Before I had a chance to play Smackdown vs Raw 2010, WWE commentator Matt Stryker said that this game is the best he’s ever played, in terms of graphics and gameplay. He wasn’t kidding. This has got to be one of the best wrestling titles to come out in a long time.
Although the controls have remained the same, it’s the fluidity and accuracy of the animation that’s sure to impress. Most of the moves have been reanimated to emulate the real thing as much as possible. Something as simple as a Big Boot from the Undertaker is noticeably more devastating than it has been in previous games. Some other gameplay changes include improved Royal Rumble mechanics, an easier countering system, and it’s now much easier to kick out of a pinfall.
Graphically there have been significant improvements. Character models are more realistic and have been updated, such as the inclusion of Randy Orton’s new tattoos. Not only that, but the staging area and overall lighting in the game are as vibrant as those seen in a real live WWE event. Other graphical enhancements include visual cuts and bruises on the wrestlers’ bodies. Their chests even turn a bright red if you chop them many times!
Taking a cue from EA’s Fight Night series, the game has no heads-up display. Apart from a momentum bar below the wrestler’s feet, you now have to rely on visual cues to know when your opponent is suffering. This includes the aforementioned cuts and bruises on the wrestlers’ bodies and the time it takes for a wrestler to get up after getting knocked down.
One thing this game thrives on where others have failed is the overall presentation – little touches such as the WWE live logo at the bottom of the screen at the start of bouts, to even including the copyright information at the end of a match. There are also new camera angles during gameplay and entrances. The small attention to detail makes it seem as if you’re actually watching WWE on television.
Although there have been many improvements in other areas of this game, it’s the in-game commentary that’s still lacking. It has not changed since the 2006 edition, as most of the dialogue has been recycled since then. Seriously, it shouldn’t be too difficult to record some new material.
Amazingly, for the first time in the series, there’s a tutorial mode. Finally, there’s a chance for beginners to learn the complexity of countering and chain wrestling amongst many other disciplines. There’s even a checklist for you to view to see which moves you haven’t learnt yet.
Arguably, the best new feature in the game is the Story Editor. Just like the soap opera that is pro wrestling, it is here you can create your own storylines and match-ups. The possibilities of this mode are endless and feature many humorous scenarios; you can even plug in your own USB keyboard to type in the dialogue. This was a nice touch, as it’s very fiddly trying to use the onscreen keyboard.
Road to Wrestlemania makes a welcome return, with all-new storylines and wrestlers to choose from. Also returning is the popular highlight reel mode, although you still have to add your own audio to video clips, which can be a chore.
It really caught me by surprise how much of an improvement this game is compared with previous editions. The graphics are more realistic and the gameplay mechanics feel much smoother and fluid. The game has had a real makeover when it comes to presentation. It may not be the greatest game ever made, as Matt Stryker suggested, but it’s definitely the best wrestling game to come out in many years. A must-have for any armchair grappler.