PlayStation 2

MotoGP 07

January 16, 2008

MotoGP 07 is built for the hardcore motorcycle racing gamer. Even though it advertised an easier approach to playing compared to last year’s MotoGP 06 on the Xbox 360, the playing is more frustrating than rewarding. Add to that the half-hearted feel of the entire game and you can almost hear the developers heave a collective A

Some franchises just don’t make good games; Godzilla is one such franchise. Godzilla and his brethren are slow; their strength lies in their innate ability to absorb damage while stomping on tanks and spitting fire at foes. Neither A

Dragon Ball Z is back, adding even more playable characters with some slightly tweaked environments to create a solid fighting game that doesn’t progress the series.

Replacing last year’s story mode is the addition of Dragon History Matches, where players take control of key Dragon Ball Z characters to fight some of the most memorable battles of the anime series. These battles range from simple one-on-one fights to whole groups of allies and enemies battling it out. Unfortunately, there are only two characters on the screen at a time as you swap out alternate characters into the fray as that particular episode allows. Nevertheless, any die-hard fan will like this mode for the simple reason of recreating these fights that they can put their own special twist on. At first glance this is a worthy addition, but upon completion it feels a little short compared to last years’ more involved story mode.

If the story is slightly lacking, the sheer amount of characters available will help fill in the gap as you now have access to over 150 characters from the entire series. Battlegrounds have been revamped to include some nighttime versions of the map, which is important because certain skills may only be pulled off under certain conditions. Enhanced graphics give the cell-shaded 2-D characters an authentic and respectable look on the PS2, truly capturing the art of the anime and creating a good-looking game.

The controls are going to be a little difficult for the average player to pick-up; although the game relies on a punch-kick-block mentality, to really progress you need to get the combination skills down to get anywhere. For series veterans this may be intuitive, but for me pulling off the critical combos took some time and effort to master. In fact, half of the enjoyment came from getting these amazingly stylized animations to go, especially if it happens to be against your half-witted friend sitting next to you whom you are trying to beat into the ground. Most impressive is the fluidity of the attacks which keeps the action at a high pace and enjoyable intensity.

Unlike the Wii version of the game, the PS2 is not online multiplayer capable. Instead, PS2 players can hot-swap previous disks of the series to access different modes of play through the disc-fusion mode. So, if you already own last year’s version of the game you can play characters in the Course Battle mode. Why they couldn’t just include these modes in the game so I don’t have to own multiple games is beyond me.

Overall, DBZ: BT3 is a solid game that takes a few steps forward and back from last year’s installment. For those new to these games it is a decent game to start with, giving you a good idea about what the series has to offer. For those already intimate with the series it might be a coin-toss as to whether it is worth adding this installment to your collection.

The cult classic from Japan, Fire Pro Wrestling, makes its PS2 debut with flying 16-bit colors. This one takes customization to a new level, putting the focus more on fast-paced playing rather than the graphics.

Seriously, it is hard to get past the sprites representing your characters here, especially the ones that are designated A

Smackdown vs. RAW is back yet again for the 2008 incarnation featuring a bunch of new icing on an otherwise bland cake; for a wrestling simulator, SvR 2008 takes all of the flashy drive and determination of WWE but never feels authentic just like its TV counterpart.

Many of the previous years’ modes have returned, with the addition of the 24/7 mode. This year also adds some ECW personalities to the roster as well as two notable updates to the control scheme; the first is the addition of Superstar Fighting Styles, where each fighter has two different fighting styles to choose from depending upon their particular fighting stances. Whether you choose Grappler, Brawler, Showman, High-flyer, the power-up finishing moves are different and help switch up the gameplay to keep things fresh as you can try to master the hardcore finishing style. Where this breaks down though is that each style is not balanced against the others; a good example of this would be the brawler who gets immunity to body shots once his power up has been activated, which seems extremely unfair in multiplayer matches.

The second control enhancement is the Struggle Submission System, where grappling moves take on a completely different form as you have to balance the amount of pressure that you apply to your opponent; give too much and your grip weakens, give too little and they can break free. This proves to be a very nice addition as you constantly have to pay attention to what you are doing, and can’t just take submission holds for granted. But beyond that, the controls remain hit-or-miss as getting the awe-inspiring moves to work is just as difficult as setting your opponent up for the actual move. Overall the animations for the moves took precedence over the fluid control of movement making for a very slow action game. True when you can pull off a nice rope dive it is beautiful, but getting to that position is just as frustratingly tedious.

In addition to the regular matches and tournament fights you have the option to play legendary battles from wrestling’s past. These are actually quite entertaining as you are given the role of the underdog attempting take down the superstar, often given a certain criteria to meet. Completing such matches unlock additional players in the WWE shop. And if that isn’t up your alley then the next is sure not to be: 24/7. Possibly a good concept that just completely fails in the end, this mode cripples you for being prudent. As you set your player up for the year, you have several options designed to enhance your popularity and physical condition, but while doing one, you are getting punished for not doing the others. If your player gets hurt in a match then you are forced to take days off, therefore not getting paid, or suffer another round where you might be hurt beyond finishing the season and therefore not being able to meet your goals for the year.

On the PS2 the graphics are pretty good although, as in the other versions of the game, there are some clipping issues with body parts as they melded into other players and into the canvas. Sound with the intros really gets you hyped for the matches with each superstar’s defined songs, but after entering the ring the crowd and announcers become monotonous, with the blow-by-blow analysis frankly not being pertinent to anything occurring in the ring. Load times are bearable but seem unnecessary as you have to wait for three load screens just to enter a match, namely each of the player’s intro scenes and the load for the match itself.

Overall SvR 2008 will fill that burning need you have to play a wrestling game although it doesn’t bring the full power and intensity to the game that it should have.