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PSP  header logo

WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008

For: PSP   Also on: DS, Mobile

A bit like Eastenders, but with better acting

Product: WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008 | Publisher: THQ | Format: PSP | Genre: Fighting, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008 PSP, thumbnail 1
If the term 'professional wrestling' throws up vivid memories of Big Daddy, Kendo Nagasaki and elderly grannies hitting muscle-bound men with their tweed handbags, then chances are that the world of modern 'sports entertainment' will be a wholly alien and unfamiliar place to you.

Wrestling is still as popular as it has always been, but the WWE (formally known as the WWF before a certain wildlife protection agency got a bit upset that it was mistakenly getting mail for an entertainment show featuring oily men and bad acting) has changed its focus somewhat. Gone are the silly, cartoon characters and in their place are rather dull individuals who – rather boringly – use their actual names. As such, the camp Day-Glo excesses of the Macho Man Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior period are frowned upon these days. Shame.

Which brings us nicely to the latest tongue-twisting wrestling instalment for the PSP: WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008 Featuring ECW. The objective here – as if any explanation's necessary – is to pummel your opponent into the canvas using a variety of nasty-looking moves, until they submit or you successfully pin them to the mat for three seconds. It all sounds rather simple, and to be honest that's because it is, but the game manages to construct an impressive amount of content on these seemingly meagre foundations.

The control system is a good example of this complexity. Not only do you have the option of deciding between two different fighting styles per character – the result of which is a subtle change in the balance and available manoeuvres – but each fighter also has unique signature moves that will be recognizable to fans of the show, as well as a dizzying range of context-sensitive options both inside and outside the ring.

For example, your surrounding environment is there to dish out some severe punishment on an opponent. For instance, you can throw them into walls or bash their skulls against ring posts – neither of which is particularly sporting, but then that's not really an issue when you consider that wrestling isn't actually a sport.

Although you can inflict a tremendous amount of carnage using the control system, it sadly suffers from some unforgivable flaws. The most striking of these is the use of the analogue nub during play. Movement is always controlled by the D-pad, but whenever you find yourself up close and personal in a grapple with your enemy, you have to switch to the nub in order to either select a move to perform or (if you're on the receiving end) attempt to break their grip and regain the initiative.

Many other actions within the game rely on the nub, and the constant switching soon becomes a chore. Considering the number of buttons available on the PSP, it's a shame the developer couldn't have tinkered with the interface just a little to avoid this problem.

A huge part of modern wrestling's appeal is undoubtedly the plotlines. As much as your average fan would hate to admit it, the WWE so closely resembles a soap opera that it's little wonder your gran used to love watching Giant Haystacks strut his stuff all those years ago. SmackDown vs Raw 2008, like so many wrestling titles before it, acknowledges this with a feature-packed Career mode that enables you to not only indulge in a spot of grappling, but also take control of the day-to-day organization of the entire federation – right down to the hiring of scriptwriters to make the ludicrous, wafer-thin narrative even more riveting.
 
To date, no wrestling title has gotten this side of things perfect and while this certainly makes a good go of it, you can't help but feel disappointed. The concept of taking your wrestler on movie shoots and hob-knobbing with the attractive (yet worryingly buff) female divas of the WWE world is an appealing one, but things become repetitive far too quickly.

There are various other modes to indulge in – including the rather grand sounding Hall of Fame – but ultimately the variation between them is negligible. Your reward for taking part in all of these modes is new wrestlers to unlock and new customisation options to utilize within the now obligatory 'Create a Wrestler' facility. WWE fanatics will be tickled pink by these bonus items, yet to anyone unfamiliar with the subject they'll seem rather pointless. Then again, it's a bit of a stretch to assume anyone who doesn't like wrestling will purchase such a title.

When we reviewed Smack Down vs Raw 2006 a while ago, we were pleasantly surprised by how fun it was. The 2008 update remains undeniably entertaining, but aside from improved loading times and an updated roster of grapplers, there's little else here to recommend – the graphics are nearly identical, for example. Fans are sure to lap it up but anyone else is recommended to at least give it a try before jumping into the ring with this particular piece of software.
 
WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 19 November 2007
There's potential here but it's sadly squandered thanks to a frustrating control system and needlessly repetitive game modes. One for hardcore WWE fans only
 
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