PG 1 | PG 2
Yuke's and THQ return with their 7th 'WWE Smackdown vs. Raw' title. Featuring a new 'WWE Universe' mode, an updated version of 'Road to Wrestlemania,' and a simpler control scheme, we're grapple with this grappler to see if 'WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011' can pin last years excellent effort.
Last year, Yuke's and THQ surprised us with one of best 'Smackdown' games from this generation. Finally it seemed like everything was falling into place. The new 'Road to Wrestlemania' formula continued to proved that it's a winner, and that new control scheme, finally started to click. With everything going so good, 'WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011' (WWE SVR11) promised to be the best WWE game to date, but then it happened, Yuke's started messing with its tried-and-true formula. Just like the WWE's creative team, you never know what you are going to get. I wonder, is Yuke's is trying to turn heel?
The Needlessly Long Road to Wrestlemania
For starters, not all has gone wrong, but a lot has changed, and it's not all for the better. Out of all the changes in 2011, the new “exploration” edition of the 'Road to Wrestlemania' is the worst. While some might like this new feature, it's just another recycled idea from the past. You see Yuke's has done away with the simple HUB like interface and dramatic cut-scene interactions for an arena adventure style game where you freely walk around to trigger the next event in the story. This isn't so bad when you look at it on paper. However, the execution of the entire mode is horrendous. Not only does it unnecessarily lengthen the experience, it highlights the blemishes in the graphics and audio production.
This "exploration" type mode wasn't too impressive when it debuted in 2002's 'WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth,' so I don't know why Yuke's has brought it back. In all honestly, it doesn't even look like it was improved since it was running on the PS2 hardware. It's actually a little embarrassing when you compare the smooth in-ring action. Furthermore, Yuke's wants us to simply accept this one arena as multiple locations as you roll into a new new city each week. This would be passable, or more acceptable if the original design was any good. Sadly, the main area is a bust.
At first I was a little excited to run around and bump into the rest of the roster backstage. However, when you see how it is handled you won't be overly thrilled. Interacting and conversing with other wrestlers boils down to either “talk” or “push.” Talking "may" start up a pre-made dialogue that you can't run away from (literally) and pushing will eventually leads to an even more pointless backstage fight. The only motivation to start a backstage brawl is earn more skill points (SP) that can be distributed to your character, but these are pointless as well. The whole system just screams 2002 and it's not the least bit interesting.
Until this year the 'Road to Wrestlemania' mode showed the most promise, but its seems to have taken a turn for the worse. While the story lines and scenarios work, getting to each spot feels like a big waste of time. Please give me back my old 'Road to Wrestlemania' and lets work on changing up some other areas. If it's not broke, don't fix it. This time around we will get some WWE drama revolving around Christian, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker's Wrestlemania streak, Rey Mysterio, and John Cena. Except for Christian, all these charactrs stared in the first 'Road to Wrestlemania' feature back in 'WWE SVR 2009.'
Smackdown's gone Automatic
Yuke's has also made an executive decision to make in the in-ring action even simpler. Dumbing things down isn't necessary a bad thing, something most wrestling fans are not. The modifications start with the exclusion of the strong and weak grapple commands. Now you will simply grapple, and the A.I. will determine which move your character will perform. This decision is based on direction you press on the analog stick and the condition of both you and your competitor, Removing the players ability to explicitly determine what move your are going to execute takes some fun out of the game, although, thanks to the smart A.I., it's not as bad as it sounds. If Yuke's wanted to go down this road, I would have proffered it with both heavy and weak grapples. Reserved, I finally excepted the change without too much hostility and I think most wrestling fans will too. The thanks really goes out to the exemplary scouting done from the Yuke's team to customize each wrestlers move set. Even with the loss of choice, matches rarely get stale.
While Yuke's has taken some choices away from your direct moves, the controls scheme has been expanded. Most noteworthy is the ability to perform more moves from the aprons' side or when your opponent is groggy. You can also move around your opponent when you're locked up, quickly switching between their back and front. This opens up some new strategies and improves the flow and likeness of the real deal. Expect to see a few springboard dropkicks coming you way. All together it seems like Yuke's has done their best to smooth over the in-ring action with this new control scheme, and you know what, it works.
It's "Havoc" in this Ring
The Havoc physics engine has also been tinkered with for the better. Objects can now be put against the ropes for more chaos in the ring. Each object also breaks in different spots when fallen into or break differently when used on the attack. It's not perfect by no means and still has too much of a bounce. However, more interaction is exactly what we want, even if TLC matches are total anarchy. On that note you can also interact with items like chairs by placing inbetween your opponents limbs for extra damage. These “hotspot” style interacts are really cool and make the in-ring action even more diverse. Beyond that you can also throw chairs at your opponents face, throw your opponents from ladders through tables and even set tables on fire! If Carlito was still on the roster, he would say... “now that's cool.”