WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 – Review


Game Name: WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011
Platform(s): Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS, PSP
Publisher(s): THQ
Developer(s): Yukes
Genre(s): Wrestling, Simulatation
Release Date: October 26, 2010 (US), October 28, 2010 (AU) October 29, 2010 (EU)
Price: $59.99 (US) PS3, 360, $39.99 (US), $49.99 (US) Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2, $29.99 (US) Nintendo DS, $39.99 (US) PSP

Another year, another entry into the most popular series in gaming when it comes to the squared circle, WWE Smackdown vs Raw. WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 promises to add a fresh new physics engine, a brand new Road to Wrestlemania mode, and many other new additions to keep the series fresh and relevant. How does this entry measure up? Here is my review for the Xbox 360 version of the game.

For the story mode in this entry, look no further than the Road to Wrestlemania mode. With 5 different plots, one being the Undertaker storyline with the choice of four different superstars, there is plenty to keep you busy as you follow a certain superstars road to victory. Now a lot has changed in this mode, so I will go over what you can expect and how it plays out.

The first noticeable change is the new backstage mode. Before your matches you can walk around backstage, take part in interviews, and interact with certain superstars backstage. For instance, if you want to do a quick brawl with a superstar, simple “push” them a set number of times and you will be quickly drawn into a fight in that area. Now this doesn’t effect the main story at all, but the option was nice. My main complaint with the backstage mode is how robotic the movement was. It is such a small part in the overall game it shouldn’t be much of an issue, but in this day and age I just felt more should have been applied to make it feel like everything wasn’t so mandatory. In backstage mode, you can also adjust settings and check messages which is simple to do with your iPhone like device.

For the stories themselves, most are original and loosely tied into the actual WWE programming. Voice acting for the Superstars is a mixed bag though as all the real voices are used, some just lack any character whatsoever and can quickly take you out of the spirit that they portray on screen. It is as if some were not very excited to do their roles in the game and some were. I can say some storylines are a bit out there, even for WWE standards, but many were fun and entertaining so I enjoyed them for the most part and had no problem wanting to progress. Overall, Road to Wrestlemania adding the backstage elements was a nice touch, but without much polish and depth, a menu system from the older games would have worked just as well.

Yes, the biggest part of any wrestling game is how it plays. The only problem with SvR 2011 is that it really doesn’t know if it wants to be casual or hardcore as the whole engine is a bit of a mixed bag.

The grappling system is the same for the most part but the button layout is much different than previous titles. Instead of having 12 strong grapples and 4 weak ones, it is now more or less down to 4 strong grapples and 12 weak grapples, so they flipped this up. Realistically, you don’t see much more than chops and headlocks through 80% of matches these days, so the systems works with the current product in comparison, yet much is to be desired as grapples are watered down a bit compared to usual standards.

What I mean with that statement is that many moves have been taken out, and I do mean a lot. Instead of giving superstars certain moves for each button combination, Yukes decided to just double up button combo for many of the pre-set superstars to the same move in many situations. This makes every single match feel about the same and I spent literally 4-5 hours alone fixing each superstars move-set to match the on-screen persona. This really bugged me as it felt lazy and the whole move pool is an absolute mess. Here are some examples to better clarify what I mean.

Undertaker has a boston crab instead of the “Hell’s Gate” which is in the game anyway, yet the move was not even assigned to his character so I had to manually change a move that he doesn’t even use to better reflect his on-screen persona. Now take someone like Mickie James, the corner hurricanrana is listed for all of her corner moves, and if you have watched any Mickie James match, you know that other moves are used by her character for that situation so I had to swap out the other copied hurricanranas to corner clotheslines and other in-game moves that have been assigned in previous entries just to get what felt like a full moveset. Another problem with the movesets is that so many moves have been taken out that are relevant for the superstars in the game, like Kelly Kelly’s corner flipping clothesline among many other familiar moves that in-game superstars still use in their matches. I had to edit just about everyone in game to make the roster feel complete and this should not have been needed in a franchise that has been around since 2000.

Now that my main gripe is out of the way, I want to talk about the best feature in the game, and that is the revamped physics engine. You can now do just about any move through tables, into ladders or about any weapon to full effect with animations to reflect the injuries. This works great for the most part and adds a lot of fun to any match where weapons involved. I detailed my problems with the moves already, but there is one new addition I rather like, and that is to move during certain attacks. For instance, you can now direct where you want the wrestler to fall when you are delivering a suplex or a powerbomb, which may be why so many moves were felt unnecessary by the developers, but this alone, while a nice addition, just doesn’t replace what is now gone. This does however blend into the new physics engine well and allows for better control to throw an opponent into a table, chair, or ladder.

