previews\ Aug 27, 2006 at 8:00 pm

WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2007 - 360 - Preview 2

“You know what the difference between you and I-95 is? … You can turn off I-95.”

This is just some of the witty banter ringside in the pending iteration of THQ’s WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 for the Xbox 360.

The preview version of the game received only had one active mode – exhibition – though there were tabs on the user interface for other game modes, create modes, and Xbox Live. The exhibition was broken down into Single (again, the only mode available), Tag Team, Triple Threat, Fatal 4 Way, Handicap, Royal Rumble, Main Events and Title Match. In Single, there were three battle options – no manager, No Manager vs. With Manager, and With Manager vs. With Manager. Only five wrestlers were available to use (Shelton Benjamin, John Cena, Kurt Angle, Triple H, and Rey Mysterio).

And there were other problems, such as a graphical hang-up that required a restart on a couple of occasions, but these are part and parcel of getting an early build for preview purposes. Rather than talk about glitches, the focus should be on what was available – however limited in this burn.

The control scheme may, at first, seem rather daunting, but while there is a learning curve, using the entire array on the 360 controller is easy and in no time the wrestlers available were moving and grooving just like their real-life counterparts. Stamina is always a factor and in the 2007 edition, you will have to pay attention as the match ebbs and flows. A successful pin requires the right timing and an exhausted opponent.

The game uses an analog grappling system that is brand new to the series. You can grapple using the right thumbstick and then, in concert with the right shoulder button, you can turn the simple grapple into something a little stronger, opening up different secondary moves. And, of course, each superstar comes with signature moves that may have gamers ooh’ing and aah’ing in delight.

The sound was a real delight, with the ringside banter flowing just as one would hear on television, and the associated sounds of the fight (from the heavy pounding to the canvas to the sharp ring of a slap connecting) were spot on. About the only thing missing in this version was the roar of the crowd.

Graphically the game was remarkable. WWE wrestlers look larger than life and this title captures it wonderfully. From the trademark introductions to the in-ring antics, this game is the closest yet to crossing into the realm of virtual reality. Yep, this is a tasty bit of eye candy.

The action can be intense, but rather than a pure button masher, you have to employ a little strategy. You can wear down an opponent, work on a weak spot and generally pick him apart. Perform the same move over and over, the AI scheme will wise up and make you pay.

The version of this title received offered an all-too brief look at what promises to be a very good edition of the series. Multiplayer will support up to 6 players and the ship date is currently set for November 2006.

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