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SMACKDOWN
VS.
RAW 2008
REVIEW
 
That's right Wrestling fans, and Wrestling Game fans, and fans of The Wrestling Fan, and fans of reviews by the Wrestling Fan of Wrestling games for Wrestling fans, I am your noble host Sean Carless, and welcome to the official TWF review of THQ's newest entry in the celebrated Smackdown series, "WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2008!" Now Featuring ECW. Their official catchphrase is "How will you play?"; and if you're anything like the list of shmoes I've spent the better part of the two days competing against, the answer is probably "really terribly". But hey, that doesn't mean this game is. Anything but, actually. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't derive hours of enjoyment from it. And not just because it finally gave me a legal avenue in which I could potentially run down Vince McMahon with a car, or set him on fire. I swear.
 
That said, I have to take my hat off to THQ here, but only for a second because it's covering an unsightly bald spot, as with each new game they release, they seem to at least improve somewhat on the previous incarnation. This is the case once again. There's still quite a few issues, sure, some that obviously need to be re-tooled, or in some cases completely overhauled (That I will get to shortly), but for the most part, THQ has once again delivered a game that can be played again and again, with no waning of enthusiasm. Not too many games can make that claim. And that's what usually sets Wrestling titles apart from other games. With most titles, once you complete the designated mission, the game becomes somewhat obsolete and boring. Not these games. They contain so many varying possibilities of continuous game-play and custom creativity that you can keep going back, creating your own really terribly self-designed CAW (Create-A-Wrestler), loading his awkward ass with way too much apparel, and then taking that hopeless eye-sore to the World Title, time and time again! And all without certain people in the front office whose name rhyme with, umm, John Laurinaitis, telling you that you have the wrong look, and don't know how to work main event style. Although, they're right. You're ridiculous.
 

Had Kane just made copies of that evil videotape 7 days before, this whole sorted mess could have been avoided.
 
Anyway, Wrestling Games have always grabbed me, and every November, I find myself buying whatever title has been released. From the good old days of wrestlers with non-defined catcher's mitts for hands in WWF War Zone, to Giant 9 foot anorexic, pigment-free Andrew "Test" Martin's in original SmackDown, to an entire year of career-mode storylines culminating in a usually silent, masked-Kane of all people telling Vince McMahon to "Shut his Mouth", I have become unconditionally HOOKED on these games. I don't know what it is. Perhaps, I, much like CM Punk, am ADDICTED TO COMPETITION? It's true. I've tried getting myself and Punker booked on A&E's intervention, but thus far, no dice. Apparently "alcohol abuse" and "drug dependency" take precedence over an inane need to apply top wristlocks and jump off really high objects. Oh well.
 
That said, I may not know what it is about these games that grab me so much, but what I do know is, if you thought it was difficult enough before explaining to your Girlfriend why you watch sweaty dudes in their underwear roll around with one another every Monday, Tuesday and Friday, try then explaining from there, why you then spend 3 MORE HOURS EVERY DAY pretending to be these same Speedo-laden heroes. And, ya, also try explaining to her what the Hell was going on when you were accidentally busted tossing a CAW likeness of her to her demise off the top of the Hell in the Cell. Trust me. It wasn't pretty. But hey, neither is she, so no harm no foul. (I'm single, ladies! *Ahem*.).
 

"I'm still Hungry! Bring me more Tag teams!"
 
So, this takes us to the game in question. And the best part is, to my knowledge, this is the first WWE game ever available on EVERY SINGLE current gaming console. So, if you possess the incessant need to physically pantomime Bobby Lashley on your Wii, throwing virtual clotheslines, convincing neighbors that catch glimpse of your spastic uncoordinated histrionics through the window that you're either epileptic, retarded or both, that's clearly your business. I personally chose both the X-Box 360 and PS3, my two current favorite systems to test this bad boy out on. And not just because it's the only systems I own. Not even. 
 
So, join me now as we break this mother down. It's Smackdown vs. RAW 2008!: The closest thing to really being in the ring!... minus being pinned, with two more of your friends, by Triple H, at the same time. Just because. I don't make the rules.
 
