WWE SmackDown Vs Raw 2010
It’s never easy serving two masters. No matter what you do, you end up being torn between the two, and quite simply neither is satisfied by your well-meaning, but divided, efforts. Hardcore wrestling game fans are all too familiar with the struggle most wrestling games have of equally satisfying gamers looking for simple brawl fests with a wrestling theme, and hardcore wrestling game aficionados brought up on solid grapplers like Human Entertainment’s Fire Pro Wrestling series and AKI Corporation’s WCW Vs nWo Revenge and No Mercy. It isn’t an easy balance to achieve and no dev has arguably managed the task to either group’s satisfaction for years.
This console generation the challenge has largely fallen to THQ and developer Yuke’s, who have largely treated the SmackDown Vs Raw series like a sports franchise themed brawler, capturing the wrestling spirit if nothing else. This year’s iteration of SmackDown Vs Raw consists pretty much of what you’d expect, with roster updates featuring more than 60 Superstars, from mainstays like Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Rey Mysterio, to up-and-comers like CM Punk and Benjamin Shelton as well as all the various arenas and fight types, including Ladder, Table and Steel Cage matches the games are famous for.
It has to be said SmackDown Vs Raw 2010 looks great. Wrestlers’ gleaming muscled bodies look just as they should, and thanks to freer dynamic camera angles you often feel like you’re really watching the TV show. The HUD from previous games is replaced by a simple circle at the feet of your wrestler telling you how much ‘momentum’ he has and flashes up T to let you know you can pull off a signature or special move. Special moves themselves look particularly spectacular, in snazzy slow-motion showing just how much they hurt. Damage to body parts is shown by how the superstars hold themselves, with plenty of red-raw chests and bleeding heads from too many slaps and weapons impacts.
The ever-simple control scheme returns to using a combination of Right shoulder buttons and stick for grappling, and now reversals of any kind are tied to a single chance at pressing R, which flashes at the opportune moment. Some reversals are contextual and will see you rolling out of rings, jumping out of the way and using your environment. It’s all easy to get to grips with as there’s a raft of tutorials.
While playing the various career modes, like the Road To Wrestlemania, with six new stories based on various WWE wrestlers is enjoyable, THQ has realised that people use their own crazy creations long after they’re bored with the core roster and so focused on the Character Creation and new Create-A-Story mode. For the first time you can create characters that actually look as good as the rest of the roster and even make them reasonably technically unique with the Create-A-Finisher. But it’s the Create-A-Story mode that really shines. All wrestling fans relish re-living classic feuds from WWE history or want to make their creations living, breathing members of the muscle-bound soap opera, and it really will let you do that.
It’s based around three weekly shows that you fill with matches and scenes, which are acted out by wrestlers of your choosing. There are more than a hundred WWE story staples, such as contact signings, swerves and betrayals in the ring and backstage, as well as cool things like people getting hit by cars in car parks. You can cast up to five people in scenes, pick where they happen, move the camera, add your own text dialogue and even put various emotions on wrestlers’ faces. Best of all, you’ll be able to share your stories with other gamers over PSN.
It’s an impressive feature set, but the lacking execution on both the creation and combat fronts spoils it. While the creation modes are pretty in-depth, the game has an infuriating menu system plagued by long loading time issues. It’s ironic in that while THQ has tried to make fighting very accessible the Create-A-Story is overly fiddly, and we’d be very surprised if most casual fans continue past the tinkering stage. On the other hand, while more hardcore fans will fall in love with the character creation and persevere with the Create-A-Story mode, the too-simple wrestling mechanics will leave them frustrated, as it did for us.
By this point it’s mostly because, under the shiny coats of paint and glitter, this is just another iteration of an engine that has been running these games for years now. SmackDown Vs Raw 2010 is a victim to the vagaries of its procedural animation system, with issues like unrealistic clipping, fake-looking hits and awkward control. What makes it even more disappointing is that Yuke’s can clearly do better and recently released the rather excellent UFC 2009 Undisputed. If the team could just combine that game’s excellent physics-based fighting mechanics with this game’s theatrics, it’d be a winning formula.