WWE games have forever existed on one format or another, or many at once, in the case of the Smackdown VS Raw series, for as long as, well, any of us will probably remember. In the previous generation of consoles, a differently developed WWE title was released for each; the Smackdown series was always Sony’s package, ultimately becoming the Smackdown VS Raw series of today. The Xbox had the largely inferior and clunky Raw series, which was abandoned after 2 titles. Finally, the Gamecube had, in my opinion, the best wrestling game of that generation in Day of Reckoning and its sequel. (I’ve completely ignored Wrestlemania X8, it was that bad).
All the above games from came from THQ, who still have the license to this day, with the imminent release of WWE All-Stars, just in time for Wrestlemania this weekend. So, enough of the history lesson, here is my run down of each next-gen WWE game to date.
WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2007
The first of the next-gen WWE games was a brief reinvention for the series, but not without its problems. Presentation was improved significantly, in line with the jump in console power, and the grapple system had a total overhaul, making analogue sticks the tool for executing quick and strong grapples. It took some getting used to at the time of its inception; but is a system that some may now consider, especially 5 incarnations on, to be largely out-dated. Even with this better control system, the AI was still very easy to overcome, even on Legend difficulty, and the General Manager mode is tedious more than anything, and ultimately, not very rewarding. Match types were increased by bringing in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, now a popular yearly event in WWE television, and is brilliant fun with a few mates round. There was also the introduction of ‘hot-spots’, where in key places around the ring, such as the ring post, a grapple icon will appear. Once activated, a cut-off animation will show your opponent (or even yourself, should you be on the receiving end) being thrown in the ring post, or other item around the ring. This incarnation also introduced fighting ‘in the crowd’, which, in reality, is a weapon-filled area over the crowd barrier in the top right of the screen, but is largely pointless.
The create a wrestler mode is not much different, but instead other create modes have been included/improved. Create an entrance has been improved, allowing full control from the video screen, to the pyrotechnics used. There is a create a championship mode, allowing the creation of any title belts you desire, and then fight for them. Stables can also be created/amended, and can be adjusted based on experience points obtained in season mode, to be more efficient as a team.
As usual, the roster is usually out of date in some form when the game is released, as characters change, leave, be recruited so are missing, and, in the case of SVR 2007, die. This is the final WWE game to feature Chris Benoit, due to his untimely and controversial death in 2007, a few months after the games release. This is also Kurt Angle’s final WWE game, in fact he had already been released before the game’s release, as well as Lita, who had retired in the month of the game’s release.
Overall the game is still one of the best in the series, and, like most of these titles, plenty of fun on multi player, but far too easy in single player. But these games are all about being your favourite (or not so favourite) WWE idol, not much more.