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WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2008
System: various :: Rating: Teen :: Players: 1-6
Genre: Wrestling :: Released: 13 November 2007

By James D. Deaux IV and Damien Wilkens
30 May 2008 James: Did you ever spend a lot of money on something only to realize you wasted every cent? I know I have. Several times. Well, when it comes to video games, I normally choose my games well, especially considering that I do not rent video games for any reason. Not this time, though. I cannot remember the last time I wasted so much money on such a hackneyed game. WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2008, the game in question, was supposed to be my gateway back into wrestling games. Instead, what I got was an experience that can best be described as "dismal." But enough of my whining for a moment. Please welcome my partner, a true seer of video games great and hideous, DW.

DW: Hello, people! As stated, I am the gaming sage and all around victim of circumstance, DW, and today we're playing on my turf.

James: So, Dubs, I was the one who suggested doing this review, which forced you to play the game. Was it every bit as awesome as I claimed it would be?

DW: It should be noted that I actually quit this franchise last year because of said "awesomeness." Like putting a grenade in my mouth, I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. They've outdone themselves by making a game that was perhaps worse than last year's entry.

James: I hadn't played a wrestling game since Here Comes the Pain, because it was about that time that I stopped watching wrestling altogether. The industry is utterly stagnant right now, and it seems to have carried over to their video game division. SVR2008 continues the ugly trend of spending way too much time on entrances and costumes rather than actual gameplay. Instead of fixing the problems that have plagued the franchise, the developers seemingly spent too much time adding tiny bits of detail.

DW: It's like buying a high-priced escort: she looks really good just standing there, but when you get down to business she's a dead fish. Not that I would know or anything. That said, a short anecdote about the Career Mode, if I may. Now, excluding No Mercy for the N64, no wrestling game in North America has ever really had a good season mode, but at least they would have a functional one with a clear structure. But not here. Assuming that it would be the easiest way to breeze through the game, I chose the Undertaker. About six weeks into the season, Undertaker began a feud with a fellow wrestler the Undertaker. Think about that.

James: Yeah, you start off as a jobber, but really, you go nowhere and you fatigue so quickly that any crowd heat you garner is washed away when you have to get a massage to rest up your battered and broken body. I literally went through a year in Career Mode and won the title, but the crowd still sat on their hands.

DW: Well, on the topic of injuries, it gets better. After a hard-fought feud against myself, Taker (umm, mine) got injured, and the game recommended that I take some time off. Only, there's no possible way to take time off.

James: Exactly! You cannot take time off because you are guaranteed to be on every show, and if you decide to rest, it penalizes you in the crowd reaction meter.

DW: Maybe it was telling you to shut off the game.

James: Not a damned thing in Career Mode makes sense. You get all of five opening sequences to the show you're assigned to, and in some of them you shake hands with the guys you're feuding against! In others, you refuse to speak to guys you are allied with! And the commentators just blabber on through all of it. It's absurd. The other huge problem with Career Mode is continuity, or the complete lack thereof.

DW: It's dramatic tension! Didn't you see the anguish in Batista's face? One second you're dating a random diva, the next you're in a street fight.

James: I swear, if I had to listen to JR say, "Look at that," one more time, I would have hurled my controller through the TV. The commentary on wrestling games has never been stellar, but if you're going to spend a year adding more pixels to John Cena's eyebrows, could you at least add more dialog?

DW: I love how they've managed to actually recycle commentary tracks from the previous game, despite the fact that the teams have changed. JBL literally says the exact same things Tazz did last year. Word for word.

James: Ha, that's fantastic.

DW: Think about that. They put him in a studio, and took the time to record the exact same lines. This company thrives on wasting time.

James: Dubs, somehow in our ranting here, we forgot to mention the biggest idiocy in Career Mode. Want to take a guess what it is?

DW: You mean besides everything?

James: Well, yeah, but that's a cop-out answer. I was looking for three letters: ECW. These guys interject themselves into literally every storyline in Career Mode and they always align themselves differently. One time, they are a united front against you. The next, they send CM Punk to "assist" you against Chris Masters (or someone equally useless). The best part? They only take about three weeks off before changing their alignment again and hurling themselves into whatever feud you are currently engaged in.

DW: I think I could forgive all of the problems if the matches were fun to play.

James: You mean, you don't like ladder matches where it is next to impossible to pick up and manipulate the ladders?

DW: I can do you one better. I have been playing video games for over two decades, and I've never been unable to do a wrestler's finishing move until now. I literally tried to do the fucking Pounce for about a half hour. For the uninitiated, to do the Pounce, the opponent has to be in an extremely rare and specific situation in the ropes, and only certain moves can trigger it. The only problem is, Marcus Cor Von (RE: Monty Brown), who's finishing move is the Pounce, can't execute any of the triggering moves.