TIME TO PLAY GAME WHAHAHA:
There are several new wrinkles to the game this year, and no I don't mean a newer rendition of that aging Stark ravin' Hulkster, dude. By that I mean, THQ has once again tweaked the controls. Why they decided to change this, and not say alter the A.I., so guys don't repeatedly commit suicide off the sides of the Elimination Chamber like crazed lemmings is beyond me. But in this case, based on last year's alterations to the control settings, it has definitely been significantly improved and simplified.This time around, the right stick plays even more of a prominent role in the game, primarily with the introduction of the new "struggle submission system"; and no, that's not another term for how Mike Tyson likes to end his dates, but rather a newer, more realistic approach to applying submission holds. Now when you're grinding your foe into submission on the mat, you will pull or push the right trigger in the direction in which will administer more pain. The more tenaciously you move the stick, the more pressure is applied. It's that simple. Got the guy in a Boston Crab? Well, pull back in the opposite direction, and stretch those legs, chief. Soon he'll resemble the absolutely real giant crustaceans found on the Massachusetts sea board that look like upside down men with legs behind their heads screaming in anguish. Such a creature HAS to exist for wrestling to create a wrestling hold in its honor, right? Right?
 
In any event, this newer simplified system brings a new level of realism to the games. If only applying realistic holds was that simple in real life. I'm sure guys like the Miz wish it was. There's no proper button combinations in real-life to simplify what he thinks it is he's doing out there.  Anyway, on the opposite end of the spectrum, to escape the holds once they're applied to YOU? it's basically the same deal. You rock that bad boy until somehow you squirm free or get to the ropes for the clean break. So, this pretty much ends all the button mashing you usually see in these scenarios. However, it has done little to dissuade my immature poor-sportsmanship and constant cursing and yelling while my wrestler is trapped in submission holds. I still demand he not quit under threat that I will destroy him in CAW edit as if he's a real person. I clearly have issues. But he still should know better.
 

Sadly, this would be the very last time Mr. Kennedy asked Ric if he wanted to go Bowling.
 
That said, besides the submission holds, right trigger is pretty much used for everything. Including to access your Ultimate Control Move (mine for the record is telling girlfriends that they're losing their looks and that they'll never get a man like me again who'll accept all their foibles), which is now accomplished by pushing up on right trigger, followed by R3. This will now allow you to manipulate the poor bastard that much easier to drag him over and say, ram him face-first into the steel steps, or throw his ass onto the announce table. From there, you can then just pretend it's the now-forgotten Spanish version, and dedicate your impending wanton destruction to the non-existent pixilated Hugo and Carlos, who'd no doubt be scurrying for their very animated lives at this moment.
 
Another HUGE change to the game is that every WWE Superstar is now defined by a unique fighting style. The Showman for flashier moves and crowd-pleasing histrionics; Dirty for well, guys who don't like to play by the rules; Technical for guys who do; High Flying, for guys like Rey Mysterio; Brawler for guys who, you got it, brawl; Hardcore for guys who use weapons and no doubt enjoy full penetration in their pornography; Submission Artist for those who use submission holds, then no doubt have the artistic ability to paint and sculpt detailed interpretations of said holds, or maybe just first part; and of course Powerhouse, for those big, strong, slower moving guys who no doubt only have their job based solely on the fact that they're the only guys on earth for whom Spandex is not one size fits all. (cough*MarkHenry*cough).
 
"The bottom lines" as our friend Santino Marella would say is that each wrestler's unique fighting style basically prevents that superstar from doing uncharacteristic things they'd sooner NEVER do. Like Rey Mysterio giving a tombstone to Kane for example, or Triple H graciously putting over new talent. Or maybe just they Rey one. I heard they tried the latter but apparently like raising Bobby Lashley's charisma stats, IT'S IMPOSSIBLE. After all, THQ aren't miracle workers!
 
That said, each wrestler you create gets to choose from TWO of these distinct styles, with one acting as his primary style. The only real drawback is the lack of full explanation or tutorial on how to master the unique nuances of each style. There's some basic tutorials available in the game, but for the most part, you'll have to play it by ear. However, once you do somehow figure it out, it rules all kinds of Ass. Or just one kind, since asses are all kind of the same when you get down to it. For instance, when playing as a known rule-breaker like Randy Orton or Edge, you can beg off, and use the Referee as a human shield, and then toss him into your unsuspecting opponent. And when playing as say, Mysterio, you can quickly pull off desperation pins in dire situations like the dreaded POSSUM PIN. I've personally never been rolled into a complicated cradle by possums while trying to shoe them off my property, but if WWE says that rodents possesses keen catch-as-catch can wrestling skills, who am I to argue?
 

