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Previews

WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2008

Preview: Hands-on and new trailer

The frustration of taking a battering in a wrestling game is like no other. You hammer buttons in an effort to revive your stumbling wrestler while your opponent smacks you in the face. But the pay off is turning the tables and giving them a kicking, and that's what Smackdown Vs Raw 2008 is all about.

The latest men-in-pants brawler from Yukes is brutal. It really is. Your usual selection of body slams and drop kicks are in there, but this time the violence has been beefed up along with the inclusion of a new control system that gives you more visceral control over your wrestler.

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PS3 screenshot

Well, that is on PS3 and Xbox 360 - the DS version is a little alternative in style, and the Wii version disappointingly simplified. More on those later. Back to the proper version...

A new 'Superstar Fighting Style' system adds an extra layer of depth to the way you fight. Aside from all the usual moves, each wrestler is capable of brawling with two out of eight fighting styles: technician, submission artist, high flier, dirty, hardcore, brawler, showman, and powerhouse.

You choose which fighting style you want to use at the start of a fight, and this gives you new abilities and moves unique to that style. So, for example, when using a bigger wrestler such as Kane, you might choose to use the powerhouse style, which allows you to break out of holds, and launch your opponent through the air like toys.

On the other hand you might choose to use the dirty fighting style, which sees your wrestler poking opponents in their eyes, or grabbing the ref and using him as a human shield before throwing the unsuspecting official into the opponent.

A high flier is capable of the most athletic moves in the game, bouncing off the ropes into extravagant drop kicks and spectacular top-rope slams that really get you gritting your teeth in satisfaction.

If you fancy using more sadistic face-bashing methods, the new weapons and their applications have also been upgraded. There are poles with barbed wire wrapped around them. Whip that bad boy from under the ring and you can not only swing it at foes but grab your opponent and scrub their faces with it.

You can set tables on fire and smash wrestlers through them or sandwich wrestlers' heads between two chairs and butt-slam onto it, shouting "BAH!" as you do.

The crowd gets stuck in too. Remember the not-too-distant days of stiff, cardboard people with two frames of animation in the background? Gone. Leap out of the ring and walk over to the edge of the arena and you can banter with members of the cheering audience, and even pull off special moves with their help, like taking someone's Coke and throwing it into the eyes of your opponent.

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PS3 screenshot

And you do all of this with an enhanced control system that utilises the analogue sticks in new ways. If you've played previous editions in the series you won't be unfamiliar with Smackdown 2008's controls as they're quite similar. But when going into a hold you'll have to get the hang of a new analogue grip system.

Where you would previously hit a button and watch your wrestler execute a hold, this time, once the hold is triggered, you can move the right analogue stick to alter the pressure applied to the locked limbs.

The more you yank the stick the more your wrestler yanks his opponent's limb - this causes more pain but shortens the length of time you can keep the hold going, and you risk losing grip early.

Your opponent, on the other hand, can choose how much to resist the hold with a similar analogue-pushing system, but this of course also effects how much pain is inflicted. Resist too much and it'll hurt more. That's the gamble.

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