WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2007
Release Date: 11/14/07
As we established last year, I’m a fan of the Smackdown franchise. It’s by no means as exciting to me as, say, a good, solid Fire Pro game, but I like the franchise all the same. It scratches the itch of being an arcade wrestling game while offering just enough simulation aspects so as not to bore the hell out of me. But, and I can’t imagine I’m alone in this feeling, it seems to me that the franchise has become somewhat stale in recent years, due in part to a lack of innovation from THQ and Yukes. 2K6 did some new things right, yes, but not nearly enough to really spike interest in the title, and with 2K7 being the eighth game in the series, some changes were definitely needed to keep interest strong.
Still, SvR2K7 IS a next-gen title, and is appearing for the first time on a Microsoft console. Not only that, but the wrestling landscape has been somewhat barren as of late, both on the 360 and otherwise; Rumble Roses XX is the only competing title on the system as of yet, and with the Def Jam franchise moving into a “fighting game”Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â direction (because THAT’S fresh and original, let me tell you), it may well be the ONLY competing title for a long time. So long as the parent companies addressed the very real interests and desires of the fan base, it seemed to me, they would easily have a killer app on their hands, and even with the minutest changes, so long as they were in the areas people wanted, the game would easily be the best of the bunch. So, is this so? Let’s take a look and see.
1. STORY/GAME MODES
Second verse, same as the first. The storylines in SvR2K7 are about on par with the storylines in 2K6; that is to say, they’re wrestling stories. Storylines like “Trish Stratus helps Chris Masters win the World Title (god help us if THAT ever happens), so she becomes the world champion”Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â and “Triple H asks you to beat up some enemies in return for various stipulations in your World Title match”Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â are commonplace, and they’re about as good as you’d expect. On the upside, character dependent storylines make their return (as noted last year, if you play as a character who should be featured in the storyline you’re about to participate in, you are provided an alternate storyline), but on the downside, the stories themselves seem less involving than in previous years. Your character of choice speaks less than in 2K6, which I must admit plays a part in that; In my first four hours of play, my character spoke, oh, once. This really lends the feeling that there’s even less to the story mode than in previous years, which makes playing through it vaguely depressing; you can’t even unlock infinite CAW points by completing Season Mode anymore (that honor goes to winning a year in GM mode).
The various gameplay modes are identical to last year’s offering, though there is one new match type: Money in the Bank. In terms of actual gameplay, it’s fundamentally similar to a six person ladder match, so it’s not THAT special or anything, but it does the job well enough. In return, the “Fulfill Your Fantasy”Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â match has been excised; on one hand, this was really the only Diva-specific match of the group, but on the other, it sucked, so it won’t be missed. GM mode makes a triumphant return of sorts, as does online play, though for some obscenely stupid reason, female wrestlers are not eligible to be used online. No, really. I’m serious. In other words, one new match type, one removed match type, women no longer allowed for online play, ergo, lower score than last year. This, you will note, is the beginning of a trend.
Story Rating: 2/5
Game Modes Rating: 2/5
The graphics in SvR2K7 are, for the most part, really impressive. The characters look surprisingly realistic, and from the top tier guys like John Cena and Triple H to the lower card guys like Davari and Lance Cade, they’re all quite realistic and true to life. Custom characters look a LOT better here, which is damn cool, and clothing is no longer “skinned”Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â; you can see noticeable space between clothing and arms or legs or whatever, which is a good thing to see. The environments are also well done and realistic to how one would expect them to look, though the fans could use some added depth. Clipping is still present, especially with hair and through the ropes and such, though it seems reduced from last year. Overall, the visuals are really good, and minor gripes aside, this is easily the best looking WWE game ever made, and one of the better looking games on the console.
Graphics Rating: 8/10
The in-game music is a standard mix of rock and rap music, just like in 2K6. Bands like Godsmack and Nonpoint contribute songs to the game soundtrack, which can also be used as entrance music if you so desire. The various superstar theme songs are also, for the most part, completely accurate.
The voice acting is about as good as you’d expect from it; the wrestlers deliver their lines exactly as they would if they were on TV, which is either good (Triple H) or bad (Masters) depending upon the wrestler in question. The commentary is something of a retread from last year, though that’s certainly understandable; the commentary worked last year, so simply adding to it instead of completely changing it is wise, though if I hear JR brag about having a pinfall over The Game one more time, I’m going to vomit. The various sound effects are, as always, high quality and mimic the sounds of the squared circle appropriately. All told, SvR2K7 delivers an aural experience that’s consistent and works well, though it’s nothing you haven’t seen in previous versions of the game, all in all.
Sound Rating: 7/10
This is the area in which most of the major changes have been applied, so get ready for a lot of reading. Again.
