27th November 2011 - Can you smell what THQ is cooking? That’s right; another year, another wrestling title, with more eager little Jimmy’s rushing out in hopes of finally having something that tops No Mercy. And for the most part THQ and the WWE really hit the peoples elbow on this one, there is however a certain mode you will read about that has left me feeling like I just ate Mr Socko and that’s not cool.
*Disclaimer* non-wrestling fans will be confused by the numerous puns thrown into this review. I’m sorry guys ;)
First thing you will instantly notice when you start playing your first match, is that the control scheme has gone back a few years in style... And there is a lack of actual tutorial showing new players how to use it. The old games used to always have that “special” tutorial match you could play and get walked through the new controls. Not WWE ‘12. All it offers you is a simple “word document” style tutorial, Its ok for the veterans as they will be thrown back to the WWF Attitude/Warzone era with the control setup, but those who have only been around for the last few games might feel a bit lost after relying on the right stick for so long.
However, onto mode which left that foul taste in my mouth - “Road to Wrestlemania”, which for those unfamiliar with the WWE games is the wrestling version of a Campaign mode. Now most will remember the previous Road to Wrestlemania incarnations let players pick 1 of 5 wrestlers and play their story normally for 12months game time. This one is a little different and was the first disappointment I found with the new RTWM. You don’t pick who you wish to be, instead being thrown into the shoes of the Superstar THQ have selected for you to start with and unlock each story as you go. A lot of the control is taken away from you during the actual matches as well, it’s less now about beating your opponent and going for the 3 and more about beating your opponent while waiting for the next cut scene. In just one match I was interrupted by around 7 cut scenes, and each one pretty much went against the progress of the match.
The saving grace is really the WWE Universe mode, a mix between a General Manager mode and a straight out exhibition mode. This is where I think you will find yourself spending most of your time. You have the Raw brand and the Smackdown brands both present as well as the monthly PPV’s and the weekly joint show “Superstars HD”. You can wrestle every match you see or just pick and choose. Either way, you will find yourself wanting to boost your favourite to the Wrestlemania main event while making sure someone else doesn’t get up a win. With old favourite matches like the Elimination Chamber, Hell in a Cell and the standard play by the rules matches, WWE Universe and the exhibition modes will be where you spend your time inside WWE ‘12.
WWE ‘12, like most wrestling games has a massive variety of customisation options to play with; you can create the next Stone Cold Steve Austin, design the next power bomb finish and even go as far as creating the arena design. (SpongeBob ring? Yes sir!) And once done creating your pride and joy, you can upload them to the online community and share them with the world and your friends, or check out what someone else has designed and import it into your own game. The customization alone can keep you entertained for hours.
Another feature of the previous Smackdown vs. Raw games that THQ has just never gotten right (at least for those of us outside the USA) was the online play. The idea is awesome; Pick a wrestler, challenge a mate from down the road or a random from overseas… and beat on each other until someone can’t get up. They just never got that right however, the lag meant whoever hosted the match could hit 3 bookends on you before could even walk down the ramp. At the time of writing this, the developers were still working on fixing the online issues so it’s hard to really judge it knowing they have acknowledged the problems and are keeping the fans up to date on the fixes.
I spent about an hour playing a few private games against AAG’s “GO BAYS” and in the course of one match we would encounter possibly 5 or 6 moments where the game paused itself while the lag was corrected. It gets annoying but at the same time I would much rather it be done that way, than have one of us lag while the other hits a killer combo. Lag issues aside, the online mode was fun and we both had a good laugh while belting each other around with steel chairs. (For the record, Go Bays did not win a single match. My streak continues!)
Graphics in wrestling games are never anything to write home about, but in WWE ‘12 they have improved on the previous title greatly, sure it’s no Uncharted but at the same time I imagine it would be hard for the developers to include cinema quality graphics and still allow over 1000 moves/animations to flow so smoothly. The entrances look good and while still obviously a game, they do a good job of making each superstar’s entrance unique and closer to the real thing than ever before.
All your favourite WWE superstars’ theme songs are here, from CM Punks "Cult of Personality" and John Cenas “The time is now” all the way down to Evan Bourne’s “Born to Win “And Zack Ryders “Oh Radio”. The crowd is loud and clear and with a nice surround setup, the boo’s and cheers’ throw you and your couch right into that squared circle. Bundle that in with the almost always smooth play by play commentary and the audio aspect of WWE ‘12 is –as the Miz would say – AWESOMMEEEEEE!
If you are one of those “finish the campaign, trade it in” kind of people, then this game has little-to-no value to you and shouldn’t be on your to-buy list. But for the diehard wrestling fan that will compete in 300 elimination champers and create every wrestler you ever imagined, WWE ‘12 is worth every cent you pay for it and will remain in your collection for a long time yet. After all, who doesn’t like pulling out 4 controllers and playing some couch multiplayer with your mates inside a steel cage?
This was a really hard game to actually review properly; So many aspects of it stood out and looked/played awesome. But the Road to Wrestlemania mode, while only a small fraction of this game, left a bad enough taste in my mouth that no matter how much I enjoyed the other modes… the memories of that terrible, terrible career mode just kept coming back to haunt me. They say to never judge a book by its cover, well if you’re one of those people who always boot up the Career mode first… don’t judge this game by that cover, give the rest of the modes a solid play through. After all, Career mode in these games generally only ever takes up a few hours of your time before you are setting up your own matches and having fun with mates.
This would have been a 9 for me but the RTWM mode has left a foul taste and along with the lag issues online has knocked the game as a whole down. THQ please fix the career next year gives us back some choice!
+ Big customisation improvements
+ WWE Universe mode is more engaging than ever
+ Good multiplayer features
+ Lots of fan service
- Disappointing RTWM Mode
- Thoughtless learning curve – intimidating to newcomers
- Lack of new match/mode options
- Laggy/Buggy online matches
Reviewed and Written By Will Muscat