As a twenty year fan of the wonderful world of professional wrestling I always look forward to the annual WWE title. Over the years it has become increasingly more realistic and with WWE ’12 the development team has really started to understand how to present their game so that it is an authentic representation of what we see every week on Raw and Smackdown. The screen is no longer cluttered with energy gauges, meters or anything else that you might have found in previous iterations of the “Smackdown vs Raw” franchise. What you are left with is a really clean looking display that is the best representation of a WWE production that we have ever seen on a game console. Long time fans will appreciate THQ’s effort in trying to give them the most up to date product that they could. There is no better illustration of this than when you are listening to “Cult of Personality” as CM Punk makes his way down to the ring.
WWE ’12 features a number of different gameplay modes that fans should enjoy. There is the standard exhibition mode where you can choose the type of match that you want along with the stipulations ranging from a normal match to a Hell in a Cell, Steel cage and much more. You then have the WWE Universe mode which is probably where you will spend a good amount of your time with this game. This mode allows you to completely customize your experience. Within this mode you can create your own show, interfere in matches (including AI only matches), participate in the annual draft and much more. You have complete title match freedom where you can decide what to do with the championship titles as well as a new momentum meter. This new meter places a greater emphasis on wins and losses and you will see the results in your wrestler’s stats and in how they perform in the ring. You have access to over twenty different titles that you will be able to choose from which should result in some interesting scenarios. If you so choose you can fill this mode with all of your created superstars and not have any WWE wrestlers at all. Once I started playing I was really happy with how fluid the Universe mode works. You can keep going from one match to the next without having to go back to the menus or you can choose to go back to the menus after a match if you want to change something up. There are also stories that will develop in Universe mode. After I pinned Beth Phoenix in the middle of the ring as Kelly Kelly I saw Natalya walk out on to the stage to try and get in the mind of Kelly. Another great instance was when Beth Phoenix was walking to the ring and Layla ran out and attacked Beth from behind. You can have an impact on how these stories play out and I had a lot of fun running the mode however I saw fit.
Road to WrestleMania makes its return this year and changes up the formula. If you haven’t played any of the recent WWE titles, Road to WrestleMania is essentially the “campaign” mode for the game. This is where you will find your big cinematic experience with a story that will feature three different wrestlers. The Road to WrestleMania has undergone some pretty significant changes in this year’s version and I enjoyed all of them. The development team has done an amazing job at crafting a story that you could see on WWE television. In fact, some of the stories are so good in this mode that I would really love to see WWE utilize them in real life. The formation of a brand new faction in this mode and the return of a championship were amazing moments for a long time fan like myself and that is only two instances in the first third of the story. This new faction has never existed in WWE, however, they still had a proper Titantron video and entrance. I really love how closely THQ and WWE work together on these games as it really helps to give the game a more authentic feel. As I mentioned above, this is a more cinematic experience and you can tell that a lot of hard work was put in to this mode. In years past you would have five or six separate WrestleMania stories to play through. John Cena would have his separate story, Randy Orton would have his separate story and so on and so forth. That doesn’t happen this year as there is one main story that features three different people. This allows the development team to tell a much bigger and more intricate story than simply having five smaller stories. You will have certain objectives that you will need to meet, however, things won’t always end up the way you think. Your objective might be defeat to Sin Cara in the ring, however, once you push the button for your finisher a cinematic might trigger which shows Sin Cara reversing your move and pulling off his finisher to pin you for the three count or you might see someone run in to the ring to try and interfere in your match. This is how the developers decided to keep the story on track and I liked it.
In past iterations you might have been given the task of putting a specific person through a table or meeting some other requirement like that. It could get frustrating at times if you weren’t able to complete that objective and you had to start over. This new way of telling the story eliminates that frustration and allows you to enjoy where the story is going. You will still have objectives that you have to meet though. I specifically remember an Elimination Chamber match where I had to beat the Miz before someone else was released from their own individual chamber which didn’t give me a whole lot of time. When you come across certain objectives like these you will be introduced to the amazing new checkpoint system. Let’s say, for example, the Miz is the fourth out of six wrestlers in the Elimination Chamber. You have already beaten three guys but you fail to defeat Miz in the time allotted. Instead of making you fight through the first three guys again you will start at the point where you began fighting the Miz. Not only does that save me the ten minutes it originally took me to go through the first three guys but I don’t get as frustrated as well. With all of that said, much like on WWE programming every week, not all of the action takes place in the ring. You will, of course, have plenty of in ring action, however, there is much more. You’ll watch wrestlers cut promos and try to hype up the next big pay per view. There were plenty of times where I tried to soften up my opposition before the next big show. You will go through the story from the perspective of your wrestler or group. What I mean by that is that you’ll go through an episode of Raw, however, you’ll only do what relates to your wrestler. As Sheamus there was an example where, during the last Raw before a pay per view, I would get in a parking lot brawl with a rival and try to beat him down and then Raw would be over.