Needless to say, John Cena and Rey Mysterio's new take on Dicken's 'A Christmas Carol' didn't exactly impress Producers...
 
And while we're speaking of moves, there's a SLEW of new holds to choose from here. Hell, there's even a new RKO, where you catch a wrestler jumping off the top rope and counter it in mid-air into an RKO! Awesome. However, unfortunately for Randy, there's still no tweaks to his vaunted chin-lock. So, you'll have to be content in just being really really boring with only one kind of rest-hold. Oh well.
 
Another great new addition is the "Hall Of Fame" mode, where you can relive 12 specific historic WWE moments, which will in turn help you unlock certain purchasable items. Some of these 12 historic moments in question include beating Steve Austin in an "I quit match"; and yes, in this case, he still shows up when finds out he's scheduled to lose; and HBK beating Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 12 in an Iron-Man match... that subsequently sent him on a downward spiral to tragedy and despair and in essence wrecked his life forever. YOU CAN DO IT AGAIN. There's not too many games out there that allow you to retroactively break a human being's spirit and desire completely, so hats off to THQ here. The best part though, is that unlike other previous version of "Iron Man" in the previous games, you don't have to toil around bored for an hour straight, because they're now in 10-20 minute intervals. Just enough time for you to decimate your competition without the worry of growing tired of repeatedly pinning them. Anyone without the last name Hearst-Helmsley will likely appreciate this one.
 
The rest of the match modes are your usual suspects, ranging from Hell in the Cell, First Blood, TLC, and Elimination Chamber. Hell, even the "Buried Alive match" is back again. Thankfully sans the awkward burying of the real-life "just expired" Eddie Guerrero like in 2006's version. And no, a certain GUY WHO NEVER EXISTED is not available in this game, so no chance of repeating that macabre moment again with the Wolverine, who if JR's commentary for the last 7 years is to be believed was RABID. WWE wouldn't lie to us. Stop this steroids and concussion business, media. And look into the real culprit: RABIES. And hell, look for the animal (Batista? George Steele? Joe Lauranaitis?) that infected him in the first place! It's not too late!
 
Anyway, THQ has a very decent line-up of match types available. But basically bar one that I'll get to shortly, they're the exact same match-types we've seen in the past 4 games. For the record, what's once again absent though, is the Divas "Fulfill your Fantasy" match from 2006. Go figure. You remember that, right? You know, the match where the only way to win was to strip the woman to her underwear and bend her over and spank her bare ass?  Maybe that's not that bad of an idea to scrap that one.Turns out women don't actually appreciate that in real-life as much as you'd think they would. Believe me, I know. Maybe next time I'll introduce myself first. Wish me luck.
 
However, that all said, the BEST game mode, and in my-ever-so-humble opinion, the selling feature for this particular title is the addition of the ECW Rules match. Finally, a realistic depiction of what ECW is supposed to be. So for those of you born after 1994 who *really wanted* to re-enact a really "exciting" tête-à-tête between Kevin Thorn and Mike Knox, umm, sucks to be you? Instead, THQ has brought back the classic ECW environment, (only the wrestlers get paid here, I presume) with all sorts of HARDCORE HI-JINKS abounding. That's right, fans will literally hold up weapons for you to grab and pummel your opposition with. And if that's not enough, there's an all-new weapon system in place in this match. Now when you stick your grubby paws under the ring, it'll access a weapon wheel, from which you can then choose the item you wish to part your foe's hair with. This is a HUGE improvement over choosing the same exact weapon time and time again. The only drawback, at least to me, is that the weapons once again, after being expunged of their usefulness, just glow and disappear forever. Who designed that function? OJ Simpson? That would clearly come in handy for him, I guess.
 

A word of warning: Never leave Kane hanging when he demands a High- Five.
 
