WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Network Players: 2-12
3.5 GB Required HDD Space
HD Video Output: 480p - 720p
Dualshock 3 Compatible
Xbox 360 Features
Online Multiplayer 2-12
Game Content Download
THQ has recently released their yearly follow up in their venerable wrestling series, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw. This 2011 edition has big shoes to fill given that the 2010 edition was such a good representation of the “entertainment sport” and had many innovative and enjoyable features. We were lucky enough to review both the PS3 and Xbox 360 editions. Given their identical feel and look, we will be doing one of our “combo-reviews” with both versions covered here. So, how does the 2011 version stand up? I would have to say dam well.
Visually speaking, I must say that I am once again impressed by what Yukes has managed to do when bringing the WWE to the virtual world again. Wrestlers look very much like their real life counterparts and they animate incredibly well too. From snapping off the ropes to leaping off the top of the turnbuckles and landing on an opponent, every wrestler, be they WWE Superstars or Divas, move very fluidly and quite realistically. One thing that Yukes and THQ have talked about is that the physics engine has been improved and I have to agree in many ways. From the way wrestlers fly through the air to the way they hit the mat, the realism is highlighted by this improved physics engine. Of course each and every wrestler’s flashy and individualistic entrance is included and looks just like you’d expect it to on any episode of SmackDown vs. Raw.
As for the arenas and crowds that help make up the atmosphere of the WWE, they too are well represented with some painstaking detail and lots of good work. Although you’ll find some wonky crowd movements now, you have to appreciate how the various stadiums and various crowds work so well to help improve the look, feel, and overall WWE experience. From the individuality of each arena or stadium to the signage found in the crowd, it is all there.
I should note that there are a few glitches now and then, such as objects going through characters (e.g. chairs) or pieces of the set looking out of place or moving on their own, but these are not that prevalent and definitely don’t take away from the game.
In comparison to last year, the audio takes a bit of a hit. Sound effects are spot on, from the sound of a metal chair hitting the head of a Superstar to the sound of a chest slap, everything is quite good. Of course all the theme music is bang on and the voice work is the same quality too, but there are two things stand out in a negative way. All the hard work that went into the voice work is somewhat ruined by very poor lip-syncing. As each character speaks their mouth doesn’t move in sync, the result being characters who literally flap their gums wildly while sound comes out of the speakers. It ruined all the work that went into the dialog. The other area that I had issue with was the in-game commentary. Last year this was well done, but this year it seems somewhat repetitive and does not add anything to the game. It is as if some of the excitement has disappeared in this area. I hope they can get back on track next year with more involved and exciting commentary as well as syncing up the wrestler’s mouths to their voices.
Anyone who played last years SmackDown vs. Raw knows that the 2010 version was a great game. It managed to move the franchise forward and the game was a lot of fun. For those reading this review who did not play it, don’t worry, although you missed a great game you can experience the same, if not more, in this most recent release. This years edition does manage to improve the game even further, although the changes are not as ‘groundbreaking’ as last year. 2011 offers over 70 WWE Superstars, Divas, and Legends this year. If you have a favourite Superstar or DIva you want to play as, they are most likely included in this game.
One thing that 2010’s version offered was a pretty deep career mode. This year that mode has been changed in both name and style. WWE Universe is the new ‘career mode’ so to speak and you will find the majority of your time spent playing here. It seems to take the previous career and exhibition modes, throw them into a blender, whip them up, and poor them into a glass in the form of WWE Universe. This mode allows for the game to generate all the WWE events you will find yourself in, such as Pay-Per-Views, SmackDown Events, Raw Events, and more. On top of this, the game also creates the cards for each event based on rivalries that are created and the rankings of each wrestler. Should there be nothing that interests you in a particular event you can make up your own match. So basically, what this mode does is keep track of everything and creates things for you to do. It is on-going as well as you can just keep playing and playing. Should you get a little tired of how things are unfolding, feel free to go in and manage such things as rivalries and teammates, the result being that everything will start to change as new alliances form and new battles start to exist. Being able to take on the role of manager and not have to worry about playing is a great option. WWE Universe took up most of my time and I found that it was time well invested as I had fun with it.
It is worth noting that during the WWE Universe mode you can’t just put the Superstar you are controlling, be it an existing WWE member or your own created one, straight into a world title match. Just like in the real world of WWE you must earn the chance to fight for the world championship by climbing the rankings and getting to the number one contender rank. So don’t think that you can just play the WWE Universe mode and keep winning championships by placing your wrestler in these key matches.
