Release Date: December 6, 2006
Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 is a PSP game that manages to get a lot of things right, but the most important things wrong. It suffers from agonizing load times, and it's missing two of the biggest Smackdown features from the past couple of years – including an aspect that made Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 worth playing in the first place. As a result, SvR 2007 is missing a bit too much to be a great game, but it retains just enough enjoyment to make it worth your while.
The single-player game plays in a story mode similar to many other Smackdown titles. Each segment of the game is broken up into individual stories which are given titles, sort of like a silent movie. Within each segment, you'll meet rivals, find friends and battle your way for a chance at the title. The progression moved a bit slow, however, with each little portion equaling a month of in-game time (four matches) and one pay-per-view event.
One of the key features removed from this year's Smackdown for the PSP was the ability to continue your PS2 story mode. It was one of the biggest selling points of last year's edition, and it's difficult to not feel a bit saddened by its removal. It allowed you to sync the two save games, play a few matches on the road, come home, and re-sync them again. Although this year's version stands well enough on its own, this continued interactivity would have dramatically increased the overall replay value.
There is just about every type of match available in SvR 2007. The single-player portion does a great job of introducing all of the various game types, but it is a lot of fun to try them all out with friends. Included again this year is the GM mode, which works with varying degrees of success. Creating matches can be interesting as you take your stable of fighters and try to put them into the most crowd-drawing arrangements, but nothing really helps you to be immersed in this process. You can take control of the fighters, yet it does nothing to help your ratings, and as a result you will sometimes struggle to make events interesting. It just seems like a waste of time to create all of this for seemingly nothing, and it's a shame.
All of the wrestlers you expect to see are here, and there is also a fairly deep Create-a-Wrestler mode. It might be something we have come to expect from this franchise, but to have so many choices on a handheld title is great, and you are given the ability to alter just about everything. Some of the weight classes seemed a bit thin, and there might not have been quite as many wrestlers as would be featured in the full console offering, but it does not suffer much as a result. There are also a few tournament modes with the exclusive Road to Wrestlemania feature. It can be interesting as you climb the ranks to reach the championship belt, but the excitement fades over time.
The graphics are definitely PS1 quality at best, which makes sense; at times, there is quite a bit of action going on around the screen (which ends up being a problem that will be mentioned later). Wrestlers are at least recognizable, and only during the in-game cut scenes are you really forced to look at them closely enough to even notice their dissimilarities. A lot of lesser-known wrestlers look kind of similar, and arenas look surprisingly good, but the low quality of the textures sometimes hurts their overall appeal. Because of all of the pay-per-view events implemented over the years by the WWE, there is a bit of variety here.
Generally speaking, SvR 2007 runs smoothly – "generally" being the key word. You can have any number of hectic matches with no issues or slowdown, but a bigger issue is the complete stoppage of gameplay that will occur. The UMD disc will sometimes stop in the middle of a match, in some cases causing just as much yelling as is featured on the television shows. Although the stoppage usually only lasts a few seconds, it's a pretty big deal when a game stops working altogether like this. The game picks up afterwards so you don't have to reboot, but in addition to dealing with the load times, the game stoppage is very discouraging. In comparison to other versions of the game on the home consoles, this iteration has a much slower pace. It is not so slow that it is unplayable, but some of the smoothness of the other versions seems to have gotten lost in translation.
Controls are the other huge departure from the home console versions. A brand new dual-analog control scheme is featured in all versions of Smackdown except the PSP. This could not be done for obvious reasons (a lack of another analog stick), but otherwise, the controls themselves are responsive and play pretty much like last year's version, with the exception of the new grappling system. In conjunction with the Circle button, the d-pad brings quite a bit of variety to the grappling. You press Circle along with a direction for a simple grapple, or just grab hold of your opponent, walk him over to an environmental hotspot like the turnbuckle, and perform a special suplex. There is a lot variety here, but again, it doesn't compare to its console big brothers; the other versions feature far more freedom and movement, and although you miss out on most of that with the PSP edition, at least it still feels and works well.
Although there were some nice upgrades in SvR 2007, there are still issues from last year that were not resolved. Although the load times are significantly better than last year's edition, there is still quite a bit of it, which really detracts from the overall play and presentation of the game. The A.I. is adequate in one-on-one matches, but it does not work at all during tag-team bouts. You can wave your arms for hours, but the computer generally just ignores you, playing until its team gets knocked out. Collision detection is also kind of spotty, working great at times and terribly at others. There are just a lot of little things that could have used more attention from the development team, which would have made SvR 2007 a great title.
There is no online mode, and the only ability to play with others is in ad-hoc mode, which allows you to play exhibition or title matches. To an extent, the lack of an online mode makes sense, as the online offering is far from fully developed on the home console versions. However, it is still a shame that SvR 2007 could not feature an online mode, as it would have been yet another step in the right direction, rather than yet another step to the side.
There may be too many problems and issues which really hurt Smackdown vs. Raw 2007, but they can be overcome by any WWE fan. Making Smackdown a yearly release was somewhat detrimental because it didn't receive enough necessary upgrades, but that also means that we won't have to wait too long before next year's edition, which might address the problem areas. For those who are willing to invest the time, Smackdown is a really good and interesting wrestling title that's worthy of its namesake.
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