By Matt Carey
The concept of two sweaty, greased up men rolling around the floor, grunting and groaning would seem initially like a gay porn DVD. In actuality, the world of wrestling, as this is, attracts viewing figures into the millions on a weekly basis. It is, and always has been, big business. The WWE itself, highest on the grappling food chain, is worth well in excess of $1 billion. As you would expect, merchandising is widespread, with everything available from toothbrushes to towels, all emblazoned with the flavour of the months manly pose. Top of the pile however, is the videogame tie-in.
The Smackdown series of videogames has been around for 10 years. Starting life on the PS1, adopting the PS2, and eventually going multi-platform, the franchise has generated millions of sales and is a regular on the top ten big sellers for the year. Yet why this continues to be so is confusing. Should you happen to peruse the occasional message board around release time, there seem to be hundreds of people that applaud a new feature here and there, but will angrily complain about the backwards step in other areas. And in truth, they’re not wrong. As with every year, I fully expect that every single one of the games bad points to still be there. I know the game will be OK. I just don’t expect to be any more than that. Thankfully, I have been well and truly surprised this time around.
The Smackdown series has always been known for its plethora of options and game types, and this version is no different. Only now, the content quota has been pushed through the ceiling. In terms of match types, everything is status quo, only with the addition of the Championship Scramble, a match whereby multiple pins can occur within a time limit. Once the time expires, the person with the last pin wins the match, and the belt.
The Royal Rumble has been given a well needed overhaul. Now players can expect to find a mode that is fun, with presentation brought up to the levels of the real thing. The ring announcer instructs the crowd of the rules, and it begins. During the course of the match, mini games have been employed as methods with which to eliminate competitors. From button mashing to QTE moments, the games are varied and certainly a marked improvement over previous iterations. Throw in full wrestlers intros and little cut-scenes throughout the match, and this is the most comprehensive Royal Rumble to date.
Of course, all these match types come into play across the many and varied game modes. Aside from the standard exhibition modes, we see the return of the career mode. It plays exactly as it did last year, with the player selecting a character, created or otherwise, and proceeds to take them through a multi-tier system en route to winning assorted titles. There is no story to speak of here, and the mode is used mainly to up the stats on and creations they may wish.
Road to Wrestlemania remains too, this time with a different set of superstars to play with. Again, they each have their own unique storylines, designed to be a bit more thorough and television-esque than the career mode, as well as a means to unlock assorted attires and characters. This year, however, sees the inclusion of a diva story for the first time, as well as one specifically for a created superstar.
The final mode is the Story Designer mode, which replaces the GM mode of old. Instead of what was essentially one screen where shows and matches had to be planned, and a lot of imagination was required to get storylines going, now the budding writer has much more at their disposal. Sure, the matches can all still be set up for each show exactly how you want them to run, but now you can also set win conditions and condition of the combatants. This makes sense as certain conditions would need to be met to ensure that your story can progress.
Along with the more involved match set ups in this mode is the cut scene editor. Want to start your show with all the pyro? No problem. Want to show a contract signing? That is there too. There are literally limitless permutations in this mode as, along with the wealth of scenarios and areas available, there is also the ability to give speech to those involved in a scene. What this means, essentially, is that the mode is only as limited as your imagination. I myself did run into the problem of not being able to find a scenario I thought would be fairly obvious, but it was easy to find a work around, and my story progressed in a slightly different way.
Storylines run for 10 years if you really want to, and can indeed cover every single weekly show as well as every Pay Per View event. They can be as involved or as brief or as ridiculous as you want them to be. However, there is one glaring limitation, and that comes by way of CAS usage. Per month you are only allowed to use a created wrestler ten times. That’s not ten times per wrestler. That’s ten times full stop. So any plans you have on creating the TNA roster and having them invade, well, you can forget it.
This aside, the mode is in depth and easy to use, and certainly adds longevity to the title, something lacking from the past couple years’ games. When you add to this the ability to upload your story to Xbox Live and enable others to enjoy your creation, you realise that there potentially a never ending supply of new content.
Sharing is the new ‘big thing’ this year as, along with storylines, almost everything creatable is available to share online with the community. This seems to have been their main focus with online this year as the multi-player is essentially exactly the same as last year, ie; hit and miss.
