Thursday 9 November 2006
Is there anything better than making an elaborate fireworks-packed entrance into a stadium filled with fans clawing their eyes out in testament to your greatness? Maybe there are a handful of things that you'd prefer (being the first person to set foot on Mars, getting named Emperor of the Universe), but none that deliver that sensation of absolute adoration via your Xbox 360.
Past versions of SmackDown have made attempts to achieve this lofty goal with a respectable degree of success, but WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2007 is, without a doubt, the best SmackDown yet.
Of course, that's what folks said about last year's game, and it was true then, but only for PS2 owners. But what makes this year's game even better is that developer Yuke's, not content with leaving well enough alone, has gone in and tweaked everything. And nowhere is this more evident than with the gameplay, which has undergone some considerable changes.
The developer's goal for this year was giving the player even more control and, with this new grappling system that utilizes the right analog stick, they've mostly succeeded.
Just flick the stick in a direction to do a quick move like an arm drag; hold the right bumper and flick the stick to get into a lock up, where you can do more powerful moves, including moving your opponent to one of the many hot spots strewn about the arena.
For example, you can manoeuvre your opponent into the corner, then start doing a ten punch - only you control the punches by moving the right analog stick up and down. Naturally, there are even more elaborate things you can do, giving you a better sense of control than in prior wrestling games.
Everything else has been updated, as well. The season mode has more branching paths, and the returning GM Mode is more fully featured than last year, allowing you to do things like purchase storylines and create feuds to improve your ratings.
The robust creation modes have been streamlined even more. The game is simply packed with more, better stuff. And the game looks great as an Xbox 360 game - though it wasn't like its predecessor was an ugly game by any means (at least, not by PS2 standards).
That makes it even more of a shame that certain problems recur every year. We can forgive the fact that certain things aren't up to date (it's impossible to pin down a definitive roster, angle, and/or gimmick since they change constantly) and some of the clipping issues, but we wish other elements were improved. Collision detection still needs work, and the commentary is as repetitive as ever.
Above: The collision detection isn't perfect, but some contacts will make you wince
Tag matches still feel like handicap matches, mainly owing to the fact that your AI-controlled partner doesn't actually do all that much, even when you call for help. There also are several loading screens throughout the game - they're not excruciatingly long like they were in last year's PSP version, but that doesn't make them less annoying as you impatiently wait to start playing.
None of this stops the game from being a whole lot of fun, though, especially with some friends. Besides, if you're looking for a licensed wrestling title on Xbox 360, this is the only game in town.