SvR2K7 brings with it a new control schematic, which will most likely feel familiar to fans of the Fight Night franchise; instead of using the buttons to perform grapples, grapples can now be initiated with the right stick. This feels like an improvement at first, but after playing with both control schemes, it’s not really substantially different or exciting. You aren’t required to press a direction on the left stick/pad to perform grapples, so one less thing needs to be done to grapple and such, but otherwise, the control scheme largely feels similar to the standard button setup. It’s not worse, but it’s not really better, either. Also new to the game is the Ultimate Control system; when engaged in a grapple, one presses the right stick in instead of performing a standard grapple attempt, which instigates a conditional grapple of sorts. From here, the character can do various things to vary up the move; say if you have someone in a suplex, you can drop them over the rope or rail instead of complete the move, or you can repeat a powerbomb motion multiple times, etc. It’s an interesting addition that shows promise, but there really aren’t a lot of moves available in the choices as of yet, so it doesn’t feel wholly complete at this point. Otherwise, the game plays as you might expect; you can still run, strike, perform finishers, and counter at the press of a button (or two, occasionally), and everything is largely intuitive and easy to pick up. The stamina system is still around (stop to breathe or your character gets more blown up than the Ultimate Warrior… well, ever), as is the momentum/finisher system (build momentum to perform finishers). Indeed, most of the things that players saw in 2K6 make a return in 2K6, though it seems that pre-match mini-games have taken a powder, but that’s not so bad; they won’t really be missed.
GM mode makes a return as well, which is essentially a “General Manager simulator”, as it was last year. You can now recruit storyline writers to develop stories for wrestlers to work with, which is an interesting bit of variety… but, seeing as you can’t dictate the ending of matches, the game still works within this sort of “worked shoot”Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â style, where angles, feuds, and such are at your control, but match results are kayfabed (IE, “real”Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â). As a game mode, GM mode is prettier than, say, EWR, but it’s still not terribly as deep or strong as it should be, so while it might offer players some sort of diversion, it won’t keep hardcore fans entertained for very long.
Create-a-Character makes a return, as expected, and also as expected, it’s as good as ever. Every aspect of your character, from top to tail, is completely customizable, and while certain elements seem less functional than they used to be (you can’t have your character wear a different shirt for backstage bits versus during matches, as an example), overall CAC is still as strong as always, and characters, as noted, look better to boot. Create-an-Entrance returns as well, only this time it’s actually a lot stronger. You can customize virtually everything about a character’s entrance, from lighting and camera angles to pyro timing to name plate appearance, and it’s all very simple to work with. Some entrances are less friendly than others to customization than others, of course (put a piece of the Undertaker’s intro with anything else and watch yourself wear a cowboy hat for, oh, ten seconds… yeah), but by and large it’s leaps and bounds better than it used to be. Online play is still as strong as it has been, especially with Xbox Live support, and the standard Ranked and Unranked match-ups are available as always. You can use your created (male) characters online (so long as the match creator allows this), and pretty much every match type is available for play without issue. Create-a-Belt is also still around, and works as well as always, and you can still defend your title online without issue, which is good.
That said, there are still problems, and they’re many of the same ones. In the review of 2K6, I had noted, “Collision detection is still spotty, especially during autocombo moves, like the Dragon Whip for example, so you’ll see moves connect without actually doing what was intended. Running moves still require you to be almost spot-on to hit with them properly, as do several of the aerial attacks.“Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Well, guess what? SAME PROBLEM. I also noted, “SvR 2006 continues the Smackdown tradition of making sure to exclude female players from having any fun with the game whatsoever. There’s no Season Mode option for female characters, and assuming you want to play as one, you won’t be able to participate in over half of the available match types with them.“Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Guess what? SAME PROBLEM, ONLY WORSE; as I noted previously, you can’t even play as female wrestlers online, at ALL. I mean, if all the Divas are going to do is serve as managers and eye candy, screw it, don’t even offer the title as an actual title in the game anymore guys, okay? Just openly admit, “we don’t give a shit about women or their opinion of our game, we intend to cater exclusively to males, and if you’re a female player, sucks to be you, why don’t you go play something like Barbie Horse Adventures instead?”; at least THAT would be honest. I am no longer willing to play nice with this; I think it honestly flat-out sucks, and I refuse to pretend I don’t. Sorry. And to round it all out, GM Mode is still largely as shallow as ever, and still dictates match endings based on how popular your wrestlers are unless you personally influence the matches otherwise, which was tolerable when it was in its infancy, but is not so much a year later. The roster is out of date, and several key wrestlers (Spirit Squad? The ECW roster?) are missing. And despite the great ECW experiment, speaking of such, ECW isn’t really given any sort of a presence, unless one counts RVD and Tazz (as a Legend) as a “presence”, so to say. No Sabu, no Sandman, no Kevin Thorne or Ariel, nada. Way to pimp the brand, guys.
Overall, SvR2K7 is still a largely playable and enjoyable experience, but this is largely due to what has always been right with the series as opposed to what has always been WRONG with it. The core gameplay is still entertaining, online play is still strong and worthwhile, and the Create-a-whatever modes are still as strong as ever. Nothing that was broken has really been fixed, not very much new has been added to the experience, and the game is even more chauvinistic than ever, but it’s still an entertaining, if wholly unoriginal, experience. Fans will find 2K7 just as interesting, play wise, as 2K6… but that’s about all they’ll find it. Those who’ve never played a Smackdown game before, however, will find 2K7 as good a place to start as any; it’s not anything different, but it’s easily accessible and easy enough to play to bring new players into the fold without problems. The controls and gameplay are still as solid as ever, and while the ancillary stuff isn’t as strong as it could be, the game itself is still just fine… same as last year.
