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As the clock ticks away until the anticipated next instalment in THQ and Yuke’s WWE Smackdown series, the time beckons to have a gander at what the title has to offer and become immersed with the hype greeting its forthcoming release next week.
Many a grievance with wrestling games fans following the WWE series of titles under the watch of THQ, has been that while some of their franchises like Smackdown and Day of Reckoning have been rather good, they have been tainted with the releases on the Xbox of the Raw series and follow up Wrestlemania 21. While blame can be portioned on Anchor and Studio Gigante, the negligence of the Xbox gamers hasn’t been pleasant. The good news this time around is that THQ have thrown all their hats into one basket, hedged their bets with their biggest franchise in the Smackdown series, and released it across format. The cynic could bring up the reduced development cost of such a venture, as differences between the 360 and PS2 versions are minimal at best. Actual content is near indistinguishable. The 360 version will boast a sweat system, which has been on hand in the screenshots that have been doing the rounds and adds to the amazing graphics engine that has been developed for the format which is a dust and polish of the PS2 versions graphics engine. The PS2 version only allows for the new addition of crowd battling and interactions during certain match types and circumstances, which are catered for in most match types in the 360 version. The PSP version features a tournament mode entitled ‘Road to Wrestlemania’. The tournament can be customised from both match cards to venues, and match ups can be watched in real time, baring similarities with the former SD titles.
Sixty wrestlers have made this year’s version, and Fletch has happily posted the updates to this year’s roster upon the news board, which can be visited at your leisure.
Legends are of course unlockable again through the Shopzone.
The titles available in the game are: –
- WWE Tag Team
- World Tag Team
- Smoking Skull Belt (unlockable)
- Reportedly some form of nWo Belt (unlockable)
The 360 Demo
With the Xbox 360 port in the bag it presents a world of opportunity upon Xbox Live, where conveniently a demo is already available for download. At a stonking 1.06 GB, it may take a while depending upon your connection speed, but for the eager beavers its worth the wait to get to grips with the product first hand. It can be found in the ‘Bringing It Home’ section of Xbox Live.
The demo offers the chance to play in a singles match in the Raw Arena with either Kane or HHH. There are no disqualifications and no time limit, so it offers the chance to fully exploit the new interaction with (grabbing replica belts for example) and action within the crowd (taking the fight over the barrier).
In a move not too dissimilar to Fight Night Round 3, grappling has now been assigned to the right thumbstick. This quickens response times and after around one match you’re have the hang of the new controls. They make the game feel more interactive and fluid. If the controls are not to your preference though, the traditional control system can be selected from the Options Menu. Grapples and moves again differ in accordance to your positioning and the way in which you are facing, offering a wider and differing range depending on these factors.
Out of ring fighting and in crowd action has been made all the more intuitive via the use of hot spots, allowing for some big spectacles to be achieved including table spots and interaction with the outside furniture such as the barrier and monitors. Hot spots aren’t just limited to outside of the ring though, with various spots being present and correct in ring offering the ability to choke opponents on the ropes and such like.
This year the CAW mode offers more customisation, with over 250 features muted to be able to tweak to your every whim, and changes can be seen in real time. Thus eradicating the loading times between seeing an entrance and tweaking the changes. This time around there are no custom entrance themes for your creations, but I can foresee a similar approach to what has been undertaken by Volition with Saint’s Row, with the addition of attires, themes and such like in the form of downloads online, via Xbox Live Marketplace and perhaps even Sony’s own online service.
The GM Mode
The popular General Manager Mode has been fine-tuned with some added features and offers much promise. A tab system has been implemented this time around, making it a breeze to flick from the titleholders page to the match line up. Wrestlers profile pages have been given more depth to include specialist match types, morale and stats such as the number of weeks they have not been utilised on the show. It eases finding out who to fit alongside who, who to trade and who to push to the top of the roster and alongside the addition of the Power 25 of WWE.com fame; it makes determining your upper and under cards much simpler. Another addition this year via the further inclusion of one Vince McMahon, is more interaction with the boss. Rather than just emails, the new title offers phone calls direct from Vince, utilising the voice recording work the monkeys at Yuke’s have been busy with.
A new system has been implemented to streamline and improve the use of feuds, preventing the need to manually repeat placing the same opponents in different match types each weekly show. A rivalry menu screen will act as a central hub from which the gamer can input their chosen feuds, and offers the option to set the feud length and choose one of the preset storylines. It reads as if Yuke’s have been taking notes from EWR, but I guess we cannot judge that for sure until we get our mitts on the title, but it definitely improves from last year’s affair as it eradicates the need to keep rebooking the same opponents until the game identifies it as a rivalry. The mode still allows matches to be viewed with the game engine, but does not yet offer the chance to see the specified storyline for your chosen feud being played out on screen. I guess it leaves them something to excite us with next November with the inevitable sequel.
