WWE 12 PlayStation 3 Review

The name may have changed, but is the game the same? We find out with WWE ‘12

Fans of the WWE will know there are a lot of changes going on at the company of late, not least the seemingly gradual blending together of the company’s lucrative Raw and Smackdown brands, with the two shows blurring into what is essentially one double weekly episode. As the Miz might say, Raw Super Show… Really? Really?

This hasn’t been lost on THQ and Yuke’s, and the familiar Smackdown Vs Raw franchise has dropped its lengthy moniker in favour of the more streamlined, WWE ’12. This is, if the hype is to be believed, much more than a mere name change though, and contrary to previous yearly updates, WWE ’12 has been, wait for it, built from the ground up. Now, you’ll excuse me if I’m a little sceptical. As much as I’ve enjoyed previous outings, the series is hardly known for sporting radical new enhancements, above on beyond a couple of bolted on creation tools and story modes, so we’ll have to see if this release fares any better.

Apex Predator

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Sticking with the, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, mantra of the series (which hasn’t always been true, to put it lightly), WWE ’12, at least initially, feels very much like the familiar yearly outing, with the usual changes and tweaks to menus and creation options, including the mass of game modes, Road to Wrestlemania story, Universe mode and higher res, and crisper visuals. However, and ignoring the various new or tweaked features for now, you’ll quickly notice that something substantial has changed when you get to some actual grappling.

Immediately you’ll find that the controls have been totally changed and remapped. Gone is the previous analogue stick method of grapples, and this has been replaced by a single button grapple system. This is, at first, more than a little tricky to get to grips with, and tapping the X button will trigger a grapple, and then tapping it again will attempt a throw. Hold down X and you’ll go for a submission. Instead of a multiple directional system, now the types of throw are contextual, depending on location and the amount of damage your opponent has sustained. Strikes are handled with another single button, as are whips, specials and interactions.

Although nowhere near as fluid, it feels much more like WWE All Stars than Smackdown Vs Raw, and once you get used to the system, it works very well, and makes fights flow more freely. This is also helped along by the much vaunted ‘Predator’ animation system. This system doesn’t actually change the animation all that much, and superstars move much like they’ve always done. However, it does now allow the interruption of moves and grapples, so, for example, you no longer have to stand idly by in a triple threat while the other two guys are grappling away, and can break things up with a kick if you like.

Pick and choose

Yuke’s has also implemented a new limb targeting system here. Once you grab an opponent in a grapple hold, you can press R1 followed by a face button to target a specific body part. This will cause your foe to eventually become injured in that area, and this will trigger specific disabilities, such as decreased movement or strength.

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A big improvement, in my opinion, is the submission system, which I felt was simply broken in last year’s release. This time, when you go for a submission you’ll see a ‘Breaking Point’ graphic appear. To get your opponent to submit, you need to rapidly tap the face buttons to fill up the Breaking Point logo, and your foe (if they’re human, or you, if you’re the one trying to escape) has to do the same to resist. This makes for far more enjoyable submission matches, and should certainly reduce the horrible, never ending matches of Smackdown Vs Raw 2011 where AI opponents kicked out of submission after submission ‘till the cows came home.

Boots to asses

Two very interesting new additions are the wakeup taunt and comeback features. The former of these is available to all superstars, and when you have a full finisher bar (achieved after executing a signature) you can press up on the d-pad to trigger your wake up taunt. This causes the opponent to groggily get up, making them ripe for your finisher.

The comeback is available to superstars with the comeback ability, and can be activated once per match when your back is to the wall. Simply pressing triangle triggers a QTE-style comeback that can end in a match altering finisher.

These two features aren’t incredible on their own, but they do help to make fights even more like their TV counterparts, and adds more authenticity.

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I have to say that, generally, fights do seem much faster and are more enjoyable this time around, and are a big improvement on the often stilted efforts of previous releases. That’s not to say it’s perfect though. The game still boasts the same clunky collision detection, superstars can often flail wildly at times, missing their target in a ridiculous manner, and the enemy AI, whilst mostly decent, can still be as thick and the proverbial pig excretion. The single grapple button is also hit-and-miss at times, and it’s far too easy to accidentally go for a submission when you’re trying to execute a throw.

Whilst there’s a definite improvement in the core mechanics this year, the claims of being built from the ground up are, once again, bogus, and many of the same issues mar any refinements. Many of the issues of previous games are still here, they’re just masked by a better control scheme and animation system. Make no mistake; this is not a newly built game.

Reboot the universe

Along with the overly familiar, it admittedly improved, core combat comes the usual yearly tweaking of existing features, and a couple of new additions. Of prime concern for many is the improved Universe mode, or Universe 2.0. First introduced last year, and a mode than single handily made the purchase necessary for most, this ever-evolving career mode has been beefed up in a few ways, with Yuke’s listening to the fan’s criticisms of last year’s game.

