Platform: Xbox 360
Online Multiplayer 2-12
Being both a WWE fan and a gamer often puts me in a difficult position when deciding to purchase what has become the yearly edition of the latest WWE video game. It has been a hit and miss experience at times with how well the game will compare to the real life TV show while at the same time if the game is enjoyable enough from a gamers perspective. Over the past few years the WWE franchise of video games has grown quite a bit, and from the preview of WWE ‘12 I saw earlier this year at X’11 it appears to have made another leap in terms of quality and experience. Well, I have finally got the final retail product in my hands and I have given it quite the play through, so without further adieu here are my thoughts.
Visually speaking, the way likeness of the superstars translates to the video game screen is quite uncanny, right down to specific hairstyles, tattoos, eye color, and even specific traits like how they walk, move their arms and their trademark signature poses or gestures. The details put into the wrestlers appearances is so well done that while I was playing the game my wife stopped to ask me if John Cena was wrestling tonight on Raw. John Cena just happens to be her favorite and she always does her best to make sure she watches him compete when she can. So for her to mix up the game with the real life TV show is somewhat a testament to the visuals that are offered.
Along with the great visuals of existing superstars and arenas, you get the chance to make your own WWE Creations where you can literally edit or create almost anything in the game including Superstars, Entrances, Move-Sets, Finishers, Storylines, Arenas, Logos and even WWE Highlight Reels. The creation portion of the game has definitely expanded a lot and offers a lot more options. I am sure wrestling fans will recreate the WWE back to when it was known as the WWF or even transform it into the WCW if they really want to. The reason I mention this here is that everything you create looks just as good as what really exists, so feel free to be as creative as you want as what you make blends in perfectly with the rest of the game.
Like I mention above, the animations of the wrestlers are well done, but I did notice that some issues did crop up during the odd match. For example, when Irish whipping your opponent into the turnbuckle, if they happened to run into the ref they sometimes would magically run through the ref or the ref would slowly move out of the way without anything happening to him. In either case the ref would never be knocked down on the ground nor would the momentum of the wrestler slow down. Another issue I noted had more to do with the camera angles during tag team matches. If you are in the corner on the bottom right, often the wrestlers standing on the apron would be in your line of vision making it impossible to see what you are doing and it could even hamper your chance of performing a reversal. These two examples are not to say that the visuals are an issue per se, but are only mentioned to show you that you will indeed will find some problems with the visuals now and then, but in the end these types of things are far and few between and don’t hurt the overall gameplay.
Overall there is a lot of attention to detail in the visuals of the game right down to camera flashes, cheering fans, as well as the titantron accurately portraying events in the ring during your match and some great highlight replays at the end of a match. Not to mention the huge improvement to the ability to modify just about anything in the game. I think that most will be happy with how this games looks given the amount of detail that is available in everything on screen.
All in all the sound is solid. Just like during a real life WWE event, when the first few seconds of a superstar’s theme music fills an arena the crowd erupts into a frenzy, especially if it is a fan favorite like John Cena or The Rock. Of course on the flip side of this is that you’ll hear quite a few boos usually reserved for the likes of the Miz or any other villain. This sets up the atmosphere right from the start. The music ultimately sets the stage and the theme for many superstars and using the exact music from the WWE shows to the game is an obvious must, which WWE ’12 does given its’ desire for authenticity.
Throughout the rest of the game though you don’t hear a whole lot more music, but you do hear a lot of talking from the ring announcers from both featured shows of the WWE Universe: Raw and Smackdown. The announcers do an admirable job, but with most games where there is lots of commentating you end up with a lot of repetitive phrases that you ultimately start to tune out after a few matches. That being said, there is a lot of voice work from the WWE superstars, especially during The Road to WrestleMania portion of the game with the likes of Sheamus, John Cena, The Miz, Edge and so many more, all who make their voices known and their signature phrases are abundant as well. For those who care, much of the dialog is built on the same quality that you would find on the show as well, so again, the authentic WWE experience is alive and kicking here.
The sounds of the ring are portrayed quite well as you hear bodies slam into turnbuckles, bodies crashing into the mat as they are hammered to the ground, and the all too familiar “Ding Ding” of the bell to begin/end a match. Heck, in some cases the bell is smashed into the head of a Superstar and you hear that distinctive bell “thud” as it hits the head. On the flip side of the coin, I did find some peculiar sound events throughout the game that cropped up such as moments when a wrestler would enter the ring being booed, but later on in the match he was being cheered for no apparent reason. Oh, and I was quite disappointed when Alberto Del Rio’s personal ring announcer didn’t speak a word of Spanish. I find that I am nitpicking here, but I think it is only fair to give the whole picture. Although there are some low points in the sound department it has greatly improved from the past couple WWE titles I have played and it definitely seems that things are going in the right direction.
In WWE ‘12 you could probably get away with button mashing and gain enough momentum to win a match some of the time, but you will get into situations where that option just won’t work at all and you must get to know the moves at your disposal in the variety match types and situations you will face. I could honestly write at the least 10 pages of all the different maneuvers, techniques, and match types you will face and I still may not cover everything. Just keep in mind that it will be relatively easy to learn the basics but take quite a bit of time to master the controls especially with some of the new additions to the title.
On the basic level there are strikes, strong strikes, grapples, reversals and special moves in WWE ‘12. The strikes and grapples can be combined to form combo attacks that all start differently depending on who your wrestler is. Each grapple and strike will also differ based on where you are in the ring, your position to your opponent, and the type of grapple attack you use. The manual included with the game covers all of the basics like movement controls, strikes & combos, chain grapples, location based attacks, running & diving attacks, and your finishing moves. These controls all come quite naturally to most be it through gaming experience, reading the manual, or in some cases the on screen prompts.
