WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 08 - hands-on

"Recently I was playing against someone and he was fighting like Stone Cold Steve Austin," says Taku Chihaya, director of the new SmackDown!, "Not because of the character, but just because he never stopped. He was going crazy."

This is what SmackDown's all about. It's not about the wrestlers just looking like the real thing - although they do, right down to the Sandman's grimace and Lashley's terrifying biceps - it's about them feeling like the real thing. It's about Rey Mysterio bouncing around the ropes like a little Mexican pinball. It's all about Jeff Hardy somersaulting all over the ring. It's about Randy Orton being just as unlikeable as he is in real life. It's all about getting as real to wrestling as possible.

We've talked about the superstar styles before but we now see how it feels in a properly heated match. Basically, every superstar has two styles (out of a possible eight) that represent their personality. John Cena's a Showman and Brawler; Lashley's a Powerhouse and Brawler.

After picking your wrestler, you choose which of their styles will be the "main" one for the upcoming match - this unlocks one special ability. In Lashley's case, going for Powerhouse lets you go into a rampage - hold the right trigger and press Down with a finisher stored, and he'll go temporarily nuts, be able to reverse any grapple and do unlimited power moves without getting tired for thirty seconds. A similar thing happens if you pick Brawler, except that this rampage lets you throw punches like Muhammad Ali and reverse any strikes your opponent tries to throw back.

But that's not all: each style has secondary abilities to use, too. Powerhouse, for instance, lets you power out of any pin if you've got a stored finisher. Brawler lets you throw strikes in complicated combinations, or "mount" your opponent UFC-style and drop headbutts on them with the analog stick. Dirty fighters are more complicated to use: they can cower behind the ref, or argue with him after a two count.

All the abilities combine to make each wrestler play more like their on-screen counterpart. But the best bit of all? If you're playing as a Hardcore wrestler, you can grab a chair and deliberately smash yourself in the face until you bleed. The trick is, when you see blood, you get excited: so you fight much better. Now that's hardcore.