Reversals are a bit different and rely on a more timed approach, but simple tapping can make anybody a master of this. With the new chain-grapples in play, this can make reversal-fests consume matches and take a lot of fun out of the game. Now chain grapples are a decent addition as you can mix up weak grapples into somewhat stronger moves adding a more realistic element to the gameplay but as I said, unless you are fighting the computer, the reversals just are too easy to pull off to balance this out correctly. AI is about the same, not brilliant but it gets the job done. Most of the CPU controlled superstars do what is needed to win the match and can add some competition, but the most fun is had in local or online multi-player.

The controls still feel like a Smackdown game and can lead to some fun matches, but the new features hurt the whole engine. Pinning is now more of a button mashing game to get out of now as well, which it has been for the last few games, but to get pinned off a simple punch can be frustrating. Royal Rumble/Over the top Battle royals are fun as well, but the whole mini game system applied to this make it a race for a finisher rather than a contest of skill.

Another good part of the game takes place in the new WWE Universe mode. Everything that happens in standard exhibition matches is reflected just as if you were in an episode of a TV show. Fueds get started, victories are interrupted with small cutscenes starting new storylines, titles can be defended, and it literally pours replay value and new found reason to play the game throughout the experience.
Now for some reason the main titles can not be defended without that superstar meeting the requirements, so you cannot go in like previous games and put the superstars in title matches and have them win the strap. You must earn it by battling enough for a match at a Pay-Per-View show. This in my opinion is just a matter of preference. If you liked the old way, you will be disappointed but some may find this new way of earning a title in exhibition to be more rewarding.

Creation mode is back as well and with a new coat of polish. The same system lies in place with a few new and missing elements. You can no longer have transparency on anything but tattoos, so that was a bit of a letdown. The creation tools given though still keep this system the most detailed creation tool on the market though. The create-a-move can add tons of new moves and now that more situations are involved, this is probably the best creation feature offered. It will be harder creating certain classic superstars in the CAS mode with some of the changes, but overall, much has thankfully stayed rather close to the same.

SvR 2011 may be lacking in the gameplay area this year, but presentation is outstanding and everything looks superb. Each superstar is fully detailed and looks great, and with the new back-titantrons added, entrances look amazing and more realistic than ever before. Animations also look great for every move delivered and every taunt dished out. Blood is in, but you will need to turn it on first so keep that in mind when booting up the game. The audience still looks a bit cheaply made, but I didn’t dwell on that at all as the superstars look so sharp that everything else blends into the background and where the action matters is where the attention to detail was delivered. There are a few glitches in the game, in my playthrough I had a tag match where the opponents switched sides with my team as well as a few superstars AI freezing up at various times when the graphical engine was busy. Overall though, if you buy games based on visuals, this will be worth the money for sure.

Music is also outstanding as every superstars theme sounds clear and can easily get you fired up before a match. The announcers as expected are a bit repetitive, but do a somewhat better job of calling the matches. In the RTWM cutscenes, the speech doesn’t match up with the lips of the superstars though, many start talking before words are even spoken so that can take some players out of the whole experience, and besides a few bored voice-actors, everything is fitting and fluent.

If you can’t tell by now, the Smackdown series is special to me. I always seem to pick the next entry up every year, and while there is some things I don’t care for, most of the time I still love each title enough to play through it anyway and have fun. Sadly, WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 is a huge step in the wrong direction in the series as there is so much that was in past games and worked well and were taken out such as the once organized movepool that is a huge mess in this entry and so many other noticeable things that have disappeared without warning, the the harcore following of the series will find a lot to be desired. The redeeming factors such as the new physics engine and WWE Universe mode are welcome additions and add a lot of replay value, but it is hard to base a game off new features alone when the core has been watered down for a more casual approach.

The heart and soul of a Smackdown game in my eyes is the variety of ways taking out your opponents and the intense match-ups you could pull off anytime, and the physics engine opened so many doors of possibility is somewhat of a shame to see that the gameplay can no longer stand up to the potential it once had to use all of these new elements correctly. The thrill is still there, and there is still a lot of fun to be had with features such as online royal rumbles and many other returning elements as well as the large and updated roster to keep you busy, but disappointment reared its head time after time as I scratched off the surface and dove into the main game just to find a more casual offering this time around and a more overall hollowed out gameplay engine. Honestly, I am not going to hold anyone back from purchasing 2011 as it is a good game, but next time around I would like to see a less rushed game with a bit more depth that we have seen in so many previous incarnations.

I Give WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011:

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