THQ’s annual release of Smackdown vs. Raw continues on the road to Wrestlemania with its strongest release in years. In the ten years I’ve been playing WWE Smackdown, it finally feels like Yukes has found that vigour they had back in the day. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 has arrived and it’s stunning! It is time you renew your faith in the series, lace up those boots and jump into the ring.
Over the last few years the WWE Smackdown series has been tiring to find itself which was lost in the translation when the new consoles launched. Almost every old-schooler like me will testify that the original PS2 days can not be matched when it comes to the Smackdown series. Wrestling fans are a fickle bunch and rather than listen to all the sycophant parasites (the fans) complain for another year, Yukes has decided to put the power in our hands. So at least when the complaints start, Yukes can point the finger back at us.
The Showcase of Immortals
'The Road to Wrestlemania', the biggest improvement in last year’s game makes a return in WWE SVR 2010. For those who didn’t pick up last years edition this Smackdown's version of a story mode. This leads one, or two (co-op) players through a branching storyline filled with all the drama you see in the televised product. Last year we had the pleasure of hitting the road with Triple H, CM Punk, The Undertaker, John Cena, Chris Jerhico, and Ray Mysterio & Batista (co-op), and this year The Road to Wrestlemania (TRTWM) has a diva driven story line for the first-time staring Mickie James, and another first-timer story that has to be completed with a created wrestler (CAW). The rest of the road follows new plotlines with Edge, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, and Triple H & John Cena (co-op) called “Brand Warfare”. Like last year, TRTWM can be very entertaining and even more cleverer then the current product it’s emulating (minus the entire win under 3minute stipulations). This mode is also used as a method to unlock new in-game content like alternative outfits, and new wrestlers.
Create Your Own WWE Universe
During the Road to Wrestlemania you might think, “wouldn’t it be cool if....”, or “I think they should have done this...” well now you can stop complaining about how similar the Mickie James and Natayla storyline is to Trish and Mickie's and create your own. One of the man creative features in SVR2010 is the ability to create your own storyline and develop it like your own Road to Wrestlemania mission. Once you're done you can play through it and even share it with the entire Smackdown community online via the file share system. If you can upload it that also means you can download, so expect to be really busy testing out other user-generated content. This makes SVR2010 a valuable game for all those love to explore the internet forums and troll for made up storylines. The ability to post and download new storylines should be enough to keep Smackdown running in your system for another year.
Creating a story is fairly straightforward and is set up through a calendar system where you schedule events or matches on each day. The scenes can get pretty involved from moving the camera into the perfect position or playing with the cast members facial emotions during a cut scene. Words can be added and thankfully you can use a USB keyboard to help type out those WWE stories. For the matches you can decide what matches you want to have with the freedom to attach different stipulations. This makes created games a little more interesting because the author doesn’t have to stick with one wrestler like in the RTWM. I’ve downloaded a few created stories and most of them where alright, it’s always interesting to see what other fans dream up. The only downfall to these stores compared to the RTWM is that you are loosing the voice-overs and unlockables.
The other content you can upload to the Smackdown network is created superstars. Like the storylines, create-a-wrestler websites are on the loose and it’s a popular source of creativity in the Smackdown games. (I should know... I used to run one). Now thanks to Yuke's new server you can share your created characters online. This is something that Yuke’s should have implemented years ago, however without complaining, I'm glad it's here now. The caws online can be viewed and downloaded and have a star rating system attached to them, so you can search out the top rated content on the network. The file sharing system is fairly quick and is going to save gamers a lot of hours away from the editor. Expect to see a who’s who’s list of wrestlers that aren’t currently in the WWE product. That means all your favourites who didn’t make into the game and others from dream-matches fandom will be found.
In SVR 2010 the create-a-superstar has been remodelled with more parts, a new paint tool and a general upgrade to the graphics. Like always there are thousands of combinations you can compile, however the point system that is given to the character is a little limiting. I’m sure this is a technical issue to keep the game running smooth for both online and offline play. The new paint tool lets you add your own unique logos, tattoos and other designs into your characters creation. The spread on the designs are limited between 128x128 or 256x256 pixels with the ability to move them around at will. This new paint tool along with the updated graphics helps brings out a new level of authenticity in your CAWs.
