I’ve been playing around with WWE ’12 for the past week, and I’m here to give you a qualified review by someone of awesome standards; me!
A lot of the gaming community refers the annual WWE game as the “Madden” of sports entertainment games (and really, WWE is the only one in the race internationally). They come out every November with an updated roster, some minor gameplay tweaks, and minimally polished graphics/physics.
Let me tell you something; it’s different this time around. This is the first game under the new “WWE <enter year here>” series. We’ve absolved the “Smackdown vs. Raw” monicker and refreshed the feel of the game.
The New Stuff
- As with SvR 2011, you can lean ladders and tables up against the ropes. However, in 2011, it seemed more or less random as to where the item fell when leaned up against anything. Not anymore! You can actually position the item in different areas around the ring. It’s a minor change, but it’s a change none-the-less.
- The announcing, while still repetitive and annoying as all get-out, has gotten better. Gone are the days (mostly) of announcers calling the wrong names and such in the match, and gone are the days of the announcers calling a move by a different name when an animation is triggered.
- “Breaking Point” submission holds replace the “struggle” submission. Instead of using the joy stick for applying pressure, you now enter a mini-game where a “Breaking Point” logo pops up and you mash the face buttons to fill up the meter. It’s an interesting way to go for the series, as I’m not a fan of button mashing, and it seems to be a little less interactive than the past submission modes.
- Universe 2.0 Mode is an updated version of Universe Mode that debuted last year. This is essentially “season” mode and allows you to play through cards of Raw, Smackdown, Superstars, and the various PPVs WWE holds throughout the year. The same basic idea is strong and solid, but there are definitely flaws in the system. The cut-scenes that happen before, during, and after a match are sometimes pretty un-believable, and are often random. For example, a match between Undertaker and William Regal (random booking is a staple for season mode, after all) ended with a cut-scene of Sin Cara and Justin Gabriel coming out and congratulating the Undertaker for a win, and they all were cheering and taunting. Anyone who knows anything about wrestling knows that Undertaker wouldn’t do that, nor would he be on TV in November (that’s a little joke for all your Smarks out there). Other than the cut-scene flaws, the only issue I have is that it doesn’t keep a list of on-going feuds or minor news (I’ve played through 2 months of shows, and I’ve only gotten one news bulletin). The one main addition that I praise THQ and WWE for adding is the “injury” angle cut-scene which actually inhibits you from using a wrestler in a show if they turn up injured; sadly, though, it doesn’t tell you what the injury is. The little things, THQ, the little things.
- Create-an-Arena is nothing special. Very little customization available; basic ring apron, rope, mat, turnbuckle options are available. Nothing too mind-blowing yet, but maybe in WWE 13, we could get a general manager mode that could incorporate changing arena and merchandise stuff to improve the overall show (ala; Franchise mode)
- All of the create-a- modes have very little changes that are noticeable to anyone who doesn’t play them every year.
- BROCK LESNAR. I marked when his music hit, and it is awesome playing around with the “Manimal.”
- Road to Wrestlemania mode has gotten a MAJOR update. Instead of selecting different episodes, you now start off playing as Sheamus (as a villain, for some reason) and playing through a very fun, realistic series of matches and cut-scenes. The voice acting is 100% better than the previous entries, and the lips of the superstars talking actually follow the words more-so than just gargling a dozen marbles. From Sheamus’ episode, you head straight into Triple H’s storyline as the “outsider.” It’s fun for the most part, and without spoiling anything; watch all of the cut-scenes. From Triple H’s episode, you head into the final part; the create-a-superstar’s episode (the “hero” storyline). I would suggest not getting attached to your CAW’s moveset because it’ll be changed for storyline purposes. You start out as the winner of NXT, a wrestler named Jacob Cass (don’t get comfortable with anything, actually), and he’s voiced by Austin Aries (an indy wrestler). As not to spoil anything, let me tell you that the story is a mess. It’s well written, and it’s well executed, but it’s 100% unbelievable. The story moves along nicely, but it has the element of being TOO insider at times, I feel, for the casual gamer/normal fan. Of course, I got all the references because I don’t have a life and I live vicariously through wrestling. A couple of big changes to this year’s RTWM mode are that most matches don’t end with a pin-fall, nor do they end with your control. After a certain amount of beating you make your opponent suffer, there’s an on-screen instruction to press a button and a cut-scene follows, heading to the end of the night more-so than not. As well, they’ve taken out almost all of the backstage walking around, and when you do, it’s only to walk to/from the parking lot to a dressing room/hallway/etc. A couple gripes about the RTWM are that ALL of the backstage moments end the exact same way, they give your CAW the worst moveset in the history of movesets (not including Zeus, because man, he was awful. Go to Wikipedia if you don’t get the reference), and some of the situations they throw you in can be almost impossible if you’re on anything harder than “normal” difficulty.
