WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 Featuring ECW
Game: WWE Smackdown! Vs. Raw 2008
Platform: Pro Wrestling
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PS2 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Hello. My name is Chris, and I’m a Hulkamaniac. Man, it feels really good to get that off my chest. I am a 31 year old who is still a fan of wrestling. I don’t watch Raw or Smackdown! weekly or anything, but I still follow the storylines, watch the major pay-per-views and geek out at the dramatic and ridiculous moments that make the pseudo-sport so popular and make Vince McMahon so very, very wealthy. I have also played every game in the Smackdown!/Raw vs. Smackdown franchise, so I always know exactly what to expect from the series. This year’s entry is no different. I knew exactly what to expect: A few new innovations and a ton of the same old problems. WWE Raw Vs. Smackdown! 2008 is undoubtedly a satisfying wrestling experience, but the age of the series has been showing for the past two or three years, and this game doesn’t do enough to truly revitalize the franchise.
So long, any chance of a Bobby Lashley Jr.
At its core, the Raw vs. Smackdown! series has always been aimed at WWE fanatics and this year’s roster of 50 plus Superstars continues that trend. Every character in the game is rendered extraordinarily well. Seriously, these are some of the best character models you’ll ever see. Sadly, after all these years, the good people at Yuke’s still haven’t figured out how to render long hair. The contrast between the ultra hi-res characters and their chunky, ugly hair is jarring and detracts significantly from the overall visual presentation. The environments, which range from standard wrestling rings and steel cage arenas to backstage areas and parking lots are well represented, though less impressive than the wrestlers themselves. Everything is well-lit and has that nice, next-gen polish to it, especially on the 360, which outshines the other versions in graphics and frame rate.
Why do they alway keep folding chairs, tables, crutches, and barbed wire baseball bats under the ring? Someone should do an investigation.
These characters look great when they’re standing still or walking around. When you actually start wrestling, that’s where the problems begin. Clipping issues have always plagued this franchise and wrestling games in general, and this game doesn’t help matters any. Wrestler’s limbs and heads still pass through each other and environmental elements frequently. Grapple animations don’t take into account wrestlers’ heights and weights, so a face lock against Rey Mysterio turns into a chest lock against the Undertaker. Collision detection is as shoddy as ever, with some punches flying harmlessly through your opponents and others connecting when they have no business doing so. Grapple animations will often send one wrestler teleporting halfway across the ring in order to set him up for a move. In addition to abysmal AI, these are the same issues we’ve seen since 2000, and it’s obvious that this game runs on the same animation engine as its PS2 predecessors. For fans of the series who have waited patiently for this aspect to improve, our wait continues.
The new features in this year’s game are a bit of a mixed bag. The biggest addition is the style system, which gives each Superstar two different specialties (out of six total) to choose from, granting them special abilities related to their fighting style. Some of the special abilities are truly new and very satisfying, like instant reversals and invulnerability. Others however, like the ability to argue with the ref and grapple with a weapon are actions that any wrestler could previously perform. This actually serves to limit the gameplay slightly. 24/7 mode has been changed as well, and it is a definite step backwards. Instead of trying to improve the storytelling aspect of the game, Yuke’s and THQ decided to strip it down completely. A few cut scenes and simulated emails are all that remain from the season mode we’ve come to know, and even they are terribly done. Emails and voice-overs will often reference characters who have no involvement in your storyline. Overall, the season mode feels sloppy and slapped together. The control scheme that was introduced in last year’s game is now your only option for controlling your wrestler. It’s a good system, so this is a good thing. A few facets of gameplay have been improved, most notably submission holds which are now controlled by wiggling the right stick at just the right pace. This is another positive improvement for the game, but it certainly doesn’t revolutionize the genre.
My hat's off to the guy who drew in every one of the Undertaker's tattoos. Bravo.
It’s still plenty of fun to smash your friend’s head in with a folding chair. The customization system is still huge. The announcers are still ear-stabbingly bad. The entrances still seem off. This is still Smackdown! Vs. Raw, and if you like the series, you won’t be disappointed, but you won’t be wowed. If you like wrestling, it’s your only option, and it’s not a bad one. If you don’t like wrestling, this game certainly won’t change your mind. It’s another decent effort, but we’re still waiting for a wrestling game to do what Skate did for skating.