It’s that time of year again, time to break out the tanning gel, strip off and strut around in nothing but a tiny pair of tight pants – no, it’s not Grandma’s birthday, it’s WWE ’12 the latest game in the annual wrestling series.
Branded as a reboot of the series, WWE has ditched it’s Smackdown VS Raw moniker and kept it simple and more in line with other sports games out there. Whether WWE is a sport or not is up to you to decide. With new ‘Predator Technology’ it is apparently the most lifelike and realistic wrestling game ever. The ‘Predator Technology’ allows for smoother animations, transitions and faster gameplay.
The first baffling thing is that there doesn’t seem to be any sort of tutorial apart from a move list. This seems like a strange omission as new players – such as myself – won’t have any idea what to do or how to approach a match. For example, it took me about an hour of gameplay to work out how to fight against a submission hold and even longer to work out how to kick out of a pin properly.
There’s also a very steep learning curve, the AI can literally chain moves together for the whole match – even on the easiest difficulty – and the only way to stop them is with the counter system. Occasionally a prompt will appear above your character’s head indicating when a move can be countered, this prompt will appear for about half a second – so you have a pretty small window to execute a counter. If you’re new to the game you will have no idea when this prompt will appear and it can lead to a very frustrating experience.
However, as with most things in life, it’s all down to practice. As you play more you’ll start to learn when the prompts are going to appear so you can preempt them and when it clicks it all starts to come together. Moves have moved to the face buttons, on the Xbox 360 version we tested A is for grapples and throws, X is for strikes, B is for picking up objects/foes and whip and finally Y is for special moves. Using these as well as the analogue sticks allow you to pull off all of your moves and attacks.
It all works fairly well, the matches move with a good fluidity for the most part – there’s still times where it will become a little fiddly and players will still run into each other in a comedy fashion. Although it’s not enough to ruin the experience it can make the game seem slow and awkward as a result.
The HUD has gone, completely gone. There’s nothing on the screen apart from the WWE logo and because of this it looks almost identical to the real broadcasts. They’ve also added multiple camera angles, which apparently are all exactly the same as the real life camera angles, which is a nice touch. The game will switch between the cameras as you pull off throws and special moves, for the most part this looks great except for when there’s more than two people in the ring, in these cases it can be tricky to see what you’re doing at times as people may be in the way and so on. There’s also no damage indicators or life bars, this is all displayed by how injured your wrestler looks, as they get damaged they’ll start moving slower, limping, holding their head and so on.
The game’s story mode comes in the way of the Road to Wrestlemania games, much like the previous games. This time you aren’t creating a character and thrusting them to super-stardom but using seasoned professionals and working through a single story. It starts off with you controlling Sheamus, who for those who don’t know is a pale Irishman. Sheamus is basically winding people up and trying to win the world championship with the help of all of the other wrestlers from the UK. This leads to the UK being treated as some sort of gaggle of villains, with one of the commentators saying, “Someone needs to get rid of the United Kingdom,” which is a bit harsh. You do eventually get to use your created character but you have to play through the Sheamus and Triple H story lines first.
The Road to Wrestlemania mode isn’t great, the story is dull and the voice acting is even worse, the majority of them sound like they’ve been forced to read their lines at gunpoint. The matches themselves aren’t always your standard, ‘pin your opponent’ type affair. A lot of them require you to wear down a specific wrestler and go up to them and hit Y when the prompt appears, which then triggers a cutscene. This is okay for the majority of the time but occasionally you’ll need to take someone to a certain area before you’ll be able to hit the prompt. This can lead to you basically waiting for some injured wrestler to limp all the way to you. Also, it can be a bit odd when you’ve just knocked out three wrestlers and hit the Y button, only to find out that in the cutscene it shows your character half dead and the other three beating him up.
The main attraction for all of these wrestling games is the customisation. On top of the very extensive character customisation is a whole heap of other options. There’s an arena creator, move creator, entrance creator, cutscene creator and so much more. You could literally spend hours making bits and bobs without doing any wrestling, it’s one of the most in-depth creation tools around. This also makes it’s way over to the matches, you can do any match you want at any arena with any rules, it’s completely up to you.
Outside of this there’s the normal modes, including the standard array of online options. That’s one of the problems, there’s isn’t really anything new. All of the modes from last year are back and that’s about it. Sure, the roster has been updated with any new wrestlers and with some legends of the game such as The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin – although a lot of these have been saved for pre-order bonuses or DLC.
WWE ’12 has made some steps forward on the gameplay and presentation side of things but is lacking in the other departments. It’s a step forward in the right direction but not the leap forward that had been suggested by this apparent re-branding of the series. Saying that it’s still the most polished wrestling game available and a must buy for all of the die-hard wrestling fans out there.
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