WWE SmackDown Vs. Raw 2010 Review

Posted by Grey Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A return to form for the one true king of wrestling game in its eleventh coming. The King was never dead, just unchallenged, but what the hell, Long Live the King!

WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010
Developed by: Yuke's (PS3/Xbox 360)/ TOSE (Wii)
Published by: THQ
Platforms available on: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360,
Released Date: October 20th, 2009
Genre: Wrestling, Fighting
Rating content: ESRB: T (Teen) / PEGI: 16+ Blood, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence

Since the release of WWF Smackdown! for Playstation One in 2000, the WWE Smackdown series had grown into a surprise evergreen gaming series, not unlike EA's best-selling FIFA series or Nintendo's neverending Pokémon series in the way that you can always count on getting the latest version to hit the stores. "Surprise"? In retrospective, it is indeed surprising to see how professional wrestling had evolved from the nineties, along with its accompanying game, to a different cultural status in modern pop culture. And if you ever find yourself puzzled with the level of focus WWE had indulged towards the promotion of the game, you can probably better understand how the game series had actually benefited the parent company themselves in opening up newer and younger demographics.

Being the eleventh outing in nine years, WWE SmackDown Vs. Raw 2010, come bearing the unenviable responsibility of moving on with the same formula yet pressured with the game critic's call for evolution to the tried and very much true format. Over the years, we have seen "improvements" such as the introduction of Bras & Panty Match, the Road To Wrestlemania Story Mode and the strangely awkward General Manager Mode. Being big fans of the series since inception, it sure is a relief to state here that this latest incarnation is not just better than its predecessor, it is better than all its predecessors and stand proudly on the pinnacle of wrestling game, and right besides its fellow compatriots on the land of great fighting games. All the trials and tribulations testing out the new ideas had finally culminated into the ultimate wrestling game.

While I will be the first to admit that the main concerns over the standards of the series are mainly contributed to the roster, which in fact, is not a problem that only the game series experienced but what WWE had been trying to resolve. While a state of the wrestling world address will be prerequisite for the new gamers on this topic and we are obviously not touching on that here, the rationale behind the lack of star power has been a well-known fact, especially with the release of the WWE Legends Of Wrestlemania last year, which naturally further justified WWE's stance to prevent overexposure of the "Legends". However, the latest installment get to display the fact that well-executed gameplay can indeed save the day.

For the new comers, WWE SmackDown Vs. Raw 2010, the latest outing in THQ's long-running annual wrestling series will be spotting a roster of 67 in-game Superstars and Divas on each console with the exception of the Nintendo DS version which features 30 superstars. The roster is then segregated into six classifications: Raw, SmackDown, ECW, WCW, legends and free agents. (For the full roster, please check the previous entry.)

The Road to WrestleMania story mode, warmly received amongst the game critic last year, is back with a vengeance, bringing another six character-specific storyline featuring a special Diva-based story with Mickie James and one specifically for one of the created wrestlers. As for the co-operative storyline this time round, Triple H and John Cena will be sharing the limelight. The other three stories will be featuring Edge, Shawn Michaels, and Randy Orton respectively. Each stories will take you through an approximately twelve weeks worth of WWE matches and cutscenes. Some nice touches on this mode would be the additional features where the game provides you the optional and mandatory goals to meet (for example, in the case of HBK, ensuring that both Randy Orton and JBL gets their chance to "listen" to the tune of "Sweet Chin Music" will unlock his alternate outift) along the Road to WrestleMania. Goals such as breaking your opponent up, jumping off the top of the steel cage, echoes the type of goals hardcore WWE fan would want to do anyway, and increased replay value and additional challenges to unlock characters, costumes and areas. The fact that the standards of the storyline has also noticeably improved over last year's efforts also add up to a more realistic and exciting experience.

On the topic of story modes, before moving on to the ground-breaking revolutionary new stuffs that is changing the face of good ol' "Career Mode", allow me to touch on another slightly off-topic, yet inherently related topic. We all know that the Smackdown series had the Create-A-Wrestler mode since the inaugural title was released in 2000. But are you one of the millions, pause, and millions of internet forum-lurking, CAW (abbreviation for Create-A-Wrestler) formulas sharing, wrestling hero creating, jabroni? Well, I am. My signature character, Jin "Tekken" Kazama, (from the eponymous Tekken series) has been gracing every single incarnation of Smackdown and is currently into its eleventh edition. And this time round, it will no longer be necessary for you to painstakingly take down the CAW formulas. All you have to do is proceed to the SVR server, browse around for a decent CAW, download them, along with their created moves, created entrance and created Highlight Reel (an improved feature that will be touched on later). If you are a creator like me, just create your CAW and upload it to the server. This time round, the forum is the game! And I have not even touch on the altogether overhauled CAW mode. THQ had earlier place an additional emphasis on creating 3D models for all the clothing and parts that is available for the player to pick and thereby resulting in authentic looking created wrestler that can stand toe to toe with the real deal (the actual Superstar) without that cheap knock-off feel you always had but won't admit to. There is a layer limit system for the create-a-superstar mode whereby each item is given a point value and the player is able to attach up to 48 points of items, with hair, pants. coats and etc. Up to three alternate attires can be created for each created wrestler. A new feature called the Paint Tool is also introduced in which players can create their own design to use as a logo or a tattoo for the created wrestler. On top of that, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 versions also featured a new mode called Superstar Threads which allows the player to also create three alternate attires for existing wrestlers in the game by customizing the colors of their attire. If you had been turned off creating wrestlers due to the relatively time-consuming loading time during the process, you might want to note that loading time of the menus has been tremendously shortened as compared to the previous iterations.

