WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 Review
|Release Date:||October 29th, 2010 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
I was never a fan of wrestling. The gaudy, fake nature of the in-ring action tended to grate on me fairly quickly, and the outlandish characters just got right up my nose. That said, the games are fantastically good fun with a few friends - and a car bonnet.
So we come to SmackDown vs Raw 2011, the latest in a very, very long line of wrestling games, and it's beginning to show. Yes, like a 'legend' wrestler who's seen too many face-plants, the Smackdown series has become as crusty as a Tesco loaf in the bargain bin and has lost much of its early greatness in a constant chase to make next year's title.
The honest truth is there's not a lot different this time around, and after years of rehashing the same old format, the series is in need of a reboot.
That said, there's a lot to like about Raw 2011, as the game stays true to its roots, presenting the frantic and fun action of TV's fakest sport with all the pomp and ceremony the show does best - and clothes-lining your friends before throwing them into a stack of chairs is still fun.
The roster of wrestlers is even bigger this time around, with some 50 plus beefcakes and divas ready to strut and punch above their weight, as well as a move list which is nigh on impossible to remember in full.
The create-a-wrestler mode is as in-depth and fun as ever, allowing a wily gamer to create just about every type of wrestler ever envisaged. As an experiment I decided to create the world's most terrifying wrestler (of a small stature), and before long found myself facing down the likes of Triple H and John Cena with a midget in spandex tights and a feather boa who had the Undertaker's entrance video - and Big Show's move list. Needless to say, hilarity ensued.
For the more obsessive wrestling fan, the creation tools are incredibly in-depth, and it's easy to lose hours crafting that perfect finisher, entrance video, pose or move list.
Outside of the exhibition matches, the game's Road to Wrestlemania campaign is as addictive as ever, and the variety of 'stories' on offer is pretty fulfilling. Unlike last time however, the melodramatic storylines can be directly influenced by the gamer, allowing you to take the wrestlers off in unexpected directions.
There's also a lot more interaction in the campaign mode, with certain sections playing out like an over-the-shoulder adventure game, allowing the gamer to wander around backstage and talk to other wrestlers, fans and the support crew, spend points to improve your move list and pick fights.
You can also come up with storylines of your own, to a point, but don't think you'll be allowed to be too outlandish - even WWE has limits. Outside of the campaign the game comes fully loaded with all the usual WWE modes, ranging from Hell in a Cell to Royal Rumble and back, and some of the more interesting modes - backstage brawls, ladders matches - are also back in stellar form, and make for hilarious split-screen gaming with your friends.
The game also features a robust online competitive multiplayer, allowing the gamer to take their outlandish characters to the international ring, and taunt fellow wrestling fans to death.
There is, however, a major issue with lag, which often dooms most matches before they start, as the lobbies take forever to get ticking along, and rage-quitters are in abundance.
Unfortunately, the technical problems don't end there. The hit detection in all game modes is very much hit-and-miss - literally - meaning your long-awaited finisher is often left stuck mid move.
The targeting system is also unpredictable, meaning picking out your desired target, having bounced off the ropes, practically impossible. This is particularly obvious during some of the 30+ wrestler Royal Rumble matches, which can quickly become a melee of oiled flesh with no discernable order or indeed time for a fancy finisher, which is, perhaps, the point.
Graphically the game is nothing spectacular, with the crowds still looking like 2D sprites waving badly-spelled placards, and the wrestlers clumping around the ring like jelly babies with their thick, meaty arms held out at their sides.
That said, the facial animations are excellent, and the slow-mo close ups of the finishers look great, especially if it's been a long, hard battle and you're desperate to see that pain in the rear diva thrown out of the ring.
It's just a shame the sound of said diva hitting the deck is a bit of a wet squib, as is the scream of the crowd, the hackneyed commentators, the foppish sounds of a thumping clothes-line and the roar of a good taunt. In a word, the sound effects suck - other than the soundtrack, which is as great as ever.
While a solid game, Raw 2011 is nothing particularly trendsetting, and suffers as a result. The game itself is as fun as ever, and the in-depth character creation system allows the gamer to craft just about every conceivable wrestler your mind can envisage, as well as write a storyline for his or her to stumble through, but this is let down by poor sound effects, a lacklustre online section and nothing to really break the mould.
- Complex and time-consuming creation options
- Large roster of wrestlers
- Stull fun to play, despite series' age
Not so good stuff
- Hackneyed gameplay
- Poor sound effects
- Laggy multiplayer