In the past I have been accused of purposely leaving out the negatives of the game in my reviews. To be fair I don’t see that being the case but I will be doing something differently for this year I will start off with the issues I have found with the game in quick easy to digest bullet points.
1. Commentary is bad. Its not so much that the quality of its bad but the execution of it leaves a little to be desired especially compared to the work done on the UFC 2010 game in that area. Commentary in this years game lacks any real flow from moment to moment in the match. So instead of telling a story like real life WWE commentators attempt to do each week on TV programing your left with cut and paste sound bytes that may or may not fit the particular situation you find yourself in. For example, I was playing as John Cena defending the WWE title against Randy Orton at a PPV after Cena defeating Orton in a hard fought match Michael Cole said something along the lines of “If he fights like this on Sunday he will defend his title for sure.”
2. I know this was a big bullet point for this game but honestly the backstage areas in Road to Wrestlemania is executed badly. For one, the areas are huge and spread out which would normally be a great thing except if there really isn’t anyone backstage populating the areas. You basically have 6 other WWE Superstars hanging around backstage from which you can interact with in someway. Another issue I had with the mode was the camera used for the mode. I am not sure if its the way screen moves while you move your character or the fact that your character is too close to the screen but after only playing this mode for a brief time I did find myself a little queezy from motion sickness. I am a huge first person shooter fan and I play them all the time so its not that things like that effect me normally. The actual stories themselves are excellent and clearly a step up over previous years. Standouts this year is Christians and the Undertakers storyline. I found myself rushing to the arena entrance to proceed onto the next storyline element and match completely bypassing most if not all of the backstage segments.
3. Controls. While I am overall satisfied with the control changes that were made this year I do have 1 nitpick which may actually be my own fault. You see in previous years to pick up your opponent all you had to do is press the B button on the Xbox 360 controller. Now this year they changed it where you have to press the B button to pin and to press up on the right stick to pick up your opponent. I have lost count how many times I have went for a pin when all I wanted to do was pick them up from the prone position. On the other hand controls have been touched up and enhanced and it has been improved over last years game. While I mentioned some of the problems I have had with the new control scheme but overall the controls this year has improved over what we had last year. Controls do feel more intuitive and with the return of the tutorial you will find yourself putting a world of hurt on fools in no time.
4. I am not a huge create a superstar user. I mostly make maybe 1 or 2 CAS a year and last year I downloaded a ton of the many great CAS that was made by the community. I did notice that THQ removed the transparency option which does eliminate some functionality that was found in last years game. Perhaps there was a technical reason or perhaps it was just a simple oversight. But at any rate it is a noticeable loss. Also lost this year is several moves from the move list. In previous years, THQ’s Bryan Williams explained that moves were removed from the game because they simply didn’t match the quality of the other moves of the game. So they replaced those moves with new motion captured moves that matched the quality. This year however, there are several moves that were removed but no replacement to be found. Basic moves like the standard leg drop finisher or shining wizards or the buzz saw kick. Also missing this year is moves from the games biggest unlockable Rob Van Dam. Namely the split leg moonsault. Matt mentioned the move sets in his review and I have to agree with him on that regard. I will say though I really digged the improvements in the Superstar threads section. While it still doesn’t allow you to truly edit the in game WWE Superstars as much as you would like it does help make the game unique to each individual. I spent hours in this mode alone.
5. Lack of user created title matches in exhibition or WWE Universe. This would seem to me to be a no brainer for a wrestling game and the restriction placed on the gamers to play WWE Universe at a PPV to compete for a WWE Title is unwelcome and unfortunate.
Now with that all of the way I can get on with the rest of the review.
Graphics: Visually WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 is a stunning game. The character models are incredibly life like and even surprise the WWE Superstars themselves on how close they resemble the real life counter parts. Where this game is lacking is the framed animations which cause the game not to move as smoothly as it should. The new physics engine is a wonderful new feature this year and really does add a air of unpredictability to the game especially in the TLC and ladder match. Where human flesh and bones meet steel and wood with awesome results of destruction. The havok engine is the star of this years game and it adds a ton of fun to this years game.
Online has been given a complete overall this year and it truly has been improved over last years offering. While its not quite perfect with the lag but for the most part THQ and Yukes have nailed the online this year. The big inclusion this year is the online Royal Rumble which after playing a match online with 5 of my buddies I can safely say that it is a great experience. They have upped the player count to 6 year with up to 12 players playing online in the Royal Rumble. One thing that I noticed and was confirmed by THQ’s Marcus Stephenson is that during online play it is recommended that you watch the entrances completely without skipping because a lot of data and info is loaded at the beginning of the match and if you skip the entrances you will find the beginning of the match will start with lag. Also with the way THQ has improved the community sharing this year really shows the commitment by THQ to clearly listen to the fans feedback. This year creators will be able to share their create a superstars with the world and with the new ability to finally edit the download community creations this really puts the games online feature set over the top.
WWE Universe to me is the number one reason to buy this years game. I play a lot of single player exhibition matches and the ability to have some story line based moments to happen naturally during the game play that resulted from my actions earlier is a welcome and awesome new edition this year. While its not perfect, I would like see more variety of moments that happen during the course of playing the game but over all there more then enough times that the story elements that occurred made me mark out. More important than that is the future potential of this mode and I am very much looking forward to what THQ/Yukes can come up with next year.
Also this year the game features a huge 70+ roster with pretty much all of the current big names. While there are some exceptions with some of the more recently signed WWE Talent but with the promise of future DLC this game features most of the big names you see on weekly WWE TV. Speaking of DLC, this years game features a brand new focus on a extensive DLC campaign featuring WWE Legends like Lex Luger and the British Bulldog and current WWE talent like Nexus and Layla. Next year I would like to see THQ focus even more on expanding the longevity of the game with including more DLC than what is featured this year. Really the skies the limit in that regards.
Overall, this years game may not be the end all be all of wrestling games but what THQ has done has improved on last years game biggest faults. Regardless of what score I ultimately give this game those of you hardcore fans will buy the game regardless. But for those of you who are on the fence for this years game I highly recommend at the very least a rental to check out the awesome WWE Universe mode as well as the incredible new physics engine.
WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 Screenshots
Replay Value: 5
Overall: 4 Stars