After many years of producing the Smackdown vs. Raw branded video game, THQ decided it was time for WWE games to move on - they needed to take things to the next level and focus on the core issues. As a result, Yuke's knuckled down and created a new physics engine while THQ set about branding this new experience. The result is game called WWE '12, which serves as an excellent piece of fan service, but seems to lack in quite a few other areas.
There are a host of modes to check out in WWE '12, with almost all of them featuring in WWE games before. The main draw will either be WWE Universe, or Road to Wrestlemania, but this really depends on your preference. With WWE Universe, you're able to be the owner of the WWE, planning out events and match-ups, all with individual storylines. But in Road to Wrestlemania, you play out pre-scripted stories that have definitive resolutions.
Road to Wrestlemania has been a big draw for some, as it allows you to go through a carefully crafted story, playing as one of the big WWE superstars. But with WWE '12, it seems like a bit of a mess. In previous games, there were numerous stories and they were all self-contained. This allowed a degree of choice. If you wanted to do John Cena's story you could, but if you hated John Cena, you weren't forced to trudge through it. Now, there are three stories which are all part of one big story.
You start off as Seamus, who in WWE '12 is still a heel, as he looks to try and win the Heavyweight Championship. This then leads into Triple H's story and once that's done, you'll go into a create-a-wrestler story.
The actual narrative isn't too bad, but how it plays out can be very frustrating. Quite often, you don't have to actually win any matches - it's all about damaging people enough so pre-scripted events can play out. There's nothing wrong with that concept, but it often contradicts itself. You will have situations where you need to absolutely batter people so the scripted event can be initialised, only for them to beat you up in the cutscene that follows.It also leads to some rather funky AI, especially in tag matches. Quite often, when you're on the floor, the AI will try and tag. But if they aren't allowed to due to the scenario that's supposed to play out, they will just run to the corner and look at the turnbuckle until you're back on your feet. There are also some other classic examples, where say, in a "Money in the Bank" match, all of the AI people will just stand around a let someone random win, because they're only programmed to stop you from winning.
All of these elements take away from the gloss of the story mode and let's not forget to mention that Yuke's still haven't figured out how to program a proper camera for the backstage stuff. If you walk into dead ends it gets confused and it still doesn't have very good positioning.
On the other hand, WWE Universe is fairly similar, but it has been improved. You'll see random scenes popping up more and you're now able to create your own events to add to the weekly line-up. It guarantees that the game will have legs even months down the line, as you plot your own WWE storylines.
You're able to change titles on the fly, or make people have matches, but PPVs will also take place. Momentum is also calculated, which will denote each superstar's significance at any given time. Of course, you can manipulate this to your heart's content, but it's nice to see what the AI comes up with sometimes.
The gameplay will be familiar to players of previous iterations, but it's been improved due to the new "Predator Technology." This is a physics system which has allowed Yuke's to make things much more realistic. You can now interrupt moves in a much more natural way, and there won't be any random teleporting around for certain moves like John Cena's Five Knuckle Shuffle.
It might not seem like an improvement at face value, but after playing the game for a decent while, the differences become a bit more clear. Everything is feels smoother and it flows in a way that's more natural.Each superstar can perform numerous moves depending on the situation they find themselves in. There are lots of different grapple types and there are many moves which can be performed as a result of different grapples. It's a game that's very much about momentum and as the matches go on, you'll find this increasingly important - especially with the new body targeting system. For example, if you concentrate on someone's leg, they won't be able to run properly.
The momentum works well, but it can be quite frustrating when taking part in matches outside of the ring environment. All you have to do is land a few good suplexes or DDTs and the opponent will become groggy. When groggy, it becomes much harder to perform counters and it just snowballs - rather frustrating.
To try and counter this, there are a few perks, such as "Comeback", but it feels like more of a band aid than an actual solution.
The new engine has also allowed the game to look a lot nicer, with there being a significant bump in graphical quality. The camera angles are also a lot truer to the TV counterpart. Animations too, have benefited from the Predator Technology, although running/walking still looks decidedly awkward for the majority of superstars. Some of the "highlight reel" cameras can also be annoying, as they're employed as a default even in multiple-superstar matches. This means that while it's focussing on a great move involving two superstars, you may be getting beaten up by another one, without being able to see it. This can be turned off though, so it's not that much of an issue.
As mentioned earlier, WWE Universe offers for a ton of replay value on its own and the Road to Wrestlemania campaign will keep you going for quite a few hours. But on top of this, the game also offers online multiplayer (currently experiencing problems) and a plethora of creation options, including your own ring-type.
WWE '12 is a fine tribute to the WWE and fans will be sure to get at least something out the experience. However, despite there being a new physics engine and some more creation modes, in many ways it feels a bit stagnant. Yes, WWE Universe now offers more, but the Road to Wrestlemania feels much worse and this is just one example. Hopefully this year's game will lay the groundwork for significant improvements with next year's WWE experience.
|Brock Lesnar is back.|
|Looks better graphically.|
|WWE Universe is a bit smoother now.|
|Road to Wrestlemania is a disappointment.|
|Feels a bit stagnant.|
|AI can be rather dumb.|