Returning this year is the quasi career mode of Road to Wrestlemania. Like last year, you take on the role of a specific superstar, play through the story that is attached to them, and eventually wrestle in what is WWE’s biggest spectacle, Wrestlemania. New to this mode is the ability to wander around backstage and involve yourself in some side quests, listen to other’s conversations, talk to key players, or pick fights with other good guys or bad guys. Should you find yourself starting a backstage brawl, you can be rewarded with Superstar points that are put towards your move damage and damage resistance. This adds a somewhat RPG feel given that you are indeed in charge of much of your destiny, but you do not have to do everything to get further in the game. It is all your choice.
Given that I mentioned choice, it is fun to see the choices you make affect the storylines that are created for this mode. Once again I find myself amazed with how much freedom there is in terms of the choices you can make during the story and how they affect the storylines available. If there is one thing for sure, Yukes and THQ made sure to keep it fresh and exciting for those who love the WWE, and being able to play the part of decision maker is even more enticing to those who play.
If there was one area that I had issue with in the Road to Wrestlemania mode, it was with leveling up my wrestler. It seemed to take forever and it proved to be a challenge in itself. I had to pick fights with pretty much everybody backstage just to make some progress. This could drag things on somewhat, especially if you want to take each storyline for a spin so to speak. In many ways you may question whether or not it is worth the effort.
For those who are worried that that is it, don’t fret, as there is still more to do. There is a standard exhibition mode for those looking for a quick fix of wrestling mayhem. You’ll find pretty much any type of match that the WWE offers in real life is offered in SmackDown vs. Raw 2011. You’ll have the option to battle it out in backstage fights, Ladder Table Chair matches, Ladder Tornado Tags, Royal Rumbles, Hell in a Cell matches, and more. Trust me, if you know it exists in the WWE, chances are you can do it here. And of course, should there be something totally way out that you want to do, there is a new match creator for you to be able to go crazy and make your own match.
As with last years version, there is once again a bevy of customization options available in this game. You can create your own storyline, design logos and moves, and create some pretty cool costumes. It is as simple as last year as well and the choices you are given to customize is amazing. Of course you can once again share these online with the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw community around the globe. I have to commend Yukes and THQ for keeping this system the way it was last year as it was such an improvement and so amazing to use then that I don’t really know how it could have been improved upon. As the saying goes, “if it’s not broken, why fix it?”.
Controlling the action in the ring is pretty much the same as last year. Utilizing the analog sticks, bumper and trigger buttons, and the face buttons, you’ll be able to pull of any type of move that you can. The repertoire of moves available is also once again incredible, from simple arm bars to more complex ones such as flying of the ropes or turnbuckles to submission moves. For those looking for simplicity, you can rest assured you can have some fun, but if you are looking for success you’ll have to gain knowledge of how to pull off the more complex moves. One of the more bigger changes in the control area is that the game no longer includes the ability for normal or stronger modifiers when grappling. SmackDown vs. Raw now looks at how damaged your opponent is and when you grapple it automatically adjusts your attack based on the condition of that opponent. This is kind of nice as it is one less thing for you to worry about.
Of course online multiplayer is back as well. This was one of the biggest improvements last year and the amount of online options made 2010 version a great online game. Well those options have once again been included this year with a few tweaks here and there. New in 2011 is the ability to play any match online. Yes, you heard me right, now you can head online and play any WWE match online. Being able to go against anyone in the world in a Ladder match or large scale tag team match is a hoot. Also new is that the Royal Rumble mode is heading online as well, for up to 12 players. I should note that only six players will be in the ring as one time, but those outside the ring awaiting their turn can play mini-games while waiting for their chance to enter. Should you and your Superstar get eliminated you can take control of the next Superstar that is entering the ring.
Finally, SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 has a great prestige system for online play as well as you earn points for your online rank. These points are earned through playing matches, rating user created storylines, and uploading your own creations. I have seen some online players with some pretty impressive ranks which tells me that the WWE diehards are already well into this game. As for my time online, the games that I did play were pretty smooth. If there was anything worth noting it was that the PS3 version has more hiccups online then the Xbox 360 version, but this was far and few between and the online experience for both was pretty good.
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