Control/Gameplay Rating: 6/10
As always, there are plenty of reasons to return to SvR2K7. Lots of unlockables, including Legends, moves, and other things await your… um, unlocking, and there are a substantial amount of matches to keep you coming back. Create-a-Character is still as interesting as ever, though the couple of removed features combined with the lack of custom theme song options make the feature less interesting than it ought to be. Online play is as strong as ever and between that and standard multiplayer features, you’ll have plenty of reasons to come back for more. That said, if you’re a Smackdown vet, there’s nothing in 2K7 that makes it any more replayable than, say, 2K6, so if you played that one to death, you might not be so willing to do the same this time around.
Replayability Rating: 6/10
SvR2K6, as always, features multiple different difficulty modes, ranging from being Easy like Lita to hard like Viscera (Ha, thought I was gonna reuse the Val Venis gag, didn’t you), so that seasoned vets and newcomers alike have a solid challenge awaiting them. The AI can be a small bit unreasonable at times with its reversals, but this isn’t wholly unforgivable, and can be worked around well enough. The balance online is, as always, dependant upon both your skill and the skill of your opponents, but the various characters are solidly balanced to one another, and as no one character is better than any other, it all comes down to skill, which leaves the game, well, about as balanced as it was last year.
Balance Rating: 7/10
The sum total amount of changes to SvR2K7 amount to a modified control scheme, a roster update (that’s still outdated), some minor tweaks to the interface and GM mode, and a new grapple type. Everything else in the game, and I mean EVERYTHING, has appeared in one of the seven other Smackdown titles that have come out in the past not-quite-a-decade. There are no major overhauls, no features that are a dramatic change from previous games, just some modifications and tweaks to the same game as last year. Granted, you’re not really going to play a game like SvR2K7 expecting anything but Smackdown goodness, but some originality would be nice once in a while.
Originality Rating: 2/10
As last year, most of the addictiveness in 2K7 comes from the sheer amount of stuff you have available to you. Season Mode and GM Mode offer a lot to do, and Create-A-Character is as robust as ever, though the lack of custom soundtrack support keeps you from giving, say, your created Goldberg, Sting, or Natural Disasters tag team the finishing touches you might want. The game is still as easy as ever to pick up, too, which helps to get you into the game that much more. If you’ve been playing the games since the beginning, though, you might find yourself less addicted than you might like; there’s really not anything new to keep your interest that you won’t have seen before, save for the Ultimate grapples, and the new control scheme isn’t really enough to make the game as addictive as it was the first time around.
Addictiveness Rating: 6/10
9. APPEAL FACTOR
Well, it appears both of my predictions last year were wrong (thankfully), so the game retains what appeal it has always had. That is to say, if you’re a wrestling fan, you’ll have plenty of reasons to want to play SvR2K7, though if you’re a wrestling fan, most likely you’ve been playing Smackdown titles for a while. If that’s the case, you might not find this any more desirable than, say, 2K6, save for the roster updates. If you’re not a wrestling fan, 2K7 is still an enjoyable, entertaining experience, but it’s one you might not really get or care about, which will most likely turn non-wrestling fans off from the get-go.
Appeal Rating: 6/10
Well, SvR2K7 is certainly the best wrestling title on the 360, but it’s not like the competition was stiff or anything (what with Rumble Roses XX being the only competitor and all, and no, no pun was intended). It’s not really significantly better than 2K6, however, which still puts it in the same place it ended up last year: not the best, but not really the worst. The Smackdown franchise has hit something of a wall, it seems: until the known and obvious clipping, AI, and collision detection issues are repaired, the GM mode is fleshed out more (and not kayfabed as much as it is), it won’t be a competitor for “best wrestling franchise” any time soon. The lack of custom ring entrance theme music is also somewhat of a major oversight, as well; I know I’ve harped on that a bit here, but when games like RAW 2 (an inferior product, though it was still enjoyable) and Rumble Roses XX (also an inferior product) offer such support, and this doesn’t, that hurts a bit, and it’s pretty depressing to see such an oversight. 2K7 is still an enjoyable product, but it’s too similar to last year’s offering, and doesn’t offer enough to make it really “next gen”.
Miscellaneous Rating: 6/10
Game Modes: 2/5
Overall Score: 5.8/10
Final Score: 6.0 (FAIR).
Short Attention Span Summary
Smackdown versus Raw 2007 remains a largely entertaining experience when compared to previous versions, though this is due more to the strength of the game engine than any sort of innovation in the product. Lack of originality, lack of repairs made to known problems, lack of interesting or additional game elements, and lack of custom entrance theme support make this a weak offering compared the amount of additions made to last year’s release. The new control scheme is useable, but the controls weren’t really broken to begin with, so by fixing something that WASN’T broken instead of fixing the things that were, nothing has really changed. SvR2K7 remains an entertaining and engaging piece of software, though this is more because it’s identical to previous releases and less because it does anything to distinguish itself from said releases.