By Darren Wood
It’s that time of year again when we welcome another instalment of THQ’s long standing professional wrestling video game series, this time in the form of Smackdown Vs Raw 2011.
Rather than make massive changes to the game overall it seems THQ have been happy to just expand on last year’s version, this iteration of the game sees a roster that boats over 70 WWE superstars, divas and legends. Plus a new mode called WWE Universe and an improved version of the Road to Wrestlemania mode.
Let’s start with the new WWE Universe mode shall we? This is kind of like the old GM mode that used to be in previous instalments of the franchise, basically the game runs through a calendar year of Raw, SmackDown, Superstars and pay-per-view events and you have the chance to book the shows. The matches booked on the shows automatically create rivalries within the WWE Universe. The game plans cards based on rivalries and rankings, if you don’t like the card you change it. It’s your universe.
Like GM mode previously, superstars cannot just be entered into a world title match, these shots are earned by climbing the rankings and becoming number one contender. If you want a superstar to become world champion, you can make it happen by playing as that character and winning matches thus climbing up the rankings ladder.
The game throws in cut scenes for rivalries and storylines every now and then, which can be really interesting. It is basically like a never ending GM and career mode all in one, tracking everything from feuds, match winners and Royal Rumble victors plus more. There is no doubt that the WWE Universe mode is very intriguing and will have fans playing for hours.
Road to WrestleMania is back, with 5 characters to choose from and now allows you to wander backstage. While this is intriguing and can lead to all different types of matches and storylines it was kind of annoying having to run about everywhere backstage especially when the controls are very clunky. The superstars are all voiced which is great, just don’t look at their mouths though, which are badly lip synced.
The free roaming backstage can get very annoying though as sometimes matches can only start once you interact with someone but there are some great storylines to be played in the Road to Wrestlemania mod, I mean who wouldn’t want to try and end The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania?
The presentation is still unbelievably good, at times truly feeling like I could have been watching what I was seeing on TV. The WWE HD logo stays on screen throughout every match just like on TV, adding a sense of realism to the game.
A nice addition this year is the havoc physics system, if you toss your opponent towards steal steps he will bump into them as he should. You can now also lean ladders on each other and tables smash according to where you place opponents through it. The havoc physics are definitely helping to deliver a more true to life WWE game. OK so sometimes weapons on the floor don’t move when you want to run past them but havoc physics still add a nice touch of realism to matches.
While controls are largely as you would expect there are a couple of nice additions namely you can hit a finisher whenever your character is ready, no need to only hit it when your opponent is in a groggy state.
The fact that you can now chain wrestle a lot easier is interesting and can lead to a number of exchanges. But the biggest change (and one that may annoy a few of you out there) is the fact that there’s no longer a strong modifier for grapples. Now, the game will read how damaged your opponent is and scale your attacks based on that, so you find matches mostly starting with arm bars or the equivalent. This can be irritating sometimes as you find matches starting the same but once the opening of a match is done I found them to be great and really entertaining because reversing moves is a lot easier and therefore creates a more back and forth encounter.
Finally for all you online video gamers out there, the online section of the game has been improved as you can now take part in any match you desire. Also royal rumble is now online letting 12 players go at it. Ok so only six of them can participate at any one time but the others can be spectators and even play mini games while waiting.
Overall I have to say that while some people may just see this year’s instalment of Smackdown vs Raw as a rehashed, fixed up version of the 2010 edition of the game. I found the unpredictability of the WWE Universe mode and the havoc physics highly entertaining (plus the fact that the Hell in a Cell match is even more brutal this year due to its size being bigger and weapons under the ring) and while there are some minor annoyances due to lip syncing and free roaming, there is also plenty in the game to keep fans of the Smackdown vs Raw franchise happy.
Published by: THQ
Release Date: US: October 28th 2010, Europe: 29th October 2010, Australia: October 28th 2010
Available On: iPhone, Playstation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Xbox 360, iPad