WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2010 PS3 review

Aaron layeth the smacketh downeth on this year’s spandex-clad outing in WWE Smackdown Vs Raw...

The real life WWE is something of an entertainment phenomenon with millions of fans across the world. The larger-than-life superstars that deliver an impressive show of death defying acrobatics and pantomime drama command loyal armies of screaming fans, and each and every one follows their respective storylines with almost maniacal reverence.

Yes, we all know that wrestling isn’t entirely real. The actual moves that we see acted out would clearly kill a man instantly if performed with actual contact, but still, the leaps, dives, topples and clashes are still very much life threatening; the appeal of the outrageous spectacle is there for all to see.

However, while the real event may be more of a show than a real scrap, when it comes to the videogame incarnation, that doesn’t really matter, and few would disagree that the WWE makes for some great gaming combat.

Here we have the 2010 edition of THQ’s long-running series. Taking in all three major WWE shows – Smackdown, Raw and ECW –  this jam-packed release, like its predecessors, contains a ton of content.

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Most of the features of previous games make a return this year, such as quick, one-off matches (which feature a vast array of match types), the popular Road to Wrestlemania story mode that debuted in 2009, the career mode, online multiplayer, support for DLC, and, of course, a veritable cornucopia of tools for user created content. In fact, it’s with user created content that 2010 really pushes the boat out, and 2010 has outdone itself with the freedom fans have to really create their very own WWE events.

As ever, SvR features the staple Create a Wrestler (CaW) mode, only this time it’s been renovated a little and the wrestlers you can create look far better than the previous edition’s offerings. CaWs includes more detailed features, more in line with the selection of superstars (of which there’s already over 60), and there are more true 3D items of clothing and accessories, instead of painted on, flat textures as before.

Creating your actual wrestlers doesn’t stop with the contestant, and 2010 gives you more tools to beef up your virtual enrolment into the WWE. The entrance, moveset, and finisher tools are back, again, slightly tweaked. User created finishers now include the option to create diving finishers (from the top rope), as well as the standard front grapple options, and the entrance feature boasts options to create your own TitanTron entrance video (more on this later). Other features such as custom soundtrack entrance music returns, although some of the supplied tracks from 2009 are not present this year.

It’s your world now

The real big change in creation this year far surpasses mere character creation, though, and this time fans get the chance to create their very own stories, including fight setups, in and out of ring interactions, backstage dramas and more. You can even write and apply your own dialog (not voiced, of course, and displayed in text boxes), creating your very own WWE plotlines. You’re given 10 years to play with, and the creation tools are very easy to use. You pick characters to slot into cut scenes, choose the fights for the various programs, and generally behave like a would-be Vince McMahon. Couple this with the character, finisher, and entrance creation tools, and you’ve got your very own WWE in a box, which could potentially last forever.

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Better still, all user created content can be uploaded to the PlayStation Network to share with others. This includes storylines, characters, moves and highlight reels, which is another impressive user content tool that lets you save recorded clips of your bouts.

Included in the game is a basic video editing tool of sorts that lets you edit together your best grappling assaults. You can add some rudimentary effects, add graphics and text and so on. Then, once saved, this can be uploaded to the PSN. PS3 owners also have the option to uploaded highlight reels directly to YouTube, which is a nifty gimmick.

This highlight reel can also be encoded (in the game’s editor) and can be used, as mentioned earlier, as a custom entrance video for your CaW. A nice touch, and one that I can imagine many fans labouring over.

But I just wanna play!

User created content isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, though, and luckily, SvR doesn’t skimp on its own content either. The Road to Wrestlemania mode has six all-new storylines to play through, including plotlines for Edge, HBK, Randy Orton, Mickie James and an extra-long, dual storyline for Triple H and John Cena called Brand Warfare, which pits all brands of the WWE against each other. The final storyline will, no doubt, be a firm fan favourite, and it features a plot for user created CaWs, so you can take your own wrestler (male only, I’m afraid, ladies) through a real WWE story, alongside the real superstars.

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The Road to Wrestlemania stories are all great, but oddly, aren’t as well polished as last year’s, with some dubious presentation. But overall, they’re all enjoyable while they last.

Some additional game modes have been added, including mew match types such as Championship Scramble and mixed tag teams, and, thank the maker, the Royal Rumble mode has finally been given some attention. No longer is it the shoddy, unworkable game mode of the past, and thanks to some clever use of elimination mini games, and some much needed presentational tweaking, it’s a much more enjoyable, and playable experience.

Core combat

Underneath all of the new goodness lies the same, solid game engine, but even this has been tweaked. The control system, while remaining largely unchanged, has been refined slightly. Grappling is now more interactive and realistic, with the option to change grapple types (move from front to back etc). There are now side grapples you can perform and the reversal system, which was often criticised in the 2009 edition, is far more workable, with only a single button used.

The onscreen indicators are also gone, as is the previous momentum system. Now, the only indicator onscreen is a floating circle around your wrestler’s feet. This represents your momentum, and once high enough, you’ll see the Signature move icon appear, allowing you to perform a signature move. Do so, or keep fighting to build up more momentum, and you’ll be able to use a finisher.

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As time goes by, and no hits are made, or you take damage, this momentum drops. This is a decent way to implement the momentum system, but I do find myself missing the ability to store signature moves as in 2009. This alteration also seems to have resulted in the slight streamlining of the controls.

Whereas in 2009 Wrestlers could have plenty of finishers, here the number is reduced. Each superstar can now have only two finishers and two signature moves. This isn’t a major issue, and with some clever manipulation of the create-a-move set option you can tailor all wrestlers moves to your liking (such as restoring Randy Orton’s Hunting RKO instead of the standard, standing RKO), but some may find the new approach a little limiting.

Big red mess

The general feel of the combat is now much better than before, too. Little tweaks such as blood getting all over the ring and wrestlers adds to the brutality, and the flow of the bouts is more realistic. The AI is far more balanced this time, and will reverse attacks in a more realistic manner (rather than continuously reversing everything unfairly). This is partly down to the more usable reversal system that makes it easier for you to turn things to your favour, and what feels like a generally tighter control scheme.

There are still masses of other additions and refinements that further bolster the game’s feature list. These include the ability to set up rivals for each wrestler (so enemies and allies appear randomly during a match to help or hinder you, even in one-off quickplay bouts), the new training mode, improved menu systems, and far shorter load times, always a problem of previous outings.

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In fact, apart from some minor presentation issues and the usual graphical glitching that plagues the series, there’s little to complain about. Oddly, there’s no custom tournament mode this year, which is a letdown, and it would be nice to see some attention paid to the more unsightly parts of the game, such as the awful audience graphics, occasionally unnatural animation and the lack of some sorely missed options like General Manager mode, not to mention a more in-depth career mode. But when you’ve got such a mass of content, and the potential to create as much new content as you wish, it’s hard to hold it against the title.

That said, it’s getting increasingly clear that the current game engine that’s powered the series for a while needs to be put out to pasture, and next year we really should be treated to a totally new experience. This year the engine does incorporate Havok physics for improved collision, but more needs to be done to keep the game fresh. The Xbox 360 and PS3 can both handle far more, so it’s about time to make use of that raw power.

So, it’s another year, and another great WWE outing from THQ. SvR 2010 is a Swanton Bomb of a title that WWE fans will probably leave in their PS3s or Xboxes permanently. A definite purchase.

WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2010 is out now for PS3 and other consoles.

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4 out of 5