Building your created wrestler's attributes is also significantly different now. Player can even enter their created wrestler into matches as a computer-controlled character against a computer-controlled opponent and get to bank the points at the end of the match without involvement at all. An improvement over last year's mode would be that the player will be having the absolute liberty to apply the points to any attribute category they desired.

Another much-touted new addition to the game is the WWE Rivals feature, which allows the player to set superstars' allies and enemies which can be used to their advantage or disadvantage in exhibition matches with the inferference option on. As expected, setting one superstar as an enemy will increase the chances of this enemy for some run-in interference. The enemy will do their usual routine, including standing by the ring and breaking up pinfalls, using his or her finisher, or bringing the weapon. Likewise for the allies.

Back to the heavily evolved Highlight Reel features mentioned earlier, it is now a feature where you are able to record match moments (which will be automatically recorded and display to you after every match) and edit them into a Highlight Reel. For what purpose, you ask, other than the usual narcissistic purpose? Well, you can convert these created Highlight Reels into entrance movies for your created wrestlers. Meanwhile, an additional incentive for PlayStation 3 players would be the capability to upload their highlight reel videos directly onto YouTube.

But that is just scraping the surface of the online utilities available this year. The real gem of this installment had to be the WWE Story Designer mode. Hated WWE's occasional (okay, I admit, most of the time) lame-ass, outrageous writing? Try your hand on it then. A further evolution to the General Manager mode last seen in WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008, the player can now create storylines featuring Superstar or Divas from the holy WWE trinity of weekly shows, Raw, SmackDown, or ECW and set up pay-per-views with storylines, scenarios, and matches of their creations on calendars that can last for up to 10 years. How do you pull this off? By using a variety of preset options, with over 100 different scene animations (from cutting a promo in the ring to someone getting hit by a car) and 25 different locations to design each scene. The players will get to select whoever they want for the animation roles and the camera angles and music they preferred for the scene. And there's more. Elaborate designing options for scenarios included the ability to input whatever words you would like the Superstars/Divas to speak from your created script with the text appearing as the subtitles. Both the PS3 and 360 support USB keyboards for crafting your tales but do note that there is a limit to the number of characters that can appear in a scenario. Likewise to the General Manager mode in the previous series, the player can create storylines but this time they get to decide the longevity of the the storylines, the championship titles involved, the amount of superstars or Divas involved, and what takes place in the storylines. Match-making feature allows the player to set the match type or any available stipulation (you get to set up the health for individual parts of the body of a Superstar who got himself jumped backstage in a scene before a match) and winning conditions (run-in interference is fully up to you).

Both created superstars and actual WWE superstars and Divas can be integrated into the player's created storylines, scenarios, or matches. On the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, each storyline can feature up to 500 segments including 450 matches and 50 scenarios, while the Wii, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable versions have a limit of 55 segments. One setback to the mode would be the fact that created wrestlers only gets to have a maximum of ten appearances for technical reason (which is somewhat mystifying as Blu-ray disc had up to 25 GB per single layered). And guess what, all this control in creations of a potential ten years worth of storyline of WWE programming can be uploaded and (duh) downloaded by all players for free. This mindboggling amount of free contents to keep you busy on a game of this nearly infinite lifespan is a tremendous improvement in gaming itself. Every aspiring WWE writers would be trying their hands on this (I can even imagine Paul Heyman or Stephanie McMahon (the chief writer of WWE) giving a go on this too, pitching their latest ideas to Vince).

As mentioned in "The Daily Zombie Rating System And Review Policy for Gaming", Presentation had always played a big yet unnoticed part in modern gaming. With the amped-up efforts that can be noticed from the minor (like all endings of WWE's production, the ending of any match will brings with it the WWE copyright disclaimer banner displaying on the side) to the mild (long-time viewer of WWE will dig the fact that you will be getting the screen with the belt flashing around before the referee holds up the title when you are on a title match) to the more significant (much-improved loading times in general), the real improvement would be the removal of the old school HUD meter and the implementation of replacing it with a halo by the Superstar's feet. The blood mechanism also functions in a new manner where it behaves in an semi-fluid manner. It will flow from the forehead to the neck then to the chest and also affecting the player as well. Although the flowing movement of the blood will not be displayed directly and only skip from one state to the other in the thick of the actions, it still makes busting your opponent up more justifiable (not that it needs further justifying about, though). The presentation in general, has been greatly enhanced with all these small yet nice touches.

