THQ has a strangle hold on the fighting game genre and there’s no sign of them letting up anytime soon. In the hands of Yukes the SmackDown vs. Raw franchise has seen a revolution in new content and they have some passionate designers there who have figured out what works and what doesn’t work within a wrestling video game. Just like many franchise games that come out annually SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 isn’t a complete revolution of the genre, but the new create-a features, menu system, heads up display, and controls make this title feel fresh.
The create-a-superstar feature has been completely reworked so that accessories and clothing they wear are in full 3D and don’t look like they’ve been painted on anymore. Done correctly there shouldn’t be any discernable differences between the player created superstar and the superstars that come on the disc. The create-a-art feature gives players access to a paint tool that functions a lot like MS Paint. These created pieces of art can be pasted on a created superstar’s frame as a tattoo or on a piece of clothing as a logo giving the player the freedom to paste anything they want on their superstar. Another new create-a feature is the create-a-show which allows players to make up to two years worth of WWE shows including SmackDown, Raw, pay-per-view events, and Wrestlemania. Players schedule the matches, decide who’s fighting, what kind of match, and the match rules. The matches are one thing, but the WWE isn’t the same without all the drama and suspense. In the create-a-show feature players can design their own cut scenes which have a variety of settings and scenarios, can input their own text, and adjust the emotional response of the wrestlers to match what’s being said.
If the create-a-show sounds a lot like the highlight reel feature from SvR 2009 you would be correct. If you were a fan of the that feature then you won’t be disappointed because it’s still there with new content, of course, and the ability to use a highlight reel as a created superstar’s entrance video on the jumbo-tron. Another personal favorite of mine is also returning; the create-a-finisher feature, which gives players a huge amount of movements to select from and chaining them together to form a super finisher. Not only is this create-a-finisher returning but there is also a create-a-top rope finisher which allows for the same type of setup just starting from the top of the turn buckle. If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of create-a nonsense then you’re in luck. All content can be uploaded and downloaded from a server so if you don’t feel like making your own content you can always search for what you want by key phrases and download whatever sounds good, or the highest rated content.
The menu system is entirely different from any other WWE game that has come before. As soon as you start the game you’re already in the ring controlling a character in a kind of practice mode. Hitting start brings up the menu where players can jump right into an exhibition match, play online, start a career, jump into a road to Wrestlemania story, access the create-a-features, or adjust the setting for the practice mode. What is great about this setup is that when you do use the practice mode the game automatically prompts you with hints on how to pull off different moves, even the context sensitive ones. You can learn to play the game by experimenting or you can tackle the humongous list of different move variations one at a time, each one being checked off the list as you perform that move.
It’s in this practice ring that players will first familiarize themselves with the controls and the heads up display (HUD). At first it may not seem like a lot has changed but the guys at Yukes have learned that simpler can be better. The stamina gauge is now a blue circle wrapped around your superstar’s feet allowing you to gauge just how you’re doing without looking all around the corners of the screen. Damage to specific body parts is still there but instead of a schematic on the screen showing how much damage a character has sustained you have to infer this from the appearance of the wrestlers on the screen, and with new improvements to “battle damage” you can easily see what sections of characters body has received damage. The controls themselves haven’t changed much from the genre standard, but they are easier to use than SvR 2009’s configuration. There is one reverse button, one strike button, one button dedicated to Irish whips and pulling your opponent to their feet, one action button, left analog stick for movement and the right analog stick for grapples and pins. Oh, and the D-pad is used for taunts (whoopee). Pulling of certain moves relies on a combination of different button presses but anyone who’s played a wrestling game in the last ten years should be able to get a good grasp on the controls fairly quickly. The fantastic button smashing mini games for pins and to escape submissions holds are back, but instead of popping up in the middle of screen and obscuring the action they are much smaller and tend to stick to the bottom or sides of the screen.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is much different that SvR 2009 in terms of how it works but the new content creation and the ability to share it online give this title twice the value of last year’s game. Not every feature has been revealed at this time but I feel I can safely say that this is a must buy title for WWE fans and for old school wrestling fans as well. Someone is going to design a Goldberg or Sting superstar and put it up download so this will be the first time in a long time you can play a good wrestling game as those players again. The only thing keeping this from being the ultimate wrestling video game is that THQ hasn’t announced move sets for created wrestlers as downloadable content and, that THQ and the WWE want more money and will want to make a better game with more features to sell to us. I think that if SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is the only wrestling video game you buy in the next 4 years then you will be set.
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