James: Moreover, aerial finishers are utterly impossible. There is never a cue to be able to unleash them, no matter how prone your opponent is or what position they are in.

DW: The aerial finishers here are even worse than in 2007. Everyone instantly pops up. It's a roster of Hulk Hogan clones!

James: Yeah, and if you are a main event guy such as Cena, Undertaker or Batista then you are next to invincible. Absolutely nothing keeps them down for more than 15 seconds, even if you have bludgeoned them with every object under the ring and used your finisher two dozen times.

DW: But they improved the animation! The wrestlers don't ski across the ring anymore! It only took them eight years!

James: That's the only thing they know how to improve. They somehow manage to make everything else regress.

DW: Create a Wrestler was dead after 2006. The restrictions now make it literally impossible to accurately make someone.

James: Every tattoo you can apply to your wrestler is the same as in Here Comes the Pain. I remember all of them.

DW: What can I say? People love the Goldberg tattoo.

James: You mean Tribal Tattoo #492?

DW: Fun Fact: Every professional wrestler in the world is required to have Tribal Tattoo #492 somewhere on their bodies. And if you find it, they have to give you a nickel. True story. I made a fortune off of that Mantaur fellow, I tells ya.

James: Speaking of CAW, why did they make it so that you can't give certain moves to created wrestlers? Part of the fun of CAW in years past was giving wacky maneuvers to hosses and watching them fly all over the place. Now, you have to choose a set of pre-categorized moves by wrestler type: brawler, showman, high-flyer, etc.

DW: If you were to ask them, it's for the sake of "realism," as certain characters shouldn't be doing flying, twirling, top-rope moves. I could grant them that point if the matches were at all realistic. Outside of two or three moves, they completely randomized everything. I remember one year, Booker T had Kevin Nash's powerbomb as a ready move.

James: Nothing like Booker using the Lazybomb. I miss the days of No Mercy and WrestleMania 2000. If No Mercy hadn't glitched and deleted all of my saved information literally over two dozen times, I'd love it even more.

DW: You'd think they'd get the hint after all these years. Every time someone talks about a new wrestling game on the horizon, they talk about how it's "borrowing from No Mercy." Every time. Lies. Damn lies! For Chrono's sake, borrow from any of the hundreds of great Japanese wrestling games.

James: I think the Japanese in general do things much better than Americans video games are no exception.

DW: I hear their cartoons are decent.

James: I think I read that somewhere, too.

DW: The lesson here: buy Fire Pro Wrestling Returns. Hell, for the price of SmackDown!, you can buy three copies of Fire Pro. You won't see the sweat dripping from Mark Henry's Predator-like brow, but they have this thing called gameplay. I hear it might catch on someday.

James: Gameplay is not something these people are overly concerned with.

DW: I'm still convinced that Here Comes the Pain happened by accident. Like, they missed a line of code somewhere and a decent game resulted.

James: I'll tell you this much people ragged on Just Bring It, but it was fun. It was infinitely more enjoyable than this pile of garbage.

DW: At the very least, Just Bring It had two things this one does not: eight players in the ring at once, and Molly Holly. And that was, what, five games ago? Pathetic.

James: Six, I think, but who's counting? Speaking of battle royals, what in the blue blazing bejeezus did they do to the Royal Rumble? They have never been this bad or boring. The wrestlers get into the ring and are almost instantaneously thrown out. No one does any wrestling; everyone Irish whips each other, and they all just go right for the ropes to shove people off the apron. And if you get thrown over the ropes even one time and manage to get back in, then you are guaranteed to be thrown out the second time. It's the most pitiful excuse for a Royal Rumble engine I have ever seen.

DW: How they took the most fun match of the year and turned it into this, I'll never know. It should be ragdoll heaven in there. I would gladly take a downgrade in graphics to get 10 guys in there at once, just bouncing around. Only one game has ever really gotten close to that ironically enough, Royal Rumble for the Dreamcast. But, of course, there were a grand total of three match types and 14 wrestlers in that game. Sort of like the Wii version of this game.

James: That's the thing. No one ever watches entrances or pays attention to costumes after one or two times seeing them. Players of this game go, "Huh, that's cool," and then they skip past it. There is no reason to waste so much time on clothes and entrances when everyone ignores them. The only problem with skipping them is that the game seems to take delight in punishing you with atrocious load times.

