WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2007 Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Finally one of Microsoft’s consoles has a wrestling game to get excited about following the disappointing RAW series as well as Studio Gigante’s industry swansong, WrestleMania 21. Instead of enlisting the help of yet another developer, it made perfect sense for THQ to turn to their premier WWE series and debut SmackDown vs. RAW on a next-gen console.

Always an important thing for the legion of WWE fans is that of the wrestler roster, and 2007 delights as well as disappoints. Umaga, Ken Kennedy (complete with authentic entrance!), Johnny Nitro, Bobby Lashley and Finlay are amongst the debuting wrestlers, although the absence of Brian Kendrick and Paul London (the SmackDown tag team champs) as well as all five members of the Spirit Squad is simply shocking.

Roster reservations aside, one of the best things about this 2007 update is the new control system that just so happens to make matches feel more fluid and natural. Admittedly the controls do take some getting used to, especially if you have bonded with the previous control scheme, but using the stick to lockup into grapples, perform submissions, drag your opponents around the ring and to pin them when they are lying on the canvas is a genius touch that results in a very organic flow to matches. It doesn’t take long before you are instinctively slamming your opponent to the mat, which is proof that this new system isn’t only superb, but it’s also more user-friendly.

The controls aren’t the only noteworthy talking point, as other changes have been made that hands players additional options to go about their busting and bruising business. Environmental hotspots are exactly as the name suggests, allowing you to smash faces into the steel steps, ram arms into turnbuckles and more. The Ultimate Control moves are another way to force the pain onto your opponent, simply initiating a grapple and then pushing the stick in gives you full control over your actions, often allowing you to decide what move to pull off and even giving you free reign to walk around with your opponent aloft (naturally all these new moves deplete your stamina meter). This isn’t fully fleshed out as of yet, as we’d like to see all moves pulled off in a similar manner in the future, but we are still impressed with the way that these controls make you more of a player opposed to a spectator. It’s a fantastic new feature, but perhaps Yuke’s are only testing the water for something bigger and better in the future.

The season mode is largely the same as last years effort, although it’s thankfully a little more open-ended, something which the advent of WWE superstar voices have more a less taken away in recent years. Storylines are original, familiar and just as predictable as the real thing, something which wrestling fans have grown used to over the years. The presentation of the season mode is immaculate, and fans will be pleased to be navigating a replica of wwe.com and the WWE magazines to read news of notable happenings involving your chosen wrestler and those around him.

There may be a lack of new match types, with the Money in the Bank ladder match being the only one to speak of, and to call it brand new would be to tell a white lie. It’s basically a six-person ladder match, although improvements have been made to how you can use said ladder during matches. You can now drag the ladder whilst it is in a standing position, as well as propping up another ladder and athletically running up it (like Shelton Benjamin did so well) to knock opponents off their perch amongst other resourceful methods. There have been such improvements in other matches, namely the table matches in which fans should be delighted at having to earn a finisher to smash opponents through tables, as previously this could be done rather prematurely.

The 360 version features amazingly detailed wrestler models, some of which are hard to tell apart from their real life counterparts. As the match progresses perspiration soaks their expressive faces and blood will begin to flow after taking one too many shots to the head. It’s just a pity this level of detail isn’t present in the arenas and other environments, although full polygonal models now make up much of the crowd. The commentary still needs plenty of work, and in some aspects it is way out of date and is in serious need of an update. The crowd audio on the other hand is outstanding, as the virtual WWE fans remain calm whilst matches are uneventful, but when big moves are hit and momentum is built, exuberant chants and cheers follow as they get more and more into the matches.

Sadly, SmackDown vs. RAW 2007 still suffers from some of the problems that have long plagued the series. The weight detection is still dodgy, and mixing and matching cruiserweights, heavyweights and so on, can lead to some hilarious happenings. We matched up Super Crazy and Carlito and learned that one couldn’t carry the other despite their similar sizes, simply because they’re from different weight divisions, which is absolutely ridiculous. Aerial moves meanwhile remain far too easy to counter, online modes suffer from bouts of lag from time to time, AI is as bad as always, and the GM mode is still largely dull.

Regardless of its problems, this is a wrestling series that manages to shine through every single year, and 2007 is the best one yet. The new controls make the game a total joy to play, and other little enhancements also increase the enjoyment, with some showing promise for even better things in the future. It’s a series that we dislike for its continuous problems, but it’s also one that we have always held in high regard for the amount of amusement that we get from it each and every year.