Depending on your disposition, you may love or hate what pro wrestling has evolved into these days. For better or worse, it's a shameless spectacle of over-the-top pyrotechnics, soap-opera-style storylines, and an ever-changing cast of characters that you might not recognize if you lose touch with the "sport" for more than a few months. In my case, of course, I last paid any attention to professional wrestling back in the days of Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, when I would catch the latest matches Saturday mornings on Channel 9. Yes, I am that old.
However ancient and out of touch I may be, though, I can still get a kick out of a good wrestling game. After all, does it really matter if I don't know WWE's "The Edge" from U2's The Edge? (By the way, I don't - but at least one of them sure can play a hell of a guitar.) Even though I literally didn't recognize a single character, male or female, WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 is so genuinely fun and deep that it didn't prevent me from enjoying it plenty. Will I return to my childhood roots and tune back in to the modern product on TV? Nope. But I will spend some more time grappling, smashing, and clawing my way to the top of the WWE food chain for quite awhile, thank you very much.
Although there are gobs of modes to choose from, the core of the game is the season mode. To introduce myself to the gameplay, I cycled through all of the available grapplers to find one of the top-rated ones to pick. Satisfied with my selection, I was immediately placed into a storyline where, unwittingly, my guy - the aforementioned Edge - was the reigning champion of the WWE. Evidently, his title defense was coming up in a few weeks against someone named John Cena. As I went though my first few matches - single battles, tag teams, three-man challenges, and so on - various "behind the scenes" things were presented in some pretty slickly rendered cutscenes between my bouts. Naturally, I assumed that for the most part all the different characters would follow a similar story arc, with maybe some slightly cut and pasted things here and there.
No matter how much drama you can pack into a fighting game, what matters more than anything else, of course, is what happens in the gladiatorial arena.
Little did I know that when I chose a different guy to do a second season, the main plot and characters would be wholly different. After some more experimentation, I realized that virtually each and every selectable wrestler has their own dedicated series of events that they work through in between a host of all sorts of match types. That, my friends, is a veritable boatload of content - impressive for any kind of title.
However, no matter how much drama you can pack into a fighting game, what matters more than anything else, of course, is what happens in the gladiatorial arena. This is another area where WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 flat-out shines. For the most part, the control of your wrestler is spot-on terrific. First off, the main front and rear grappling moves are controlled by the right analog stick, so they feel pretty intuitive. Punching, kicking, and running are handled with the face buttons, while defending yourself against attacks with counter moves takes an incredibly fast reaction with the right or left triggers - but you'd better be quick on the draw with those to have a shot. These are modifiable with either the R1, R3, or left analog stick, so right off the bat there are gobs of moves to execute. In addition, there are character-specific Finishing Moves, Ultimate Control Moves, Submission Holds, and more. Sound like a lot? It sure is. So much so that newcomers - like yours truly - will likely be overwhelmed by it all.