Faster than a Hiccup
Speaking about Smackdown’s smoothness, SVR2010 is the smoothest and fastest loading Smackdown game ever made. In between matches and cut-scenes hardly have any load times which is a miracle given the problems in the past. I was floored when I could jump right off the new innovative menu into each mode and through a career with minimal load times. I’m not sure what Yuke’s did to improve this problem, but SVR2010 has turned from the turtle into the hare. Quick loading helps keep the presentation up seeming like the televised show. The graphics like the Championship belts flashing before the matches has been touched up and everything seems to look a little better continuity wise.
What-chu Looking At?
The rest of the graphics are the normal mix of great looking characters to some sketchy ones. Facial detail and animation is still a big problem in the series and since the rest of the game is shaping up you start to focus on the games other flaws. Aside from a few mashed up faces, SVR2010 adds a good number of new moves, improved counter animations and improved animations of existing moves. The in-ring action seems more natural to watch and numerous matches with one wrester don’t get as boring as before. The analog grappling system is still in play which has grown on me over the years. Thankfully Yuke’s didn’t mess around with the controls this year, so there is no need to relearn a whole new system. Actually if anything Yuke’s has streamlined the controls by slimming reversals down to one button (thank you).
In a new twist the Havok physics engine has been implemented into Smackdown for the first time and it's easily notable, especially with the ring ropes that wobble all around little rubber bands. All is not good with the new “rubbery” ropes because they make the action to look extremely ridiculous, it's a little too much. Characters can get easily tangled up in them and drag them around into the ring or get unnaturally stuck for a brief second. It’s obvious Yuke’s needs to tool around with the Havoc physics a little more and I’m sure the next Smackdown game will have these wild ring-ropers under control.
The good part to the Havok is the use of blood which is more realistic and will properly drip from the wound spreading all over your character and your opponent. Being cracked open never looked so cool and this also ads a new level of realism. Continuing on this trend is the physical wear on each characters body. By working a part of the body it can become discoloured, like chops turning a wrestler’s chest red, or limping when the leg has been abused. Watching someone like Michaels deliver a few solid chops to make his opponent red with pain is a step in the right direction and works wonderfully without the hud. Like a good number of other fighting sports games (UFC, Fight Night)this is the way of the future and I’m glad to see Yuke’s embrace it.
You Make the Rules
The rest of Smackdown vs. Raw plays like a Smackdown game. You have over 60 wrestlers with an all-time high of wrestlers that are still employed by the WWE. There are a lot of unlockable wrestlers and a few new faces to the Smackdown vs. Raw roster. For those who follow the shows and want to mirror the current champions, or face/heel status this can all be set up like before. New to this SVR2010 is a rival system where you can scale each wrestlers rivals and allies. Doing so will ensure a more realalistic career mode with the proper people interfearing in your match or standing by your side. This system helps the game stay current with the real product, so you don't have any misshaps.
New and Improved
Most of the matches types are included with the new addition of the Championship Scramble (5-10-20 minutes) and a reworked Royal Rumble. The Rumble match is has been improved with button pressing mini-games launching when you want to eliminate someone from the ring. There are a number of new ways to get into that situation (middle, corner, bottom rope eliminations) which feels realistic and is no longer an exercise in frustration. This new system also allows you to properly gang op on someone to throw them out, add this with a bunch of new animations for ring-outs, and entrances, and the Rumble has turned into a mode you will now want to play.
It seems like Yuke’s is finally starting to understand exactly what the WWE gamer wants out of their wrestling game as WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2010 introduces a number of changes and improvements fans have wanted for years. The main feature that will have you taking notice to SVR2010 is the support of user created content and the ability to share characters, logos and storylines online. All the complaining should quite down as the fans can build upon the community by creating new and interesting content for the rest of the year.
On top of this new revelation the load times and presentation has been improved 100% making the game look closer to the televised product. Continuing SVR2010 has added a number of well-rounded improvements in the Royal Rumble match, and the characters animations that uses the Havok physics engine which adds another touch of realism with accurate real-time physical wear showing in matches.
Like each annual release features seem to come and go, but we hope the changes made in SVR2010 are here to stay. WWE Fans there is no question that SVR2010 is a worth your purchase, this could be the Smackdown game you have always been waiting for, and for all those who have been scared off of the WWE Smackdown series since it debuted on the next-generation consoles, SVR2010 could be the one to you out of retirement and back into the squared circle. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 might not be the ultimate showcase of the immortals, but it is the best next-generation Smackdown game produced.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 10.26.09