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WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3

 

WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3

Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Wrestling
 
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Over the weekend, I had the chance to get a great deal of hands-on time with THQ’s new WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, developed by Yuke’s Yokohama. I was very impressed to say the least! It features better graphics, new modes, more control, and a lot of new features over previous entries in the series. There is a lot of customization available as well as player-created content. You can create your own stories complete with cutscenes and branching. You can create custom match rules and wrestlers. You can even create your own universe! Even with all the customization and enhancements to the game, it’s easier to play than ever.

Presentation

The first thing I noticed about WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 was how great it looked. The character models have been updated and are all motion captured. The muscles move realistically and actually flex as the characters move. The skin textures have also been improved and are really impressive, especially when the camera gets in close. The moving, including breathing, is very fluid and realistic. There are also a ton of wrestlers with over 70 playable characters in the game. The character select screen is improved featuring a grid of portraits like typical fighters. Not all the characters are available at the start of the game; there are a ton of unlockables! Besides looking great, the game also sounds great. The sound effects are all accurate, and I appreciate how natural the announcers are.

Mechanics and Gameplay

In general, the controls have been simplified, requiring less conditional modifiers. For example, there is no grapple modifier. Now you simply move the right stick (without RB) to grapple and flick up to pick up a grounded opponent. Chain grappling has been simplified as well. There are different grapples for the front and back, and it’s easy to pick up an opponent, turn him around, and perform a grapple. To perform a directional grapple, you just move the left stick to control the direction. Dragging has also been simplified. Holding the left trigger allows you to drag your opponent whether he’s grounded or standing. Pins are no longer tied to particular moves, which allows you to keep all your moves in your moveset. If you can’t pin, it just won’t have the pin option at the end. If you can, a button will appear on screen signaling you that pressing it will execute the pin. Finishers have also been updated. Previously, you could only perform a finisher when the opponent was groggy. Now once you’ve earned the ability to do your finisher, the opponent won’t have to be groggy. These are just some of the improvements to the controls and mechanics of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011.

The intros are great and do a good job of hyping the incoming wrestlers. The matches feel really epic, especially with all the customization you can do. In Hell in a Cell matches, you can use finishers to break through the cell wall. If you want, you can proceed to climb to the top and throw off your opponent (which is always cool)! The area outside the ring is much bigger now too, giving you ample room to fight. You can also fight in any kind of match you’d like. You can set entrances, momentum bar charge speed, ring type, win condition, rules, and much more.

Modes

One new mode featured in WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 is WWE Universe. As you’d expect from the name, in this mode you are given complete control over your own WWE Universe. This is the mode in which I spent most of my time. First, you look at the calendar of events. After picking a day, you’ll see a list of matches scheduled for that day. You then pick a match and pick who you’d like to control. Then you’re able to jump right into that match as the wrestler you picked. You can even play multiplayer in the mode! The results of each match effect everything else in WWE Universe, including rankings, champions, rivalries, and allies. There’s no need to be the same person all the time in WWE Universe either. You can change as often as you want or only play matches that feature a particular wrestler. If you want to skip ahead a couple matches, days, or even months on the calendar, that’s fine. When you skip, the game simulates the matches, determines the winners, and determines the effects on the universe. Changes are featured in the news section of this mode, giving you the easy ability to check what’s happening. You can reassign a wrestler’s brand (Raw, SmackDown, etc.) or make your own logo. One condition on brand reassignment that I noticed is that Raw and SmackDown must each have two male superstars at all times. No, you can’t dominate WWE Universe completely with custom characters, but where would the fun be in ignoring everyone that comes with the game? Really, WWE Universe gives you almost complete control. The AI runs many things (rivalries, etc.), but anything can be changed at any time if you don’t like something that’s happening. You want those two rivals to be allies? Go for it! WWE Universe never ends. You can play as long as you want and WWE Universe will continue to evolve. This mode was the most interesting aspect of the game to me. It gives you complete control to play however you want. It’s all about having fun with no end goal except whatever you decide you want to do.

The Road to Wrestlemania in WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 features five different stories. You pick the story you want to play and jump right into it, following a particular wrestler as you go through a storyline and see it to completion. Previous editions saw a cycle of cutscene, match, cutscene, match. Now you can go backstage, talk, and interact with other people. In addition, choices you make can effect the story. For example, in the beginning of one, your car crashes. After crawling out, you see two people fighting. You don’t know what’s going on, but after jumping in the fight, whose side you take changes the story. As you wrestle and talk with people, the stories unfold. I was amused when one woman in the game exclaimed “we need a fire extinguisher” while standing right in front of one. The occasionally cheesy, funny dialogue goes well in the game. The voice acting doesn’t always match mouth movements perfectly, but it wasn’t very detracting. Besides, dialogue isn’t the reason most people want to play. That brings me to the other option backstage. Besides talking, you can trigger brawls by shoving people and can even earn XP for doing so.

Creation

If the five stories included in Road to Wrestlemania aren’t enough, you can create your own or download more. When making your own, you can produce branching storylines and create your own cutscenes. You can branch on dialogue or even match results. You can also trigger cutscenes during matches based on particular body parts reaching certain health levels. In addition, you can create your own superstars and finishers. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 allows for 50 slots for custom superstars and 130 slots for custom finishers. The character creator is very in-depth, but creating a character can also be relatively fast if you don’t want to go into detail. I suspect that there will be a lot of really great content to download!

Online

In the past games in the series, online play was limited to four people and only to some match types. Now all matches are available, and six players are allowed. Thirty man Royal Rumble is available online too. Royal Rumble features up to 12 real players - 6 in match and 6 watching and waiting. In addition, there’s now better tracking for downloads. It’s not just 1 to 5 stars. Partial stars are available, allowing for better sorting. Everything you download can then be edited, although you can’t upload any content that contains content you downloaded. The leaderboards have been expanded this time as well. Instead of just weekly or overall rank, there are now over 30 leaderboards for various aspects of the game, including how many downloads your content gets. You can increase your online prestige by participating in any way. Previewing and critiquing work and even receiving a lot of downloads on personally created content all help to raise your reputation!

Conclusion

WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 is a really fun game. It features lots of improvements over previous iterations of the series. Professional wrestling fans should really enjoy it. Even if you’re not familiar with WWE, the mechanics are solid and fun. WWE Universe and Road to Wrestlemania are both very cool modes (and of course, you can jump into a single exhibition match too if you want)! I especially love how WWE Universe constantly changes yet keeps you in complete control. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 sees a simplification of the controls while adding features and making sure that the player is always doing exactly what he or she wants to be doing. To top it off, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 looks and sounds great! While I looked at the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, it is also being released on Wii, PlayStation Portable, and PlayStation 2. THQ is presenting gamers with a highly polished WWE game packed with features. If you’re interested in wrestling as all, you’ll love WWE SmackDown Vs. Raw 2011 when it releases on October 26 of this year!












 
 

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