DW: But you can unlock an alternate DX attire! It's like a whole new game! I think it's safe to say that the SmackDown! franchise has become the Madden of wrestling games.

James: Absolutely perfect comparison.

DW: It's the only game in town, and thus there is no standard of quality, because people will keep buying it year after year. At this rate, SmackDown! 2011 will simply be a three-minute, perfectly rendered Triple H entrance. If you want to play a match, that will be 8000 points on Xbox Live. But you can watch the entrance in up to five different arenas!

James: All variations of Madison Square Garden!

DW: But the ropes will be blue instead of red! It's completely different! Just like all the high-quality WWE brands are completely distinctive.

James: The phrase "I spit on your booking" comes to mind.

DW: I would spit on this game, but I hear Blockbuster charges you for that.

James: I don't rent games, as I said before, so I'll spit all I want.

DW: Well, I only had to pay seven bucks to suffer through this. You paid full price. You'll need to do a lot of spitting to make up for it.

James: Yeah, I think I've earned the right to destroy the disc in any manner I see fit. Too bad I sold it for a Wiimote. What do you say we rip on Career Mode some more?

DW: Yeah, by all means.

James: You know what I love even more than ECW being hurled into every conceivable storyline?

DW: Do tell.

James: You always feud with the same person or persons. If you are a Raw wrestler, then you might as well start dating Chris Masters because he'll become attached to your hip. Even if you're feuding with another wrestler, Masters always manages to be involved in some way. Also, Stephanie McMahon will unwaveringly support you through the beginning of your rise, but two months in she'll show up to rebuke you. The reason? For treating a Diva badly... even though you never even spoke to the bimbo.

DW: Because when I think moral compass, yeah, I think of Funbags McMahon. Why the hell are women even in this game? Now, it should be noted that I'm a huge fan of women's wrestling, but they serve absolutely no purpose in this game.

James: I'm convinced that every female wrestler in 2008 has the exact same moves.

DW: It's all variations on a slapping theme.

James: And random jiggly taunts.

DW: I think Kelly Kelly actually has a jiggly taunt into a slap as her finisher if I'm not mistaken. That they actually took the time to animate just for her. They took out all the cool DDT variations from CAW so Kelly can jiggle her virtual ass.

James: Dontcha' know? The kids love it.

DW: Ah, to be young and completely without a clue.

James: If ignorance is bliss, some of them must be damn near orgasmic.

DW: It pisses me off to think of the people they could have put in if they opted not to add Michelle McCool and the like. There was only one tag team in this game.

James: WWE hasn't been concerned with tag team wrestling for years.

DW: There were at least a dozen guys from 2007 they already had the models for. It's not a space issue any more.

James: It doesn't really matter anyway. They would be doing a disservice to other wrestlers by throwing them into this chaotic mess. To borrow a phrase from William Regal, they would be besmirching their good names.

DW: It's actually kind of funny, though. Apparently, they run a game tournament every year between the wrestlers themselves. And every year, Shelton Benjamin wins. Well, this year, he was all amped up to defend his title, and then he found out that he wasn't in the game, despite being in the exact same game and position on the roster for the past four years. Which makes it all the more ironic that this upcoming year's focus is reportedly tag teams.

James: They simply didn't have time to put Benjamin in there with all the emphasis being put on the pixels of Triple H's digital DX underwear!

DW: This just serves to remind me how great Know Your Role was. They would give you the parts of the missing wrestlers in CAW. It was great.

James: I do so miss the old days of SmackDown! games. Actually, I miss the old days of wrestling, which for me was in 2000. That was an awesome year for the company.

DW: It was an awesome year for wrestling in general; there were still three companies putting out great promos and pay-per-views. Now there's this.

James: This video game and WWE itself today are both proof that competition needs to be in place. Everyone was at their best when they had to compete with each other for ratings. Without competition, you get garbage. And there is no accountability or necessity to try and go that extra mile when there isn't anywhere else to go for that service.

DW: And with TNA as the only competition, things don't look to be changing any time soon; but hey, I hear the upcoming TNA game "borrows a lot from No Mercy," so you never know.

James: I'll believe that when I see it. Anyway, I think we can wrap this up. Final words?

DW: I want to shit in the hearts of the men responsible for making these games.

James: On that charming note, thank you all for reading this. I didn't know how well it would go with us jumping from movies to video games, but thankfully, Dubs was here to carry this thing. We'll be back sooner or later with another shiny, happy edition of Tranquil Tirades.

Final Grade: 30 / 100 It isn't the worst wrestling game ever, but it reeks of poor gameplay and is pretty much a bastion of laziness.

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