But wait, that's not all! There is one more caveat to this mode that bowls the rest over: FIRE. Yes, it's true. Now you can light barb-wired covered 2X4's and even tables on FIRE! Those of us addicted to Rasslin' gaming will remember the last time fire was used in a U.S. game was ECW's Anarchy Rulz for original Playstation. Only unlike that game, this game's version only leads to an easy pin, and not the screaming, agonizing ultimate demise of Little Guido Maritato, physically disintegrating in the ring encompassing blaze. Those of you who played that game will know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.
 
The Career mode has also undertaken some radical changes. It's now combining GM mode and Career mode into one mutant hybrid known as the 24/7 mode. You can play as a GM, putting together matches, drafting superstars, and running the day to day nuances of a wrestling promotion... and all without being sabotaged by Stephanie McMahon, who rapes your brand of any of its originality and appeal and forces you to build the show around three dancing bimbos. Glad we cleared that up. The other side sees your WWE superstar of choice, or no-name hero of your creating, attempt to battle their way to Legend status. The real hard part though is preventing your superstar from getting injured. If you run the poor bastard ragged, in an attempt to gain the most dolla dolla bills (Tm. Teddy Long) possible, that's exactly what will happen. You'll get an email from the GM stating that your Superstar has suffered an injury and will in turn miss X number of weeks. The problem arising though is that he doesn't miss that time, and you'll be forced to wrestle hurt anyway, starting all your bouts in the red, and being more prone to defeat and further injury! Man, someone needs to give Nancy Grace a call! This is outrageous! Where's Marc Mero with his revised list of deceased animated wrestlers when you need him to put an end to this by gawd chicanery?
 
Anyway, despite the injury handicap, if you wrestle smartly, there's still a chance you can prevail, but make one mistake and well, you're toast. It can definitely lead to a tedious amount of helplessness. I'm not really bothered by it as much, because I wrestle incredibly dirty anyway, but I understand how someone might not dig it.(Sucka).
 
For the record, someone told me (I'm still not sure) that you can rehab your Superstar by sending him for massages and what not, but this apparently affects your popularity. I think I know what they mean. I always lose my appeal when I go for massages. Maybe it's because I keep turning over and asking for a happy ending? I'm not allowed back now. Did I do it wrong?
 
As for the storylines themselves, truth be told, I haven't gotten too deep yet, so I cannot condemn or praise it completely. Hopefully, though, unlike last year, you won't have to compete in a nonsensical ladder match with Chris Masters(?!). Who'd ever book that? I can only hope that much like THQ's Smackdown Here Comes the Pain in 2003, this version includes Classic Undertaker having the opportunity to umm, "bury a stiff" with Torrie Wilson in the locker-room shower. That was the single greatest thing EVER in the entire history of Wrestling themed video games, and one I dare say, other than Goldberg disturbingly drinking from a milk hose in the very same game, can never be equaled or surpassed again.
 
That said, unfortunately, much like it's been in the last few years, this career mode (at least from what I've observed thus far) is pretty much basically the same old repetition of identical storylines no matter what character you choose. And to add a little bit of ironic humor to the proceedings, often, you'll find yourself suddenly palling around with the same dude who vehemently tried to murder you not a few minutes before. That's sweet.  I mean, why not respectfully greet and shake the hand of the dude who just attacked you and put you in a wheelchair after trying to kill you with a car? Who'd hold grudges over something that trivial?
 
Oh, and before I forget, you'll be happy to know that no matter how long you play, it stays 2008 forever. But hey, that's expected, I guess. After all, the real WWE's been "1998" for ten years now. But still, flaws aside, it's an enjoyable experience, and for once, a relatively tough odyssey to complete. That's a bonus where I come from (parts unknown for the record). Anything that prolongs my gaming experience is a good thing in my book. So, when the paramedics find my body this weekend in a frozen, deformed rigor-mortis-like state like that dude from The Ring, you'll have THQ to thank.
 
Create-A-Superstar is pretty much the exact same as it was last year, bar a few cool new props like a Cobra Commander hood~! There's also less face-paints, but more hairdo's. So, if you for some reason once again feel compelled to make Harry Potter or Victoria Beckham's husband for no logical reason, their hair do's (hair don'ts?) are all there.
 