An improved story mode wouldn’t mean a whole lot if it didn’t have good gameplay. Fortunately the gameplay in WWE ’12 is some of the best that THQ has ever done in a WWE game. The new control scheme does have a little bit of a learning curve for experienced players, however, it works really well once you get used to it. Gameplay is now much more fluid and much more connected. I can now seamlessly transition from an arm bar to a power slam, for example. One of my favorite things to do is run at an opponent and then “float” over the top of them into a spinning DDT. The animations look really nice and each wrestler has their respective mannerisms and attitudes. The character models look pretty stunning and watching Sin Cara fly over the top ring rope is just like watching him every week on television. I mentioned earlier that WWE ’12 features a clean screen. There are no gauges or anything on the screen, however, there is one exception. When you have a finishing move ready to go you will see a small “F” by your foot to indicate you can perform a finisher. The word “signature” will also appear by your feet if you have a signature move stored up as well. There will be other small button prompts such as “RT” if you have the chance to hit a reversal and things of that nature. If you are someone that likes having everything on the screen then you can simply go into the options menu and turn it back on.
Just like in previous years, WWE ’12 features a host of community and creative features. I’m not going to go through each one since they should be well known by now, however, there is a new addition this year and it allows you to create your own arena. With this mode you can customize the ring, the ringside area, the electronic billboard and even the menu screenshot and match-up nameplate. You can use pre-existing logos or create brand new ones and place your logo on the ring apron or on the ring mat itself. If you are a fan of the group D-Generation X then you can make your own DX arena and much more. You’ll also be able to create your own wrestler, entrance, move-set, finisher move, story, logo and highlight reel. Once you create those you can upload them to Xbox Live and let other people download your creations. If you aren’t the creative type and you simply want to see what others have done then you can do that as well. THQ has essentially made it so that there will always be something new that you can see or play. The community will help to make sure there is new content throughout the year in addition to the official downloadable content.
I know this sounds like a really great game for wrestling fans and it is. With that said though there are some things that could be improved upon. The voice work for some of the wrestlers really needs to be brought up a notch. A great example of this is Ricardo Rodriguez. We see him on television every week and he does a great job of introducing Alberto Del Rio. He announces Del Rio with enthusiasm and really gets into it. On the game though Ricardo really doesn’t say that much and there doesn’t seem to be much of that enthusiasm. There are definitely some graphical clipping issues that you will notice as well. I noticed that when someone is wearing a championship belt it kind of fades in and out at times. The ring ropes seem to have some weird physics too and don’t really act like they should. The difficulty seems to need a little bit of tweaking as well. There were times when I would be decimating my opponent and then other times where the difficulty seemed to spike and I was the one getting beat down. Fortunately you can tweak some of these options yourself and get it to how you like. There were also times when the crowd seemed to drown out a wrestlers music as he was coming out or something an announcer was saying. While that is authentic to the real life experience I would appreciate a slider where I can turn the crowd volume down a notch so I can hear the music and/or the announcer more clearly.
WWE ’12 is a reboot of THQ’s long running WWE series and it hits on all the right notes. The new Predator technology they have created gives the game a more authentic look and feel and has done wonders for the gameplay. As you progress throughout the game you will unlock WWE Legends that you can use, alternate attire, entrance videos and more. WWE ’12 is a game that should keep wrestling fans busy for a very long time. The amount of customization in this title is pretty mind blowing and I’m excited to see what kind of stories the community comes up with. I really enjoyed the changes the revamped Road to WrestleMania mode brought to the table. The “WWE Universe” mode will also keep me busy for quite a while as I try to rise through the ranks with my created superstar. If you are a WWE fan then this game belongs in your library. If you aren’t a WWE fan you should definitely still check out this title. Even if you have no interest in watching the product on television this is a really fun title that you might find yourself enjoying. This is a title that has something for everyone. Be sure not to miss out.