When you have a popular annual series and you have been doing it for a while it is very easy to become complacent. Fortunately this hasn’t happend to THQ and this year’s version of Smackdown vs Raw is one of the best versions in a long time. In addition to tweaking what was already in the game to make it better, THQ added a bunch of new stuff this year to make fans happy. “It’s Your World Now” is the tagline for this year’s version and the development team did a fantastic job implenting that mantra. You are in control in this year’s version and can do things however you want, within reason. For years fans have expressed interest in being able to create their own storylines with their favorite wrestlers. THQ saw all of the fan requests for this feature and implemented one of the biggest new features this year, the story designer.
When you first boot up the storyline designer you are given a calendar with all of the shows that will take place during that month. You begin in January and you can make your story as long as you want. You can have it as small as only being on one show or you can have it go on for ten years. Once you pick a show to work on you are then presented with the choice of adding a scene or adding a match. If you want there to be a scene before an upcoming match then you simply select that option and you are off and running. You can choose the type of animation you want, the location where it will take place, the wrestlers involved and more. If you really want to get your hands dirty you can go into the advanced editor and see what kind of director you really are. Here is where you can adjust the scene’s length, insert text and emotion, decide on whether you want an entrance video or music to be playing, the different angles that you want the camera to be in and more. Being able to select your camera angle is a great feature to this mode and should make for some very interesting moments. The nice thing is that you aren’t given some pre-determined angles. You are given full control of the camera to do what you want whether it be to change the altitude of the camera, change the zoom or change the target. As I mentioned above you can also choose the location where your scene will take place. You can have it take place in the ring with all of the different arenas at your disposal or you can have it take place backstage. There have been many scenes that I have seen that take place in a parking lot and feature one of the wrestlers getting hit by a car, similar to a real life storyline that played out with Stone Cold Steve Austin approximately ten years ago. A scene that I created had Christian fight Chris Jericho and then after the match Dolph Ziggler ran down to the ring to attack Christian. After Jericho and Ziggler beat down Christian they shook hands in the middle of the ring while the crowd was chanting “Holy crap!” and then Jericho’s music hit as the show ended. Now if you don’t want to create anything and you simply want to spend your time playing, you can do that as well. Once people are done with their storylines they can upload it to the Smackdown vs Raw servers for other people to download and experience. If you are done with all of the Road To WrestleMania storylines, or you simply want something different, you can sign on to the servers and download any story you want. THQ did a great job implementing this feature and it will definitely help with the replayability of this title. It’s basically like free downloadable content all year.
The Road to WrestleMania is back this year and it is back better than ever. You have six different storylines to pick from in this mode which will probably give you between 25-30 hours of gameplay on just this one mode. You can pick from Edge, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, HHH & Cena and, for the first time ever, Mickie James in a diva storyline. Additionally, for the first time ever, there is a Road To WrestleMania storyline featuring your created superstar. This storyline starts out with you being a fan in the audience at an event until you are challenged to get in the ring and begin your storyline. It was a fantastic idea and it is a lot of fun to see your created superstar feuding with all of the big names in the WWE.
Another new feature this year is the WWE Rivals. This is where you can go in and set up allies and rivals. Maybe you want to have Randy Orton and John Cena as allies. Well you can go into this feature and do just that. Each wrestler can have up to five allies and five enemies. You would simply go over to John Cena and put Randy Orton in the aliies section. There is also a ranking system within that list. If you put Orton at the top of Cena’s list then the chances are pretty good that Orton will come out to help Cena if he gets into some trouble. If he is at the bottom of the list he might still come to help out it just isn’t as likely.
Some other new features include the create a wrestler mode. While the mode itself is not new, there are some additions to it that are making their debut this year. First off is the new superstar threads option. This is where you can change the appearance of your favorite wrestler’s attire. If you have someone like a Rey Mysterio who frequently changes the color of his wrestling attire you could go into this mode and change the color as well to keep up to date with the real Rey Mysterio. The only thing you can really do is change the color of a wrestler’s attire so it is fairly limited in that aspect, however, this is the first year where you can somewhat customize how the WWE superstars look so hopefully in the future they will be able to go a little bit more in depth. Next we have the paint tool. This is basically the same as the paint program that comes with every copy of Windows. You open up the program and decide what size you want your canvas to be from the two options that are given to you. You have the pen tool, the shape tool, the fill tool and all of those basic functions that everyone is familiar with. Here is where you can create your own logo and/or design and then place it on your wrestler. You can decide to place it on your wrestler as a tattoo or maybe on a shirt they will wear to the ring. You can change the size of it, rotate it and do other things to customize it to your liking.