The bodies, also like last year, are better mapped and can once again be adorned with disturbing butter-like sheen. My only issue, and one that I have had for almost every game this engine has produced, is that as far as body types go, you cannot realistically reproduce a truly morbidly obese wrestler. You can only build your created player to a certain bulk, so re-creating say, a Yokozuna CAW is impossible, realism wise. I mean, so much for creating a realistic depiction of the average online wrestling critic. The unwavering negativity and feeling of self-importance just won't be the same without the corresponding bulk that makes him a true member of the IWC. (Internet Wrestling Community).
 
The rest of the Create-A-Whatever modes are also similar with a couple of MAJOR exceptions. One is CREATE-A-BELT. Not only are there all new templates to choose from, but now you can actually watch two CPU opponents face off for your belt, and it can even be put into tournaments,etc. This is a HUGE improvement in my opinion. Because sometimes, you just want to watch two no-hopers kick the crap out of each other for little reward, bar a belt that's meaningless to everyone else in the world. Or maybe that's just how Vince McMahon books the Cruiserweight division. I can't remember.
 
The OTHER huge change, and by god, for the better, is that in the X-Box version you can FINALLY derive music from your hard-drive to give your CAW's unique theme music! This makes me so unbelievably happy, as finally, I can create a CAW of yours me'ly that can enter the fracas to the melodious sounds of Tiny Tim's " Living In The Sunlight, Loving In The Moonlight". Unfortunately though, for PS3'ers, this is NOT an option. Boo. There's really no excuse for it, honestly, as PS3 has a larger hard drive. The PS2, I'd understand, for obvious reasons. But the PS3? Come on. The saving grace though is that PS3 does have a first person mode for ring entrances. You still can't see ringside fans laughing and pointing at the hideousness of your created player, but it's as close to reality as you're going to get. But it's still not the same without custom music.  I guess those of us who choose to break out the PS3 version, will just have to scour the included tracks for songs that don't contain a ridiculously obvious WWE sound-byte to start them off, or the collective works of DJ Bumpy Knuckles.
 

To his surprise, HHH found out pretty quickly why Bobby Lashley is always a favorite amongst the Divas.
 
"GRAPHICS & OTHER TECHNICAL DO-HICKERY":
 
As far as the graphics go, they'll either marvel or disappoint, depending on what it is you're looking for. I personally loved it. Technically, the animation is sharp and detailed, as on a HDTV you can notice really cool nuances like the leather fibers on Undertaker's coat, or the five remaining hairs atop Shawn Michael's head; but that said, they're being a little *generous* in most cases with muscle-tone. I mean, Ric Flair has a six-pack! And I don't mean the first of many beers with an inebriated Arn Anderson, just because, but rather ABS. Seriously, Ric Flair hasn't had Abs since JFK decided it'd be nice to ride with the convertible roof down. Just saying. But other than that, the actual ring-entrance movements of the wrestlers are practically FLAWLESS. Thank God. Gone are the days of Randy Orton making his way to the ring all bow-legged, looking like he's desperately trying to avoid dropping a load. Now, Orton walks, preens, and poses without looking constipated, and we have THQ's motion capture people to thank. Or maybe ol' RKO found himself a Diva's carryall bag backstage and followed his natural instincts? I'm going with the first. After all, that urban legend has be de-bunked. I hope.
 
As for the wrestling in the ring, most of the moves look great, but there's still the issue of collision detection. Either that, or Undertaker possesses the innate ability to disperse his molecules and pass right through people. And here I thought he just had the ability to shoot lightning from his hands, and come back from the dead constantly no matter whether he was crushed, burned or buried under 4 tons on dirt. That I could buy. But come on, Teleportation? That's just ridiculous~! *Ahem*.
 
CHARACTERS:
Kind of a strange line-up of characters this year, and despite the addition of "ECW" to the game, there's still about 10 superstars shy of the roster they had last year. That said, there's still your usual suspects like Triple H, John Cena, Batista and Shawn Michaels, and a slew of Divas, including the debuts of Kelly Kelly and Ashley! And unlike her real life counterpart, this Ashley doesn't start off with every limb on her meter completely glowing red. That's a plus.
 
