can only hope that THQ ends up putting this feature in other matches in the future.

Speaking of weapons, I want to mention one other cool addition to the game play. You can get weapons from the crowd. Yes, you heard me correctly: from the crowd. During the match, if your wrestler walks up to the crowd, sometimes a fan will hold out a weapon for you. This could be a championship belt, a crutch, a chair, or more. Another feature of this is that if you drag your opponent to the wall and the fan holds out the weapon, instead of taking the weapon yourself, you can instead just bash your opponent into the weapon while the fan is still holding it. This interaction with the crowd is a long overdue addition to the series. I know that people have been looking for solid fan interaction in WWE games for a while and it is nice to see THQ taking a stab at it.

There is not much I can say about the graphics in the game. Unfortunately, there is not much new in this department. It looks much like previous offerings. Don’t get me wrong. This is a great looking game, but I guess I was expecting more in the final version. The entrances are very well done. They have the wrestlers all doing there signature entrances, whether it be JTG hopping around on his way to the ring or HHH spitting water in the air while on the ring apron. It is all there. Plus, the scans of the wrestlers and the arenas look great, too. The only problem is that it is about the same as last year’s offering. The graphics are slightly enhanced, but not by much.

I think that my biggest complaint about this game is the sound. Sure, all the wrestlers’ music is in the game along with some with tracks by some popular artists, such as Puddle of Mud, but that is where the positive ends in relation to sound. I’ll be honest with you. I have started turning off the sound on my TV when I play matches because the commentary is so repetitive that I have heard it all before and it is just annoying now. On the flip side, when you play a Parking Lot Brawl, it is completely silent. The only noises you hear are a few sounds when the wrestlers connect with a weapon or fist. It is a stark contrast to go from the matches in the ring where the talking never stops to this. Where is the balance?

Another complaint of mine concerns the collision detection. It was definitely worked on, but not much. Too many times during my matches have my moves missed the mark for no apparent reason. For instance, I was standing right in front of my opponent and instead of hitting them in the face I ended up just causing a light breeze in their face instead. That is very frustrating. There were also some times where I swear my arms went through my opponents because we were both attempting a grapple move at the same time. This is not so much frustrating as it is just an apparent example of the work that still needs to be done.

I have mixed feelings of the overall game play. I like the fact that nearly every match type you could want to play is available in the game via the Exhibition option. You can play anything from a 6-man Armageddon Hell in a Cell match to your regular Normal Match. That amount of variety impresses me. The part that I am less impressed with is the 24/7 mode of game play. This is the standard single player mode for WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008. Basically it is Season Mode and GM Mode from last year put into one package. To start, GM mode is pretty much the same as last year, so if you enjoyed that aspect of game play, you will enjoy it here. You can hire writers, trade superstars, create feuds, and block out PPVs to your heart’s content. For me, I enjoyed it for a while, but quickly lost interest in it. That is saying something since I am a long time RPG and strategy game fan.

On the career side of 24/7 Mode you choose either a created wrestler or a superstar from the roster. Then you choose whether you start at a superstar stat level or a meager (read: annoying to play) 24/7 stat level where your starting stats are a fraction of the superstar level. You then attempt to climb the ladder to Legend status by performing all sorts of tasks presented to you (i.e. winning the Royal Rumble, beating the champ, etc.). Not much different from previous offerings, just tweaked a little here and there. Much like the GM mode, I enjoyed it for while, but quickly lost interest. I am honestly having more fun just picking random exhibition matches with random wrestlers and playing those.

Perhaps the biggest difference for this iteration of the series is the addition of fighting styles. This time around, when choosing your superstar you get to choose one of two fighting styles for them. For instance, you can play Bobby Lashley as either a Powerhouse or Technical wrestler. Each option provides differing game play options. As a Powerhouse, you can “rampage” and make your character impervious to strikes and make all grapples unstoppable for a limited time. As a Technical wrestler, you can automatically counter every grapple for a limited time. These options add another nice layer to the game play because it expands your options and lets you better control how you play the game. The drawback to this is when a Powerhouse like Lashley goes up against a High-flyer like Jeff Hardy. While the High-flyer has some interesting moves, once the Powerhouse goes “rampage”, the match is essentially over. You get caught in a few Ultimate Grapples and you might as well lie down and get pinned because the chance for your character to come back from that is slim. Essentially, the fighting styles add a nice extra level of game strategy, but unfortunately make a lot of the matches even more one-sided than before.

All in all, WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 for the Xbox 360 was a fun game. There were some great additions like ECW and fighting styles, but overall there was nothing all that new or great about the game. It is your average fighting game that just happens to feature the likenesses and move sets of some of the WWE Superstars. That is about it. As much as I really wanted to love this game and be able to sing its praises, I can’t. There are just too many problems with it.

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 for the Xbox 360 scores a 3 out of 5.