Since its launch
a long while back, THQ’s WWE wrestling franchise has inserted its
recognizable Superstars into the PSP with much fanfare. It brought nearly all
the game modes and features found in the PlayStation 3 version and fit it in one
UMD for those gamers who like to take their game on the go. While the series
started off well enough on the PSP, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 just
doesn’t come together to make a very satisfying WWE wrestling experience worthy
of its loyal fan base or anyone who likes a good grappler fit for the PSP.
On the console
front as well as on the PSP, the series still retains much of what the 2007 game
brought to the table but this year sees a few changes that are actually for the
better. Among the new additions is the inclusion of the ECW franchise that –
much like the Raw stable of wrestlers – is integrated wonderfully on the console
version and just downplayed on the PSP. Still, the PSP makes due with
the roster and it’s not an underwhelming list either since it also includes
some legendary grapplers like Stone Cold Steven Austin, The Rock and Sergeant
Slaughter just to name some of them.
Can you smell
what The Rock is cooking?
The ECW brand
just doesn’t apply to their small list of Superstars and Divas either. There’s
the option to play an ECW Extreme Rules Match that uses all the rules of an ECW
regulation match. It’s a down-and-dirty way of fighting so it’s a nice touch and a
cool alternative to the usual WWE rules. With a somewhat healthy list of
Superstars and Divas, fans will be happy to toss them into a slew of match types
that THQ thoughtfully brings to the PSP. This means you will find everything
from a TLC match to a Steel Cage match and even all the usual specialized events
like the Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania. You can still create your own
championship events as well as create your own wrestler (Superstar or Diva) with
his or her own set of created moves and entrance animations.
come out the way the console game does it is 24/7 Mode. This is the career-based
game mode that allows you to play as an already established Superstar or start
off as an amateur as you take him
through a career to reach the top. You can also play as a General Manager,
making decisions and setting up events as well as signing superstars to your family.
While all of this sounds pretty juicy, 24/7 Mode is a stripped down to a
simplistic, uninteresting and featureless experience. At least there’s Hall of
Fame mode, a game mode that allows you to relive memorable matches from 1995 to
has two left feet
As far as the
controls are concerned, THQ dropped the ball in this department as well. The
controls come off as sluggish and oftentimes unresponsive. This is too bad
really since there are new gameplay features that add more style and moves to
each Superstar. The new Struggle Submission System allows you to apply
sufficient pressure on your submission moves and you can also make escapes
nearly impossible for your opponent. You can also choose different fighting
styles (eight to be precise) that allows you to pull off interesting different
moves depending on the style you pick.
wish your diva was hot like the divas on the PS2?
On the graphics
front, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 looks a little like the PS2 version
only the textures look fuzzy. Even the Superstar selection screen sports a
rather murky appearance that really has no place on a handheld that easily
displays sharp and colorful graphics. The Superstars and Divas do look like
their real-life counterparts, though, and watching them perform their signature moves
or strut their stuff during intros is still a blast. It’s just too bad that the
arenas lack detail and the crowds of fans look like a mess.
The game’s sound
doesn’t fair any better than the visuals, that is, unless you like hard rock
from some unknown artists as well as a small collection of rap tunes that aren’t
bad at all. What doesn’t really work is the commentary team that doesn’t sound
like they’re doing a play-by-play of the match nor do they ever praise your
created wrestler if you go up against an actual Superstar. Even the legends
don’t get much fanfare from the commentators. The ultimate insult comes in the
form of the voice acting … it’s beyond horrible even for WWE wrestling
standards. Look, we know that Johnny Nitro isn’t a Shakespearean actor but he
very rarely sounds like a telemarketer on his first day of work either.
the right elements including all the modes and features straight out of the
PlayStation 2 version, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 for the PSP is plagued
by a few problems that just make this a portable wrestling game that doesn’t
have what it takes to compete with the console version. Unfortunately, the weak
controls keep gamers from pulling off the best moves and the main career mode
isn’t as engaging as it should have been even on a portable platform. Die-hard
wrestling fans or any other gamer looking for a wrestling game should consider
the console version instead of the PSP version.
When it comes
to the game modes and match types, the 2008 edition does not fail to deliver.
Unfortunately, the controls just don’t cut it this year since there are new
specialty moves and fighting styles available. The new Struggle Submission
System is a nice touch and there are some solid out-of-ring options that do
justice to the WWE name. 24/7 Mode is not altogether there, though.
textures will not fail to turn off gamers who know that the PSP is capable of
graphics better than this. Still, the character models are nicely detailed and
even on the handheld’s screen you’ll be able to recognize every Superstar even
in an event as cluttered as the Royal Rumble.
The hard rock
and the occasional rap tunes make up the game’s soundtrack so if you’re into
this genre of music you’ll be just fine. Sadly, the same can’t be said about the
two-man commentary team that make some head-scratching observations or the awful
voice acting from most of your favorite Superstars.
and champions like Triple H will certainly not hold back and provide a challenge
in the ring but gamers will be struggling more with the game’s poor controls
rather than intelligent opponent AI. Many of the Superstars fight the way you
would expect them to fight so you will have your hands full.
There’s a lot
to digest in this year’s game and the game modes are just chock full of all the
fun matches and events we have been enjoying for a long while now. The inclusion
of the ECW stable is nice and there are great legends (The Rock and Sergeant
Slaughter to name a few) to use in any mode available. It’s just too bad that
24/7 Mode is not as deep or as interesting as it is on the PS2 or even PS3
The game runs
at a very steady framerate so up to four players can take each another on using
Ad Hoc connectivity. There’s no online via Infrastructure, something us fans
have been clamoring for since last year’s game. How about it, THQ? Can we have
some online love in the 2009 edition?
While the game
piles on all of the console version’s game modes and match types, WWE
SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 is a flawed and disappointing wrestling game for the
PSP. Even with the few good changes and the inclusion of the ECW stable, the
awful controls, murky graphics and a rushed 24/7 Mode just hold this game back
from being a franchise favorite among fans.