lauantai 26. maaliskuuta 2011

REVIEW - WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 (2009)

GENRE(S): Sports / Fighting
RELEASED: October 2009

We've come to the end of an era. I am still very interested in professional wrestling history, but nothing that has happened during the last year and a half. About exactly a year and a half ago, I bought the very last professional wrestling game I will probably ever buy. I would very much like to think buying it was just a bad habit of mine - the last three games in the SmackDown vs. Raw series had disappointed me on some level. Well, I had some extra money, I necessarily wanted to buy a new PS3 game, and this one just called out to me. I knew back then, that if I did buy it, it was going to be the last wrestling game for me. Not a bad way to put an end to a cycle - WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 was the best wrestling game released in four years. There's no easy way to put its greatness into words, but its only true downside can easily be explained: there's no challenge to it besides the usual learning curve.

Maybe not fresh, yet certainly solid

As far as the visuals go, I think the game looks a lot more at home on the PlayStation 3 than the previous game did. I think that here they finally drew a clear line between the PS2 and PS3 versions. The mo-cap technology and the physics engine work wonders; for the first time I feel like I'm really watching wrestling instead of playing a game. Created superstars look better than ever - again, for the first time, it's possible to create a wrestler or Diva that really look like they belong in the game. Finally, I have nothing to complain about when it comes to the commentary. During Road to WrestleMania, both teams are on the mark all of the time and discuss things that actually have happened during the storyline, instead of repeating generic lines about how their show is better than the other one and cracking cheap jokes on each other. Even during exhibition, they make comments about the arena - there's a difference between having a match at Summerslam or SmackDown! - and they have a wide array of different comments in store for all wrestlers in the game. Finally they had some interest in making the commentary sound real.

After 11 years in the virtual wrestling business,
Crane's retiring.
There are only six songs on the soundtrack, by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sick Puppies, Trivium and Adelitas Way, and two songs by Skillet. Great songs, all of them, and there's no space for repetition since they play on constant shuffle clamped together with the wrestlers' theme songs. Like in the 2009 edition, you can convert any song on your PS3 hard drive into your created superstar's theme, and this time it doesn't glitch at all, and it mixes in perfectly. I chose "Victorious March" by the Swedish death metal band Amon Amarth as Crane's theme song, and it's perfect. So's my entrance - I haven't had this much fun creating a superstar in any wrestling game, the editor is absolutely seamless; albeit a bit limited in terms of the amount of layers you can slap on 'em. You can also create an entrance video and your own logos. Awesome.

This is the final review of a WWE game I'll probably ever write. Not the last review of a wrestling game, but the last review of a game in the most important wrestling game franchise ever. I've had a long trip from 1989 to 2009, and I must say I'm even a bit surprised how I reacted to some games that I used to like a lot, such as WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007. Unoriginality has plagued the last few games. There's always been these one or two gimmicks to all of the games released since Here Comes the Pain. In the case of 2006, it was the immersive GM Mode, which was such a huge part of the gameplay experience that it left a mark. None of the games that came after had anything that big. Well, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 has nothing. It's a shameless update to all the working formulas from the past. Seriously, it has nothing really new - as in a feature that is hyped to high hell, but either it doesn't work, or it really isn't an essential part of the game. If you are interested in going deeper into the game, past the Career Mode and Road to WrestleMania, both of which were already in the last iteration, there is Story Designer. It isn't forced upon you in any way; however, depending on your skills and patience, you might find it the most intriguing feature in a WWE game ever. More about that later, let's check out the usual basics.

Captain Charisma's come home!
We start off with a roster of 44 male wrestlers, 11 WWE Divas, and one non-playable "manager" in the returning Hornswoggle. In addition, Ezekiel Jackson, Eve Torres and Jesse are unlockable members of the standard roster, we have five WWE Legends including Bob Orton, Dusty Rhodes, Vince McMahon, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, and FFFFFFIIIIINALLY (well, not really since he only missed 2009) the most electrifying man in all of entertainment, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Oh yeah, and the first female WWE Legend ever, the queen of all modern Divas, Trish smokin' hot Stratus. Quite a crew, I'd say, and I love it. Stone Cold Steve Austin remained the only downloadable superstar right up until the end of the game's lifespan, and to my knowledge, he was only available via pre-order. What a shame; I guess the game didn't sell well enough for the developers to put a little extra effort into the DLC. Oh well, I personally think I can live without Sheamus or Drew McIntyre. The Royal Rumble has once again gone through some nice changes, and Championship Scramble shines as the game's most important new match type. Notable success of certain fashion in both matches results in Trophies, more about that later.