I don't know is it just me or that the grapple system went through some major overhaul as well but the grappling sure seemed smoother when executed. This was not reported in the earlier previews, if my memories served well. The increased number of grappling scenarios to execute special grapples on the sides of downed opponents probably contributed to that fact. Finally, the good old four strong grapples also made its much anticipated return, with players now able to switch between each grapples.

New match types are mandatory for all the series' annual entries. This year, Championship Scramble makes its debut. Setting preset intervals with the varieties of 5, 10 and 20 minutes until all five wrestlers are in the ring, the clock starts ticking until it expires. The last wrestler to score a pinfall or submission wins the match and gets crowned the champion of the desired title at stake here. It's really a weird stipulation to begin with, back when it was introduced at WWE's Unforgiven 2008 event, and in gaming terms, the same can be said.

Another new match type would be the Mixed Tag match and the Backstage Brawl match. Mixed Tag featured "girl and guy on girl and guy" tag action with an enforced stipulation that will turn off any potential wifebeater: When the girl tags in, don't think you will be having a good time messing her up as you will have to follow suit or face DQ and the theory applies for the guys as well. On the other hand, Backstage Brawl provides five battlefields besides the ring, providing objects along the way for your good old hardcore fun. An additional incentive for Nintendo DS would be the platform exclusive Ambulance match (given that it is silly match type which I don't give a damn anyway).

Match type mainstay, The Royal Rumble, known as Royal Pain for its complicated gameplay since the launch of the series remained as convoluted as ever though this time, it is positively so due to the drastic revamp. The mini-games will be coming in hard and fast with varied method for playing so that you won't get bored easily. Hated these mini-games, just like me? The introduction of finisher in Royal Rumble will get you pumped up then. One-hit-wonder move that can knock your opponents out of the ring when they are on the corner, ropes, etc. works just like the usual finisher. With 18 of these finisher to choose from (when creating moveset, you will be prompted to choose a Royal Rumble Finisher), ranging from Sweet Chin Music to the several alternate Codebreakers to throw your opponent out from the top rope, the Royal Rumble has indeed up its game.

The regular matches with every installment of the series operates the same way with some additional touches. For example, in the First Blood match, there are some specific moves that you can apply on your opponent's head to hasten the process of drawing the eponymous first blood (though Divas are still unable to participate in it). Other minor touches included: Matches involving hardwares (in short, Tables, Ladders and Chairs, etc) have characters wearing down in a more realistic manner; an additonal lighting is provided in the Ladder Match so you know the right spot to climb on; referees will be following the player around in the Falls Count Anywhere match.


The Rundown
After nine years and eleven installments, it would seemed that THQ has finally gotten their hands on just the right formula to, for lack of a better word, layeth the Smacketh Down, on the videogames. And they can only achieved this with the assistance from, millions, pause, and millions of SVR fans, who had been lurking around the online message forums, whining and ranting on ways to improve the franchise. Thus, what better way for a payback to these fans, by implementing the format, allowing the fans to share their created wrestlers, storylines or finishers online.

While I'll be the first to admit that I would love to see TNA providing the challenge by coming out with a sequel to the reasonably decent TNA Impact, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is undoubtedly the one wrestling game to rule them all. Without a shadow of a doubt.

The Good
- The WWE Story Designer mode is a godsend for any true wrestling game
- Significantly improved presentations with the shorter loading time, smart placement of the HUD, the emulation of the feel of the actual TV shows , etc
- The Road to WrestleMania remains a good play
- Great-looking characters, arenas, cut-scene and almost everything else
- Royal Rumble gameplay living up to the excitement of the source
- Solid creation tools for the CAS mode

The Bad
- Created wrestlers only gets to have a maximum of ten appearances in the WWE Story Designer mode
- The actions still experience some minor hiccup with occasional clipping and animation issues
- The much-hyped revamped Create A Finisher mode is in fact slightly enhanced, with some updates and the inclusion of aerial finishers

And The Rock?
Yes, both The Rock and Stone Cold will be featured in the game, with more Legends to be announced. Though it has been rumoured that Vince McMahon, Dusty Rhodes, Bob Orton Jr. and Ted DiBiase Sr are also amongst the unlockables. Then again, there's always the DLC factor with third-gen consoles.


For a more transparent understanding on the Game Reviews here in The Daily Zombies, please check out "The Daily Zombie Rating System And Review Policy for Gaming".


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