THQ brings their latest installment of WWE Smackdown vs. Raw to Wii and PS2, and all the biggest personalities in wrestling are along for the ride. How does this year’s trip to the arena stack up?
Building upon the micro-soap-opera theatrics the sport is well known for, SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 comes to consoles with plenty of ridiculous antics. Superstars and Divas dive face first into the fray to treat fans to a hair-pulling, ladder-bashing good time.
Upon flipping the switch on WWE, players will be presented with a hefty selection of options. At the top of the list is a quick-play mode that will allow you and/or a few friends to jump into the ring and do single matches. It’s sure to be one of the most valuable elements of the entire package, since there’s nothing quite like the pleasure of whipping up on friends.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of gameplay, let me just say that there’s definitely fun to be had with this package. However, newcomers may hit a brick wall in terms of the learning curve. The “Tutorial” amounts to little more than a list of commands, which can be viewed when entering the menu during play. None of the context is covered, though, and since many moves can only be used when certain conditions are met, newbie players will likely waste a lot of time simply trying to figure out how to win matches.
In addition to quick play, there are two single-player modes, as well. Road to Wrestlemania is the main story mode in which players compete in a variety of match types against other Superstars or Divas. In spite of the lack of instruction, Road to Wrestlemania is probably the best place for new players to get their feet wet.
Career mode progresses in a similar fashion, though there’s a bit of a focus on building up a specific wrestler. You’ll pick a character, compete against a line-up of Superstars or Divas, and then head back to your private jet to check stats and ready yourself for the next show. In terms of story, neither single-player mode offers much depth, but matches can border on epic.
If there’s one thing WWE 2010 doesn’t skimp on, it’s variety. The selection of wrestling personalities is vast, and there are a ton of different match types to compete in. There are 15 arenas to choose from, though most aren’t greatly distinguishable from one another.
Though all of the wrestlers have the same basic set of moves, each Superstar and Diva brings their own signature moves and finishers into the ring. That’s really going to be the deciding factor when choosing who to play as: who’s your favorite personality, and what are their unique finishers?
However, this is, by no means, a shallow game. The library of moves is incredible, and even vets of the series will have a lot to learn. The controls are very responsive, though there are issues with both the lock-on feature and collision detection. During matches, occasionally our wrestlers would auto-lock onto an audience member, making it almost impossible to execute attacks against our current opponent. There is an option to set the lock-on feature to manual and toggle who you’re locked onto, but it’s still a clumsy mechanic in the heat of battle.
Collision detection is definitely the biggest issue, however, when it comes to actual gameplay. It’s far too easy to miss an opponent when pulling off a flying move, and when attempting to climb atop a corner of the ring, oftentimes your character will try to bounce off the ropes instead. In spite of these issues, there’s still a lot of fun to be had here, even if you’re not a card-carrying member of the sport. The unexpected often happens during matches, and brawls are usually comically brutal.
Unfortunately, Wii owners will have to deal with a few unique frustrations, as some of the button mapping is less than ideal. In order to dodge, you’ll have to press both the Z and C buttons while moving the analog stick on the Nunchuk. It’s almost impossible to pull off with any level of consistency or comfort. Additionally, though we normally find Wii waggle to be an unwelcome addition to most games, it’s a mechanic that would have been preferable to some of the jerky commands you’ll have to execute with the analog stick.
If you’re tenacious enough to tackle the game’s story editor, there’s an impressive toolset here for fans to create their own brand of wrestling silliness. Again, though, the interface for content creation isn’t entirely user-friendly, and a fairly steep learning curve means the tools will likely end up being a meaningless novelty for most folks who purchase the game.
You can, of course, create your own Superstars or Divas using a variety of customization tools, but the real booty lies in your ability to tweak actual gameplay. A complex yet fairly powerful editor will allow you to create your very own finishers, and you can even tweak the myriad move-sets contained in SmackDown vs. Raw’s arsenal of brutality. Creating custom entrances for your flamboyant wrestlers is another nice touch, and if you don’t mind going slow with the game, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of this year’s WWE package.
The presentation for SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is rock solid, but don’t look too closely behind the curtain. The models for the wrestlers look really good – lots of muscle definition and shiny skin – but the hair still looks stiff and jagged. Animations aren’t life-like per se, but the overall Wrestlemania feel comes across really well. One of the more impressive elements of the game’s visuals has to do with the individual character models for audiences. Rather than slap a mat of blinking lights designed to scarcely represent a crowd, there are hundreds of individual audience members that animate in concert to create the illusion of a live wrestling event. However, when the camera pans in close, the crowd members are a blurry mess of textures, and you’ll see model duplicates herded together pulling off the exact same animations.
The audio is a bit of a mixed bag. The music is a fitting collection of gaudy heavy metal, though the sound effects don’t bring a whole lot of impact to the experience. There’s a good bit of voice work, and it, too, fits well within the context of these characters’ misadventures. Announcers do a fine job of commentating on what the wrestlers are doing in real time, though it’s all canned reactions. The main issue with the audio, though, is that certain components drop in and out at various times throughout events. This mainly occurs during entrances before a match, but it definitely takes something away from the over-the-top performances the game aims to pull off.
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 isn’t a revolution for the series, but it is a hefty package comprised of solid parts. Issues with the lock-on system and collision detection are fundamental faults that, at this point in the series, should have been rectified pre-release. The game also does precious little to instruct players on the basics, and wrestling fans new to the franchise might throw up their arms in frustration. For those who can get beyond the game’s shortcomings, however, there’s some real value to be enjoyed here.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
Pretty much all of the wrestlers look really good, and we’re impressed by the individual character models that make up audiences. When the camera gets in close, though, things can look messy. 3.5 Control
Wii owners are presented with their own set of frustrations related to poor button mapping. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is fitting, if a bit tasteless. Sound effects are decent but a little thin. Occasional audio glitches can ruin the mood. 3.5
There’s definitely plenty of content here, but the developers do a poor job of presenting it to players. The days of figuring out how to enjoy a game should be over. Also, where’s the online gameplay and trading for Wii owners?
3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.