WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2010 Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

The SmackDown! series has been on the decline for quite some time now, though it was with the last game in the series that I was really starting to begin to get sick and tired of its many problems. The series is always receiving new additions, although the game itself needs some serious attention in a few key areas.

I was hoping that the 2010 game would be different; in fact I was expecting an out with the old and in with the new release, though it just wasn’t to be. The engine is looking a bit tired, relying on tech that was originally designed for the PS2, and it just lacks the fluidity of certain other games from the genre. Some of the animations, for example, look really odd, giving the game a slightly shoddy feel.

But please don’t get me wrong, the series still remains a yearly attraction for me, it’s just not quite as exciting as it used to be. The 2010 game certainly isn’t all bad either, with plenty of additions and the odd improvement here and there, so don’t expect a review that is going to do nothing but moan about the game. I still consider myself a fan, albeit a rather miserable fan.

Right, what has changed in the game itself? Well, firstly the reversals are back on one button, which means, whether you are striking or grappling, the tables are turned with that single button. This works well enough, with a very small window of opportunity for each reversal attempt, though body condition and momentum doesn’t affect what you can or cannot reverse.

When down on the mat, kick outs from pin attempts can be achieved with a new, albeit familiar, system. For those who have played Legends of WrestleMania (THQ’s other WWE game), this won’t be that new: holding down or button bashing to reach a meter in order to kick out. The problem with this new system is that it’s pretty broken and once you learn the timing, you’ll be kicking out again and again, but luckily, if you so wish, it’s possible to switch to the classic button smashing system of old. It’s still a shame, though, as I’d much prefer holding a button down to escape from pin attempts, if only to save my arm from any further damage.

The screen has also been given a tidy. Momentum meters and finisher/signature (speaking of which, using a signature move leads straight into a potential finisher) move symbols now appear under the boots of your chosen wrestler, whilst the condition of your grappler is indicated by only their animations, with not a body-shaped silhouette in sight. It certainly improves the match presentation.

If matches are too unbalanced for you, then this time around you can alter the abilities of each of the wrestlers, even removing them entirely if you yearn for the series’ simpler days. For me, this is most welcome as some matches just felt too unbalanced in the previous game.

Speaking of matches, new this time are the Championship Scramble and Royal Rumble matches. The Scramble match is fun in a chaotic way, and has 5, 10, and 20 minute variations, the idea being that the one to score the pinfall is the current champion, and the winner being the competitor who got the most recent pinfall in the match when the clock hits zero. The problem is that nary are there any moments when you can actually score a pinfall, and even in 20 minutes there may have only been one or two three counts, or even worse, none at all, resulting in a draw. More successful is the Royal Rumble match, which admittedly isn’t an actual new match type, though it has enough improvements to come across as brand new.

This yearly WWE Pay Per View sees 30 wrestlers battling for a main event title shot at WrestleMania, eliminating each other by knocking them out of the ring, until there’s only one wrestler standing tall in the middle of it. The improvements here include more ways to force your opponents out of the ring: there are button speed tests to determine successful eliminations or to escape attempts from opponents; finishers can be exchanged for automatic escapes and button mashing also plays its part, as well. It was already a good match type and one that had already seen enhancements in previous years, though here it’s a massive improvement.

Match options are again vast in number and there’s also a fair few modes to play through. One of the most popular modes will definitely be Road to WrestleMania: a returning mode from last year and one that really captures the feel of the WWE. Like the last game, there are a handful of WWE personalities to choose from and this time, like the real thing, there’s the occasional guest commentary accompanying specific matches, which is a real nice little touch, in fact the mode is full of these nice “fan pleasing” touches.

One of the key points of this latest game is the creation side of things, in facts that should be the creating and sharing side of things. Over its 10-year history, this series has long been about creation with everything from wrestlers, championship belts, entrances and finishing moves to be potentially created. New in this game is the Story Designer mode, which gives us all the opportunity to do just that: create our own WWE storylines. It’s a rather powerful tool that allows you to alter scenes and splice them together, switch cast members, change camera views and add in your own dialogue and matches. When you’ve finished your story, you can then upload it for others to play through, and you never know, an impressed Vince McMahon may even come knocking.

Sticking with creation, the create a wrestler has been given an overhaul. Remember when the attire used to look as if it was just merely painted on your wrestler’s body? Well now that has become a thing of the past. The downside to this is that it feels a little more limited with the things that you can do, although it’s still a welcome change all the same. Your created grapplers can also be shared online (I’ve seen a marvellous Kurt Angle and a few fantastic Sheamus’ so far) and, with that said, perhaps the request for creation formulas on internet forums will come to an end now.

You can also download or share created finishing manoeuvres, entrances, screens and highlight reels. It’s possible to rate and even comment on them, which is obviously going to be helpful for other players.

Moving on, the presentation of the game is outstanding, and the graphics have been improved in a few subtle ways. The ring ropes are now powered by the Havok engine, making them look all the more realistic, though sometimes they look rather weird. As for the wrestlers themselves: angry red welts now appear on their chests and backs, whilst blood is more free flowing, covering faces and even getting on to the chests and hands of otherwise blood-free opponents. As the real life WWE have gone down the more child friendly route, it’s actually rather strange that the game still contains gore but, given its advancements, I’m certainly not complaining that it’s still in there.

WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2010 is an improvement over the previous game, although there’s a bit of a lack of polish and the series is being held back by its rather dated mechanics. It still remains a lot of fun and many of the new additions are fantastic, though I hope the series eventually (like in the next instalment, perhaps?) receives a game that truly makes it feel like a current generation game, with brand new engine and all.