Since the creation of the infamous Smackdown Vs Raw Series, THQ and Yukes have prided themselves on creating an enticing package for diehard fans of WWE programming. While every yearly edition provided strong improvements in some areas, noticeable flaws remained in others. With the release of WWE 12, the company’s aim to silence critics by creating one of the best wrestling simulations on the market falls disappointingly short of greatness. Here are a few reasons why WWE 12 doesn’t yet deserve all the championship praise it’s getting.
With the announcement of this title, the promotional tagline of Bigger, Badder, Better indicated that there would be a new look and feel to both the product and the way one would experience gameplay. This quote is only partially true primarily because there are still issues that need to be addressed moving forward. The newly hyped Predator technology was meant to revolutionize the sport by adding 25 new dynamic camera angles to change the perspective and excitement of the action in the ring.
While this feature works in some circumstances, it doesn’t happen often enough to receive a noteworthy mention. Tag Matches fail to offer the same intriguing viewpoints as single one-on-one encounters and many times completing aerial maneuvers doesn’t quite change the depth of field quite exactly as advertised. Gameplay itself feels eerily similar to past games in the Smackdown series, with only minor tweaks and animations that pop up every now and then. It’s also worth noting that player reaction times vary and holds can easily be broken in both conventional and unconventional fashions. Overall, the system carries an objective love it or leave it type of feel.
In all fairness, the one aspect that shows great promise is the creation of the Comeback moment. Often times you may find yourself taking a fierce beating from your rival and have the ability to mount an impressive comeback. For the most part, this can happen randomly at any given moment during your match. When the action is setoff, your wrestler will conduct a series of signature moves that ultimately culminate into a finisher and pinfall attempt.
Part of the challenge in successfully completing these attacks relies heavily on your timing and rhythm as it relates to pressing the right button prompts when instructed to. These tasks require skill to master but are highly rewarding when executed correctly. My only suggestion to improve this feature would be to add a comeback gauge that can help you monitor your progress more efficiently and get the jump on your competition.
From a presentation standpoint, WWE 12 is indeed one of the best representations of the sport in the history of the series. The roster is vastly improved and as complete as you would expect. The show intros and PPV pyros are of a professional quality never once seen in the Smackdown series. However with all that said, the graphics remain the weakest part of the package. Models appear the same in comparison to last year’s game and wrestler entrances are often hit or miss.
For example, Alberto Del Rio’s entrance is single handedly one of the worst due to the horrendous voicework of Ricardo Rodriquez and the poorly modeled car that Del Rio drives on stage. With games like Madden and NBA 2k12 constantly stepping up, it’s vital that THQ exhaust all efforts to get the broadcast quality as close to the real thing as possible. Once you get past the graphics, the centerpiece of WWE 12 revolves around 3 key features: An improved Universe Mode, Road To WrestleMania, and Custom creations mode.
Universe Mode 2.0 is the return of last year’s engaging and addictive GM type mode. In addition to deciding the roster for each show, you now have the ability to defend titles to your heart’s content on any given night. Rivalries and partnerships are customizable and integrated with the Story designer mode to generate unpredictable events from one show to another. Once you begin a show, every match is performed on an endless cycle until you decide to quit the match your in. THQ also managed to add a few surprises within the mode that allow you to unlock superstars, attires, arenas, and titles as you progress through an entire year of wrestling.
While this all sounds great on the surface, there are a few drawbacks that keep this feature from being perfect. For starters when you are given the ability to create a show, the matches themselves can only be edited one at a time. What this means is that if you don’t enjoy all the matches pre booked on the card then you’ll have to play each match through individually, quitting in-between to set them up accordingly.
In earlier games, you were granted access to edit an entire card once then play through it. Deciding to leave a computer generated card as is sometimes results in questionable matches, misguided feuds, and a high level of repetitive bouts from one week to the next. I can understand the decision to place the gamer in an environment full of surprises, but I feel you also should be able to gain more out of the experiences you create as well. Hopefully, these issues can be sorted out in time for next year’s game.