The addition of writers adds a whole new depth to the mixing pot. Each writer has their own merits, and it is up to the gamer to hire the right writer to suit the way their feud is headed, but also to check the costs in order to stay within budget. Coupled with the obvious costs of the wrestlers contracts themselves, and the match types it offers another interesting dynamic to the fold.
Heat and Velocity have been included into the mode this year, and coupled with the inclusion of the Power 25 (WWE’s list of the best performers that given week, presented on WWE.com), offers the chance this year to really separate your jobbers from your main eventers. The key to Heat and Velocity’s inclusion though is for the development of the lower card guys on your roster, as when a wrestler hits a popularity rating of 70 they are bumped up to the main shows.
One of the major grievances related to last years season mode was that it lasted just a year, so once you had run through with a few of the guys on different shows you’d seen the majority of what the game had to offer. So how has Yuke’s amended this I hear you cry. Well to put it simply they have done this by allowing the facility to progress further and beyond with your chosen participant in the season mode after your first year.
The game presents three paths from the get-go, which is dependant on who you choose to play with. Titleholders take the Champions path, number-one contenders are walked along the Challengers path and the rest of the roster undertakes a general storyline. Branching storylines rear their head, with options of which way to go this year presenting some different routes through the mode. While most of these routes are apparent through the choices you are presented, it still makes an interesting change despite its limits with Yuke’s offering around thirty-six specific storylines to be played with.
The Locker Room makes a happy return, and has equally been tweaked for this year’s version offering much more customisation cosmetically. Practically every facet of the room can be adapted to your taste, whether it be your Belt Cabinet or the couch. The Locker Room is now in full 3D in a vein similar to the first few PS2 outings, offering three rooms to explore and add your own feel towards. A replica of WWE.com has been implemented too to access news, biographies and to also purchase new goodies. A replica of the WWE magazine has been implement in order to discover details related to the players current storyline. You will also have the option of checking emails from other superstars, and your General Manager through here.
Cash is still earned through the mode to access the unlockables, and experience points are still garnered to enhance your chosen star and can still be taken across into exhibition mode. Again the Shopzone can be accessed through the Locker Room, presenting the option of purchasing the unlockable legends, and movesets.
Following from last year’s title, voice-overs make another return to the fold and have been implemented to a greater extent (anyone who has seen the video’s of Ken Kennedy’s entrance doing the rounds on the internet can testify to this first hand). Of course the voice work is limited to whom is selected as others get more lines than others, and this is couple with the path your specified choice takes through the Season Mode but mannerisms will reflect your chosen wrestlers persona.
An interesting new addition is the facility of multiplayer. While not offering a full scale multiplayer mode in the ilk of Smackdown 2, it is still a welcome addition offering players to hop in and out of the game alongside the solo player by having the option of controlling the other combatants from the season mode match ups. This can also be achieved in the GM mode.
First things first some bad news, King Booker has not made the game, but of course Booker is available in his regular guise. Umaga will also be without his running buddy Estrada, but I’m sure there will be the possibility in the future or via the game to recreate Estrada and the King himself. To couple with this, Custom Entrance themes are not available this year, but Custom Soundtracks are available on the 360 via the guide (as they are on every 360) title. The cynic in me makes me think this is so THQ can capitalise on the Xbox Live Marketplace, releasing some new rosters members from purchase and CAW extra’s through the facility.
JBL, HHH and Kane are the only wrestlers on the roster from the get-go with optional alternate attire. On another HHH note, D-X with their entrance are in the game, but only when Michaels and HHH are selected as a Tag Team. In singles matches they will revert to their own entrances and attires.
Ken Kennedy has his full entrance including his microphone introduction in ring, and is quite the spectacle if I must say so myself, which conveniently I just have. The expected Kennedy impression isn’t forthcoming but if you are eager to see any of the entrances, a quick gander on Youtube or IGN should bare fruit.
Some other good news is that Voice chat has made it into this year’s title and can be utilised online.
Smackdown Vs Raw 2007 is hitting our shores on the 10th November on all formats, baring any delays that do not look forthcoming at the present moment in time. The healthy mix of additions and reworking of the previous features its predecessors, look promising. While it is a slight disappointment for those that have forked out for a next generation console in the 360 are getting a reworking of the same title on the PS2, it at least has broken the precedent and shown that THQ and Yukes look to release their future wares across formats. The changes and evolutions this year can only bode well for the next addition in the series, with a true next generation outing upon the PS3 and 360 sometime next year. Until then, we can bask in the fun of battling within the crowd with Bam Bam and the Boogeyman, watching the sweat pour while nicking signs from the crowd to rip up infront of crying children. Who said that wrestling games were not a shedload of fun?