Career Mode from the previous game is brought back as a slightly improved version. It's still kind of boring. To those who haven't played the previous game, let me explain it as briefly as I can: you take a superstar, preferrably your own creation, and contend for every championship in the WWE, with the ultimate goal of becoming a WWE Hall of Famer. Unlike in WWF Raw for the PC and Xbox all those years ago, you can't win the Women's Championship as a male wrestler, though - sorry if that disappointed someone. This wasn't my favourite gameplay mode in 2009, and it still isn't. My favourite mode in 2009 was Road to WrestleMania, and it still is.

No one wants to be in the ring with Taker.
Road to WrestleMania is a three-month storyline for a specific superstar. This year Edge, Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton have their own Roads as single competitors. Edge behaves like an ass, Shawn Michaels behaves like a true showstopper, and Randy Orton is one mentally disturbed monkey. In other words, Road to WrestleMania is as real as a WWE game can get when it comes to storytelling. Oh, but there's more - there's also a storyline written specifically for any created male superstar, a Diva storyline for Mickie James, and a co-operative storyline for Triple H and John Cena. All of the storylines are extremely linear; if you lose a match you shouldn't, you are forced to retry - if you don't, it's the end of the road. What the storylines lack in liberties apart from a few tiny branches, they pay back with a level of realism never seen before, not even the Roads in 2009. Certain matches have bonus objectives; nailing them results in unlocked goodies. These objectives range from performing two finishers during one match, to winning in a given time.

OK, you've done it all. You played through all game modes, the Career and all the Roads to WrestleMania. You unlocked everything. What's left? The Story Designer. So what's that about? What's so special about it? Well... I believe you remember a game called Here Comes the Pain. What if I told you, that you can use the Story Designer to create your own season in the vein of Here Comes the Pain? I am sincerely not kidding here. If you have the skill, and the patience, you can certainly do that. Not only can you make weekly programs like you could in the GM Modes of the past, you can also spice your programming up with handmade cutscenes and promos, write dialogue for them and make a devastating bunch of dream rivalries that never happened. For example, I created half a season of Raw, then I hit a writer's block, so to say. Anyway, my season began with John Cena coming out as a heel and telling how he's beaten everyone who was ever anyone - in my own alternative reality, he had just beaten Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania. He berated former champions and then made a deadly mistake of calling himself "the new people's champion". If there's one individual who hates it when people declare themselves "people's champions", it's The Rock. So, The Rock returns to Raw, beats the shit out of John Cena and ignites my main rivalry for the next three whole months. Awesome.

The Story Designer is not quite as exciting as GM Mode was at its best, since it's no manager sim, it's simply your sandbox and there are no rewards for completing a season. This is not a totally bad thing, since who knows of all of its possibilities? Of course there's a limit to how many matches and cutscenes you can have, but I believe that limit's pretty fair since I already have fully scheduled shows to last me six in-game months and a lot to go in the meter. Where are the last six months, you ask? Blame the Platinum Trophy.

This reminds me: you can create aerial finishers.
It's either really easy, or I've just played wrestling games a tad too much. This game only has 26 Trophies, from which you can get four or five in the first ten minutes. Platting the whole game takes just a few days from a veteran such as myself, and what's left in a game after getting all Trophies and Achievements these days? Nothing, I tell you. It just doesn't feel the same anymore. I'd say the only really difficult Trophy is Royal Rumble Specialist (Gold), which requires you to enter the Royal Rumble as the #1 entrant and win the match. You already did it on Legend difficulty as a Hall of Fame challenge in 2008, so it shouldn't be much of a problem, right? About the value of the Trophies: there are five Golds, 15 Silvers, only five Bronzes, plus the Platinum. So, a game for Whores? Unfortunately, yes.

It may have no substantial new features apart from the Story Designer which some will surely find extremely intriguing, but WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is a solid, extremely playable game with just about the best controls you can demand from a wrestling game, all of the greatest features of a few of its predecessors, and incredible atmosphere. It may not have the longest lasting appeal ever, but every minute of it is better than any minute spent on 2008 or 2009.

SOUND : 9.0


GameRankings: 73.29% (DS), 76.00% (PS2), 80.60% (PS3), 71.00% (PSP), 79.00% (Wii), 81.28% (X360)

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