The monthly flow of shows and Pay-Per-Views returns, along with the rivals and number one contender system, providing an endless wrestling campaign, but, there are some important changes too. This year you can opt to challenge for titles at any time, and don’t have to wait for PPVs, and there’s a new injury system (linked to the aforementioned ability to target specific limbs), that can see superstars out of action for a while.

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Superstars now have a momentum system, which is affected by wins and losses. If a superstar wins matches, they’ll gain momentum and earn buffs to their stats. Lose matches, and the opposite will occur, leading to lower than normal stats. It’s a cool idea, but sadly, stats aren’t as impactful in the series, so the effect is minimal at best.

The usual assortment of cut-scenes is back too, with some much improved additions, and this time you’re less likely to see repeated clips, a real issue of last year’s game. You can, if you so wish, forgo the legal entry into the match altogether, and instead opt to interfere yourself. You pick a superstar and can run in and cause chaos, helping to build up storylines as you do so.

Are you sitting comfortably?

This storyline element is also handled in a more refined way too. Rivals and enemies are still made, but cut-scenes can also lead to matches being arranged the next week. For example, playing as Triple-H, I won my match, only to be assaulted by a returning Brock Lesnar afterwards. This lead to a special match the next week that saw the two square off, after which Randy Orton stuck his nose in, furthering the feud. It makes for a more interesting progression, and helps keep the mode varied.

The whole Universe mode also flows differently too. When you start a show, matches will simply keep coming, one after the other. Without going back into a menu you can flow from Raw to Superstars and to Smackdown. There’s also the pyrotechnic intros for each show too, helping to keep the TV show style at all times (even if Superstars and Smackdown‘s theme tunes are oddly absent). These intros are rendered in a frightfully low resolution though, which given the in-game high res visuals, makes them look even worse.

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You can still quit after each match to view the same menu system, accessing the calendar, superstar ratings and so on, but the added option to simply go from fight to fight is a good addition.

Long and winding road

The Road to Wrestlemania returns again this year, but unlike previous outings there isn’t a selection of stories around a group of superstars. Instead, this year has one longer story with multiple protagonists. It’s a decent enough idea, and the longer story could produce a more lifelike WWE experience, but sadly the actual storylines just aren’t that interesting, and I preferred the multiple, separate story approach of previous years.

This isn’t a major problem though, as the RTWM mode is little more than filler for most fans, and once played, there’s little reason to go back. It’s the Universe mode where the meat of the game rests. Well, that and the superb creation tools.

Paint me happy

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As ever, Yuke’s had provided fans with some of the best creation tools around, and there scope here is simply endless. As always you can create superstars and divas, set up your own move-sets, create custom finishers and choreograph your own entrances, along with custom highlight reels and music if you wish.

This year, though, Yuke’s has included the ability to design your own arena, a feature fans have been demanding for a long time. With this new tool you can create custom stages, rings, announce tables and more, up to the point where you can create your own show, and even use it in the Universe mode. It’s a superb addition for fans who get more out of the creation side, and it’s a tool that’ll no doubt be used extensively by the community.

All of the creation tools have been refined too, with better loading times and some extra features. Create a Superstar, for example, now allows you to pick custom built announce names, stringing together up to four names that the announcer will call on your entrance. There are even tag team names too, which is a great addition, and makes it possible to create more integrated custom superstars.

What’s up?

So, WWE ’12 has an improved, if still very familiar combat system, better Universe mode, so-so RTWM and best-in-class creation tools. None too shabby really, but that’s until you take into account the bugs and glitches.

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I swear, Yuke’s and THQ’s QA must all take a holiday during the testing cycles for WWE games. Each and every year there are bugs and glitches, many of which are so glaring that there’s no excuse. WWE ’12 is no different.

The list of glitches is a long one, but some of the most notable include freezes and crashes, superstar ‘trons being absent or missing details, the ‘trons switching off after a match, stuttering during video playback, all sorts of crazy physics bugs (especially when tables are involved) and replays that often miss most of the action.

The bugs are common, and off-putting enough to really damage your  enjoyment, and given Yuke’s less than impressive track record at fixing issues (the next game is usually considered the patch), I’ve little confidence that the game will be fixed. I’d love to be proven wrong though, as WW ’12, even with the glitches, is a very good game. With more work on the underlying engine to bring the combat more in line with the superb, and polished, WWE All Stars system, and a QA team that’s willing to put in the work, it could be truly excellent. Oh, and the WWE Championship has been resized this year. About bloody time!

You can rent or buy WWE ’12 at Blockbuster.co.uk.


4 out of 5