Focusing on the new features in WWE ’12, we have the Limb Targeting System that adds a whole new level of control for wrestling fans. In the past there was some level of what areas you could control, but it was much more complicated and harder to pull off moves that only targeted an opponent’s legs all the time. With WWE ‘12’s Limb Targeting System you can enter a grapple and quickly hold down the Right Bumper along with the corresponding button for a specific body part (Heard, Right Arm, Left Arm and Legs) which is quite conveniently laid out on the controller as Y (Head), X (Left Arm), A (Right Arm) and B (Legs). Limbs can also be targeted if your opponent is down on the ground as well where you move yourself in position near the head, arms, or leg and while holding Right Bumper and the A button to target your attack as well.
The Limb Targeting comes in real handy when you are a submission-based wrestler and need to weaken certain body parts to make your submission much harder to escape from. Targeting a wrestler like the Big Show in the legs will be advantageous in slowing him down a bit as a big man is easier to attack when he is a bit slower. It is this type of thing that makes the game so much deeper, but yet so much more playable, this year and many fans, returning and new ones alike, should appreciate this.
Positioning has also been added into WWE ‘12 where you are able to move a downed or groggy opponent to specific parts of the ring to set up a finishing move. This makes it easier to get to the top ropes, or just to get your opponent away from the ropes so they won’t be able to rope break while you pin them down.
One last new item to talk about is the Wake Up Taunt. This is used when you have a finishing move stored up and ready to use, and you taunt your opponent to stand up so you can use your finishing move on them. For example, Edge would back up into the ropes and stomp his foot while moving his hair out of his face until his opponent would stand up with his back turned to him. Right when his opponent turns around Edge would nail them with a spear. As a long time WWE fan it is nice to replicate how your favorite star does their finishing move exactly, and WWE ’12 definitely does that.
The controls will be familiar to fans of the series with the new additions feeling quite natural and most likely a welcome addition, but one thing that might frustrate gamers as a whole is the new emphasis on reversals throughout the game. When you’re playing in a match it is quite noticeable that almost every time my opponent attacks me a button prompt flashes above our heads indicating which button I need to push to reverse this attack, and most of the time if you see that button you are already too late to reverse that move and it is just a reminder that you better try and telegraph that attack better next time. When I did time the reversal properly I often got frustrated, as my opponent would quickly reverse that reversal before I even noticed it was happening all over again. Reversals are definitely part of the game, but when the emphasis on it makes that particular move a game changer and can cost you matches then it’s not a welcome portion to the game.
All in all the controls work well, and they do take some time to get used to. The new additions to the control scheme are more than welcome but how reversals work need a huge improvement in the next edition of the series in my opinion. I know that our Editor-in-Chief is not of the same opinion, as he found the reversals more balanced then last year (he previewed the game in October), but for some reason I just didn’t feel the same and thought it was worth noting.
The AI controlled wrestlers for the most part are quite similar to their live action counterparts, but there are times when matches carry on for quite a while where the CPU starts using the same attacks several times in a row before switching to a new set of attacks. At first I thought it might just be a coincidence, but it happened so much that it definitely becomes a pattern and is quite noticeable.
Game Modes are pretty standard with WWE Universe returning with WWE Universe 2.0. As with last year it has its ongoing mode that generates a WWE calendar for gamers to enjoy while also offering the options to edit the rosters, create and disband tag teams, assign championships and abilities to Superstars, and a whole lot more. There are also over 100 story-driven cinematics for players to enjoy as they play through the WWE Universe. New to the Universe 2.0 world is what is known as “momentum”. As you make your way through the events and year, you will win (and lose) matches throughout. As you do so this momentum meter fills up and actually influences your record. Of course the more momentum you have, the more it will help you win; however, start to lose, your momentum goes down and it can have quite a negative effect on your wrestler and it will take quite a magical match to start to get you out of the doldrums.
Personally, I enjoyed playing through WWE ‘12’s Road to WrestleMania which, which takes you through quite the storyline as you make your way to WrestleMania 27, all the while you unlock additional features. The theme to this year’s Road to Wrestlemania mode is Hero, Villain, Outsider. The biggest change is that rather than a bunch of small storylines, the dev-team wanted to provide a BIG experience, so this year there are three (3) storylines combined into one continuous story that lasts for 18 months (virtually speaking). You will play as one character, and as you play out this story it will eventually lead into the next. Each character’s story is 6 months (again, virtually speaking). The only drawback, if you can even call it that, is that I wasn’t able to choose the character I wanted to take on the Road, but if there are plenty of other options where I get to choose my wrestler so it’s not a huge drawback.
Throughout playing each of these game modes you come across match types as simple as one on one or tag team matches to the much more complicated Extreme Rules, TLC, Steel Cage, Hell in the Cell, Elimination Chamber, Inferno or Royal Rumble matches that you usually only to get to see during Pay Per View events. Keep in mind each match type has their own set of rules, and in some cases controls, that apply to them. So study up and make sure you are ready to put some boot to ass.
Taking WWE ‘12 on to Xbox LIVE before the game launched was a bit difficult, as I had no one to play with. The standard online modes such as Ranked Matches, Player Matches and Royal Rumble are included. WWE Community Creations are also available. This is where you can upload your own created content, or download some other fans content as well. All of the content can be rated and can be sorted by highest downloaded, highest rated, and most recent contributions to the community.
As I reflect upon my time with the game, I have to say that the gameplay has been greatly improved by giving players a lot more control over what they can do in the ring with Limb Targeting and even getting them into the right position to perform the perfect move. The AI could use a bit of a tweak but overall it is pretty spot on with only a few minor problems. I think most WWE purists will appreciate the work that went into the gameplay area.
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