Last year marked the debut of THQ and Yuke's venerable WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW franchise on the PSP. Pretty much a direct port of last year's PlayStation 2 version, the game was a technical marvel, as it was able to bring comparably impressive wrestler models and an incredible roster of game modes to the tinier of Sony's systems. Similarly, WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2007 for the PSP is a port of this year's PlayStation 2 game. However, there is one wrinkle in the translation--specifically, the dual-analog-based control scheme that debuted on the PS2 this year. Given the PSP's lack of analog sticks, making a direct translation of this control scheme wouldn't exactly work. Instead, Yuke's has revamped that scheme a bit, keeping the various hot spots and some of the ultimate control moves but mapping it in such a way as to not rely on a second stick. The result is a slower, slightly clunkier wrestling game than what the PS2 version was able to deliver, but it still works great for the PSP's capabilities.
SmackDown! vs. RAW 2007 for the PSP shrinks the majority of features found in the PS2 version down to handheld size with largely solid results.
The new grappling system centers upon the circle button. To quick-grapple an opponent, you simply press the circle button and a direction on the D pad to pull off one of four different moves. To do a strong grapple, you hold down the circle button and press one of the directions on the D pad to put you into one of four grappled states. From here, you can simply press a direction and the button again to do a standard move or press the circle button sans a D-pad button to put your opponent into an interactive grapple. With these moves, you'll pick up your opponent in one of several different ways. For example, you might pick him up like you're about to suplex him to the mat, but instead you'll suspend him in midair and have a few different options of how to dispose of him. By walking over to the ropes and pressing up on the right stick, you'll drop him midsection-first right onto the ropes. Pressing down will perform a normal suplex. You can also drag opponents over to environmental hot spots like the ring steps, announcer tables, and the like, and use the same sort of right-stick-based attack methodology, with these areas acting as weapons. It's an extremely cool idea that's only hampered by the limited number of ultimate control moves you have access to. It makes sense that each wrestler would have access to only a few of these individual moves, but there's not very many of them overall, and there seems to be even less of them available in the PSP version than were available in the console versions. A little more variety would have gone a long way here.
The basic idea with the new grappling system on the console versions of SmackDown! vs. RAW 2007 was to try and get a better sense of freedom with your moves. You still get a small sense of that with the inclusion of the interactive grapples in the PSP version, but the switch from a right analog stick to the age-old grapple-button mechanic slows things down and doesn't feel all that much different from the usual grappling system used by most wrestling games in the past. Though the right-analog system wasn't without its flaws, this version is a bit tough to go back to.
As far as other additions to the basic wrestling go, SmackDown! vs. RAW 2007 additionally includes a whole new section of the ring area that is littered with weaponry and other objects to slam your opponents into. Just drag your opponent over to the right section of the crowd and throw him over the ring barrier. Once you're there, there's a multitude of objects to use to decimate your opponent. Apart from the usual tables and chairs, you'll find fire extinguishers, racks of speakers, and a huge production rig to jump off of. There's less to work with in the PSP version than there was in the console versions, and very little of what's over here operates much differently than the usual menagerie of weapons you find in a hardcore match, but having an out-of-the-ring area to brawl in is a nice touch.
While the new touches on the gameplay system range from decent to great, few of these changes are aspects of the game that really needed updating. Instead of new grappling systems and added hot spots, some updates to the wrestler AI system or improvements to the collision detection would have been nice. For what it is, the opponent AI is OK, though it's periodically incapable of dealing a final blow in some of the more weapon-heavy gimmick matches. Partner AI in tag matches is still mostly broken. Sometimes they'll come running to your rescue when you're trapped in a submission hold or about to be pinned, and sometimes they'll just stand there twiddling their thumbs. Oddly enough, opponent partners in tag matches never seem to have an issue rescuing their comrades. AI opponents in general still rely very heavily on perfectly timed reversals that happen to be significantly tougher to time on your end, and it's not terribly hard to get stuck in an unbreakable string of attacks from your opponent if you aren't deft with the reversal timing. Considering the only way to get up off the mat is to mash buttons like a lunatic, it's tough to balance that with timing your reversals. That's something else that could stand to be improved.
Collision detection is as it's been in the last few SmackDown! games. Generally, it works well, though there are a number of spots where you'll miss with strikes inexplicably, and flying attacks are always a total gamble as to where you'll land and if you'll even hit anything. It's also annoying that putting wrestlers through tables or smacking them off downed ladders isn't more dynamic. You still have to treat these weapons as hot spots more often than not, and doing moves like powerbombs or suplexes near them isn't typically enough to make them break.
The interactive grapple system in this version isn't quite as dynamic or deep, but it works well enough for the PSP control scheme.
What you simply can't complain about in any of the recent SmackDown! games is the breadth of content, and 2007 is no different. Every single match type, game mode, and feature found in last year's game is on hand again, and many have been extended or adjusted to give them even more lasting value. The only new match in the game is the money in the bank match, a six-man free-for-all ladder match that, admittedly, isn't terribly fun unless you're playing against friends. But with so many other matches available, from the usual table, TLC, and hardcore matches to big-time gimmick matches like buried alive, elimination chamber, and backstage brawls that take place either in a parking lot or a bar, you're unlikely to run out of ways to pummel opponents any time soon.
The season mode has improved a bit on the basic story-driven formula found last year. There's around 40 different individual storylines in the game, each of which centers around some kind of feud or situation leading up to a Pay-Per-View battle. Which storylines you end up experiencing depend mostly on which wrestler you bring into the season mode (created wrestlers and a few of the legends can be brought in, along with the main roster), though there are a couple of specific spots in a few of the storylines where you'll get to make a specific choice and branch the story one way or the other. The storylines themselves are basically on par with what you'd find on the show, with feuds centering around title shots, Royal Rumble slots, various divas, and such. The only thing that's a bummer in this year's storylines is that the dialogue and commentary don't seem to form fit around whichever wrestler you're using quite as well. The commentators refer to you generically as a "superstar" in most cases, and the cutscenes often go out of their way to make it so you don't talk much, save for when it's most necessary. Still, there's plenty of wrestler dialogue to be found, and most of it is good. Sometimes it's real stiff, but not necessarily any more so than what you'd see on TV. And certain wrestlers, such as Mr. Kennedy, do a masterful job bringing their personas to the game.
The GM mode returns this year, as well. Making its debut last year, this mode introduced the concept of being able to book your own shows, setting up feuds, and trying to earn fans away from the rival brand. It's a purely menu-based mode, and it works similarly to some of the PC wrestling management sims floating around on the Internet, though without a ton of depth. This year's mode adds a few wrinkles to the formula, not the least of which is specific feud types and storyline writers. Along with having to hire an entire roster of superstars, you'll need to periodically hire writers. Each writer specializes in certain types of storylines. One writer might be adept at handling storylines revolving around factions, whereas another one might be good at pulling at the heartstrings of American fans via patriotic angles. Each storyline requires certain types of wrestlers, so you can't just shove anyone into an angle and have it work. The basic idea for setting up these rivalries is that matches between wrestlers in a rivalry get match-rating bonuses.