Game Review: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008

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WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008

Publisher: THQ
Developers: Yuke’s & Amaze Entertainment (DS)
Genre: Wrestling
Series: SmackDown vs. Raw (Previously SmackDown!; it would become WWE in future)
Released: November 13 2007 (US) & November 9 2007 (UK)
Certificate: 16
Consoles: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS & Mobile

At the time of its release, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 was considered a big disappointment compared to its two most immediate predecessors, and in hindsight, it is considered the point where the highly-rated series began to decline. But is that fair or were fans too hard on SvR 2008? Let’s take a look …


The big story about this game was that it marked the first time when the series catered primarily to seventh-generation consoles. Sure, Xbox 360 had supported SvR 2007, but now Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii all boasted SvR 2008 within their game libraries, and the focus was very much on ensuring that the new generation of wrestling gaming began on a high. That being said, besides the undeniably impressive graphics which were greatly superior to those on previous consoles, one wouldn’t be too disappointed if they opted for the previous-gen versions as opposed to PS3 or Xbox 360.

Graphics aside, the only differences were that Xbox 360 allowed for custom entrance tracks to be used during entrances, whilst PS3 gave players a first-person view of entrances via Sixaxis. Otherwise, the differences were minor at best; it was a far cry from when 2K essentially abandoned PS3 and Xbox 360 to try and make WWE 2K15 shine on PS4 and Xbox One (a task which wasn’t very successful anyway).

Except, that is, for the Nintendo versions. SvR 2008 marked the first WWE games on Nintendo consoles since Day Of Reckoning 2, but those expecting a game in the same vein as DOR 2 or classic Nintendo titles like WWF No Mercy would be in for a surprise. The motion-based Nintendo Wii console ensured that SvR 2008 took full advantage of the Wiimote, as moving the controller in specific directions, rather than pressing buttons, would be responsible for your character performing moves and even taunts.

The Wii version did lack most match types that were available on other consoles, but as a standalone game, the Wii version was arguably the most fun to play. The downsized Nintendo DS version was less successful, relying on a paper-rock-scissors format for its control scheme, but with an even smaller feature set and weaker (but still acceptable) graphics than its Nintendo counterpart, or even the other handheld console which supported the game, PlayStation Portable.

Otherwise, the game was pretty much the same across PS3, PS2, PSP and Xbox 360. The gameplay was mostly the same as in SvR 2007, so longtime fans of the series wouldn’t have much of a learning curve. In fact, some button switches ensured that the process for fans to master the game was arguably shorter than ever: there were fewer Ultimate Control options and move positions, which resulted in matches breeding familiarity.

However, this is offset by the introduction of Fighting Styles. Everyone has two styles that provided them with exclusive moves, taunts and tactics, in an attempt to make each wrestler feel more unique. Combined with the removal of the occasionally-frustrating Stamina system and the punishment-vs-energy submission system, as well as some new UFC-style ground-and-pound attacks, the gameplay experience was overall more satisfying and fun than in SvR 2007, even if it had less depth and therefore gave fans fewer options.

The new match type in SvR 2008 was the ECW Extreme Rules match, which was a lot of fun. Unlike traditional weapons bouts, where you just pick up a weapon and strike, in this stipulation you go under the ring and get to pick from one of eight weapons, from a standard chair to a Singapore cane to a barbed wire-wrapped 2 x 4. Each weapon had its own exclusive strikes, and some even gave you a burst of energy by busting you wide open, if you had the Hardcore ability.

New chair attacks like the throat-crusher and Conchairto were in, and you could even snatch items from fans at ringside, such as a guitar or a title belt or even a can of soda. Best of all, you could light tables and “Barbie” on fire, resulting in some stunning visuals that perfectly matched the “Holy shit!” chants that such moments would receive in a real-life WWE setting.

Add to that the return of Tournaments (King Of The Ring, Money In The Bank and Beat The Clock) and the usual improvements to the create modes, and by rights, SvR 2008 should blow its predecessors out of the water, right?

Well, it didn’t. For a few reasons.


Firstly, the roster was a big letdown. WWE had relaunched ECW as a third brand in the summer of 2006 (which was a bit of a disaster, but that’s another story), meaning that WWE had more than 100 wrestlers on its main roster across the three brands. Since recent games had included a generous number of Legends, the assumption was that the roster would be sky-high. However, the final total inexplicably came in at just 53, and that was after unlocking the hidden characters. So many faces were missing who appeared on TV every week, from Paul London and Brian Kendrick (who had just enjoyed an almost year-long reign as Tag Team Champions on SmackDown) to Shelton Benjamin to Deuce & Domino to The Highlanders and many others.

On the retro front, there are fewer than a dozen stars compared to 16 the previous year, and three of those are ECW Legends (Sabu, Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer). Otherwise, Rick Rude was the only new Legend. (The PSP version does have three exclusive retro names in Eddie Guerrero, Jim Neidhart and Sgt Slaughter.) Granted, there were some big-name exits from WWE in the preceding twelve months: Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Big Show, Lita and Trish Stratus all left (as did Sabu, although he still ended up in the game). Hulk Hogan’s absence, meanwhile, is due to yet another fall-out with Vince McMahon.

