WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2007 Review
I remember watching Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior wrestle for the title at Wrestlemania 6. I didn’t get to go to the live show or even watch it on pay-per-view, though – I saw it when I stopped at a friend’s house on the way to school. His parents got the pay-per-view for him and recorded it. That was when I first saw the WWF (now known as the WWE) and first became addicted to wrestling games.
Many years later, I still watch wrestling on occasion. Sure, I don’t put it on nearly as often as I used to but, on occasion, I will watch. Things have changed a lot but, in a lot of ways, they have stayed the same. While I don’t believe the “sport” is still real, I still really enjoy the video games. It has been awhile since one really stood out as a must-have for wrestling fans, though. No Mercy for the Nintendo 64 was highly regarded and said by many to be the best wrestling game ever created – can Smackdown vs RAW 2007 compete or is it doomed to be lumped in with the horrible ones like the original WWE RAW on the XBOX?
You’ll be glad to hear that this game is head and shoulders above WWE RAW. Smackdown vs Raw 2007 is the first game in the Smackdown series to be released on the Xbox 360. The series started with Smackdown! On the Sony Playstation and was well-received. The action was fast, the presentation was pretty good and the graphics were better than you could expect for a Playstation 1 game. SvR 2007 is so much more advanced than the game that got the series started. There’s a new grappling system, an even more advanced character creation system and an online component. The game isn’t without its problems, though.
The first thing you’ll notice are the load times, though. For a next-gen title on a system with a hard drive, the load times seem to be pretty darn crazy. It takes 5-10 seconds just to move to the next menu and then a good 30-45 seconds or more to start the match. If a wrestler interferes during the match, you’ve got a couple seconds of load time. After you win, there’s another 10-15 seconds of load time. While it doesn’t straight out ruin the game, the load times will get annoying, especially during a marathon play session.
Also, after some research, it seems a lot of players have had issues with the create-a-wrestler mode and lockups. I’ve experienced this too – if I try to create a wrestler after a long play session, I’ll often end up locking up here. It doesn’t help that trying to select different pieces of clothing or editing your entrance is an exercise in patience – you have to wait a good 5 seconds or so when you stop on a song, video or piece of clothing before you can hit the button to continue, even if you know exactly what you want to pick. Overall, though, there are a ton of options to mess with in create-a-wrestler. Hopefully, the next version of the game fixes the crazy amount of load times here.
Despite the issues mentioned, the game has a lot of good to offer. The biggest change to anyone that has played a Smackdown series game in the past are the grapples. No longer do you hit the grapple button along with a d-pad direction when you want to grapple someone – you instead use the right thumbstick. If you hold a button when you do this or hold a different direction on the left stick, you’ll do different moves. There’s even a strong grapple option available if you hold one of the buttons and flick the control stick. This gets really neat because going in one direction will perform, say, a submission grapple while the other will perform a regular one. From here, you can hit a direction on the thumbstick or go into the Ultimate control mode by clicking the right thumbstick in. After clicking the stick, you’ll have a few options appear under your wrestler’s name that let you do some interesting moves. For example, my big created wrestler was able to grapple, hold a guy up by his shoulders and then deliver a variant of the Outsider’s Edge right out of the ring onto a table that I had set up. Yes, you heard me right – some moves will actually end with your opponent being tossed out of the ring if you are near the ropes as opposed to before where you’d do a powerbomb by the ropes and end up pushing yourself backwards five feet.
That leads into something else that really helps SvR 2007 – the interactive ring and surrounding area. If you perform a grapple, you can drag a wrestler to various hotspots around the arena. When you drag to, say, the turnbuckle, the opponent will get thrown in and you can climb up the ropes and throw punches or slam the opponent’s head into said turnbuckle. There are a ton of these places to interact, too. However, some of the moves you can perform are ridiculously powerful and will need some toning down.
Graphics really do a good job of showing off the 360, though some wrestlers still don’t quite resemble their real life counterparts that well. It isn’t too much of a deal breaker as they do a pretty good job overall but it could have been better, especially with the power of the 360. The ring entrances are still pretty neat but could also use a bit of improvement, but I’ve gone into that already. The game also still has some clipping issues when you do moves – I’ll occasionally still see my hand clip into my opponent instead of around him. Overall, the graphics are great.
The sound, though, is incredibly annoying and I’d highly recommend you turn off the announcers. It seems that they run off of horribly simple key occurrences. If I slam my opponent down early and he gets up groggy, JR and the King will say we’ve been going at it all night – all 15 seconds of the night. It really could use some work for next year’s edition. The wrestler voices, though, were pretty damned neat and helped to enhance the season mode.
With a ton of match types that will be ridiculously familiar to WWE fans and many wrestlers to choose from, Smackdown vs RAW 2007 is a great first entry onto the Xbox 360. The graphics have some room for improvement for the future as do the announcers and horrendous load times. Also, the online mode (that is totally lacking any sort of real league support) could use some major work, both in net code and features). However, there are a lot of good developments here, particularly in the grapple system and environmental interactivity. The series really does have a bright future on the next generation systems.