Smackdown 2008 Retrospect & Review
This game is a giant hunk of stink butt. There I said it. I have been a fan of this long running series since it got its start on the PS1 and have followed it though good times and bad, and this year is one of the worst. From several lame glitches and uninspired storylines to messed up game play from insane omissions of targeting and an archaic menu system this is one of the worst of the entire series.
First a little bit of a history lesson. The first Smackdown was released back in February of 2000. It was different from almost any other wrestling game in that it actually allowed you to be a part of storylines. This was a major change from previous games as it gave you an impetus to fight. The inevitable sequel, WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role, came out later that same year in November. It was a considerable improvement with a more fleshed out season mode.
The series continued slowly improving until its first showing on PS2. That first game on PS2, “WWF SmackDown! Just Bring It”, was previously considered the worst of the series. It had a boring and repetitive season mode and had that “samey” feeling. WWE SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth and WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain rounded out the more arcade like game play of the franchise before the big change to becoming an actual wrestling simulation came about in 2004’s WWE SmackDown Vs. Raw.
WWE SmackDown Vs. Raw was the game that you could really see the series losing some steam. The storylines were getting weaker. The menus were not keeping up with current game design. It seemed as if the developers were merely updating the original game engine instead of taking a year off and making a new one.
The series continued being named WWE SmackDown Vs. Raw with the subtitle being the year, much like a Madden game. The problem with a game that comes out each and every year is that eventually the pressure to get the game out means that innovation goes out the door sometimes, but the series needs some new blood and some fresh ideas.This year’s edition has a long list of major problems. First off the new version of Season Mode is called 24/7 mode and it is a mix of previous Season Mode type game play, pick a wrestler and go though WWE storylines, and a GM mode, manage a show and make the matches. This is good in theory but you can only play one at a time and if you want to start another you lose ALL progress in the other except for built up wrestler stats.
“Legend Progression” is another interesting feature that just falls flat. This feature gives you points for meeting certain milestones that put your character closer to being a WWE Legend. Unfortunately your entrance is tied to this. That means that for most people their character’s entrance will contain no pyrotechnics, movies, nor entrance attire until very late into the game. That totally defeats the point of playing for actual fans who want to see their created characters shine!
Season mode also contains numerous glitches this year. Most of these are minor, such as showing a losing cutscene when you have actually won and vice versa, or not deleting email even if you have the setting on.
To me however the worst flaw of the game is a very basic one, they took out targeting…think about that for a moment. Now imagine what that means for gameplay when several of your matches require you to face multiple opponents. It is like playing Halo and only being allowed to move the reticule right and not left. It almost breaks the game in my opinion. The only way you can effectively target another foe is to run at them which does not work as well as it may sound. The developers have even commented that they took it out on purpose, which means the idiots actually forgot.The achievements for this game are also terrible. It harkens back to early days of 360 achievements. The main mode most people will play, season mode with a WWE character or created character, offers NO achievements for getting your character built up while GM mode offers 350 points just for getting though a year of it as the number one GM. This seems lazy to me. Most of the other achievements can be obtained by setting up matches in exhibition.
I find myself very saddened by the state of the game this year. For the last few interations of the series I have been losing my love for it. I recall many fun times playing though “Know Your Role” with friends. I also recall how I would make “Tyler Steel”, my own personal wrestling avatar every year with some consistency. This year it felt like a pain more then it was fun.
The only bright side to this game is that the Hall of Fame challenges are actually pretty fun and the graphics are decent. Created characters actually look like they belong next to the WWE Superstars. It saddens me because the Smackdown series still has a lot of fun gameplay that is sadly hidden by ancient menus, annoying modes, and amateur glitches. In the end the game does not live up to the series and the game winds up being a steaming turd wrapped in toilet paper and served to you for sixty bucks.