It's been another year in the world of Sports Entertainment, and there have been numerous injuries, crazy storylines and of course plenty of wrestling. It's time for people to once again be able to re-live their fantasies and become part of the biggest Sports Entertainment company in the world, the WWE, with the latest edition of Smackdown vs Raw.
With the Smackdown vs Raw game being an annual release for a few years now, it would probably be quite easy for Yuke's, the developer, to get stuck in a rut in terms of creativity. This doesn't appear to be the case though, as this year's game actually has quite a few new features, as well as other popular features returning. For those who want to dive straight into the action, there is the option to play quick matches. These have a huge amount of variety, as players will have come to expect, and it's quite easy to jump into that dream 6-man Armageddon Hell in a Cell match.
The heart of the game comes with its other modes though. Road to Wrestlemania returns, now with six different storylines that can be played through. It's definitely a mode that captures the essence of the TV show, as players can take selected superstars, or one of their own created superstars, through a dramatic, and sometimes ridiculous, storyline that will eventually see them attain what they desired at Wrestlemania. It feels like a lot more could be done though, as while there are cutscenes, there is barely any decision making. As long as players win their match, there is generally a cutscene to accompany the victory, and that's basically it until the next show. Sometimes other characters leave phone messages, but aside from that, there isn't really much else. It's a shame, because the actual content is good, but it feels like watching a TV show, as opposed to actually being involved with it.
A more hands-on and perhaps generic option is Career Mode. Here, players choose a superstar and just go through the WWE winning literally every belt. There are generally four other superstars vying for the title, and each of them must be beaten to attain enough stars to gain the No. 1 Contendor slot, and then, the title. There essentially isn't anything else to the mode, it's just fight after fight after fight. It does allow players to improve their created superstars though, and unlock new abilities for them to use.
The actual gameplay is pretty decent. Players have a wide range of moves they can perform, which range from weak to strong. There are essentially two types of moves though, striking and grappling. Striking moves are performed quickly, and they are mostly punches and kicks. Grappling moves are longer, and involve throwing the opponent somewhere or performing a move on a specific body part - these generally do more damage. Wrestling is strongly associated with grappling, and to convey this, the right analogue stick is loaded with different moves that can be performed. Each direction performs a different move, and by pressing R1 + a direction on the stick, it's possible to go into a different type of grapple, which in turn allows for even stronger moves. It's still not the most fluid system to watch, and it can get a bit frustrating sometimes, but it does the job.Where the gameplay really suffers though, is in matches that involve more than two wrestlers. The auto targeting system can become extremely frustrating, especially when trying to perform moves that involve running, or ground-based moves. Quite often, the AI will automatically shift to target another wrestler, meaning the opportunity is missed to perform a high impact move. Manual targeting isn't much better either, as it's extremely slow to register a change in opponent. Matches such as 'Money in the Bank' still haven't been cracked yet, as lining up ladders is much more difficult than it needs to be and actually getting to a point where other wrestlers are weak enough to mount an attempt to attain it seems to take far too long, a problem that's apparent in the majority of the special matches. It's not uncommon in a Cage Match to completely pummel the opponent and not take any damage. Then, after a failed attempt to climb out of the cage, the player's character seems completely destroyed, while the opponent is capable of winning a match. It seems rather odd.
Graphically the game looks good. As expected, all of the wrestlers are instantly recognisable, although it's still apparent that the jobbers have been given less attention. Some of their animations and facial expressions just look odd. The main event wrestlers don't have this problem though, and that's essentially all that matters. All of them have had their often extravagant ring entrances faithfully replicated and their animations are spot on. The same also applies to the in-ring gameplay too. There are still quite a few glitches involving the ropes around the ring though, and it's not uncommon for them to get wrapped around a wrestler's legs and then find themselves stretched over the other side of the ring.
Where Smackdown vs Raw really excels though is with its user generated content, and this really shouldn't be underestimated. Players can, as usual, create their own superstar. However, the mode has been completely revamped and it's great to see. Things don't stop there though, as it's possible to do custom ring entrances and custom entrance movies, as well as making a custom finisher for the superstar. Diving finishers have now been added to this option, and the level of customisation is immense. There's nothing more exciting for a wrestling fan than creating a custom wrestler, down to the most granular of details, and Smackdown vs Raw completely nails it.
That's not all though, as the game also includes a Story Designer. This is an extremely in-depth mode which allows players to create their own WWE experiences from scratch. The array of options is actually quite mind blowing. Players can create individual scenes, and script in matches. With the scenes, it's possible to choose the location, the superstars and the nature of the scene. There are plenty of options, but for those who aren't happy with the presets, it's possible to even change small aspects, like facial expressions. It's easy to see people messing about with this mode for a long long time. There's also a full online mode, which continues to add to the replayability. It's even possible to use user created characters online, and there are lots of different match types to choose from.
WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2010 cements its places as a leader in sports entertainment video games. As well as providing all the basic, required content, it also adds a load of extra modes which focus on user generated content. Allowing players to completely craft their own WWE storylines is a huge selling point and definitely shouldn't be under-estimated. The gameplay might still be a bit ropey at times, and there's still much that could be done to improve this, but in terms of the experience offered, WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2010 is a great game for fans.