Create a Finisher makes a welcome return, this time adding diving moves into the mix. The mode is as in depth as it ever was, and still is to navigate and construct a killer move. Everyone knows, however, that this is just a way to include moves that they otherwise not be able to. For instance, I created a Samoa Joe and wanted to create his Muscle Buster finisher. CAF enabled me to do this (almost). Obviously, they couldn’t include a move like this normally, probably due to licensing or copy write, but this mode is a way around that. I say ‘almost’ though because there are still some limitations. Whilst it is nice to include diving moves into the mix, the majority of manoeuvres are done in the middle of the ring. This means that, in creating the Muscle Buster for example, I was not able to sit the opponent on the top turnbuckle first in the way that Samoa Joe does. Either way, whatever move you create, the returning ‘edit move set’ enables you to assign it to either existing or created roster members.
The daddy of the creation tools is the Create A Superstar feature. Totally revamped this year, the mode sees the inclusion of fully 3d clothing –instead of painted on – for the first time. The actual graphics of your superstar are much improved too, although still slightly behind the normal wrestlers in quality. As per usual, there is an absolute wealth of options, attires and attributes that can be tweaked, although there does seem to be slightly less clothing and such. Every previous year has utilised a layer system with regards to creating your stars. This year has seen this change to a points system. Everything available has a value, and the trick is to build something within these limits. However, this seems a little mis-managed. Throw a chicken head on your guy, and all of a sudden, half your points evaporate. This seems a little extreme.
Again, created chaps and chapettes can be placed online for everyone else to download and rate. Unfortunately, the option to do this is rendered pointless by the lack of enabling the downloader to edit the wrestler in any way, shape, or form. So, download a new perfect copy of AJ Styles, but be left disappointed by not being able to edit his attire, his entrance, his music or his move set. Yes, it’s great that they can be downloaded at all, but not allowing further customisation is tantamount to dangling the carrot in front of the donkey.
The last area of creation is done via the highlight reels. After a match, the player can view some of the best bits of their bout and save them. These can then be clipped, edited, and stuck together to form either a fancy video, or, at long last, an entrance video. Finally, you can create Hulk Hogan and not have him wander to the ring with only the WWE logo on the Titantron. The options here are plentiful, and a bit of time and effort will reward with a more than adequate entrance video all of your own. Again, these can be uploaded to the community.
Which all leaves how the game plays. I’m glad to say that the in-ring combat is much more intuitive and free flowing than it has been previously. Gone are the status bars that adorned the top corners of the screen in favour of a simple disc around the wrestler’s feet. This indicates nicely how far your meter has been filled, when you can perform a signature move, and when you can perform a finisher. Of course, the limb damage system has been primed so much over the years now that you don’t need a meter to show health. Just look at your guy and you can see in his movement what his condition is. The de-cluttered screen really is a godsend, and truly helps convey the sense of a live show.
The controls are much the same as before, with the main difference being the change of two reversal buttons to one. The window for reversing is still small, but by reducing the button pressing options, a lot more intuitive and soon you will be reversing anything from a punch to a finisher, not necessarily with ease, but certainly a lot more frequency than before. To get you used to the controls is the inclusion of a practice mode, which is actually the start screen. As you move around, little pop up boxes give you an indication of moves to try given where you are in relation to your opponent. Pressing the start button brings up the menu from where you can pick what you want to do. I like this idea. It means that any little brushing up on moves you wish to do can be easily found and not hidden away in some subsection.
Needless to say, this year Yukes and THQ have really pulled out all the stops in terms of creation, presentation, and options in an effort to create the most comprehensive (WWE) wrestling game in history. On that front, SvR 2010 certainly takes the crown. It still isn’t a perfect title though. The ropes still appear halfway through bodies for example, although they do behave a lot more realistic than they ever have. Online play still isn’t perfect, and the cock-up with the downloaded wrestlers and lack of editing options is near criminal. Whilst the actual matches themselves, game modes, and match types are fun, varied, and much better executed than ever before, we still find the same thing true this year as ever other. THQ and Yukes seem to offer much with one hand, and sneakily take away with the other. Still, this is certainly the best version of wrestling this generation has seen, and is most defiantly a contender for the crown held by No Mercy for so long.
8.5 / 10