WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2007 - PS2

Never mind that modern day pro wrestling isn’t quite as popular as it was back when the likes of Giant Haystacks lumbered around on our television screens, the THQ published Smackdown vs RAW series has been a huge, huge seller.

For wrestling fans, it has long been the title of choice, despite the Japanese Fire Pro Wrestling games being, by far, better quality. This is the series’ eighth iteration, each time slightly improving on its older sibling, trying to nab the gold and claim the title of Best Wrestling Game Ever. Probably in some kind of spandex outfit too.

Despite the series’ slow but steady improvement, more than a handful of fans are starting to feel a little short changed when even those most hated of incremental yearly updaters, EA, are beating their much adored series in terms of updates per release.

So can this year’s release still excite all those "wrasslin" fans out there?

You’ve got to give Yukes – the game’s developers – a bit of credit this time round. There’s one big change in this year’s Smackdown vs RAW and that’s the brand spankingly new grapple system.

Instead of frantically hammering the grapple button as we all used to do, virtually everything is controlled with the right analogue stick. Push the stick either up, down, left or right and your superstar will perform a quick grapple move. It’ll only be a weak attack, but it’s something to get you on the front foot or quickly get yourself out of trouble.

Hold the R1 button while pushing in one of the four directions will instigate a much more powerful grapple move, each direction instigating a different brand of attack. Everything from powerful attacks through to submission moves can be chosen from one flick of the right stick. Now that’s much kinder on your wrists and gamepad than continually mashing the square button like we used to.

The series is also becoming more realistic as time goes on and watching your energy is the name of the game time round. To succeed you have to conserve it where possible and only attempt to hit the big stamina draining moves when you’re almost certain to pull them off. If you find yourself continuously counter attacked you’ll be incredibly hard pressed to claw back any kind of advantage for the rest of the bout.

The season mode is no doubt the area most will be tucking into and it doesn’t disappoint. Though the stories you’ll be involved with are as ridiculous and repetitive as the real life sport of professional wrestling, there’s little doubt that it’s damn good fun. Tossing Ray Mysterio through a table for the umpteenth time never ever gets boring.

Plus it’s here you’ll be introduced to the wide variety of match types available. From single one on one bouts to hardcore matches and all the way through to boiler room brawls and huge "Royal Rumble" contests, you’re bound to enjoy more than a handful.

You’ll no doubt play through these type of contests repeatedly during the odd multiplayer match up too. In fact, considering the daftness of your one player opponents, multiplayer is where you’ll gain most of your enjoyment. If truth be told, even those who hate the sport will be hard pressed to find themselves getting bored.

Verdict

With the loading times between menus being absolutely ridiculous the majority of the time, it’s nice to have a little company rather than making thousands of cups of tea as you wait for the next bout to begin.

It’s difficult to dissuade anyone from picking up such an enjoyable title, but let it be known that it’s no huge leap from last year’s version. But for modern day wrestling action, this is the very best around. And that’s the bottom line, coz Mansized said so.