On the male side, we see several debuts as well. So, if your dream is to somehow take Kenny Dykstra ALL THE WAY, BABY, you can do just that. And chances are, if this is truly your aspiration, your last name is probably Dykstra. Just saying. The others making their first ever THQ appearances are Elijah Burke, JTG, Shad, Marcus Cor Von, MVP, The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, and CM Punk, sans his Pepsi and Cobra tattoos. Poor Punk. There's no Cola love at THQ, apparently. Not even Faygo. Not even.
 

Chris Masters and Randy Orton never did quite grasp the concept of baseball.
 
As for your commentary teams, you get access to all THREE broadcast teams depending on what arena you use. Those announce teams? Well, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (whom I have this sneaking suspicion just might use a lot of lame analogies about abused government-issued livestock and pseudonyms for breasts, instead of you know "calling the match"), Michael Cole & JBL, and Tazz and JOEY STYLES~! Yes, Joey makes his return to video game voice work! The last time we saw him he was calling holds comically called the "Pearl Necklace" and "Dickie-drop" in ECW's aforementioned Anarchy Rulz. Something tells me that's not the case here. The only "dick being dropped" here is Bob Holly, who's only included in the Nintendo DS version, apparently. Man. And here I was hoping I'd be able to virtually violate the trust of an untrained wrestler by pulverizing him for no reason. Oh well. Maybe next year.
 
And finally, we have most people's favorite aspect of these games: THE LEGENDS. This time around you have RAVISHING RICK RUDE and TERRY FUNK to work with. That's just awesome. And not just for the reaction my girlfriend just had to my declaration of Funk being THE HARDCORE LEGEND. "He's a porn star? Who'd ever want to have sex with him?" she ignorantly said. That's just great. I never had the heart to correct her and fill her in on the wrestling connotation of the name. Mostly because Terry Funk as a porn star holds infinitely more comedic potential. I mean, who knows what kind of props he'd bring into the bedroom. Lighting a dildo on fire? Throwing spermicidal jelly mixed with thumb-tacks into someone's eyes? Hell, I doubt if he'd even wear a condom. He IS from the Double-cross Ranch, remember? Exactly. Besides, what's the worse that could happen? He's been set on fire and slammed into broken glass. What's a little STD after that?
 
Rounding out the rest of the stars is Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Steve Austin and Roddy Piper. Man, it's about time they've put these guys in a game! Wait. That's right. They're in like every game. Seriously, I love Bret, Stone Cold, Mick & Rock, but how about going outside the box and selecting some OTHER Legends, too? I mean, it's not like they wouldn't be up for it. I just saw a video of GREG THE HAMMER VALENTINE WRESTLING IN SOME TEENAGER'S BACKYARD FOR MONEY. Throw the poor guy a bone. Or at least get him to wrestle it. Apparently he'll fight anything for money.  I mean, seriously though, there's a slew of legends out there to choose from, so why not go for it? Of course, that might mean actually having to animate some new people, though. But hey, why render say, Demolition, when you can just use Rock again, forever? I'm just not getting into it. "OH MY GOD, SEAN, HE'S DIFFERENT NOW, HE'S GOT A NEW HAIRCUT!." Seriously, though, it's something to think about. For A LOT of people, this is the selling feature on the game. In fact, you might be surprised how well and all WWE Legends game would sell. That said, it's just a minor gripe, because the CAW section is detailed enough, and with the addition of the hard-drive theme music option, you can probably make whatever legend your little heart desires. So really, no harm, no foul. Or maybe Fowl. If in fact you chose to create Terry Taylor or the Gobbledy Gooker.
 
XBOX 360 VERSUS PLAYSTATION 3:
There's actually huge differences between these two platforms as far as the games go. XBox's graphics come across much more vibrant and realistic, while PS3's graphics are not nearly as crisp. I blame the fact that PS3's version is only broadcast in 720p resolution, while XBox's is 1080p. A HUGE Difference. PS3's animation is choppier, and you can notice small things like outlines, which are non-existent in the much more realistic XBox 360 version. So, if that's an issue for you, there you go. Of course, the other big strike against PS3 is the aforementioned issue of no customizable tracks for CAW's. So, for my money, which usually you'd have to pry from my fat little fingers with the jaws of life, I think, in this instance, I prefer the X-Box 360 version, and recommend that, if you're debating just which version to purchase. But hey, that's just me.
 

