Reviewed by Jimmy | 11.22.06
Yukes and THQ are finally ready to bring the popular Smackdown vs. Raw series to the Xbox and Xbox 360 for the first time. Wrestling fans who only own an Xbox have always been envious of the PS2 getting the better half of the WWE games, but times are changing and Smackdown vs. Raw has arrived in 2007. Here is review of Smackdown vs. Raw 2007.
I'd like to note that I'm a big fan of the Smackdown series and I have faithfully played and own all the games in the Smackdown series. Every year Yukes seems to alter the Smackdown series which sometimes works out for the good and others the bad. I know the fans are hard to please and just when something is removed, they want it back. I certainly think Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 has its faults, but overall if you want wrestling there is no better game then Smackdown vs. Raw.
Smackdown vs. Raw will be familiar to the fans although this year we have a pretty big departure from the norm with Yukes new control scheme. Even though Smackdown brought in some new controls over the years, this is the largest change in a long time. To control your wrestler you will move around like you used to, it's in the grapple system where we have the change. Yukes felt to make the game more appealing to the mass audience they will implement the right analog stick as the only grappling button. This system will take the veterans a bit to get used to and you never know you might like it over the old more complicated system of grappling.
I understand the reasons behind this new control system, but it doesn't seem to work smoothly in all occasions. For starters you can't strong grapple wrestlers from the back, activating the strong button makes your wrestler turn your opponent around so you can front grapple him. The controls also lack an amount of depth that was present in the older system. Each characters move base has been dumbed down, it's kind of like Vince McMahon was in the game telling the wrestlers not to hurt themselves. For new players I can see the new analog stick being easier to pick up and play, but the vets used to the old system like myself, will just shake their head and complain.
Another new addition to Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 is the introduction of "Hot Spots" These hot spots are located around the ring in spots like the turnbuckles and ring ropes and will because you character to go into an animated preset move. You can also fight in the crowd in SvR07 (Smackdown vs. Raw 2007) which also has a fair amount of hot spots. I do like the simplistic nature of the hot spot system in some areas like the announce booth, but the others in the ring didn't need to be added. Strangely, using hot spot moves will cause your players stamina to drastically drop, more then normal moves. I'm sure this is to wean players off of abusing the system, but they could of balanced it a little more.
The match variety like all Smackdown games is pretty packed full of wrestling fans favorites. Back is the Backstage Brawls, along with a host of other great modes like the Elimination Chamber, First Blood, and TLC. The new entry this year is the Money in the Bank match which debuted at Wrestle mania 21. The money in the bank match is basically a ladder match with eight contestants all shooting to grab the briefcase that is suspended overtop of the ring. The Money in the Bank match is a great addition to this years Smackdown game and it makes it into the top ten match types for total chaos. Wrestling fans always complained about the last few Smackdown games with the gimmicky Bra and Panties and Fantasy matches, and the complaining should stop because both those Diva matches have been removed.
Even with a few match types gone the selection is good enough to occupy hours of your time and the table and ladder matches have been improved with a new making each match a little more exciting. Hopefully in future editions of Smackdown they build upon this list while reworking some of the matches. I for one would like to see more backstage areas more like the old games, I know fighting outside is a little cliché' but its also fun to vary up the environments.
We do have a story mode in SvR07, and all wrestling fans know it's all about the drama, then the wrestling. Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 has the player hanging out in a customizable locker room complete with a WWE Magazine and voice email, running through the season PPV to PPV. 36 specific storylines have been included in the season mode which varies depending on your character and the amount of wins you have. All these stories are typical to the TV show and are well produced. Yukes even one ups the WWE creative team, with the addition of a ridiculous storyline where you are turned into a girl by Candice Michelle. I liked most of the stories even if they are predictable, it's all about the production and drama and Yukes did an admirable job. For improvements, sure I could see many areas which they can improve, most importantly would be to give the player more choices during the story, and maybe even bring back the progressive, one year storyline. It's hard to please the fans, but variety and choice is the key.
The General Manager mode also returns from last year's game and it has been marginally improved. The navigation still could use some work, but for the most part it works out fairly well. If you did guess, you take the role of GM for either the Smackdown or Raw WWE brand. The goal is to win the ratings war and be the number one show at the end of the year. You have to manage your roster, keep them happy, and place them in storylines while keeping the show entertaining. This mode is pretty tough, mainly because it can defy logic at times. All and all, I like the GM mode and hope Yukes keeps on revising this mode and who knows, maybe even implement it into the main storyline like a regular sports game would.
What else does Smackdown vs. Raw offer, well besides all the normal Create modes which don't need to be talked about we have online play. Online wrestling has been lacking on the Xbox, since Wrestlemania 21 didn't nail this anything better will do. The online mode is easy to execute and allows you trade characters, put your created belts on the line, or just have some fun in a few ranked matches. There is a lot of opportunity to turn SvR07 into a wrestling fans paradise with their own champions, federations and PPVs. In the future it would be nice if THQ could set up some more distant online features, but for a first go on the new Xbox Live, Smackdown vs. Raw takes a high spot on the mid card.
Wrapping up the Smackdown vs. Raw game we have the actual wrestlers. For development reasons the Smackdown games never can fully catch up to the always changing WWE product in real life, so we have to put up with an outdated roster. Some exclusions of superstars who have been in previous games like Val Venis, and Paul London are strangely missing, and then other characters who never really made it through the summer are included like The Great Khali, and Joey Mercury. For the positive we have a fair amount of Divas, and a good list of Legends although the four faces of Foley is stretching it a bit. THQ has a huge opportunity here to milk the wrestling fans, and at the same time make them happy. All they have to do is offer downloadable wrestlers to add to our game. I can see that becoming a little bit conspiring, but if you wanted to put the latest wrestler into your season, it would be great to have the option.
Graphically SvR07 has been drastically bumped up and looks more life like then any Smackdown game in the past. Still, some wrestlers look better then others, but overall Yukes did a good job capturing each wrestler's likeness. The polygon count is 40 times higher, so doubters rest assured. The textures look 100% better on the characters, like hair, and clothing. The extra sweat effect also helps give the game a more realistic quality. There are still some issues with clipping mainly with the characters hair bleeding through their backs, lol. This is forgivable since it has been an avoidable occurrence in every Smackdown game, hopefully they can clean this up one day.
All the licensed music is in Smackdown vs. Raw this time around, including the legends songs which is a bonus. The introductions are spectacular compared to previous version and mimic the real life superstars perfectly. One area that is lacking still, like always is the commentary. Commentary works for a while until they repeat the same phrases match after match. Also, the commentary doesn't always reflect that action in the ring and at times they will say a wrestler did a move that isn't wrestling. This mainly happens in matches with more than two characters. Overall, SvR07 is a success on the Xbox 360, and as the years continue on the next generation systems I can see Yukes improving greatly.
Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 can do no wrong as it enters the next generation of gaming and for a first time on an Xbox console. Sure, there is room for improvement, most noticeable in giving the gamer more direct input on the season, and keeping the roster up to date, but the bottom line is that Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 will keep us wrestling fans happy until next year. I'm looking forward to the general progression of the series, and if you have last years 2006 edition it's worth it to upgrade, and it should be no brainier if you have an Xbox 360.