And, of course, the game arrived shortly after the Benoit Tragedy which, besides its own horrific circumstances, almost put WWE and the wrestling industry at risk of extinction, so suffice it to say that Benoit wasn’t included in the game. Nevertheless, whatever way you look at it, the roster in SvR 2008 was very disappointing. And that’s for the sheer number of characters more than anything. Fortunately, every WWE game roster since has boasted many more characters than the SvR 2008 total.

Secondly, the number of glitches in the game, which hadn’t really been an issue before SvR 2007, hadn’t been fixed or had been added to, at least on some versions such as PS2; certain entrances would at times be impossible to watch, because the cut-scenes would suddenly start shaking in such a manner that left you with a throbbing headache if you kept looking for too long. Other presentation issues were a bit disappointing, most notably the announcing of John Bradshaw Layfield. SvR 2008 marked the first game to have three announce teams for each brand, and JBL had shone doing commentary in real life with Michael Cole. However, he sounded lacklustre, bored and generally working against his will during his recorded lines for this game. That this trend would continue in the 2010s after JBL began announcing again suggests that the man himself is to blame for this.

The big problem, though, was the single-player mode 24/7. On paper, it sounds terrific. It takes the popular Season mode, with its voiceovers, storylines and cut-scenes. And it adds activities outside the ring including autograph signings, training and film cameos. The overall goal is to eventually reach the WWE Hall Of Fame, even if it takes several years. It sounds perfect, the natural extension of Season. So, how could it fail?

Well, the storylines are good; we have certain WWE angles in a wrestling game for the first time, such as a wedding. But the execution of the mode as a whole is poor. For starters, you can only pick from 18 wrestlers on the game for the mode. That’s in comparison to nearly having every male wrestler to use in past Season modes.

Next, the cutscenes mostly consist of extremely repetitive, pointless and increasingly-annoying backstage happenings. They’re fine the first time, but they become very frustrating after watching them dozens of times. The phone messages from your enemies can be a hoot, but there’s less storyline progression than Season in SvR 2007. And the extracurricular activities were a let-down; besides minor Training sessions, you couldn’t see your character perform any of them, making them a bit pointless.

Also, you would suffer injuries, but you can’t pull out of wrestling despite WWE staff telling you to do so. And the mode doesn’t have a true finale. You suddenly become eligible for the HOF and get a quick induction, but the mode continues on beyond that. So, it’s no wonder that it’s not a mode which people talk up nowadays.

It does have its moments to shine, with some memorable storylines along the way. And you must win matches to continue progressing, unlike previous games where most results don’t affect the story. But overall 24/7 is a step back from Season. Plus, it makes sense that your Locker Room grows in size as you gain popularity and momentum. But the flexibility and customisation of the Locker Room in the last two games are absent.

General Manager mode forms part of the 24/7 experience rather than being its own feature. And it does have ECW as a third brand to compete with. Though whoever manages the Extreme brand definitely draws the short straw due to a minimal roster. And otherwise there are no innovations, which partly explains this being the final outing to date for GM mode.

Challenge mode had been replaced/enhanced, depending on your point of view, to become Hall Of Fame. Here, you could relive twelve classic matches and/or challenges (one involves creating a championship and building its prestige). It’s a lot of fun, but it’s shorter than Challenge in previous games (60 in SvR 2006; 31 in SvR 2007). And unlike future games, each match takes place in a standard WWE venue rather than its actual arena. So, for instance, The Undertaker vs. Mankind inside Hell In A Cell happens at Vengeance rather than King Of The Ring. Presumably, the development team doesn’t consider Hall Of Fame a success. After all, this and any similar Challenge mode would disappear after this particular game.

So, the disappointing roster and the weak single-player modes explain why many view SvR 2008 as a letdown. However, the game is still a lot of fun to play. Also, many of the alterations, additions and improvements do make for a strong gameplay experience.

Could it be better? Of course. But the fact that it’s inferior to SvR 2006 and SvR 2007 doesn’t necessarily make it an actual bad game. And as SmackDown! Just Bring It – the first game to hit PS2 – and WWE 2K15 – the first title on PS4 and Xbox One – both demonstrated, the first wrestling title on a new generation of consoles is almost always a bit of an anticlimax. Not to excuse its flaws, but when you think about it, it should have really been expected.

Nevertheless, after this release, the series would enter a period of stagnation for several years. This would only really change with the series revamp of WWE ’12. But many would say that the series has still yet to return to the glolry days.


Overall, though, history hasn’t been too kind to WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008. But revisiting the game here, it’s a lot more fun than it credits for. Granted, some areas are disappointing. But if you happen to pick up a copy of SvR 2008, you should have a great time playing it.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good