I've already mentioned the tighter controls, but not how they translate into gameplay. A single button for reversals has freed up some real estate so now the RB and left trigger are dedicated to move your opponent's position. This may take away some options like a block function, but it helps players easily set up combo moves like the tree of woe. Also a dedicated button for moving a stunned opponent helps with ladder and inferno matches. The same strike mechanics are back with a quick tap initiating a jab or beginning a combo. Holding down the strike button initiates a heavy attack, which can be changed up based on which direction you're holding with the left stick. Grappling is just as easy, with the right stick taking up most of the work. Changing up which grapple to transition from to pull off a move from behind, an arm hold, or a head lock is as easy as flicking the left stick and pressing RB. Changing the grapple stance also allows the opponent to reverse the grapple though, making it a fair trade off. Submission holds can be done standing or with the opponent on the mat just by depressing the right stick. The same mini-games that determine a pin, ring out, etc. have also returned but they're varied enough as not to get too repetitive.
Signature and Finishing moves are all context sensitive now and are easily executed with a press of the Y button. Assuming you know your character's move set well enough, there shouldn't be any reason you can't dominate the opponent whatever your fighting style. If you are unfamiliar with the controls or dislike your favorite wrestler's move set, I recommend spending some time with the create-a-move set mode. It's set up so you can manipulate everything from strikes and grapples to how your character gets in the ring. The preview function also goes a long way to help you decide what moves to select.
I'm afraid I didn't have as much luck with the online multi-player that Jeremy had. All the options were great to look at, but I couldn't find anyone to play with. When I finally created my own match and someone else joined, the lag was so bad that I was booted from my own match. Using an approved Xbox 360 router with an open NAT type might help gamers to avoid this issue. Mine has a closed NAT type, but it still works fine with lots of other titles. I'm not about to go out and get a new router just to play this game. Local multiplayer was fun enough for me, and I really dug the street-fighter-esque character selection screen. I would also like to note that the controls are intuitive enough that my buddy Sean, who is a soccer fan, was able to pick up and play the game with little difficulty.
With the sheer amount of content already on the disc, the many customizable options, and future DLC already on it's way; SvR 2011 offers a lot of value. After only ten hours of play time I feel that I've just scratched the surface of the on disk content. A world of user created content is just a few button presses away from the main menu and un-lockable content can be easily obtained for a small price of 80 Microsoft points if you're feeling a little lazy. Rest assured that there's enough content here to justify a purchase and the refined gameplay experience is worth a trade up. I may have had a few issues with some design decisions, minor bugs and the online multiplayer, but overall Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 is worth the price of admission.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Plenty of content and refined controls make this title a definite buy for WWE fans. This is one of the most entertaining wrestle games around. It's easy to get lost in the WWE fantasy. Just keep in mind that you'll need to shell out more moolah for the online multiplayer if you get a used copy.
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