Good, but not great!
Ill fitting tight clothes, women wearing very little and big sweaty men fighting. No, not a night out in Mansfield, but the latest offering from the WWE; Smackdown vs. RAW 2008. Brawling its way back into our living rooms comes a slightly updated, slightly improved and slightly disappointing sequel to Smackdown vs. RAW 2007.
Bit like a night out in Mansfield
The main change to the previous games is the new Styles system. Every fighter now has a primary and a secondary fighting style. There are eight in all to choose from; high-flyer, hardcore, submission artist, powerhouse, showman, brawler, dirty and technical. Each style gives the character different abilities. For example, a submission artist, once they have a special stored, will be able to apply a strong submission hold for an extended period of time. Powerhouses become invulnerable to strikes, high flyers can pull out a surprise pin when playing possum.
This all adds a layer of depth to character choice and creation that has been missing in previous releases and can even out the playing field a little, at the same time you do find that some abilities are over used with the pre set characters.
Another new addition is the 24/7 mode. This is a kind of combination of the general manager mode and the story mode from the older games. You must take your character from being a rookie nobody and build them up to become the Champ, all in a year!
Progressing day by day, you must choose how to develop your wrestler. You get to choose what kind of training to do, Strength, submission, technical etc. Not only can you develop the physical attributes of your character, you can improve their popularity by doing movies, charity work or even invading the other shows. You can also just choose to rest and relax before the big match.
Controls remain pretty much unchanged form 2007, although the submission system has been altered. There is now a struggle system, where you have to use the analogue stick to increase and release the pressure of the hold, so as not to break your grip. A nice inclusion, but a little frustrating at first! Other than that, all the same, move with the left stick, grapple with the right and strike, block and run using the face and shoulder buttons. When a system works, there is no real need to change it!
Of course there has been an upgrade in the graphics and even on the PS2 the player models are truly impressive! Even the crowd has more depth. All of the music and entrance themes are present and correct, as is the commentary. I wish they would give up on the commentary, not only is it boring and badly scripted it is often wrong or completely out of context with action! You can be in the big fight that has been hyped for a month and they will sit there saying ?I never saw this match coming!?
Speaking of things being out of context and wrong, we have to mention the cut scenes. The generic and again pointless scenes should never have been allowed. Often they even contradict the current story, having you shake hands with the character you are currently feuding with before your match with them. This makes the story very unbelievable. The story its self is told through the use of voice mails from other characters and news clippings. Again these can be confused and at times wrong. It seems that this was almost a secondary thought to the game, which is a real shame as it could have been very deep.
All in all, WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2008 is not a bad game. If you have 2007 there is not really much here for you, but if you skipped that you should really check this out. The fighting its self is well executed, even if the AI is a little dumb at times. Multiplayer as ever is fun, nothing beats kicking the hell out of your mates in a Hell in a Cell match!
Fun if lacking in depth, fans will as ever lap it up.
The Bad: Lacks depth. Not a huge improvment over 2007.
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