Last year THQ introduced the Highlight Reel which turned out to be a very popular feature within the community. This year they went one step further and made it so you can create your own entrance movie just like WWE Superstars have in real life. The way this works is that you take a highlight reel that you made and then you can turn it into your own entrance movie by encoding it. Once that is completed you can make it the entrance movie for your own created wrestler, or if you so choose, you can put it on an existing WWE Superstar. If you don’t like Kofi Kingston’s video then you simply change it and put the one you made there and it will play when he comes to the ring. The only limitation seems to be that you can only create an entrance movie off of one highlight reel. What this means is that you can’t make a movie from a bunch of different highlight reels and/or matches. It would have been nice to be able to do that and hopefully it is a limitation that is removed in future versions of this title. Another addition is the added functionality added to the create a finisher mode. While the mode itself made its debut last year, THQ added the ability to create diving finishers off the top rope now. You can let your mind go crazy here as you control how fast or slow the move is performed, the trajectory of the jump and more. You can make it so your wrestler almost jumps off the screen before he lands on his opponent.
A new match type that was added for this year’s version is the championship scramble. The way this match works is that you have a set time limit, for example ten minutes. There are five wrestlers that participate in this match. Two superstars start in the ring and every two minutes a new superstar enters. If a superstar scores a pinfall in that time period then they become the interim champion. However, if that same superstar gets pinned thirty seconds later then he loses the championship to the guy that just pinned him. Whoever is the interim champion when the time limit expires becomes the actual champion and walks out of the match with the belt. Depending on the time limit you set the championship could change hands several different times. The wrestler that walks in with the championship could lose it within a few minutes but then gain it back before the time limit runs out and leave with his championship. It’s a very cool concept and can make for some hectic matches.
While the Royal Rumble is not new by any stretch of the imagination there have been some changes made to it to make it more fun to play. There are now four different types of eliminations. You have the Royal Rumble finisher, the corner elimination, the bottom rope elimination and the middle rope elimination. The way that you successfully eliminate someone is by completing a mini game. One mini game has each of you press a button and whomever presses it first gains the upper hand. Another mini game is a button masher with yet another one being on a slider and you have to hit the button when the slider is in the green zone. The catch here is that the green zone continually shrinks so it becomes harder and harder to hit it. If you have a finisher stored and you are the one that is about to be eliminated then you can use that finisher to get yourself out of trouble and back into the match. These new mini games freshen up the Royal Rumble experience and keep you on your toes as you don’t really know what is coming next.
The gameplay for this title is a lot more fluid then it has been in years past with the models looking a lot more realistic as well. There are still some issues with clipping and things of that nature though. If you are new to this series, or simply want to get in some practice, there is a brand new training facility in this game. You see it right when you boot the game up and there are hints to help you learn the ropes, so to speak. You even get an achievement for doing every move on the checklist. If you don’t want to participate in this you can simply hit the start button and the main menu will pop up over the ring in the training facility. It is a much cleaner look than previous versions and just works better overall. The wrestler’s attire no longer looks like it is painted on and everything just seems to have a smoother feel to it. The commentary in the game could be a little better as there were times where they would make comments that had absolutely nothing to do with my current situation. This didn’t happen often, however, it was definitely noticeable when it occured. Some of the wrestlers also have outdated theme music, however, you are able to edit their entrance so you can simply use the user playlist feature to give them the correct music if you want everything to be like it is on television. I think a great new feature for future versions would be if we could add our own videos, sort of a user playlist for videos and not just music. That way when a wrestler changes entrance videos we can keep that up to date as well and it would make everything that much more accurate.
Overall Smackdown vs Raw 2010 is an amazing wrestling title and definitely the best one yet. There are a couple of annoyances from a viewpoint of a wrestling fan such as some of the entrances for the wrestlers being inaccurate or missing key elements. These are things that if you aren’t a wrestling fan you will never notice, however, the fan base will definitely pick up on it. There are some great unlockables that will keep people playing and the presentation is just like it is on television. If you are a wrestling fan, and even if you aren’t, you need to try out this title. THQ went with the community concept this year and they hit it out of the park. It should be really interesting to see the type of storylines that everyone can come up with. There is so much to do in Smackdown vs Raw 2010 that you will be kept busy for a very long time and it is well worth the price of admission.