Another year, another WWE licensed video game. Some will go down as bona fide classics (No Mercy 64, WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2006) and some will not (this game). 2008 had every opportunity to be one of the best around, especially with the potential of the PS3. I've been playing these games since WCW vs. NWO: World Tour for the N64 and even WCW vs. The World for the original Playstation and each year the game has its high peaks and its transitional games, and this would fall into the latter. This game just doesn't seem finished, the new ideas like Wrestler Styles (brawler, submission, hardcore, etc.) are a step in the right direction, but limit your wrestler too much. I understand giving a 400lb guy an enziguiri or shooting star press is a bit unrealistic, but weren't we the ones who paid $60 for the game? Also, different move sets are assigned to different styles, so there's little chance of giving a dirty wrestler any elaborate power or technical move. My powerhouse won't have any decent submission holds or technical moves; by now you're starting to get the point. Some moves are even missing from earlier editions of the game. The ultimate control grapple from last time is a good enough idea, but good luck trying to get them to work half of the time. It's a 50/50 shot whether or not I'm slamming my opponent's head into the ground or getting my head slammed into the ground. Also, the moveset controls aren't explained extremely well. I actually didn't figure out until a week or so of owning the game that both styles' movesets can be accessed in the same match (strong grapple + up or + down on the left stick access the other sets). Some other minor control features aren't explained very well or don't appear in the manual at all.
Roster-wise, this game also disappoints in more ways than one. I can honestly tell you that I haven't watched pro wrestling since I was in my freshman year in high school so I'm not as familiar with all of these wrestlers as most fans are, but come on, at least give us more legend options. The familiar faces are all there, such as The Undertaker, Triple H, John Cena, Rey Mysterio Jr, Edge and so-on, but where are legends like Hogan, Ted DiBiase (my old favorite), The Iron Shiek, Jake Roberts, Tazz (this game has ECW guys in it and he'd be perfect) and I could go on for ten minutes. Also, every guy on the roster is rated extremely high, completely removing the sense of balance from the game. Matt Hardy is a 90 but Triple H is only a 94? That eliminates possible mismatches, but it also makes half of the roster too good. In the old games, if the guy was a jobber (like say Rico or Hurricane Helms) he'd be a 70-something, and if a guy was a winner, he'd be a 90-something. On the bright side, the ECW additions are extremely fun to play as (I dare you not to absolutely love being Sabu or Sandman) and the ECW weapons system is a lot of fun. I do miss the backstage areas a lot, but a Money-in-the-Bank match has kept my friends and I occupied.
Career mode is arduous at best. It feels like a lot of work, and not a lot of fun to move through a year in the 24/7 mode. Storylines make little to no sense and cutscenes often repeat themselves. Wrestlers will turn on you or befriend you with no rhyme nor reason (which I guess is like real WWE) and as usual, the McMahon family is pure evil. I honestly just simulate through 24/7 mode to build up my guys and make money.
The create-a-player hasn't changed too much but still seems off, as for every addition or a new hairstyle or outfit, there's a subtraction of another one. The Xbox 360 version DOES allow for re-writable soundtracks and entrance music, as well as twice as many layers for our create-a-wrestlers. I actually sold my PS3 version online and bought the Xbox 360 version just for those two differences. I love finally being able to give my wrestlers whatever entrance music I want. The PS3 version's graphics seem slightly less colorful and bright and maybe a tad more realistic, but the gameplay moves much less smoothly than the 360 version. I was surprised how noticeably different the Xbox 360 version felt than the PS3's. I'll take slightly diminished graphics over smoother gameplay nine out of ten times, and there isn't even a huge, noticeable difference. The load times seemed a lot longer for the PS3 as well, especially with a create-a-wrestler match.
Overall, this game doesn't feel like a total disappointment. It's still just as fun to play with a group of buddies as any of the old games, it's just no fun to play by yourself. I usually make about twenty create-a-wrestlers anyway, so the roster issue isn't as big of a problem for me as it is for a real fan of WWE wrestling; I'll just make my own roster. This game shows serious potential but just isn't a classic. If anything, I really look forward to next year's game so that THQ can fine tune the gamplay.