Now to the meat of the matter so to speak. The road to Wrestlemania mode has returned again this year with new characters and unique stories. The six different playable chapters take about 2-3 hours to complete and offer the most entertainment out of all the rest of the content on the disk. The created superstar road to Wrestlemania chapter was entertaining and it is sure to be the closest many fans have come to feeling like they’re a member of the WWE. Each chapter in the road to Wrestlemania story is set apart, meaning that at no time do the stories coincide. This is a missed opportunity for some good story telling with a lot of twists being revealed piece by piece by playing each chapter. While that would be the ideal way to play through road to Wrestlemania I can understand how difficult it would be to keep everything clear and concise while keeping the integrity of the plot.
While the road to Wrestlemania mode is the most entertaining part of SmackDown vs. Raw 2010, it is also very frustrating to play at times. Matches were constructed to fit the story, so ,when you are meant to win a match under certain conditions there are no other options. Conversely there are matches where your selected character isn’t meant to win. I was often left with a sour feeling after kicking butt in a match, only to have the game rest control from me so my character would lose. This didn’t happen often enough to keep me from enjoying the experience but it was frustrating when one of these no win scenarios did occur. I might have been less bitter if everything was explained before the match started. If you’re reading this developers, please rely less on the players intuition and give us a heads up to what’s going on!
My other major complaint about the road to Wrestlemania mode was the occasional backstage bouts. The environments looked functional and complete with a lot of detail, but the fights were awkward. The only sounds are competitors’ grunts and groaning. With no sound track in the background there was only eerie silence punctuated by labored breathing and sickening thuds of the fight. Otherwise the soundtrack and voice acting were serviceable with noted performances being John Cena and Vince McMahon. My favorite feature, the ability to skip the song playing during menu selections has returned. While every superstars’ and divas’ opening song sounded great, there are those I prefer not to listen to.
If the road to Wrestlemania is SvR’s most entertaining feature then the new simplified controls are its most accessible. Reversals are now a single button press easing the difficulty down to a more playable level. Grapples come in a multitude of flavors including quick grapples initiated with the right analog stick and strong grapples which are initiated by using the RB button and the right analog stick. Grapple attacks can even be used on the run expanding the number of moves a character can do while charging. Ground grapples and special grapples are now context sensitive. In all there are a maximum of 70 or so possible grapple combinations not including match sensitive grapples, however most playable characters only use a fraction of those moves. Strikes are also context sensitive and can be modified using the left analog stick while standing. This marriage of analog sticks, face buttons, and modifier buttons for running and strong grapples gives you a staggering number of options for attacks while remaining intuitive to use. This the most accessible and robust control scheme yet in a wrestling game.
There are other game modes including the various exhibition matches, online multiplayer, create-a modes, and career mode that offer even more content to play with. For the sake of space and time I won’t go into all in detail but will offer up this; every bit of content offered in SvR 2010 is equal in experience of or surpasses SvR 2009. All this content coupled with the new controls, simplified HUD, new road to Wrestlemania and the ability to share all created content online makes SvR 2010 far superior to last years title. There are a few dark spots and minor flaws that keep this from being the ultimate wrestling game. I wholly recommend this year’s iteration for the hardcore and fair weather fans of the WWE. There are sure to be future titles that are even more impressive, so while SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is the best so far, it is not the end all be all of this console generation.
A few hiccups keeps this title from being perfect but SmackDown Vs. Raw 2010 is everything a fan could want in a wrestling game and more. Shared create-a content reaching near the levels of LittleBigPlanet elevates SvR 2010 from past iterations into a new experience. This is not the end all be all of wrestling videogames but THQ and Yuke's is certainly going in the right direction.
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