Even when hiding behind a new control scheme, Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 is still, well, Smackdown vs. Raw. The WWE's yearly franchise makes bigger steps than a typical edition of Madden, but it's hard not to feel like you've been here before. Fans will love the additions, while casual pro wrestling followers will struggle to see what separates this from the 2006 release.
The immediately noticeable change is the control scheme, now performed with the two analog sticks. Buttons still perform basics attacks, counters and certain other basic actions. Grappling is completely moved, and it works better than it sounds.
With strong and weak grapples and different button combos, this opens up a staggering move list. You can easily feel this could have been handled with the buttons, yet the analog system feels smoother and new.
Also, pressing in the right analog stick provides some extra power during a grapple move. You can hold a suplex for a few seconds, quickly slam your opponent down with multiple power bombs and this all happens with added damage.
The second addition is arena hot spots. These pre-set areas allow for special moves when you drag an opponent over to them while grappled. You can slam a wrestler into the steps, smash their heads into the canvas, head into the crowd, or a number of other moves that are hardly legal, but deal out loads of damage. These drain stamina rapidly, so continually flattening someone's head into the steps can be dangerous for the person dealing the hurt as well.
The story mode is loaded again this year, with branching paths that go in some completely absurd directions. Granted, it's pro wrestling. However, even a few of these are a stretch. There is no calendar and progression is shown as nothing more than week-to-week.
The locker room interface is fun and the customization options make it fun to play with through a first-person viewpoint. Money earned through the season mode can be used to unlock countless items, including classic wrestlers, move sets, and new venues. Sadly, there is no choice for new commentary. You're stuck with the same voice work for a full season, and there is hardly enough to go around.
Even without unlocking items, the create-a-wrestler is still the deepest available. It's made it to the point where it can almost be considered absurd with the number of options, including a stunning wrestler entrance creator that could sap hours by itself as you try to time lights and fire perfectly. Other options like creating a stable, championships, or a pay-per-view continue the rundown of the game's always exceptional customization.