E3 '07: WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008
We go hands-on with the Wii version of THQ's latest wrestler.
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This year will mark the debut of THQ's long-standing WWE series, SmackDown! vs. RAW, on the Ninendo Wii. One might be wondering how, precisely, a wrestling game might translate to the Wii's motion controls. We certainly were when we first picked up the game at THQ's E3 2007 booth. The bad news is that we weren't able to try more than a single match. The good news is that we got a significant look at how well the new control scheme functions.
And it happens to work pretty well. The basic attacks are all handled through motions of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Punch a guy by punching forward with the remote, kick a guy in the gut by moving the remote downward in a quick and violent fashion, and so on and so forth. Grapples are handled by pressing one of the main controller buttons while simultaneously flicking the controller. The A button does weak grapples, and the B button does strong grapples. Think No Mercy, but with waggle. Also, the ultimate control moves, introduced last year, are still in this version. You now replace the analog sticks with controller movements that are similar to the stick movements found in the game last year. Pressing both the A and B buttons at the opportune time performs finishers.
With our limited time to play, we didn't get to try everything out. However, the stuff we tried felt nicely responsive. Grapples and strikes all worked instantaneously, and reversals worked well too. You can even pull off some signature taunts with movements of the controllers, like John Cena's "you can't see me" motion, and the DX crotch chop. Silly stuff, but fun all the same.
One thing of note is that the gameplay has been simplified in order to keep the motion controls from becoming confusing, and as a result, the game is very easy to pick up and play. Hardcore wrestling game enthusiasts might be a bit put off at just how simple it is, but even so, the gameplay struck us as fun despite its relative simplicity. It just remains to be seen how well it holds up over multiple play sessions.
The big mystery about the Wii version of SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008 is exactly what kind of feature set it will include. THQ has gone on record saying that the game will be a bit stripped compared to the 360 and PS3 versions. We do know there will be a career mode, though how different it will be from the other versions of the game isn't known yet.
In terms of graphics, the Wii version of SmackDown! actually looks really solid. The SmackDown! vs. RAW games were always some of the best-looking games on the PlayStation 2, and the Wii version looks even a bit sharper than those previous titles did. Character models are exceptionally detailed, and the animations look as smooth as they ever did on the PS2. Again, we only had the chance to check out a couple of wrestlers (Randy Orton and John Cena), but the match we played looked and flowed nicely.
We'll be sure to bring you more info on WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008 as it becomes available. Stay tuned.