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An Insult to Fans of the Series
on November 13, 2007
As someone who has purchased every THQ wrestling game for years, I had been eagerly anticipating this latest release. Unfortunately, after playing the game I was left with a feeling of disgust instead.
The game is full of bugs. In the 24/7 Mode which represents the game's season mode, more often than not the choices you make will be ignored. For example, at one point I was asked if I wished to relinquish the WWE title. I refused. However, the game reacted as if I had chosen the opposite - and the story progressed as if I had indeed given up the belt. This glitch happened again and again, at numerous points in the game. I can't believe something like this made it past the play-testers.
Other bugs include the lack of pyro on customised entrances for created wrestlers. You can choose to have pyro as part of your entrance when you design it, but when you come out to wrestle it will simply fail to activate. Once again, I have no idea how something like this managed to make it into the game.
Even setting aside the bugs, 24/7 Mode is pretty lousy. The cut-scenes which open shows are often nonsensical in relation to what is meant to be happening in the story. For example, your character might merrily chat with a wrestler he is meant to be in a bitter feud with. At first glance the ability to plan out your wrestler's entire week rather than just playing the matches might seem like a fun concept. However, it quickly becomes tiresome (though players who liked the general manager mode in the previous games might like it better than I did).
The game is plagued with long loading times, which often enhances the frustration of 24/7 Mode. Even selecting one of the non-playable options such as attending an autograph signing (something which involves no animation of any kind - a picture just appears on the screen, along with a message telling you how much popularity rating you gained) forces you to endure more loading time.
In general the new control system was acceptable. However, there does not appear to be any manual control to change your wrestler's focus when in a match against multiple opponents. In theory it happens automatically instead. However, in practical terms the automatic focussing is terrible, meaning that you often stay focussed on one wrestler when intending to attack another. This can lead to a lot of headaches, when you turn from a downed opponent to punch a standing one, but end up performing an elbow drop instead.
For some reason each wrestler now has fewer moves than in previous games in the series. I don't know why they would reduce your number of moves, but they did. Now if you initiate a strong grapple you have the option of 8 regular moves and 2 control moves, whereas in the last game you had 16 regular moves, and I believe 4 control moves. I thought next generation technology meant they could include more material in games, not less...
Flaws from the last game are still present. For example, in a 'last man standing' match the referee will only start his count if the downed wrestler will fail to get up - unlike in 'Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain', where the ref would count anyway, and the wrestler might be able to get up in time to beat the count. This may seem like a small point, but to me it completely ruins the drama of the match if the ref only counts when you're going to win. Imagine if they did that for pinfalls. No more two counts - just a win or no count at all. Surely near falls (or counts in the case of a 'last man standing' match) are an important part of a pro-wrestling match?
Some match types which were present earlier in the series (eg. the slobberknocker, and 3 vs. 3 tables and 'hell in a cell' matches) are no longer available. Once again, I don't see the logic in removing options when improving technology should instead be providing the space for more options. If you try playing as a diva the situation is even worse. Whereas back in 'Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth' they could play any kind of match, now they are severely limited in what they can do.
The commentary is on the whole extremely weak. Most of the time JBL sounds like he was idly reading from the sheet when they recorded it, without even really paying attention to what he was saying. Much of the dialogue is taken directly from the last game, and it quickly becomes repetitive. They could have at least put in more play-by-play (eg. "DDT!", "Brutal powerslam!") to pad it out and make it seem a little less barren.
There's no option to import music on the PS3 version, like there is on the Xbox 360 version. I don't see why this should be the case. If anything it should be the other way around, since the PS3 has a hard disk as standard - whereas the Xbox does not. So, if like me you were hoping to use 'King of Kings' as your entrance theme, or some other track which isn't in the game, you will be disappointed.
These are the problems which most immediately sprang to mind, though I'm sure there are many others which I have neglected to mention. THQ appear to have become lazy with this series. They know that fans will buy each year's title out of hope and habit, so they don't seem inclined to put much effort into game design anymore.