Retro Respawn – WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2007

WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW (SvR) games are beloved by the wrestling community. They provided a very fun arcade-like experience while mixing in intriguing stories separate from WWE and elements of realism. Creation elements were also stepped up in this series of games, making your custom superstars and entrances look even better. Other features such as customisable locker rooms, PPV mode, and the cult-followed GM mode all became loveable staples within the games.

Of all the SvR games, there are several fan favourites, including the 2006, 2007, and 2010 versions. For me, the 2007 version is the best. It mostly improved on SvR 2006 and offers more content than even the WWE 2K games. This is a big statement, considering the time between the SvR 2007 and, say, WWE 2K19 – which is arguably the best WWE 2K game. While thinking of this article idea, I wondered if I was just blinded by nostalgia. So, I headed back to SvR 2007 on my PlayStation 2 with this question: ‘Is it still a blast to play?’. Let’s find out.

 

Gameplay

For a wrestling game, gameplay should be the most important feature. Much of your time is spent wrestling, so it must be enjoyable. I have to say, it’s not bad at all in SvR 2007. I find the control scheme quite unique and fun, for example. Essentially, the right analogue stick is now what you use to perform grapples, throws and submissions. It allows for more opportunities and variety with your moves and frees up other buttons for different moves and actions. I appreciate the attempt at doing something different with the control scheme. It encourages you to use a variety of moves due to the ease of doing so. This allowed me to jump in and get used to the control scheme quickly.

The stamina bar is one of the most intriguing additions to gameplay and, in fact, the entire game. As you perform moves, your stamina depletes. So, say you are using a flurry of moves, you will need to take a moment to recover your stamina afterwards. It slows down the game for sure, but decision-making becomes important. If you let your stamina deplete entirely, you leave yourself wide open to attacks, whereas if you maintain stamina well, you can get the edge on an opponent. It is not perfect, but it’s a welcome addition because it makes sense and adds some realism to the formula. The WWE 2K19 version is much better, and so it should be.

Unfortunately, the gameplay is hampered due to the A.I. This can be forgiven for a game released in 2006, but even so, it does reduce the enjoyment of matches. The A.I. will Irish Whip you into a corner and let you recover, which is very strange. Even if their stamina bar is full, they won’t attack you. If you’re on the other side of the ring, the A.I. sometimes stands still, doing nothing unless you approach them. They will never use the top rope, making them somewhat predictable and sometimes slightly boring to wrestle. They may repeat the same move several times in a row if in control of a match, again feeling tedious.

Specific match types also have issues, including Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank. Elimination Chamber matches have a problem where the A.I. will climb to the top of a pod, only to jump back down to the ring without executing a move. This will happen many times in a match, becoming laughable and frustrating. It makes no sense whatsoever.

As for Money in the Bank, the A.I. will fall off ladders trying to grab the briefcase, even if the ladder is in the corner of the ring. Matches can last ages here because you also recover far too quickly from big moves. With six competitors, it means nobody has a clear chance to win the match. I had a match last 30 minutes, and I was so bored by the end. I did enjoy the chaos of facing off against five A.I. opponents though. Other match types, such as Tables, Hardcore and First Blood, work well, so it’s forgiven to an extent.

 

Roster

For the time, this roster is exceptional. It’s difficult matching the 100-plus wrestlers in modern titles, but SvR 2007 has an enjoyable roster for sure. Many greats are available from the beginning, including Undertaker, Rob Van Dam, Rey Mysterio, Triple H, Randy Orton, Booker T., John Cena and Kurt Angle. You also have a small group of legends available, such as The Rock, Steve Austin, Mankind, and the late Eddie Guerrero. While Chris Jericho and Christian are missing due to leaving WWE, they are not huge losses. The roster is also better than that of SvR 2008. While you have C.M. Punk, Jeff Hardy and M.V.P., in the 2008 edition you lose Kurt Angle, Big Show and Rob Van Dam. The roster is also smaller, so in that sense, SvR 2007 is pretty good, and SvR 2008 not so much.

There are just two issues I have with this roster. Firstly, M.V.P. and Jeff Hardy were on SmackDown and Raw, respectively, in 2006, so they should have been on the roster. Secondly is the cruiserweight division, with just eight superstars able to compete for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. This would be okay if most of the superstars had decent popularity in GM Mode, but they don’t. To make matters worse, using a Cruiserweight against any Heavyweight is like picking hard mode. Half of their moves won’t affect Heavyweight superstars, so you either end up repeating the same moves over and over, or you’re unfairly beaten by the opponent. I can only imagine the struggle of playing through Season Mode with Rey Mysterio or Chavo Guerrero. Again, a more diverse Cruiserweight roster would have really helped here. Otherwise, I am quite happy with the superstars and divas on show.

