Reviewed: November 1, 2009
Released: October 20, 2009
I remember back in the late 80's when I was in high school there was all kinds of publicity for the WWF and “Hulkamania”. I never really bought into the whole thing. About the only interest I had was when John Stossel did an interview on 20/20 with “Dr. D” and ended up with a busted eardrum. It was only due to all the Pay Per View commercials that I even knew about all the other wrestlers that followed. I just didn't care to spend time watching a fake sport and certainly didn't want to pay to see it. But it seems to be a perfect fit for a fun video game.
Yuke's seems to have the game engine of choice when it comes to these kinds of games. Earlier this year they did the highly rated UFC 2009 and Legends of Wrestlemania. Both of them were certainly fun to play – especially if you had some friends around to give a virtual beatdown. When WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 starts up it gives you the same general feel of previous Yuke's fighting videogames. However once again you quickly notice a graphical upgrade as you first jump into the training squared circle.
There are plenty of game modes to keep you busy. For quick matches you can choose from standard one on one, two on two, Triple Threat, Fatal-4-Way, 6-man, and Handicap. New this year are the Royal Rumble and Championship Scramble. Each of these play modes gives you even more options from inferno match to more extreme rules and a new backstage mode.
Sprinkled throughout the modes are tones of video clips from actual WWE events such as Wrestlemania. It's sort of a “career mode” with specific story. There is a separate career mode, but probably most will want to win Wrestlemania. There are over 50 playable characters in SmackDown vs. Raw 2010. Current superstars from Raw, Smackdown, and ECW are included along with 12 divas and several legends including Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.
You take on the role of one of several WWE personalities or you can play as your created superstar. You can even play as one of the Diva's and participate in the wrestling diva swimsuit competition, which turns into the usual catfight. The drama ensues and it's actually kind of fun to watch, but after a few hours you've learned all the moves and it's not much more than a button masher.
Probably what sets this wrestling game apart from previous efforts is the amount of customization. In the “story designer” mode you can create your own stories for you to play or post on the WWE Community Creations online. You start by selecting which show you want to be a part in; Raw, ECW, or Smackdown. Then you insert moments of either scenes or matches. Each has a ton of cinematic options for you to set. It's much like a movie creation tool where you pick the scenery, the cast, cameras, and plot complete with exploding cars. You could spend hours just creating a story to upload.
Create modes include an amazing amount of tools to customize your male or female character. Just about everything from underwear to signs in the crowd can be customized specific to your character. There is even a paint application where you can make your own tattoos.
Xbox Live play includes the usual Ranked and Unranked matches. But the gold can be found in the Community Creations. Everything from screenshots to created wrestlers can be downloaded. However the real creativity comes in the created stories. There are even several ongoing stories that continue weekly. It's amazing how creative some people can be with a somewhat limited tool set. Unfortunately the stories only include text subtitles. So you are limited to sort of a mime on screen action, but it's still pretty amazing the fun people can have with this creativity tool.
The load times between cutscenes and matches are not good. There are times it can take 15 seconds or more to load anything, with no indication that progress is being made. Several times I thought the game had locked up. Copying the game to the hard drive does little to improve load times.
The graphics are a step up from previous wrestling games. Shading and general realism has been improved considerably. Even the fans look better. There are still some annoying glitches. There are occasional clipping problems, but I frequently ran into collision detection issues. Often I saw my fists pass right through my opponents and through their back. It certainly affects the realism. Oh wait, I forgot we're talking about “professional” wrestling.
Additionally, there were some settings where the characters would walk or start fighting when their steps did not match up with the distance being traveled. It made it look like it was a new unexplored story mode of wrestling on ice. Characters kind of glided across the set. Very distracting and really made Smackdown vs. Raw look like one of those old arcade games.
Sound is typical WWE entertainment. Huge sound, loud music, big explosions, and bigger personalities. Crowds chant for specific wrestlers and everything is big in surround sound. The music is a big mix of metal, country and some songs I'm not even sure what to label. There isn't a way to select songs other than manually pressing in on the left stick to skip it or going into a gameplay menu and turning the music all the way off. Thankfully Smackdown vs. Raw does support custom soundtracks.
I have seen few games with more content value. There are tons of game variations in both rules and venue. The character creation and story creation modes will provide endless hours of possibilities. The rare and wonderful addition of user created uploads and downloads will make any wrestling fan giddy with excitement.
There are 25 achievements for a total of 1,000 gamer score points. Most of the achievements revolve around the creative modes of the game, but many are simple longevity by completing various Road to Wrestlemania modes and unlocking all the playable characters and bonus items. There are also several secret achievements.
Despite it's “button masher” nature, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is the best wrestling video game I've ever played. The tremendous amount of creative content available for download is a huge bonus for any player. Big kudos to Yuke's for providing tools for any gamer to create more value. This is a wrestling creativity sandbox. If it were not for some annoying graphical glitches, this game would have received a coveted GCM Editors Choice. Hopefully next year.