Wrestling is all about the show, the wow factor, poor acting and heavy dudes slamming each other into the ground. Making a wrestling game is hard, and I have played a few over the years. Generally they are too slow or too hard to control. Most of them have also missed the presentation completely, and made the wrestlers look like overgrown babies in their diapers.
WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 has a lot in common with the crappy wrestling games of the past. First the poor graphics that really baffles me. Come on people it was late in 2009 that this game was released but it looks worse than the first iPhone games that Gameloft put out way ahead of proper optimization of the iPhone hardware. The wrestlers are kind of ok with a nice set of animations, and some attention to detail. But they feel like cardboard cut-outs in the ring as there is a clash between background and wrestler. Perhaps this is due to lack of lighting effects and shadows. Overall though the presentation is really sloppy. The character selection/creation screens have grey gradient as background. What? Where is the wow factor, the colour and the lightning?
Equally strange is the fact that there is no voice acting within the game other than the odd constipated growl as you bash your opponent. When watching a show half of the fun is the commentaries, and how they seem to be in a world of their own. Furthermore the entrances the wrestlers make are a big part of the show that is more or less left out of the game. Sure the Undertaker has a couple of flames going on but where is the menacing chuch bell? Every wrestler gets a generic entrance, and quite frankly they could have left that part out completely.
Now you are all thinking that WWE Smackdown vs. Raw is just a pile of horse manure but there is one thing that it has going for it. The controls are really fun to learn, and to master. Gestures are the name of the game. You drag your finger to make your wrestler walk, and swipe to run and hurl him against the ropes. Context sensitive buttons help you to do the all the tricks. Punching, stomping and grappling are all done in this manner. There is even the opportunity to counter by quickly tapping the on screen button when it flashes. Pinning and submissions are done by timing a bar, making sure it is green for the count of three. The reversed goes for avoiding submissions. The entire control scheme is created to be intuitive, and to avoid making the game another button masher.
The control methods take some getting used to, and I had to go through the tutorial twice and loose a couple of matches before I understood it. Once it is understood the game becomes a really exciting experience, and I had a great time beating the living daylight out of the Undertaker. What happens after this though is the real downside to the game. Once you have mastered the controls you are more or less unstoppable. I can now beat any wrestler with any wrestler without being touched at all. Rope running, slamming, stomping…repeat. This gives the game a short lifespan for me, and after an hour or so I have no intention on ever playing it again.
There is a career mode where you can create your own brawler. You can customize the looks to get a new superstar tailored to your personal taste. There isn’t much story to it, and the presentation is generally bland and boring. You progress and get to wrestle the 11 official characters such as Rey Mysterio, the Undertaker, Batista and Chris Jericho. An exhibition mode lets you set up your fight using any available wrestler, set of rules, arena and level of difficulty. For a quick fix it might be fun to try the different sets of rules, but once the controls are mastered even the hard AI opponent is easy to pin down.
WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 is to some extent a breath of fresh air bringing a new gesture based control system that works. Presentation is lacklustre, the game lacks commentaries, official entries and songs, and most of all it lacks flair. Once mastered it will get boring right away, but up to that point it is really fun. If you are a fan of the WWE universe you can’t go too wrong with it, but if you are new to the genre and culture give this one a miss.
WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 $4.99
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