SmackDown vs. Raw 2010ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Online Multiplayer 2-4
Downloadable Content Support
It is that time of the year again when THQ releases the next iteration of its long running WWE wresting series. SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 (SvR 2010) returns with what THQ is billing as “the most authentic, entertaining and compelling simulation of WWE programming to date”. And after attending a preview event in August earlier this year I was starting to think that developer Yukes has thrown down the gauntlet to make one of the most engaging wrestling games in many years. Well we finally got our retail copy and after some playtime with the game I would have to say my initial impressions still stand.
Visually, SvR 2010 is solid. The WWE Superstars look like their real life counterparts, right down to the smallest details like tattoos or jewelry. They also have some great animations given that they have to move in so many different ways in the ring. I would have to say that Yukes did a great job of improving on last year’s visuals as the WWE has never looked so good in a game. Also noteworthy is that your created wrestler looks pretty much on par with the Superstars in the game. Something that was noted about SvR 2009 was that your created character did not look as good as all the included WWE Superstars; however this is not the case this time around. There has been a great effort to make sure your own created wrestler looks the same quality of all the other Superstars in the game.
The game moves smoothly without any graphical hitches to be noted. The collision detection was spot on and all the wrestlers move around the ring quite nicely. When you or your opponent grabs each other, or they do a grappling move, it looks as if they are actually wrestling. There is no invisible force field between the two and they are not doing some strange dance with a mystery space in between them. This has always been a pet-peeve of mine, especially in wrestling games, but it seems to be a non-issue here.
The arenas that the various matches take place are definitely an improvement over last year. First off there is a lot of different arenas and stages where these matches take place. SmackDown, Raw, and the ECW stages have never looked better. In terms of the crowd, although they are somewhat repetitive in nature, it is not, in my opinion, as bad as last year. They are quite well animated and they manage to put a bit more life into the area around the ring. I had to laugh as some of the signs in the crowd too. My favourite was the one where it proudly announced that he was “in HD” now. All in all the arenas and the surrounding crowds are solid and help to make the WWE experience a little better.
The sound in SvR 2010 is pretty solid. You have all the voices of the WWE Superstars, and you have their accompanying music for each and every ring entrance that they have. Of course rounding out this area is the fact that you have all the WWE announcers as well who come from all the WWE stables of Smackdown or Raw. It definitely helps to immerse everyone, from the WWE fan to the casual wrestler watcher, into the SmackDown vs. Raw experience. As for the rest of the sound effects, everything seems as it should this time around. From the sound of a chest smack to that when you land a dive from the top rope, all manages to sounds like it would in the world of the WWE. Of course the crowds are active and help too. They manage to cheer for the really good stuff, and boo for the really bad. It is always great to hear the fans boo the bad guys in the WWE as they are only trying to do their job, which is provide some good ol’ fashioned entertainment!!!! Overall I think that anyone who picks up this game will enjoy the total audio package.
In many ways I find is difficult to figure out what to talk about here. There are so many improvements as well as some great new additions to SvR 2010. I think that it would be best that I talk about the new additions and features then I will mention what has been improved upon in the features that have returned from 2009.
The first thing anyone will notice when first playing SvR 2010 is the Training Facility. This is an interactive tutorial that also doubles as the new menu. Here you can not only train, but you can access any area of the game. The actual tutorial is context sensitive where you follow a series of tips that pop up that explain how to use your new move set. Once you have completed a specific move the tip will not pop up again. You can customize the training options such as turning tips on or off, setting the AI difficulty or momentum level (e.g. fighting at the start of a match or at a point where finishing moves are available), and even which superstar you can use. Anyone new to the SmackDown vs. Raw franchise can enter the Training Facility and easily learn or practice the move sets found in the game. That being said, veterans of WWE games can refresh their own skills or learn moves that they may have been unaware existed. This is the first time the tutorial has been done this way I believe that it can help target new fans of the game while still satisfying veterans.
