WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008

Gay RumbleAt my college there was a large contingent of special needs students. Among the “needies” we had ‘Lurch’, a boy who was about seven feet tall and appeared to have his elbows glued to his body, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, a wheelchair-bound girl with a large hump on her back, and The Rock, who used to stand on the spot, arch his back and loudly launch into WWE commentary, with full introductions and gurning, whenever anyone said “can you smell what the rock is cooking?”. This is about the most contact I have had with WWE, so I approached this game as a newcomer, not a fan. A newcomer who is obviously going to hell for being a cruel bastard at college.

As soon as you load the game up Puddle of Mudd scream, Terry Funk stares and the logo jumps around. Everything is pompous, everything poses. The game reminds you of Woody Allen and his horror at “the level of a mind that watches wrestling”.

I headed straight to WWE 24/7, which is the career mode, except I had no way of knowing this. It was an option on the menu, but there was no explanation as to what it actually was. It’s my personal opinion that you should be able play a game without reading the manual, that the game should stand on its own and make perfect logical sense on screen. However the developers here seem to have held two fingers up to anyone who hasn’t played the last umpteen installments or sat down and read the manual cover to cover before daring to delve straight in. There are no proper tutorials here, all you get are some rubbish videos introducing you to the new fighting styles, so you’re left to button mash and guess what does what. It took me a while to realise that L1 is run. In a game with such slick presentation, it’s a strange oversight.

A perfect example is when I loaded up the two player game with my flatmate. He knows a little about wrestling and picked The Undertaker, I picked a horrible over-breasted, over-muscled, over-cooked wench. I was always going to lose. Anyway, as we aimlessly ran around the ring, accidentally walking out of it and jumping into thin air, he flicked the right thumb stick around wildly and remarked “I just want to Tombstone you.” Wrestling fans who want to see digital recreations of their favourite moves will be frustrated.

The Undertaker personAs I went back to WWE 24/7 mode my virtual phone rang. Answering it, some text popped up on screen telling me to be the best in my brand. That’s when I realised what this “game” was. Marketing bullshit. An extension of a brand, just like a billboard, just there to advertise humanity’s downfall. It is “content”. It’s any other terrible marketing word you want to use. This isn’t going to make you giggle in joy, it’s not going to make you think, it’s not even going to make you forget for a tiny second your own bleak existence, it’s just there because it has to be. It’s been earmarked in a marketing budget. The marketing budget of “sport” that makes me lose hope for humanity. The kind of sport that rounds up thousands of placard waving morons in arenas chanting at scantily clad men fake fighting. It’s like some sort of bizzare, homoerotic satire on our own lives. It’s a family sport in a country where breaking a man’s spine in imitable and glorified fashion is fine, but to show a naked breast is heresy. It’s the nadir of civilisation. It’s utter, utter madness.

Even if you ignore all these problems, it’s still a bad game. The collision detection is poor, and there’s no fluidity whatsoever. You press a button to activate cutscene, then another button for another cutscene and so on. There are vaguely interactive reversals, but these don’t really work. So you just lay there on the floor, pressing X repeatedly, trying to get up while cutscene after tiresome cutscene plays. The new fighting styles are also a mystifying inclusion. They feel like they’re there merely so that the publishers could say that this year’s game is different to last year’s. All that happens is one player builds up his power meter until he can execute a fighting style and then pounds his opponent with unstoppable moves. It makes the whole thing rather pointless.

There are loads of modes, though, and the create-a-wrestler is probably the best character creation utility there is in a game, but what’s the point when the fighting itself is shallow, boring and slow?

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