Enjoy a greater level of interactivity and control as the Road to WrestleMania story-driven mode returns with major updates and new storylines. This year, you will have the ability to freely roam through locker room areas, select opponents, break into impromptu matches and fulfill destiny based on your choices. This is your moment!

If you're just joining us, Road to WrestleMania is SVR's set-story portion of the series. Here, you choose one from a handful of Superstars, and live the lead-up to WrestleMania as that wrestler. In the past, this was a very linear experience where you'd get a cutscene, play a match, get a cutscene, play a match and so on.

That changes this year.

In WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011, you set out on a Superstar's life, but you live it like never before. Now, you wander the backstage area and interact with other Superstars. Mini-quests pop up, fights break out, you talk to the commissioner, and so on. If that kind of exploring isn't your thing, you can just walk to the story objective on your mini-map and keep the tale rolling – it's your choice. You need to make decisions about whom you align yourself with, too, and that will lead to different endings and story segments.

As you play through this mode the matches will become increasingly more difficult as you get towards the end of the superstars story and that is where the superstar points that you earn from doing things in this mode will come into play, allowing you to upgrade your superstar in terms of endurance, durability, technical prowess, and more. With each story lasting around eight hours a piece if you complete everything in them I guarantee you this is one mode you are going to be playing for a good long while to get through everyones story and get everything unlocked. When you're ready to walk out to your match or to cut your in-ring promo, you switch to a first-person view and walk into the gorilla position on the backstage side of the entrance.

 

This year’s edition of the Road to Wrestlemania mode includes 5 separate scenarios for gamers to play out: vs. The Undertaker, John Cena, Christian, Chris Jericho, and Rey Mysterio. The vs. Undertaker’s story is a little more expansive than the others as you can choose from 5 different versions of his story which determines who his feud(s) will focus on; you can choose between four pre-determined characters (Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, John Morrison and R-Truth) and your created character, and set off to break The Phenom's undefeated streak.

Sounds cool, right? New stories, free roaming and a touch of RPG mechanics are nice additions. Here's where I think the division between players is going to come – the mechanics of all this are very Japanese. If you were a casual videogame player, you might have no idea that this professional wrestling game based on the most popular brand in America is developed over in Japan because the game captures the WWE so well. However, when you start interacting with folks backstage in Road to Wrestlemania, the animations, environments and aesthetics feel very foreign.

Take Rey's story for instance. It starts with the Superstar getting into a car accident and then having to pick which of his rescuers he sides with (Branching stories FTW!), but then the first thing he walks in on is a garbage can on fire and two Diva's freaking out. When he starts talking to one of the ladies (everything's voiced in this mode), the girl holds her hands to her face and shakes her head left and right – overacting in a very JRPG way. When you talk to other wrestlers, bodies stand rigidly while mouths randomly open and close like robots. Walls and halls are sparsely populated with props.

Basically, this isn't the photo realistic backstage you know. It's not going to immerse you in the experience even though you get to choose who you talk to and who you tussle with. Is it a big deal? I don't think so after this early look. You're still getting the polished stories and cutscenes you expect from the mode, so the side quests and options backstage are just icing on the cake. They're not perfect, but their quirk is kind of their charm.

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