Madden and FIFA, there aren’t many sports that have lasted through the ages.
Wrestling fans, on the other hand, have been able to rely on THQ and its
wrestling franchise since the days of the N64. Now known as WWE SmackDown vs.
RAW, the series has been a PlayStation 2 exclusive for some time but is slowly
creeping its way to the next generation, starting with Xbox 360.
that leave the current generation? WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2007 is more than the
minor upgrade you might expect from a series’ umpteenth sequel. The graphics
haven’t changed much outside of the camera angles, which are getting more
cinematic. There’s a new soundtrack and new commentary, but you wouldn’t be
crazy to think this was the same game – at first glance. Good features haven’t
been removed just for the sake of change, so you will see a lot of familiar
content. Biting through to the core reveals more depth and an extra creamy
filling baked right in.
SmackDown vs. RAW’s forceful and sarcastic attitude is back with new moves and
a different control style. Players are now able to perform several of their
favorite moves (and a few new ones) using the right analog stick. The change
isn’t as massive as when Tiger Woods and Fight Night made the analog leap.
Both of those titles relied on precision to pull off the best swings (in Tiger
Woods) and best punches (in Fight Night). They involved a lot of rolling
motions – several moves where you’d pull back and push forward in one smooth
doesn’t work like that. What it does is add more variety to your arsenal, and
allows the developers to apply more moves to the Dual-Shock 2.
first notice that analog control has also been delegated to wrestler movement.
The change isn’t enormous. Though there are more simulation-type elements, the
series still belongs to the arcade crowd.
notable analog features in this edition are the grapple moves. Hold down the
R1 button to initiate, then push the right stick in any of the four basic
directions. This will cause your wrestler to grab his opponent. Next, push the
right stick a second time in the same direction. The move is continued, and
your opponent will be squashed, pushed, pulled, or flipped in a farrago of
bone-crunching, flesh-stretching, oh-man-that-had-to-hurt kind of ways.
the thought of being the one whose bones are crunching? RAW 07 gives you two
ways to deal with that: counters and grapple reversals. These moves are
executed with the L2 and R2 buttons. You’ll know just when to push R2 by the
icon that flashes on the top right corner of the screen. The chance to reverse
or counter doesn’t stick around for very long, so you’d better be ready to
strike as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
meter is still a vital part of each match. Wrestlers need to keep their
stamina up to win, and they can do that by taunting their opponents. Tap one
of the directional buttons, kick back and watch the show. Your wrestler will
run around the screen, do a little dance, or perform in some other way that is
designed to humiliate the one you wish to defeat. Taunting leaves you open to
attack, but you know what they say – no guts, no glory.
Move-Set, Entrance, Champion, and Stable are back for more player-created fun.
The eight exhibition modes – single, tag team, triple threat, fatal four-way,
handicap, royal rumble, main events, and title match – offer more variety than
any other sports or fighting game. Not that an exhibition mode should be the
most important, but variety tends to equal progress. Within the main events
mode you’ll find several other options: TLC, Backstage Brawls, Last Man
Standing, Hell in a Cell, and more. These modes are an easier way to get down
to business when you want some instant thrills but don’t have time to go a
When you do
have the time – a lot of time – RAW 07’s General Manager mode is where you
need to go. Use the existing rosters or draft a new batch. Align yourself with
the RAW or SmackDown brand. Edit superstar tactics to make some play nice and
clean, and others raw and dirty. Set champions for the World Heavyweight, Tag
Team, United States, and Cruiserweight.
Visit the GM
desk for the main options before your first match. Check the schedule for all
your upcoming fights. Select e-mail to see what Vince McMahon, the guy in
charge, thinks of your performance. He’ll tell you when you suck, but don’t be
surprised if you don’t believe him – the voice acting is terrible. Rosters,
reports, and the latest news are also available. News provides magazine-style
headlines with details on who rocks and who sucks. The text is a little long
and often too close together to make it worth reading, but it’s still a cool
schedule will bring you to the obvious: RAW is getting closer to becoming the
Madden of wrestling games. All fights are clearly laid out in an easy-to-read
calendar. Skip events you don’t want through simulation. It’s risky, but the
results could go in your favor.
With the best
game modes back for more action, a more thorough general manager mode, and
more ways to damage the environments, WWE SmackDown Vs. RAW 2007 has
everything it needs to keep the die-hard wrestling fan happy.
wrestler designs with few titles that can compare on the current generation.
Decent music, but
the commentary is a little too over-the-top for my tastes. It’s almost
funny, almost amusing … but never really is.
challenges (and then some!) are guaranteed to keep you busy for a very long
RAW 07 is a step
in the right direction. New editions and control changes are welcome, but this
series is due for some serious innovation.
single-player options are great, but it’s the multiplayer gameplay that
prevails. When you step into the ring with a real opponent, the rest of the
game will be forgotten. Story mode? Forget that – I want to pummel my friends
a few thousand times first.
worthwhile iteration of the WWE SmackDown Vs. RAW franchise. Not a must-buy
for everyone, but definitely a stocking stuffer for those who love the series
and can’t live without the latest in interactive wrestling entertainment.