Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations / Publisher: THQ / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Teen [Blood, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence]
As the wrestling business evolves the older generation of grapplers give way to newcomers like Sheamus, The Miz, and Dolph Ziggler. THQ and Yuke’s have promised a major overhaul to their yearly wrestling franchise, shedding the WWE Smackdown vs. Raw moniker for the sleeker and skinnier numerical title. WWE ’12 promises a breath of fresh air to the franchise, and a bigger, badder experience. Does the total package deliver or does it blow smoke up our asses like a certain WWE EVP of Talent Relations? Let’s hit the squared circle.
With a new name comes new technology. WWE ’12 features the all-new Predator Technology that tries (and for the most part delivers) fluid, fast-paced, free flowing action. From reversals to the steel chair shots down to the disruption of moves, this game feels different from others in the series. Every move, including finishers, can be broken up by a third party. There are no pre-determined animation sequences that can’t be stopped. The match momentum has a great pace and has a natural progression, like how you see it on Raw and SmackDown.
The Superstars and Divas have more weight to them as well. No, I don’t mean they’ve packed on more pounds eating donuts on the road. They move more fluidly, more life like, and feel less arcadey than in years past. Concentrating moves on certain body parts shows specific results. Focusing on the leg will cause them to limp around the ring. The players definitely sell each move, grabbing whatever limb you attacked.
However, with new tech comes new kinks and glitches. In my first match, playing Road to Wrestlemania, I Irish whipped John Cena to the top barricade and he ended up going right through it, glitching through all his adoring Little Jimmie’s as if they weren’t even there. Sometimes when you deliver a devastating move, your enemy starts flinching and stretching, their head spinning around like the exorcist. This doesn’t happen often in one-on-one matches, but it’s noticeable when there are more than two grapplers in the ring. There are still occasional collision detection issues and the automatic targeting system needs improvement; however, it’s not enough to detract from the great core gameplay experience.
There are a crazy amount of match types. The revamped Road to Wrestlemania mode takes a bold move that follows one continuous, 18-month long program focusing on three characters. You start off as the antihero Sheamus, as he forms his own United Kingdom group and tries to take all the WWE belts. Then you take on the role of “The Game” Triple H as you try to come back from injury to win a record-setting 17th Championship. After that story concludes, you take charge of your created character who just won NXT and is trying to stop a full-on invasion from WCW. There are plenty of backstage brawls, promos, and matches to keep it compelling. However, a lot of this progress is pre-determined, including the matches themselves. There is a lot of talking but not enough action where you feel like you are in control.
The good news is the number of other options to keep you engaged. Universe 2.0 is simply amazing. You play the role of Vince McMahon and manage everything from the show name, arena, match participants, the draft, and even the momentum of each Diva and Superstar. You can even drop in your own customized characters, arenas, and logos to make it your own Universe.
Create a Superstar, logos, moves, storyline, and intros are all back with slight tweaks. The newest addition this year is the ability to create your own arena, from shows or pay-per-views of the past to something out of this world. The options are limitless and so many details can be tweaked, from the announcer booths down to the railings. This year’s creation modes are so deep, so deep, it puts your butt to sleep.
The biggest change in WWE ’12 has to be the controls. THQ and Yuke’s have gone for a much simpler scheme designed to make the action pick-up-and-play-ready. Gone is the analog grappling system in favor of a much more conventional use of the face buttons. You don’t have to worry about performing strong or weak grapples, either. As your opponent weakens the more devastating your moves become. Concentrating on certain body parts has significant results especially when you go for a submission.
Speaking of submissions, this year’s game introduces the new “Breaking Point” system. After you slap on your figure-fours, sharpshooters, and other agonizing holds you mash the buttons until the meter is filled. If you decide to avoid submissions, pinning your opponent is slightly different this year. Once your opponent has you down for the “1-2-3″, a metered mini-game launches where you hold down the button until you hit the point of escape.
The AI is pretty decent this year and the difficulty level can be customized. At times the AI can deliver a barrage of devastating moves, combos, and reversals. Sometimes, however, they stand around like complete jobbers waiting to be hit. It’s especially evident in tag matches where the AI watches his partner getting pinned without coming in to break it up, which was something we didn’t see in past versions of this game. Playing real life opponents is where the action stands out, so grab a friend or jump online and face the unpredictability and smack talking of a human player.
The roster size is enormous this year, the biggest it’s ever been, and every character looks like their real life counterpart. The player models have definitely received some quality touches, from Dolph Ziggler’s slicked back hair to Cody’s face mask. The HUD has ditched the videogame-y feel. There are no meter bars during matches so watching a match in WWE ’12 is like watching a live telecast. The intros are bigger and all your favorite Superstars and Divas have their mannerisms and stances down to the dot.
Each show and pay-per-view has its own authentic graphics package and the stadiums are lively. The arenas, improved crowd graphics, and atmosphere are top notch. The only thing missing is a few of CM Punk’s tattoos, but they’re copyrighted, so we understand. The only real knock I have on the presentation is the crowd shots during the Road to Wrestlemania and WWE Universe modes. When JR and Cole are delivering the show intro or story breakdown, they go to stadium and crowd shots that look super-pixilated. Then the “Presented in HD” graphic pops up, which is completely ironic. Hopefully, that will be fixed because in the other aspects of the matches and intros, the crowd shots are perfect.
The audio presentation in this game is spot-on. Everything is in here from the graphic transition sound effects, pyrotechnics exploding in the stadiums, the crowd chanting “Cena Sucks,” down to the Superstars and Divas authentic entrance music. Even CM Punk’s new “Cult of Personality” intro made it in. Road to Wrestlemania features voiceovers from the main characters, including your created grappler, as well as all the others that pop up throughout the story like Kevin Nash and Lord William Regal. Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler break down what’s going on before you hit the next scene in the Road to Wrestlemania, and also deliver authentic lines during the matches in this mode. Outside the Road to Wrestlemania mode, they do a great job of breaking down the action with each athlete’s background and finishing move while throwing in little jabs at each other just like in real life.
Everything you create can be shared online. Created characters like Spongebob or Wolverine, that sick move off the top rope, or even a Machinima Arena can all be shared with and graded by your peers. Besides sharing, multiplayer is an essential part of this game since the AI is far inferior to a human player. The maximum players in one match is 12, so the chaos is almost limitless. There were some early problems connecting to the servers, and some significant lag issues. THQ has promised to address these issues, which hopefully will be completed by the time this review is live.
WWE ’12 promised a Bigger, Badder, and Better version of the stagnant Smackdown vs. Raw franchise. For the most part, this relaunch has delivered. The game definitely has a bigger roster, badder presentation, and better gameplay. The new controls are easy to pick up and fun to play. Your favorite WWE Superstars, Divas, and Legends are all included, with more coming via DLC. It’s easy to kill hours creating your own stories, characters, moves, and arenas, then finding what other players have shared online. While the core gameplay is solid the glitches, pre-match presentation in RTW, and online difficulties definitely need to be addressed, but they’re not enough to knock this game down too badly. WWE ’12 offers a lot content in such a small package. It’s definitely worth your hard earned cash and that’s the bottom line because Machinima said so!