By Jeremy M. Zoss in Reviews
Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm
By Caleb Newby
Pro wrestling is something of a reoccurring on again/off again thing for me. I got hooked back in the mid 80s during the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection era. After getting back into it and getting juicy info from the dirt sheets I quit on it like most fans until the nWo and Attitude Eras. That lasted until this crazy thing called MMA showed up and I was ready to jump ship... albeit temporarily, as I was back whenever Shawn Michaels was working his magic or the WWE was running a particularly interesting program (i.e. the famous CM Punk "shoot" interview from a few months back).
Along the way I've reviewed my fair share of wrestling games and was eager to give the new WWE '12 game a go.
Anyone that is familiar with THQ's wrestling games knows that this year the Smackdown vs. Raw, or SvR, series has been scrapped in favor of a new game engine and rethought gameplay. It's also no secret that the screenshots and video footage have proved this to be the best-looking game in the series yet (although let's be honest, how often does a game's next installment look worse than the one before? Not often). So my goal was to to understand the revamped gameplay and determine if it's an improvement or if the engine needs a year or two to be fully fleshed out.
Gone are the strong and weak grapples that were so long a staple of the genre. Instead, one grapple tap grabs your opponent and your attacks adjust based upon the damage they've sustained. It makes for a more realistic game experience, as the heavy damaging moves don't come out until later in the match. Still, it felt limiting as I've always enjoyed having a slew of moves available at once.
The more organic feel of a wrestling match isn't limited to grappling system, however. Wrestlers can now target specific regions of the body with strikes as they attempt to weaken their opponents. Again, the variety seems a bit sparse for each wrestler but one could argue the WWE doesn't exactly encourage their wrestlers to have a deep and varied move-set either.
The roster has the expected current superstars and divas along with a solid mix of legends. And by solid mix I'm mostly referring to having Demolition in the game, my absolute favorite tag-team from my formative childhood. Oh yeah, there's the Legion of Doom included on the disc (amongst others) as well as some phenomenal DLC with superstars like Shawn Michaels and Randy Savage. But seriously, Demolition! This is the first time they've been these games. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND!
Ahem. Moving on.
I realize that everyone has their preferred method to playing these games and WWE '12 boasts an enormous amount of content. Create a... fill-in-the-blank. Moveset. Superstar. Diva. Arena. Finisher. Entrance. Quite frankly, in the time for this review there wasn't nearly enough time to explore the depths of these modes. That may not be a bad thing, as I'm not the guy you want creating your mock surfer Sting wrestler unless you'd want him to look more like "generic dude with bleached hair". In which case I'm really good at that.
What I can speak to is the Road to Wrestlemania mode. Traditionally this is where you select from a number of superstars and take them on their path to the big show over a several month period. It was a good system they'd honed in on as THQ had found the right length for the story to keep you from getting bored of the same character. Not so anymore. Now, it's one long giant story featuring Sheamus, Triple H, and a created superstar, in that order. There's also heavy scripting of the story. Say you're given the task to beat your opponent (a common task at that) and are then prompted to press the "y" button when on the cusp of victory. Cut to a scripted scene were you end up losing fair and square by an unfortunate reversal of fortune. Hardly a fair feeling when you've battled for the victory to that point. If I was supposed to lose, at least don't make me think that I was gonna win.
So where does that put us? Well, despite glossing over the new engine's graphical capabilities, it is quite impressive and deserves a second mention. They really are fantastic. And there's lots of fun little improvements to the matches to keep them more realistic to a real WWE event. Add in a healthy roster size and the ability to create most anything you'd like and there's a lot to like in WWE '12. But it's far from perfect. The other hand the depth of move selections available while in the ring are slim and Road to Wrestlemania is the weakest its been in years. It feels like a game that needs a year or two to fully get its footing with the new engine. Certainly not a bad showing, but WWE '12 doesn't fully live up to its own hype.
The Official Verdict: 3.5 out of 5
This review is based on an Xbox 360 copy of the game provided by the publisher.