WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2008 (Nintendo DS) Review

By Mike Mason 20.11.2007 1

Nintendo fans have always had it fairly good in terms of wrestling titles. On Nintendo 64 we had the Ultimate Wrestling Game Of All Time (WWF No Mercy), GameCube got the rather excellent Day of Reckoning sub-series, and Wii's 2008 motion effort is pretty good.

At last, DS gets a WWE wrestling game. Believe it or not, a WWE title for DS was originally slated to be released way back in March 2006; we can only imagine that internal testing didn't go too well and the project was scrapped and replaced with this one. That's by the by, though, as the DS debut of the Smackdown VS Raw series has landed and brought an unusual approach with it. If you're expecting a traditionally styled wrestling game or, in the case of the ever-optimistic person, an updated port of No Mercy, guess again. Smackdown VS Raw on DS is entirely touch screen controlled with not a button or d-pad in sight. We're sure you're all looking forward to touching a load of sweaty over-muscled men...

It doesn't even work in the way we might have expected (and indeed anticipated) with purely touch controls. Rather than punching instantly with quick drags, grappling with taps, etc., the game has been restyled from other formats to almost be the Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents of wrestling games. Wrestlers pause for a few moments between moves and clickable icons pop up around them – three choices for three different moves. These are numbered 1, 2 and, surprisingly, 3, and represent the strength of the moves, the highest number being the most powerful. Choose one and you will then have to follow the on-screen actions to carry out your manoeuvre, dragging along arrows, tapping spots repeatedly and drawing in circles. Complete your move and the process continues, moving you into the next set of icons, and so on.

Screenshot for WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2008 on Nintendo DS

As the match moves about, the wrestlers' situations obviously change, and so the moves represented also switch about to match the context. You might punch with a weak 1 attack in one instance, but when your opponent is on the floor you might also use a 1 attack to give them a charming kick to the head, for example. Each icon has its pros and cons: a 1 attack is weak, but as it is swift to activate it can be used to interrupt other attacks to help turn the tide if you capitalise quickly. A 2 attack is pretty powerful but takes longer to do, and fails instantly if interrupted. A 3 attack takes a while to do with a few different actions strung together, but it is more powerful than the other two and can be be continued if if it is interrupted mid-action if the player is quick enough. Thus the title becomes somewhat akin to a more complicated game of Rock, Paper, Scissors as players must adapt to each situation and pick the move strength that is most likely to help them out. It all gets a bit strategic.

Screenshot for WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2008 on Nintendo DS

It's a very admirable approach for the developers to take, rather than just tipping a button-controlled game onto DS, and works well for what it is - which is why we're quite sad to say that we would have preferred a more traditional title in some ways. Performing moves with the touch screen is excellent, but we're very unimpressed that the freedom of other wrestling games had to be sacrificed in order to implement it. Literally all you can do is pick from three move options at any one time, and cannot move around the ring independently at all. What's even worse is that you don't even know what moves you're able to do at each time, it's just a case of selecting a number between 1 and 3 and hoping you get lucky. Since you can't move or control the direction you're doing moves, it's common to have to perform a few before you can even get your opponent in the positions that you want, such as slumping them against turnbuckles. To run out of the ring and get a weapon you tap an icon and literally watch your wrestler run out, grab a weapon and run back in; it's all too cutsceney. The pausing between moves makes the game more akin to a turn-based game initially, but once you're used to it the action can get pretty fast. The time you get to perform moves makes Wario Ware look generous by comparison sometimes, but despite this we like the system and we didn't have any significant problems carrying out moves. We just wish that they could have allowed movement with the d-pad and had moves otherwise activated with the touch-screen. Something that indicated what moves you were choosing between carrying out wouldn't have gone amiss, either.

The presentation in the DS version of Smackdown VS Raw 2008 is pretty fantastic, with character models that are amongst the best on the system. Aside some of the wrestlers' faces looking a bit ugly and battered and...oh. Nothing wrong there. While not fully commentated – not that we expected it – the sound is great too, with a satisfying array of smacks and crashes, as well as proper announced entrances for the wrestlers (though due to the relatively poor quality of the DS speakers the entrance music and the announcements tend to blend in together). It also uses the rumble pack, which has been quite rare amongst DS titles, so that's nice even though the rumble pack itself really only buzzes about like a demented bee.

Screenshot for WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2008 on Nintendo DS

The meat of the game is in the career mode, wherein you wander around the backstage area pestering people who invariably tell you to get lost and collect 'training minutes'. These can then be used in the gym to improve your stats in a number of mini-games such as weight lifting. They're nothing special but they're nice distractions, and if you get bored of upping your stats manually you can always let the game do it automatically. After a bit of wandering about and talking to the right people you'll be challenged to a match, which you can then carry out after you've ran out of things to do backstage. Repeat. That's unfortunately the depth of the career mode, with none of the absurd storylines you might expect to find in the real WWE being present, sadly. Instead, you're just stuck in a continual title hunt.

Another disappointment is the lack of a Create A Wrestler mode, present in just about every wrestling game of the last 10 years or so. We imagine there would be space on the DS cartridge, even if only to save a few wrestlers, but alas we're unable to make obese or skinny tall creatures as everybody likes to do on these games. We'll cry and/or crossface somebody if it isn't in next time round.

As a first attempt on DS, WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2008 is a step in the right direction but does not live up to its full potential by far. The control system is great but too limiting, and the package is overall lacking in features. There's a decent multiplayer mode to lengthen the experience, but it's multi-card only which will doubtlessly stop many giving it a go.

Screenshot for WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2008 on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Were it not for the interesting control scheme, WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2008 DS would have scored a couple of points less. As it is, it's a fair starting point, but the gameplay really needs modification and fine-tuning for the WWE series to improve on DS, and it certainly must be more filled out in terms of features for future iterations. You've never seen wrestling like this, so it's a unique experience that's worth a play if you're prepared to be open-minded and don't expect an abundance of features.

Developer

Amaze

Publisher

THQ

Genre

Sport

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   

Comments

Please note that these are old screenshots from E3, as there aren't any newer ones available on press sites and any newer ones from the final build used online are watermarked. It looks better than shown in these screens.

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