Ready 2 Rumble

Tons of match types, a deep roster, entertaining game modes and attention to detail make THQ's Raw vs. Smackdown 07 the best wrestling game ever. The roster is deep, loaded with WWE favorites like John Cena, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and unlockable legends like Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, and Tazz. Once you choose your wrestler, the gameplay is true to the mat. Instead of mashing button combinations, tap the right analog stick to perform a move. When you counter an opponent's grapple, you'll take control of him or her with a traditional headlock or an armbar; it looks like real wrestling, with a natural give-and-take. It's frustrating when your opponent gets the upper hand, because you can find yourself unable to counter for a short period. And they'll counter everything at first, until you get the hang of it.

Once you figure it out, though, interactive grapples inflict damage however you want. Drag your opponent to an environmental hotspot and use the ring steps, steel ring posts and crowd barricades to beat him to a pulp. Hop into the stands to grab signs and weapons from the crowd. Hoist him up for a power bomb and dump him on his head. Just remember to manually catch your breath on the stamina meter; forget and you'll faint at a critical point in the match.

Wrestle one-on-one, tag-team, triple-threat or fatal four ways in any match type you can imagine. Different kinds of cages and rules stipulations offer endless exhibition possibilities.

Beating your opponent senseless is a good stress-release, but there are other game modes to choose from. GM mode lets you redraft the WWE roster and pay-per-view mode let's you create and play a past or hypothetical WWE PPV. Season mode, however, is the most fun. Remember those choose your adventure books you read as a kid? You can join a group of wrestlers, pick which type of match you want to wrestle, and decide which feuds to pursue.

For every pay-per-view match that you win, you'll unlock a WWE legend, arena, or other goodies. Not only will you want to play each week just to unlock the wrestlers, you'll want to play to see what comes next. Storylines don't repeat right away, as in previous versions of Raw vs. Smackdown.

Keep track of the unlockable items in your locker room. There you display collectibles, change your desk from wooden to metal, and hang up banners and posters to personalize the place. Just walk out the door to begin your week. And if somehow the long list of wrestlers, match-types, and game modes don't interest you, the incredibly deep create-a-wrestler mode will. Full 3-D facial scans and body molds are available for you to manipulate, and you can layer costumes to bring your characters to life. Create their entrance; choose camera angles, lighting effects, and fireworks. Create their move sets, so you can customize the way they fight. Or hit random and create a 7-foot tall green lizard with pink hair.

While there is a slight learning curve, there are informative training videos to show you the ropes (as it were) and mini-games within the matches (such as how to escape the cage) that will leave you ready to maul your opponent and dominate the ring.

The music in the game, particularly the entrance music is nearly perfect but the commentary quickly becomes repetitive and for an inexplicable reason, every time you lay a finishing move on an opponent a weird squishing effect plays. Graphically, the arenas are faithfully rendered and are phenomenal, the wrestlers 3-D face and body rendering, in particular the attention paid to their facial expressions breathes a feeling of real life into the game. Add in the realistic crowd animation, deep colors and TV style camera angles and it's the best looking wrestling game yet.

It's the little touches that bring the experience to life. You'll find yourself saying, 'One more match,' out loud, to no one in particular, and before you know it, the sun is rising and you haven't slept.

Learning curve: About an hour
Sound: 5.4
Graphics: 8.6
Gameplay: 8.5
Overall: 8.8

Raw vs. Smackdown is available for all major console platforms and for the PSP

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