Two other noticeable flaws with the mode have to do with the ability to edit the roster. Gone in this game is the ability to make certain superstars inactive altogether. As a result, legends like Vader or Legion Of Doom show up and get themselves involved in the title picture. Having the ability to turn off certain wrestlers would at least give the player a deeper sense of control of his of her WWE universe.
Also being that this is becoming more of a sports game, it would be ideal if perhaps contracts and injury timetables were implemented. I recall suffering a career ending injury with Cm Punk at a PPV only to appear healthy and ready for action on RAW the next night. If THQ’s goal is to make a sports game, then they have to do it right or don’t do it at all. Additions like these would not only strengthen the mode, but would create an even higher replayability factor the next time around.
This year’s Road To WrestleMania Mode is a bold new direction that bridges the gap from one storyline to the next and focuses on Shameus, HHH, and a Created Superstar. The decision to have a Villain, Outsider, and Hero storyline is a genius concept that I would urge THQ to stick with moving forward. However at the same time, I would also hope that they would give more consideration to matches that occur outside the ring. No doubt about it, the backstage and ramp brawls are among the worse in the series. While you’re able to throw your opponent into some nearby objects, the scope feels severely limited then due to the claustrophobic camera angles.
Often the end goal is to beat your adversary brutally until a button prompt appears and provides a scripted action. While I can appreciate that this also offers a bit of unpredictability to the formula, it happens all too often and begins to cheapen the overall experience. There aren’t any real variations in location either and these matches become all too predictable and boring after the first couple of rounds. Also annoying is the objective popup that constantly appears on the screen during each fight. In the Smackdown series, objectives were usually stated before the match right at the loading screen. I would suggest that the creative team fixes this issue so as not to distract the gamer while playing.
The story modes within Road To WrestleMania are compelling and a landmark of just why the WWE is the king of Male Soap Operas. As details are important, I noticed there being a flaw in regards to the WWE title appearing in the Smackdown story while the World Heavyweight Title appeared on the RAW Story. For a hardcore fan such as myself, this was a bit annoying but a casual fan won’t find fault in it.
Despite the issues mentioned above, there are various twists and turns that keep you playing until the end. The only suggestion I would love to see moving forward would be the idea to explore some elements of choice from the main superstar. These conventions were toyed around with in the past and I think bringing them back may actually give people an incentive to play through a story again to see a different result. I was a little disappointed that Randy Orton wasn’t the star of the Outsider story over HHH, but the narrative centered around The Game just feels right. Kudos goes to THQ for working with WWE to craft some memorable storylines.
Both Creation and Online modes remain intact this year with few enhancements. Online Royal Rumble and Exhibition modes return to the forefront with better options that let you know how stable a person’s Internet connection is before playing him or her. In addition to creating and sharing stories and entrance videos, you can now design your own arena to coincide with your own PPV event. The customization is extremely detailed with options ranging from choosing wrestling mat colors to creating logos to be included on those mats. Whether you’re a fan of Degeneration-X of the NWO, you can now create rings based off both factions.
When it comes to superstar threads, you can still customize attire colors but that’s about it. Given that this mode has had a few editions, one can help but think how THQ can take things further. Several sports games have started to allow gamers to take pictures of themselves for upload and creation of themselves in various titles. Taking this path of action would allow the team to maintain authenticity and invoke a deeper connection between the audience and the game itself.
WWE 12 is an engaging wrestling simulation that comes close to hitting the mark but isn’t quite there yet. While it can be argued that this is the best in the series, the truth is from a presentation standpoint it shines brightly in some areas but fails to impress in others.It’s no doubt that this series is destined to be the best and I’m confident that with some fixes it can get there next year. The amount of scripted gameplay elements in Road To WrestleMania are very annoying and the lack of control in WWE Universe mode is equally bothersome. Still, if you’re a fan of the genre then picking up this title is absolutely a no brainer.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game for the Xbox 360 provided by THQ.