- Wrestling, in and of itself, has changed. The game is much more orientated on chain wrestling and actually wearing your opponent down some before hitting that ever-so-important finisher. Being able to “store” a finisher has returned, and the value of signatures has gone up (I think). Forget the joysticks for performing moves, this year is back to basics with all grapple moves (excluding signatures, finishers, and Irish whip) turning to one button and just manipulating the joystick to change which opening lock-up you want. Like last year, all reversals are on one button instead of having strikes be on the left or right trigger, and grapple attacks being left or right triggers. If we’re talking about the wrestling, we have to talk about Wake Up taunts and Comebacks. Wake Up taunts are like Randy Orton’s fist-punching the ground before an RKO, or Kane’s raising of his hand before the big chokeslam. Comebacks are exactly that; comebacks. Some wrestlers have them as an “ability” where, if they are down-and-out, they press a button and they enter a context-sensitive mini-game of the wrestler’s signature “5 Moves of Doom.” Like Cena’s shoulder blocks, or Orton’s clotheslines/powerslam combo. These add a new dynamic to the game, where one finisher doesn’t always finish the match a lot of the time.
- HOLY LEGENDS, BATMAN. A lot of unlockable fighters this year, and without spoiling TOO much, I just have one thing to say; “IT’S VADER TIME!!!”
Gameplay and Technical Stuff
It’s your average body graphics. A little flashier, and with about 12-15 new camera angles to give you the “in-ring” feel to most of the matches and such, with only a minor hindrance of camera issues gives WWE ’12 a really unique feel this time around. The backstage areas and such are bland, as expected, but the wrestler likeness is spot on with very few flaws. The animations for a lot of the new moves (of which there is a good amount) are solid and fluid, but we’re still looking at the same old Stone Cold Stunner animation we’ve had since…forever. I’ve seen no chugging or frame-rate issues other than during the Royal Rumble on Universe mode when some pyro was going on and 2 people were walking up the ramp to the back.
The only major complaint I have for the gameplay is that they’ve added to matches where if someone is targeted on you, and they go for a punch or a kick, and you’re in the middle of a move, the move ends and the animation stops, and you drop wherever you were. This can get very frustrating during big matches with a lot of people, or (especially in RTWM) when you’re outnumbered, they have the biggest advantage, and if you’re on a harder difficulty than normal, it can get pretty frustrating. Other than that, the gameplay is smooth and works well with the new Predator technology that they’ve added. It adds a layer of smooth, realistic gloss to every action and makes you feel that every move you’re making has a reason for doing so
Sound and Voice
They’ve added a good selection of stock music for CAW and highlight-video/entrance titantrons. The voice work, as stated above, is pretty good with the occasional flop here and there. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but they’ve really stepped up the idea of customizing your own wrestler video (something I didn’t play around with too much).
THQ’s server was down for the PS3 as of Tuesday night when I was playing. However, with hopes of at least 3 DLC packs in the near future, and hopefully more to come, online should keep this game current enough.
Overall Experience and Final Verdict
Wrestling has always been a hit and miss for a lot of people. I’ve been a fan for 15 years, and I’ve been playing the wrestling games since WWF No Mercy came out for the N64. From cheering guys like The Rock and Stone Cold, to hating the power behind the Ministry of Darkness, I’ve been a fan through and through. Wrestling games have always been for a niche community of gamers, and I’m part of the community that wishes for a deeper experience. WWE ’12 is a step in the right direction with the streamlined controls, polished story mode, and updated camera angles to mimic the WWE TV experience. WWE ’12 is the best wrestling game made to date (barring No Mercy, since, you know… c’mon), and if THQ is serious about making a game that can be updated and current, without just becoming another Madden-esque canon, I truly hope that WWE ’13 brings what everyone wants; a truly immersive WWE experience that doesn’t let up well after the story mode is finished.
8.75 / 10
Thanks for reading!