In the long-running yearly tradition, the holiday season sees a new addition to THQs WWE Smackdown Vs RAW series. After vastly improving the series with the 2010 edition, can THQ take the same sort of leap , or is it more a case of refinement and tweaking this year?
Anyone who watches wrestling understands that the completely ludicrous plot lines, involving, beatings, backstabbings, broken promises and unholy alliances are just as much a part of the WWE experience as the wrestling itself. We can be thankful then, that after a number of years developing these titles, Yukes/THQ have got this balance down to a fine art. From the start, where you’re greeted with flashing ‘NEW’ signs everywhere, you can tell that the developer loves this sport just as much as you do.
The biggest addition to the franchise this year, and arguably something the series has been crying out a long time for is known as WWE Universe. The high level of customisation in this year’s game is no more apparent than in this mode. A fusion of the Career and GM modes that been present in many of the previous years’ games, it provides you with endless combinations of matches for you to play through. Fortunately, if there’s any you don’t like, you’re given the freedom to change them to something you do want to play.
Of course, you can just play through it playing the matches that the game dictates, and the intelligent system Yukes has implemented keeps track of everything, your friendships, rivalries, title shots. Literally, everything within this mode.
If you like your scripted matches, there is always the pre-existing Road To Wrestlemania mode…only this time, there’s a difference. Rather than just being match after match there is now a backstage area that you can roam, talking to wrestlers, take on little ‘missions’, as well as the odd mini-game.
Whilst it’s encouraging to see the developer try to flesh out existing modes, it isn’t the best executed idea. General mobility is poor, invisible walls appear if you happen to step too close to a random conversation, canned animations mean than even if there’s an open door you can’t walk through it until it’s closed again for example, and having to push someone three times before they’ll fight you rapidly becomes a bit of a mission. There’s a mild RPG mechanic too. But it makes no visible difference really and combined with incredibly high level requirements, it just isn’t worth the effort.
On the plus side, the storylines are brilliant.. Chris Jericho’s is simply classic Jericho, John Cena’s sees the feud with Randy Orton return an epic game of one-upmanship. Your created wrestler has the best story arc however, which sees you challenging The Undertaker’s 18 win streak at Wrestlemania.
With the Create a Wrestler, you can design pretty much anything you want from crowd signs to entrance videos, finishing moves to complete move sets. Further more, now you can have up to 50 created wrestlers on your roster, and 10 of them involved in storylines.
With the multi-player, every match type is represented online, including Royal Rumble…with up to twelve players flighting it out over the course of the 30 man match-up..
There are improvements to the action in the ring too. Tables, chairs and ladders are now subject to the laws of physics: they’ll shatter, splinter, bend and break. You can aim and direct powerbombs and suplex landings. The wrestlers themselves looks better than ever, dripping with sweat during prolonged matches and their muscles moving and flexing realistically as they move about the ring.
Unfortunately, there are still a few little niggling issues that have plagued the series for years that are still there. For example, some of the animations for the moves are still a little off and unrealistic. There are still occasions when you’ll put your opponent in a sleeper hold and watch your wrestler’s arm disappear into his neck.
Reversals are still something of a grey area too, particularly when it comes to chain grapples and armbars. They’re just too easy to break out of, and melee reversals more often than not come down to being a matter of complete chance.
What we are left with then, is a tweak of last year’s game. WWE Universe is a fantastic new addition to the proceedings, but for someone with last year’s game, the question of whether or not to upgrade comes down to if you’d get your money out of that mode, or the improvements in Road to Wrestlemania. For anyone with ’09 or before, or new to the series, it comes highly, highly recommended.
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