We’ll admit from the start that we truly believe this is the most difficult game this reviewer ever had to rate. Ever. And unfortunately it’s a flaw that comes from the fact that the Wii has been an absolutely massive commercial hit.
You see the main problem with WWE Smackdown VS. RAW 2008 (which we’ll be referring to as simply “Smackdown” throughout the rest of this review) is that it lacks everything that a WWE game should include. Trivia, focus on “fighters” special moves, table matches, ladder matches, cage matches, battle royals, etc. You get the picture. So the question is – why have THQ dropped every feature that makes this series a hit?
Although (obviously) based upon wrestling, Smackdown feels like a very shallow beat ‘em up. The reason it has been stripped down is to appeal to the mass market that Nintendo’s console (sadly) now controls. Therefore this means that everything that should be included in a licensed wrestling game is missing just because the developers thought this would make it on the whole more appealing to those who aren’t necessarily interested in wrestling. Unfortunately what this leaves is a very empty game with poor controls.
In the story mode of the game you pick a character and then have the option of fighting, scheduling a match or increasing your stats by spending points you can earn by winning your fights. Unfortunately your stats increase automatically – there are no mini games to master in order to pad out this area of the game. It’s a shame really because weightlifting and treadmill running would work fairly well with the Wii Remote. The lack of options in the story mode is seriously limiting and it soon gets real old fighting the same old people over again just for the sake of climbing up the rankings board and getting a shot at a title fight.
WWE fans may want to persevere with the game but given the lack of goodies that should be aimed entirely at WWE fans even the hardest of fans will find the story mode of this game extremely limiting.
Although it sounds like I’ve been extremely negative thus far in this review I’m sure you’re expecting me to pull out a positive somewhere along the line. The actual gameplay perhaps?
Unfortunately while it’s undeniable that Smackdown looks very pretty and the commentary is well put together, the controls are particularly shoddy. You control your wrestler with the nunchuck attachment and fight by shaking the remote in various directions. You can execute grapple attacks by holding B and shaking and then you can perform finishers by holding A and B while shaking. Imagine the traditional button bashing beat ‘em up – but replace button bashing with waggling. Throughout the time I’ve spent with the game I’ve never really learned how to perform any particular moves – I’ve just been shaking the remote about as fast as possible hoping to get the opponent on the floor so I can keep elbow dropping him.
Fortunately there is one saving grace for the controls and that comes from the taunts. You are able to do “crotch chops” by crossing the Wii Remote and Nunchuck over and then “chopping” your crotch. Watching your wrestler react on screen and do the same gesture is fairly satisfying but like most things in this game, it all gets tedious pretty quickly.
I’ll be honest – when I first started playing I thought the fighting was pretty fun, the controls didn’t feel particularly natural but everything was responsive enough. Unfortunately it all gets very, very old very, very fast.
In fitting with the formula of the game, while the commentary offers a fairly excellent degree of quality for the first ten fights or so – you then start noticing repeated phrases (sometimes 2-3 times in one fight) which gets annoying pretty quickly.
Thankfully Smackdown boosts some excellent graphics – particularly on character models (of whom represent their photographic beings extremely well). The arenas look fairly detailed to, with the crowd reacting to the happenings in the ring and the lights flashing creating wonderful shadows throughout the arena.
The “Create-A-Wrestler” section is just as detailed as ever providing thousands (probably millions) of potential outcomes for your character with a range of whacky costume types and body attributes. You can have a fair amount of fun with the makeup section of the character creation process.
However, with no option for GameCube controller support, no online play and a very shallow story mode the game becomes very shallow, very soon.
In trying to create a something that appeals to everyone THQ have created a title that manages to miss any potential audiences the game may have had. When they started work on this game they should have considered who is likely to purchase a game with a WWE license and then developed the game with those customers in mind. Unfortunately I don’t think a wrestling game is something that will ever appeal to the general public and if it ever does it will need to have better controls than this.
WWE fans are advised to avoid. Wii owners are advised to avoid.