There are few events that are able to incite such violence, anger, and excitement as a professional wrestling bout. While it is undoubtedly a staged sport that is more theater than skill, there is no argument the game has the ability to unite legions of fans with a thirst for pain.
The WWE SmackDown series has been pumping out yearly titles for almost a decade now, and I’ve only ever had a passing fascination with them. Was WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2010 able to instill a lust for all things wrestling related? Or did it simply make me shake my head at the sheer lunacy of what we now call “entertainment”?
The first thing I noticed after jumping straight into a fight with The Undertaker was how poor this title looked. Far be it from me to complain about graphics – I’m a huge fan of Fairytale Fights, despite its shocking visual quality – but after seeing how incredible Yuke’s managed to make UFC 2009 Undisputed look, I was more than a little disappointed at what was offered with SmackDown vs Raw. Punches can miss your opponent by inches and can still cause a knockdown; while this might seem like perfect reproduction of the artistic nature of wrestling, it simply comes off as poor programming.
While I can overlook graphics to some extent, it is much more difficult for me to ignore poor gameplay, and SmackDown vs Raw has it in bucket loads. I’ve played previous iterations of this series, and I have to say, I was unimpressed with all of them. UFC 2009 raised my expectations of Yuke’s as a developer, but the inability to fight, grapple, and throw properly made me shake my head and wonder where the hell SmackDown vs Raw fell off the development rails.
Which brings me to my biggest problem with this game: the ropes. I distinctly remember the hours I spent playing with friends on Nintendo 64’s WWF No Mercy; epic throws, specialty moves, and most of all, rope combos were all programmed to perfection. I would have expected a title brought out a decade later would have been able to at least match that level of excitement, but apparently, I was misguided.
Now that the dated graphics and archaic gameplay have been powerbombed, it’s time to move onto what makes this game actually work. And yes, despite the disclaimer in the first few paragraphs, WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2010 does indeed work. If you can look past the shoddy graphics and poor fight mechanics, there is plenty of entertainment to be extracted from this violent ballet of a game.
The souped-up, steroid-riddled monoliths are all back for another yearly endeavor into the world of artistic pain. Take your pick from John Cena, Triple H, Chris Jericho, and a host of other popular wrestling stars – including some hideous representations of female fighters – and step into the ring. There is nothing much new here, and like most annual releases, SmackDown vs Raw suffers from a lack of innovation in standard gameplay. The laggy online mode and standard multiplayer may hold your interest for a while, but anyone who has owned either of the last two releases won’t be impressed.
If, at this point, THQ had said to Yuke’s, “Great job, guys. This one’s ready for release,” we would be looking at a carbon-copy wrestling game that nobody in their right mind would ever purchase. Instead, several new additions and updates have been made to improve the quality of this oft-mediocre series.
The always-entertaining Create-a-Finisher and Create-a-Superstar modes have been revamped to include aerial finishing moves and Superstar Threads, respectively. These features manage to add that extra level of detail for those who go weak at the knees at the thought of creating their own wrestler, and let’s be honest, that’s everyone.
While these small tweaks and fixes have helped add longevity to the title, there is one new addition that is sure to have chubby Wrestle Maniacs squealing with joy.
WWE Story Designer mode puts you in the driver’s seat to control your own player’s destiny. The feature plays out exactly how it sounds: you create your own story. This can include any number of things, from organizing pay-per-view fights and scenarios, to producing your very own scripted pre-match encounter; however, I think we all know by now how frustrating typing with a 360 controller can be.
Despite the Story mode allowing you to generate almost 500 unique battles, the game does tend to err on the side of repetition after only a few recreations. Certainly, there will be a handful of wrestling nuts willing to dedicate 100+ hours to creating their very own WWE world, but for the rest of us, SmackDown vs Raw is a pick-up-and-play party game.
After almost ten years of trying, professional wrestling video games just aren’t up to the same standard as UFC 2009 Undisputed or Fight Night Round 4. While WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2010 may entertain those of you with a penchant for humorous violence, it will more than likely end up as “one of those games” that simply lingers on your shelf, longing for the day when it will be traded into the arms of a future wrestling fanatic.
While players and arenas look sharp on the back-of-the-box artwork, the in-game graphics are mediocre at best. It certainly uses some of the 360’s capabilities, but it’s hard to see how this version is any different, visually, than last year’s.
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Taking charge of your wrestler feels like stepping back into an original Xbox game. Controls are shoddy and difficult to master, and there is an obvious flaw in the fight programming that causes most attacks to feel mistimed.
The voice acting, track list, and sound effects are all done to perfection. And really, who doesn’t love pre-fight intro music?
Unless you’ve been waiting for this release since last year, you probably won’t glean too much out of the new features. However, for offline multiplayer, you simply can’t go past a wrestling game.
There is something to be said for the entertainment value of wrestling games, but for a series that is supposed to be bettering itself with each new year, this just isn’t good enough.