Another huge addition to SvR 2010 is the new Story Designer mode. This is undoubtedly what I would consider a WWE fan’s dream come true. I can best describe this as allowing you to be in the ‘director’s chair’. Here you not only play general manager for your favourite WWE show or set the card for pay-per-view events, but now you script every aspect of every WWE show (e.g. Raw, SmackDown, and ECW) for as long as a full 10 years should you desire. The detail in this addition is quite staggering. For example, for events which are played out in cut-scenes, you can have superstars get hit by a car in the parking garage or get into dispute with a manager or another superstar backstage resulting in a brawl. You use an on the fly interface to make up the events of a cut scene. Here you are in control of the actual animations during the scene, the location it takes place in (20-30 locations in game), casting of characters, length of the scene, text, and even the emotions of the superstars (e.g. smiling, angry, sad). In a match you dictate the obvious things from who competes to what type of match it is. You also control the minute details such as the damage/health of a character (e.g. took a beating backstage and now must wrestle in a match following the surprise beating), win conditions (e.g. must get opponent to submit), the opponent AI, and other wrestler interference during a match (e.g. as an ally or enemy). Given the time I spent with this mode, I think that many interesting and original storylines will be created. Heck, I wouldn’t even doubt that WWE staffers may monitor this aspect of the game to see if any ‘patterns’ of stories originate and this could forecast some actual storylines in the WWE given how fans may or may not make things pan out in the virtual world.
The final new addition that users will find to be quite substantial is the new ability to share their created content online with the SmackDown vs. Raw community. This ranges from the stories you make, the characters you create, to the entrances, moves and finishers that you design. Being able to share your content allows you to write a brief description for other SvR community members to see as well as creating search tags so that users can better find specific creations. You also have the ability to make your creations only as viewable, and not downloadable. For those who want to download content SvR 2010 provides a robust search interface. You can search for content and sort by Most Recent or Highest Rated. You can then preview and/or download the content of choice and you can leave a rating or comment on the content. Overall I found this aspect of the game pretty interesting and a true fan service to those that love the WWE and I can’t wait as time goes by to see some of the interesting creations that I can download.
So I am sure that many of you are wondering what else has changed. Although there a lot of the same has carried over from SvR 2009, there are substantial improvements made in some of the familiar areas.
Character Creation makes its return and it is better than ever. First off, there is a new Paint Tool option. This can be used to create your own logo for shirts, costumes, and even tattoos. Fans requested more accessibility to design logos and tattoos and the Paint Tool was a response to this request as it allows more flexibility to design your own original logo and tattoos. Here you will find your typical paint tool options such as a resolution of 128x128 or 256x256 as well as virtual pens, erasers, fill paint can, etc., all of which allow you to be as creative as you can be. You can save any of your creations and add them to any created character be it on their clothes or on their virtual bodies.
There are also new 3D parts for creating your customized look, so there are no longer any items that seem ‘attached’ to your wrestlers body as everything is free flowing and individual. Necklaces, armbands, and even ties move around instead of looking like they are glued on. There are over 1000 parts for users to choose from when creating their customized characters. The quality of user’s customized characters has also been improved so that they seem on par with the already created WWE Superstars found in the game.
I should also note that the interface for making your own wrestler has been overhauled as there is pretty much no loading times and everything feels instantaneous when choosing specific areas of your character to customize. THQ and Yukes wanted to decrease the time it took to make your own character and it seems that the improvements to the interface have achieved this goal.
Furthering the improvements in character creation/customization is the new Superstar Threads mode. This allows you to customize the outfits that WWE Superstars in the game’s roster wear. This is the first time in the franchise’s history that this type of feature has been implemented. Individual parts of an existing superstar’s outfit can be changed to your liking.. You can take Ray Mysterio’s outfit and recolor it to whatever you see fit or you can take the Undertaker’s outfit and make it very purple or pink, which just looks wrong in so many ways. Again, this mode seems to be geared towards the hardcore fan, specifically those who may dream of changing a WWE Superstars outfit to what they believe or wish it would look like.
