WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2007

‘Sports entertainment’ is a big daft panto of a thing, so why are its games always so infuriatingly complicated? Because its fans are obsessive idiots. That’s our theory, anyway. But what it means is that, unlike almost any other sports game, it’s all but impossible to recommend to anyone other than fans. Which is a shame because, like pantos, wrestling games can be quite fun.

wwebody.jpgEffort has been made to make the controls more intuitive here, with lots of stuff shoved onto the right analogue stick – different varieties of grapple, that sort of thing. This is good.

But the rest of the controls are still over complicated. Take the reversal system: the button to reverse a strike is different to the button to reverse a grapple. Or the finishing moves: press two buttons simultaneously to ‘store’ it, then another later to perform it. Can anyone explain why this is necessary? We’re at a loss.

It’s a similar story for the new ultimate control and environmental moves. They’re trying to be more intuitive by using the right analogue stick – and this works quite nicely – but to initiate them there’s yet another sequence of events and button presses to remember. Does it really need to be so convoluted?

To be fair, with a bit of bloody minded perseverance it’s absolutely possible to get used to the controls to the point where a match is a perfectly palatable experience. It’s still very segmented though: perform one move, watch the animation, perform another. It’s less severe than previous games, thanks in part to the reversals, but it’s still very noticeable.

As are the loading and saving times. Perhaps the best illustration is that, at one point before a match, there’s a loading screen for a loading screen. Madness. Pure madness.

For all the easy and obvious criticisms, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer wealth of options on offer. We’re told that the line-up of wrestlers leaves a bit to be desired, but there’s so much to get through – modes, types of match, customisation – that fans will probably get over it. And let’s be clear: the control issues won’t stop you from wading through the mass of content if you’re interested.

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