I would say that only WWE SmackDown!: Here Comes the Pain and SvR 2010 have better rosters in the 2000s. Here, you have top stars, up and coming talents and even the cult favourites that never had their moment. Fortunately, there was a little game mode that allowed you to give those cult favourites the spotlight. This wonderful game mode became cult and is known as GM Mode.

 

GM Mode

For years, fans of WWE games have been asking for GM Mode’s return. From SvR 2006-2008, this mode allowed you to control a brand. You can pick your superstars and divas, book rivalries and clash with the other brand(s). You also choose your champions and, most importantly, control the show. From match types to title defences to promos, you can choose it all. Want a World Heavyweight Championship match inside a Steel Cage? You’ve got it! There are two things to be careful with though, those being star ratings and cash. If you have low star ratings, you have fewer fans and cash. Then, if you run out of cash, you cannot sign superstars and effectively lose. It’s punishing, but this makes GM Mode more fun and challenging for me. Experimentation with rivalries and your roster is encouraged and often rewarded, so it’s worthwhile without a doubt.

Many fans would love the return of GM Mode or something similar in WWE 2K22. There is Universe Mode, but it is more of a hassle to set up due to the options and interface. I want a mode that challenges me to make the best show possible with features I can use to help me do so. It could be a great mode to reintroduce, with clear objectives to achieve with star ratings and brand competition emphasised. With modern touches such as a larger roster and NXT, GM Mode could blow up on WWE 2K22.

 

Season Mode

The other sizable mode in SvR 2007 is the Season Mode, which is essentially the game’s story. As either a current or created superstar, you will compete on SmackDown and Raw in the hopes of winning the world titles. It is cool because you have unique storylines exclusive to the game. I wish you could participate in tag team storylines to win those titles, but I still appreciate what we had here. From an interesting Survivor Series angle where Booker T. betrays SmackDown, to fighting for a good number in the Royal Rumble, to Candice Michelle possessing a magic wand (because why wouldn’t she?), this Season Mode is fun, wacky, and memorable.

Surprisingly, the voice acting is okay as well. Sure, it will not be perfect, but it definitely does the job and sucks you into the unique storylines here. Being able to play through Season Mode with a wide range of superstars is also great because you can play as your favourites. I chose Bobby Lashley for this playthrough, especially due to his current run with WWE. It was very satisfying throwing opponents around as Lashley, but every superstar will have a slightly different move set. Overall, I really like the Season Mode here.

Other Modes

As well as WWE superstars from the time, you can choose to create a custom WWE superstar. Creating a WWE superstar in SvR 2007 is good enough and gives you opportunities to add your own touches and show influences from your favourite superstars. I did not really care for it in this game, but the create a superstar mode is good for the time. There is not too much more I can really say, but being able to pick your costume, move set and crowd signs offers something unique for everybody. Creating a title belt is also solid, allowing you to have a mix of personal touches and influences from your favourites. I did not particularly care for creating a belt, but I appreciated having the opportunity.

Speaking of customisation, let’s talk about the Locker Room. This is a significant improvement from SvR 2006, and I love it. You have decent space and a decent set of customisable features available. From wall and carpet colours to posters to a pool table, there is a lot to choose from, meaning you can add personality to your space. I would love it if the Locker Room returned in future WWE games so you could see other players’.

The last game mode on offer in SvR 2007 is Challenge Mode. Here, you take part in matches (some of which happened in real life) and aim to win currency that you can use to unlock new items in the shop. The circumstances and difficulty of some of these are good, and they encouraged me to improve at the game. It also provided me with a reason to play with other superstars. There are 30 in total, and they kept me occupied for a fair few hours. While not my favourite part of the game, it is more quality content.

SvR 2007 is arguably one of the best wrestling games ever. Sure, it’s somewhat outdated, but I enjoyed playing it once again. It was a ground-breaking title back in 2006 thanks to the wide variety of content. Add this to a new control scheme and solid roster and you have a game that stands the test of time, kind of. Problems are here, but are they unique to just SvR 2007? Absolutely not, and in fact, it irons out many of the issues with WWE games that came before. It was worth my time playing again, and if you have the game somewhere in your attic, go and get it! Give it another play because it’s worth it.

Related posts

The Fitzgerald Scale – Eventually Playing MGS V: Ground Zeroes

Michael Fitzgerald

Insomniac’s Wolverine – What We Want from the Game

Kyle Moffat

Omen of Sorrow Review

Ryan Jones

Pandora Box 36S Pro Review

Mark Tait

Retro Respawn Tandem – Jaws (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Michael Fitzgerald

Sonic Colors: Ultimate Review

Ian Cooper