WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007
The ultimate wrestling videogame to date?
X360, PS3, PS2, PSP
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The Americans always do everything bigger. Not necessarily better but definitely bigger. Take wrestling for instance. Whereas the British had overweight, unflattering 40-somethings such as Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks stumbling around in the ring, the Americans have stolen our thunder with their crowd-pulling World Wrestling Entertainment and aptly named muscle-bound superstars such as Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Triple H.
Not to mention the lady divas such as Candice, Mickie Adams and Torrie adding even more fuel to the testosterone-filled fire. With this in mind, THQ has gone for an all-glitz-and-glamour approach with WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007, as a no-frills approach to a WWE videogame simply would not do. And, in what is likely to become a regular franchise, developer Yuke's has built upon last year's 2006 iteration by providing us with this new - and actually improved - version.
"The first thing that strikes is the level of presentation that has gone into the WWE SVR 2007."
The exuberance, exhibitionism and extravagance are still there, but this is pure wrestling-mania, arguably as it was meant to be. All brawn and no brains, with all the names and faces you would expect, along with the pain and signature moves of the real world. And mirroring the real-world version, in the virtual arena no-one really gets hurt at the end of the day.
Firing up the game, the first thing that strikes is the level of presentation that has gone into the title. The all-American rock anthems are spot-on, although admittedly perhaps not to everyone's taste. The comedic introductory video tutorials are inspired and worth watching several times. The graphics are top-notch which, along with the character models, are approaching some of the best the PS2 has yet seen and is probably likely to see.
Then there's the sheer number of game modes which are as comprehensive as anything else out there, and for those not versed in the ways of the WWE are likely to be bewildering. As if choosing between several exhibition game modes such as Tag Team, Triple Threat, Fatal 4-Way or Royal Rumble was not enough, there are also main events such as Ladder (the first to grab the belt hanging above the ring wins) or TLC (compete using tables, ladders and chairs) or the caged match otherwise known as Hell in a Cell.
And that's not all - title matches can be simulated, and a season-long game can be started - as can a Manager Mode. Finally - for those still not satisfied - you can create your own mode starting with your very own WWE superstar based on your own likeness (or, more precisely, what you'd like yourself to be) before moving on to selecting your own move-set and ring entrances. Although all this is not strictly necessary, as you can easily use an existing fighter, this all comes before we even get the chance to create a customisable game mode. Talk about comprehensive...
All of which would be well and good, but a little dull if the wrestling arenas weren't up to the same level of detail. Luckily then that they are, and with 20 to choose from, we're spoilt for choice. As with the wrestlers though, some of them will need to be unlocked first. Each individual fighter has their own ring entries and moves, and whilst entertaining, can become tiresome after watching a few times.
Thankfully they can be skipped, but this brings us to our first area of discontent - the loading times. Whilst each load may not appear to be too long they are most definitely too plentiful, with almost every screen seemingly preceded by the dreaded 'Now Loading' message. Thus it becomes difficult to just quickly start a game without being snagged upon several individual loading screens.