Crispy Gamer

WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2008 (Wii)

Pro wrestling is odd thing to recreate in a videogame because it?s the only sport where the videogame version is not only more competitive, but also more realistic, than the ?sport? being simulated. While pro wrestling pretends it?s real, the main skill of these giant brutes isn?t athletics; it?s acting. No, not the dialogue, the threats, the ?soap opera? storylines, or even the ill-considered Hollywood moonlighting. We mean the kind of acting involved in pretending you?re being punched in a circular arena.

So, in its way, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw: 2008 is what happens inside the heads of fans. The fights are real, the damage is real, and that makes the videogame version of this comic book sport compelling even to people who hate the spandex gladiators. As the first wrestling game for the Nintendo Wii, you?d think this one would be a natural. You?d be wrong. In an effort to maybe simplify, they?ve instead gutted the game.

Missing is the new 24/7 mode and all the new submissions and power moves from the console version. There?s also no multiplayer, and the controls have been reduced to the now familiar Wii waggle.

Move the remote down to punch, hold different buttons for different kinds of moves, and use the Nunchuk to navigate. Performing strings of the same move can produce special moves but usually doesn?t. In fact, the game is much harder if you?re trying to do things. If you just move your arms and push buttons, things happen! But it?s very hard to truly claim one player is better than another, and the loser rarely feels like they had a fighting chance.

The only modes the Wii version offers are single, hardcore, tag, triple threat and KO matches. In lieu of the 24/7 mode on other systems there?s a spare attempt at a story. It?s called Main Event, and all it lets you do is pick a wrestler, then fight three opponents. Lather, rinse, repeat until you?re wearing a belt or have moved on to a better game.

The graphics are alright. The engine looks to be based on the PlayStation 2 version, and even considering the limitations of the Nintendo Wii, the game is still plagued with collision detection problems and dropped animations. Commentary is abysmal, with repeated phrases and other nonsense that has little or nothing to do with the match at hand.

The artificial intelligence is about as smart as your average wrestler, which makes the single-player game an exercise in frustration, particularly in tag-team matches. The best example of this is in matches that for some reason feature a ladder when there is nothing up there for you to get. Watching a wrestler ascend and descend while accomplishing nothing happens too often.

On the Wii, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw has made an inauspicious debut. Rather than build it from scratch for the Wii?s unique control system, the developers took a game for the PS2, gutted it, and then tacked on a Wii control scheme. Let?s hope for a serious rehabilitation next year.

This review was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.