The Road to Wrestlemania mode makes it return this year as well. New to this mode is the inclusion of WWE Divas, including one revolving around your own created superstar. There is also a multiplayer enabled story which blends cooperative and competitive gameplay. Should you wish to take the reins of some existing WWE Superstars in this mode you can play as Mickie James (WWE Diva), Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, Edge, or even play the story out where the SmackDown brand does battle with the Raw brand. Also included in the Road to Wrestlemania mode are interactive cut-scenes this year which allows you to make choices during the actual story moments that affect the path of the game. Overall there is a lot more depth and interactivity to this mode and many WWE fans will love what additions there are here as they try to make it to WWE’s premier show, Wrestlemania.
Of course a wide variety of matches return to SvR 2010. There are a bevy of WWE sanctioned matches, and any that you have seen play out on TV or Pay-Per-Views are included in this year’s game. From the now popular table, chairs and ladders match to the very familiar and well known cage match, everything is included this year. That being said, there are some notable additions and changes.
Although the Royal Rumble match makes its return, it has been changed in order to make it better than ever as there are more ways to dispatch of your foes. You will find that this mode is no longer handled by simple button mashing as there are new mini-games that decide who stays in the ring, and who is knocked out to make that long lonely walk back to the dressing room. These new mini-games are Middle Rope Elimination, Corner Elimination, and Bottom Rope Elimination. Middle Rope has you pressing the flashing button to gain the upper hand. Corner Elimination has you pressing the button that appears on the screen before your opponent to gain the advantage. Finally, Bottom Rope Elimination has you trying to stop a cursor in a blue target zone by pressing the A button. I should note that you can escape from these mini-games should you used a stored finisher move. If you knock out a wrestler you will actually see him hobble up the ramp back as he goes to think over what could have been. All in all the new mini-games and small details that they included make this a much better Royal Rumble Match.
The other notable addition to the matches is the Championship Scramble match. This is a frantically paced free-for-all pitting five WWE Superstars against one another in a mad dash to claim one of the WWE’s championships, including the World Heavyweight Championship, Intercontinental Championship or Woman’s Championship to name a few. Two superstars begin in the ring and are joined by three more opponents intermittently throughout the match. With each pinfall or submission a new champion is crowned, and whoever is left holding the belt at the end of the time limit walks away as official champion. Anything goes in a Scramble match too, so you can use items from outside the ring in order to assist your efforts in knocking down and pinning your opponent(s). I found this match pretty crazy and with the ‘anything goes’ moniker, it made for some crazy and interesting bouts indeed. I think a lot of people will enjoy this new match mode.
There are even more improvements this time around, but I am literally running out of space to put anything else. For those that are wondering, there are six other areas worth quickly commenting on. There is an enhanced move set (up to 70 moves per superstar), manually performed strong grapple transitions (transitioning between grapples can be performed easily, quickly and on the fly), new attack positions (new options in which you can dish out the pain), improved ground game (can now perform grapple attacks from side of opponent), realistic damage effects (from slap marks on a Superstar’s chest to blood from an opponent getting on your own wrestler, there are new damage effects), and finally reversal system improvements (reversals are mapped to one button and it is up to you to leanr and master the correct timing needed to reverse the types of attacks in the game).
As with last year, online multiplayer makes a return, but there is not a whole lot that I can add that wasn’t said last year. Most of the notable improvements that have been made in the single player mode make the transition to online multiplayer. The ability to take your crated character, with distinct moves and looks, is great. From the personalized entrance into the ring, the personalized picture of your wrestler on the ‘versus’ screen, to the moves that you use in the ring, everything transfers seamlessly online to make for a great multiplayer experience. I am sure that there are going to be even more WWE fans taking SvR 2010 online given its robust feature set and the ability to fight your friends, or strangers, over the internet from one coast to another.
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