WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008 Xbox 360 Review

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

Whilst I could overlook problems such as particular moves being too easy to reverse, there was something I didn’t like on previous games in THQ’s aging wrestling series, that being the strengths and weaknesses of each wrestler, or should I say lack of. With the tenth game in the WWE SmackDown! series THQ and Yukes have attempted to address this with the addition of superstar fighting styles.

Superstar fighting styles are a significant change for the series and as a result when you play as Rey Mysterio or Jeff Hardy you’ll feel like a high-flyer, if you choose the likes of The Undertaker or Triple H you’ll be pounding faces into bloody messes, and finally if you opt for idiots along the lines of Mick Foley or Sabu you’ll feel like you were born with a cold steel chair in your hands. There’s eight of these fighting styles, including brawler, dirty, hardcore, high-flyer, submission, powerhouse, technical and showman. Each superstar has two of these fighting styles to their name, and you are given the opportunity to select one before you enter to the ring in the most glitzy manner possible. You simply choose one to take advantage of that fighting styles primary ability, which are basically brought into play with storing your finishers.

Whilst there’s too many fighting styles to go into great detail about, I’ll mention a few to give you a taste of their fruits. Dirty involves you being very unsportsmanlike, thus you’ll be arguing with the referee when you fail to get that winning three count, and even cowardly hiding behind him. When you’re feeling that little bit braver (not a lion exactly) you can then launch the poor guy towards your opponent, which sends them both tumbling off their feet and onto the matt. The dirty primary ability allows you to use the sort of low blow that would knock the wind out of any man, yes even a couple of inches from the referees vision. These officials are either corrupt or as blind as bats. The Hardcore fighting style on the other hand allows you to do things that would normally have you up in court for murder or GBH at the very least. These hardcore wrestlers can do all sorts of nasty things with weapon grapples, and their own blood actually works to their advantage as if your opponent busts you open you instantly earn full momentum, also if you store a finisher you can then hit yourself repeatedly in the head with a chair, obviously opening a nasty gash, but healing some of your damage as well. Finally, the high-flyers can springboard off the ropes, roll out of their opponents way and use a sneaky possum pin when their primary ability is active. These are just three out of the eight styles, and a few balance issues aside, these fighting styles are a very pleasing new feature, although it has to be said that it does seem daunting at first with so much for your brain to absorb (thank the good lord for the tutorial videos).

This being SmackDown! the fighting styles aren’t the only new feature to speak of with various improvements dotted around. The controls have been simplified and moves such as the Irish whip and dive attacks from the inside to the outside of the ring are now mapped to a single button. There’s tweaks to the grapple system that allow you to break out of your opponents grapples with strikes and by wiggling about like a fish out a water with the right stick, which is a fantastic new addition. Then there’s the struggle submission system where the one using the hold needs to relinquish his grip from time to time, which allows the other to attempt to break out of the limb damaging submission. This new system works entirely with the right stick.

The game doesn’t ignore new modes or match types either. The 24/7 mode is basically the season and GM modes combined, although if you take control of one of the superstars you’ll be aiming for the sort of legendary status and immortality that will earn you a statue and plenty of championship gold. This road to becoming a legend requires you to meet specific goals such as putting on regular five star matches, winning at pay per views and more. You’ll also be living the lifestyle of a WWE superstar (steroids not included) and as a result, when you aren’t putting on another one of those five star matches or having a relaxing day off you can train your muscled combatant, make – fleeting – appearances at autograph signings to make yourself more popular, star in one of WWE’s films to earn yourself some money (why else?) and more. If you overwork your wrestler he’ll get an injury (wrestling might not be real but there is regular legitimate injuries, although unlike real fights they don‘t actually set out to hurt each other) which you’ll carry into matches with you, so it’s best to be careful as to what you do with your time. The actual story is once again held back by voiceovers from the WWE cast and it doesn‘t really hang together as well as it should (I‘ve been called “the champ“ by good old JR when I didn‘t have a single title to my name), but it’s still a decent enough way to spend your time, and the new calendar and legend structure is rather nice as well. If you take control of a General Manager things haven’t really changed that much, and you still take care of the day to day operating of your chosen show (the ECW is now also included), being mindful of the wellbeing of your superstars, attempting trades with your fellow and rival GM’s, running feuds and basically attempting to make your chosen brand into the A show.

The only new match type this year is the Extreme Rules Match (an addition as the result of the new ECW presence in the game) which is chaotic and stupid fun (much like wrestling then). This match is obviously intended for the hardcore specialists, and being able to select your weapon from under the ring by using an onscreen selection wheel is a neat touch (it does slow the pace of matches down though). If your wrestling game wish list included setting tables on fire, then this is the mode for pyromaniacs such as yourself. If weapons and the destruction of faces is how you define wrestling, then likewise, this is the mode for you.

WWE SmackDown! Vs. RAW 2008 is visually superb and plays a brilliant game of wrestling with some pleasing additions and improvements, although it has to be said that the series is still plagued by some problems that should have been sorted out along time ago (clipping issues, online lag etc) and others which won’t exactly endear the game to WWE fans too much (an out of date roster, a flawed season mode etc). As always, even if you don’t know your 619’s from your RKO’s, regardless of its balance issues and its persistent problems, the latest game in the series is still tremendously good fun.