WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2011
Posted 2 years ago By kingquagmire - David Collins
Yep, it’s that time of the year again. The time of leaves falling on the ground, cool evening breezes, the smell of fireplaces being lit up for the first time, and putting on the spandex again. It’s time for another edition of THQ’s successful Smackdown vs Raw franchise. For this year, tons of new additions have been brought to the table including an expanded Create mode, WWE Universe (the melding of the Exihibition and Career modes), more matches, etc... Those of you who saw my preview a couple of weeks ago know that the WWE Universe seemed to be shaping up really well. So how did everything else come out?
Pretty good if you ask me. The vast majority of the new hotness for this year is expanding upon the great foundation SvR 2010 laid out, although there are some features that really make this version stand out. While I personally don’t spend a lot of time messing around in the standard exhibition mode, those that do will be happy to see some new match types make their debut such as 1v1 Backstage fights, 2v2 Ladder Tornado Tags, and even 6-man Armageddon Hell in a Cell matches. And if you aren’t content with what Yukes has provided, the new Match Creator mode will allow for just about any set up you could possibly want.
Of course, the WWE isn’t about the matches. It’s the male equivalent of daytime soaps so it’s as much about the storylines and the experience as it is about the matches themselves. The real meat and potatoes of the single player component is the new WWE Universe. This mode takes all the exhibition and career goodness of previous games and compiles it with a living, breathing WWE schedule that will continue on forever (literally). The schedule follows three weekly programs (Raw, Superstars, and Smackdown) along with the monthly PPV events. The AI will dynamically track every move you make and apply it to the Universe. Rankings, matches, even player relationships will all be dynamically adjusted by the AI depending on how things play out.
This includes your own created character. They won’t jump right into title contention, but as matches are won, they will move right up the ranks, develop friendships, gain enemies, and eventually get a title shot at one of the PPVs. That’s a true story by the way, as my own sports entertainment behemoth - The Fasia - just gave John Cena the beating of his life last night and walked out of the ring as the WWE champ.
Anyway, even if someone wanted to approach the WWE Universe in a more managerial or GM role, they can. All the matches can be played out in real time by the AI or simulated for quick results. On top of that, every aspect can be overridden by the player. From the match participants to each Superstar’s individual brand and the make-up of the various tag teams, it’s all adjustable with the click of a button. The whole thing worked really well and kept my attention the vast majority of the time. My only complaint is the actual story elements themselves are a little thin. It’s a fabulous concept that I hope returns next year, just with the soap opera side a little more fleshed.
Road to Wrestlemania is back, only this time the backstage area is fully explorable. Featuring five different storylines to experience, players will slide into the boots of different Superstars like Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho; or take a run at The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak with the wrestler of their choosing (including created ones). The tales they tell are pretty cool to venture through, yet Road to Wrestlemania was still one of the weakest links in this steel cage’s chain. The backstage area is a great concept, but wow, it’s like a ghost town back there. These shows have full rosters and a huge production crew. Yet during my run through, I rarely saw more than half a dozen people in total. And the vast majority of them were there to simply fill the role of “brawl fodder” as most wanted nothing to do with me unless I picked a fight. There is an RPG-like feature where you can upgrade your Superstar’s move damage or damage resistance, but it was completely unbalanced. Having a total of 20 levels that can be applied across four attributes is great. But if I can’t get enough points to hit more than two levels by the end of the story, it not worth the effort.
The multiplayer has grown a bit too, allowing for pretty much all the match types to be played online. Particularly the Royal Rumble match - which supports up to 12 human competitors - was a ton of fun. It’s easily the go-to choice for online play. More importantly, the lag issues that plagued SvR 10 seem to be non-existent. In our tests we played through a variety of matches, both ranked and unranked, and didn’t detect even the slightest stutter. Keep in mind that WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 will require the Online Pass to play, Just as UFC Undisputed 2010 did back in May.
Visually, the presentation is as great as it always has been. The arenas and the Superstars are well detailed and the entrance themes are spot on. Even the locker rooms were decked out in a wide variety of WWE paraphernalia; a treat for any of the die-hard fans. The animations seem to be much less robotic this year, with fluid movements all the way around, except for when they are having a conversation. During the spoken dialog, the Superstars’ mouths begin to resemble a bad ventriloquist dummy, lessening the impact of what they are saying. There are also still some minor issues with what I like to call “ring awareness”, which is basically the way a wrestler will be invisibly shoved to a better location should you pull off a move that you don’t have the room to do (like dropping a somersaulting on an opponent who’s half under the ropes). However, the tweaked physics engine overrides any minor complaints like that. Trust me, between the way wrestlers droop against the barrier after being Irish Whipped into it and the natural “feel” of the various weapons at our disposal, the realism will be kicked up a notch or two - or at least as real as the WWE can get.
The audio provided a chink in the armor, so to speak, that I had a more difficult time turning a blind eye to (or ear, as the case may be). The theme music was authentic and the voice acting was much improved over last year’s version. But the commentary was just repetitive and dull. Given how great Goldie and Joe Rogan’s work was executed in the last UFC game, I’m hoping that the techniques used there will make there way here for next year. Really, I would rather just listen to the entrance themes than hearing Michael Cole stutter out my created wrestler’s nickname over and over again.
The controls will come as no surprise to franchise vets as they remain unchanged, although that’s not necessarily a good thing. Yes, pulling off a leaping neck breaker from the top turnbuckle is still a breeze. But the single-button counter system reduces the combat down to lucky punches and the occasional elbow for experienced players and the AI follows suit. On the higher difficulties, the AI will counter everything you throw at it. I will credit Yukes with providing a slider system to fine tune the difficulty, but the default Easy/Normal/Hard settings need to be balanced a bit better. For example, playing through The Undertaker’s campaign on Normal had me blowing out every match with no problem until facing the Deadman himself, where the challenge level jumped tremendously. Granted, I’m not the best performer in the ring, but the difference shouldn’t have been that dramatic.
I have to hand it to Yukes, they keep making this game better and better each year. Perfection is still a ways off, but it’s a path that they are consistently making headway with. WWE Universe could use some more Superstar interaction, maybe via some trash talking interviews or adding backstage brawls to the mix. Road to Wrestlemania needs to see a more beefed-up backstage area and an overhaul for the pseudo-RPG system. The commentary needs to be totally revamped along with another look at the counter system. Despite all that though, it was hard to walk away from Smachdown vs Raw 2011. It’s still the best wrestling experience on the market and is easily worth the $60 investment. Tons of unlockables are to be had, the WWE Universe mode can easily suck you in for hours and the various customization options - such as the new branching story options - will keep the user-created content fans busy forever...or at least until SvR 2012 comes around.
+ WWE Universe is hands-down the best of the single player
+ Online Royal Rumble is a blast
+ Create options are packed!!
- Commentary is annoying
- RPG-lite elements are useless
- Counter system needs to be reworked
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Release Date : 2010/10/26
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : THQ
Category : Sports
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