Far from a slobberknocker.
I have been playing wrestling games since WCW vs nWo Revenge on the N64. This was before I started watching WWE in 2000. So when I purchased WWF No Mercy for N64, which was based on the same grappling engine from Revenge, it was far from disappointing. I am one of those wrestling game fans who still consider WWF No Mercy to be the best wrestling games of all time. The number of features in No Mercy and the grappling system itself are what made the game great. And there is something very special when, after seven years, I still turn on my N64 and play No Mercy with a big smile on my face. When WWE Day of Reckoning was released, I waited, with a big smile on my face, for the next Day of Reckoning and the rise again of my created wrestler, KC Freak, to dominate the WWE once more. That’s when it was announced that THQ would not be making a new Day of Reckoning game exclusive to the Wii. Instead, they would create an alternative, Wii-friendly version of Smackdown! Vs Raw 2008.
Waiting for a wrestling song and the intro to kick in and crank it up, just like WWE shows at my parents' place, the game disappointingly cut straight to the menu screen with no intro to set the adrenaline pumping for my first match. That would be the first of my disappointments with this game. When WWE games arrive at my home, the following match takes place – Triple H vs The Undertaker. It quickly became apparent that the graphics are up to standards of a Playstation 2 game. The graphics on the PS2 WWE games push the limit; they’re great, no doubt. But to see them on a Wii made me shudder, expecting something a lot better. The crowd, although finally having escaped from doing the same animation in sync, still look like very bad N64 models.
Waving the Wii Remote, HHH began smacking the Undertaker around with a number of strikes and combos. HHH knocked Taker down with a huge clothesline and waited for him to rise. Taker rose with his signature corpse-rising pose, and as the Wii Remote was swung again, this time HHH was a distance away and that resulted in a high knee to the skull. Taker sat up again as HHH started punching again, this time, shoving Taker into the nearby ring ropes. Again, waving the Wii Remote, HHH clotheslined Taker outside the ring. This all done by simply swinging the Remote; everything changes based on HHH’s distance from Taker and where they are in the ring itself, which makes for fluid gameplay. This game makes everything so simple and easy to do that a child could easily master the controls within a few minutes. Of course, there are a couple more things you can discover by playing the game more and more. Pressing the C button had HHH raising his arms in a recognizable pose. Performing the "suck it" DX taunt with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, HHH mimicked my movements. Very amusing, and it even recovered some stamina. When Taker returned to the ring, he was obviously not amused, because he pummeled HHH for a couple of minutes, draining the health bar. He tried to strike more, but it did not help, as the health bar turned yellow. Taker grabbed HHH by his arm and headed towards the turnbuckle. This is what is referred to as a favorite move, which can be activated by pressing A and B when your opponent's health bar is yellow. In Taker's case, it was obvious what was coming. Taker walked the top rope and then came crashing down on HHH’s head with an elbow. Now, the health bar was red, and that couldn’t be good. Taker dragged his thumb across his throat and the end was here. HHH rose only to be met with a Tombstone Piledriver as the ref counted one, two, and three.
Obviously, not having yet grasped the mechanics that led to my burial at the hands of the Undertaker, I learned the following in the second match. While holding A and wiggling the Wii Remote, a light grapple move, like an armdrag or a simple slam is performed. Holding B and waving the Wii Remote, however, will go into a tough grapple move. In the middle of the move, waving the Wii Remote in a certain way, can perform the next stage of the move. For example, in a front face lock, jolting the Wii Remote downwards, will perform a DDT. Wave it to the right, however, and the wrestler will perform a swinging neckbreaker. It’s those funny Wii Remote style attacks that make this game unique and fun compared to other systems. For example, once you have your opponent in the corner, you can lay into him with some knife edge chops, Flair style. If a short chop with your Wii Remote is performed, Flair will do a light, quick chop. However, rear back the Wii Remote farther and swing harder, and the wrestler will do a harder, longer chop. It’s all very interesting, for sure.
After HHH vs Taker, it was time for vengeance. Looking for another match type, it is apparent that this game has the least number of match types of any wrestling game out there, ever. There is single match, tag match, triple threat match, hardcore match, and KO match. Where is the cage match? Hell in a cell match? Casket match, royal rumble, parking lot brawl, three on three tag, battle royal, table match, or even a fatal four way? Considering that the majority of these match types are on the different console versions of the game, there is simply no excuse. Even No Mercy had a cage match and a ladder match, which is beyond mind boggling. Wrestling styles are also missing from the Wii version. The main advertised feature of the other versions of this game is the fact that all wrestlers would have two of eight styles: hardcore, dirty, technical, submission, showman, and others. Those styles would give a wrestler different abilities. Unfortunately, they are nowhere to be found in this game, so a lot of these abilities are lost. I was playing as Randy Orton and was still able to grab the referee and shove him into my opponent which was relieving. It was also relieving when chair moves, such as a conchairto, could be performed. These are moves that were supposed to be exclusive to the particular wrestlers with the right styles.
Create-a-Wrestler mode is also nothing special. It doesn't take long to see that it is much more limited that usual. The physical attributes for making a wrestler aren't too bad. The game has a large selection of clothes, and you can change the mass of any body part to suit your needs. It’s when the move selection comes into play that it becomes a disappointment once more. You can't select move by move, but rather a move set. To be honest, selecting moves one by one does get tedious, and the change was almost welcome. Getting to pick things like your taunt and signature move and the entrance setup is still there. However, not being able to select what moves to perform is quite underwhelming. Why not incorporate the SD card into the entrance music selection? That was cause for some more annoyance. Never fear, however, for the game has a good array of about fifteen original tracks to select from all different genres, from rap to hardcore. Unlike Day of Reckoning or Smackdown! vs. Raw 2007, however, entrance moves are limited to a wrestler's movement, with no extra customization to lighting, camera, animation/movement, or pyro. I was disappointed once more, but now it was time for KC Freak to journey through his career in Main Event mode.
Main Event mode is Wii’s half assed alternative to the other consoles' WWE 24/7 mode.
You select a wrestler and receive challenges for matches via a mobile phone. Then, accept or deny a challenge, or even make a challenge to an opponent. Win matches to gain popularity and training points. Popularity gets your wrestler title matches and helps him climb that proverbial ladder of success, while training points help him train and build up his stats. There’s also rest, which recovers health, so your wrestler doesn’t go in less that 100% in his next match. However, that may have him skipping a match, which lowers his popularity. He can also chat up to divas (which is really pointless, because all they seem to do is replace the woman who massages him) and ask someone to be his tag partner as he jumps on the tag team champs. This mode, although fun for most of the time, eventually gets boring, and you can only play it in short bursts until you either want to play a single match with a different wrestler or simply turn off the game itself. Or you can jump into tournament mode, probably my favorite mode of the whole game. Tournament mode has matches like king of the ring and beat the clock sprint, in which the wrestler who gets the fastest win out of them all wins. It is also available in multiplayer, so that’s always fun and a welcome new addition.
Smackdown! Vs Raw 2008 is a good game with no frills. It follows the Wii’s motto of everyone can play, and multiplayer is just too much fun. But with this many features missing from the Wii version while all the other versions have so many different match types and wrestling styles, what were THQ thinking? I was pleasantly surprised at a few points of this game, and everything is up to date, which is something that’s good to see out of a wrestling game. Everything looks good and sounds how it should. It is just a very big pity that they didn’t decide to put a little more time into this game to have it on par with the rest of the console versions. Perhaps a few missing things could be overlooked, but when blatant wrestling staples such as a fatal four way are missing, the game seems too rushed and too limited. They should have stuck with Day of Reckoning and left it at that.