What Kane never did realize was, Bobby Lashley was always the superior dancer, because he "felt" the music.
MY WISH-LIST:
 
Although, I enjoyed this game over all, especially due to the genuine ECW experience, that doesn't mean I don't have a *few things* I'd love to see remedied before next year's version is released. Here are a few of these things:
 
-The commentating needs a serious over-haul. Thank god there's the option to turn it off altogether, because sometimes, dear god, it takes all my willpower to not do myself in hara-kiri style with my cumbersome X-Box controller. Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross's efforts especially. Basically, their commentary from the last 2 games has been replicated again, which means once again, you'll have to hear their nonsensical banter repeating ad nauseam like a deranged Southern Teddy Ruxpin. "You don't know true happiness until you're married, JR. ...but then it's too late!" Why the Hell is this line even in the game? It's annoying to the highest degree. Heaven forbid, the commentators CALL THE HOLDS, and not give me detailed explanations of what a "Limber-tail" and "Scalded dog" is. Dear God.
 
-It'd be nice if you could pick ANY superstar to compete in career mode with. Apparently the issues with this, is that not every voice was captured for use. But I don't know about you, but I don't really need to hear Chavo Guerrero audibly recite wooden dialogue. Captions are fine. I know some people are all like "OH NO! NOT READING!", but hey, screw you. If it means I can take more than Cena or Batista to a Championship, then it's clearly worth it. And how about that, eh? Even in video game form, you can't take some small guys to the World Title...
 
-What are the point of the Divas as playable characters in the game? You can't even use them in Career mode. What's the point, really? Does anyone really ever select them anyway as players? It'd be different if they had a full year-long storyline you could play that didn't involve you eventually somehow making out with John Cena. But without wrestling, they kind of serve no purpose. Huh. I guess they were going for realism after all. ;)
 
-The aforementioned weight changes to Create-A-Superstar. More realistic shapes would be nice. Maybe heights, too. Not everyone is built like a 300 pound muscle-bound Adonis. Despite Vince McMahon's praying....
 
-Customizable arenas or rings. How cool would it be to be able to create your own custom banners and sets?
 
-More in-depth Storylines. Once the year ends, you shouldn't have to recycle storylines or start all over again. What is this, the actual WWE? It'd be nice if there was at least 5 WWE calendar years worth of unique storylines. Or at least maybe unique ones depending on whom you pick.
 
-More Legends (see above).
 
- Some A.I. tweaks to how some of the wrestlers actually wrestle. Nothing is more frustrating then watching a match, and seeing all six men in the Elimination Chamber repeatedly climb the structure and jump to their dooms, OVER AND OVER again, with no psychology. Or in standard matches, not follow up on a big move, or just wildly swing chairs at one another like two drunken medieval knights. It's probably the one real issue that needs to be addressed by next year's version. Seriously. If I wanted to watch people with no common sense and direction do battle, I'd just go to the bus station and throw a few dollars at the mentally-disabled down there. You'd be surprised how much damage someone with Down's Syndrome can do for a half-eaten candy bar. It's inspiring.
 
FINAL THOUGHTS: Once again, as mentioned, I enjoyed this game and really recommend it. Some people may make the argument that basically, the game is just a suped-up version of the same exact engine, just with a fresh coat of paint every year, but for everyone who thinks that, there's no doubt people who like the familiarity of not having to relearn every facet of a completely new game, and whom just look forward to new wrinkles like the ECW match. For many people, it's like the way WWE is itself. There's subtle changes, but at the end of the day, it's easy to jump right in and follow again, even if it's been a few years since you've last seen it. For those people, they won't be disappointed. Neither was I. But maybe that's because, unlike the actual WWE, I didn't have to sit through a *hilarious* midget sketch, or listen to Vince cut a 20 minute promo, and instead could just enjoy WRESTLING. Well, that and pin Triple H repeatedly with a guy who has "no passion for the business". Just because I can.
 
Thumbs up~!
 
I'm Sean.
 
Sean Carless is a man of many hats. And he wears those hats to cover an ever-increasing bald spot. Sean's various scribblings have been read at Live Audio Wrestling, 411 Mania, Honky Tonk Man.com, The Toronto Star.com, Wrestlecrap, and Lethal Wrestling. He has also cured AIDS.

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