The truly sad irony about SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008 on the Wii is that the things about it that most closely resemble all the other console versions of the game aren't necessarily the aspects you'd want at all. For instance, the Wii game is just as terrible in the AI category as the rest of the versions released this year. Opponents rely exclusively on constant reversals to get by, and your tag partners tend to forget to come rescue you when you're being pinned. Any time you put a chair in an opponent's hands, he'll just run at you with it constantly like a bomber on a suicide run, and if you happen to get into a spot where he can't reach you, he'll flail like a crazed fish out of water, swinging wildly at air until you happen to step right into the range needed to get hit. Collision detection is also bad. Wrestlers will periodically swing through one another, and you'll constantly see body parts morph into the ring mat. If you happen to get near the announcer tables, well, let's just say that unintentional comedy often ensues.
Then there's the roster, which is just as out of date as any other version of the game. Notably released wrestlers who are in the game's roster include Sandman, King Booker, Cryme Time, Marcus Cor Von, Chris Masters, and Sabu (who is admittedly in the game as a "legend" wrestler for some reason). Couple that with a few names who are currently out with extended injuries, and the roster is looking a little ragged. It might not feel so off if it weren't for the fact that there are less wrestlers overall than last year. It's not Yuke's fault that this is the case, considering the development cycle and how far ahead the rosters have to be locked for this thing before the game is finished. Nevertheless, maybe this speaks to a greater issue about the game's development cycle, given that this problem keeps popping up again and again, and with greater notability each year.
With that said, there are a few positive similarities to be had. For one thing, the create-a-wrestler and create-a-moveset modes are here and mostly intact. The inability to edit entrances is a real bummer, but the basic creation technology is there and works nicely. Secondly, the tournament modes introduced this year are on hand here as well. They let you create different tournaments, do a standard King of the Ring tourney, and also a special beat-the-clock tournament that tasks you with trying to win your tournament match the fastest of all to advance to the finals.
Hopefully you really like using steel chairs, because that's the only weapon you've got.
The in-game graphics directly mimic the PlayStation 2 version of the game, but that's not a slight against the Wii version at all. The SmackDown! games have always been some of the best-looking games on Sony's last-generation hardware, and the Wii version looks just as good. It's a shame that the game doesn't trump PS2-quality graphics in any noticeable way, but at least things look basically sharp. Character models are nicely put together, all the entrance animations look spectacular, and some of the move animations look great, too. Others don't appear quite as nice, but those are the same questionable animations as in all the other iterations of the game. One detail the world could have done without is the abysmal commentary. The commentary is the same recycled nonsense we've been getting from this series for the last few installments. You've heard practically every one of these lines, and you've heard them applied just as inaccurately as they are in this game. Something has seriously got to give at some point, because the commentary ultimately serves more to ruin the presentation of the matches than help it.
Although a certain degree of feature stripping is often a factor in first installments of franchises on new console hardware, the degree to which SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008 on the Wii cuts away at what made the franchise successful on other platforms is utterly ridiculous. It's one thing to put the developmental focus on the new gameplay design, but if that was truly the case, it's all that much sadder that everything else got left on the cutting-room floor for the sake of the gameplay, given what a repetitive slog the gameplay design turned out to be. This game is a failed experiment, and with any luck THQ and Yuke's will learn heaps from it and greatly improve upon next year's inevitable installment. If they don't, Wii-owning wrestling fans are in for a long console generation.