Game Review: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010

Image Source: Amazon

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Publisher: THQ
Developers: Yuke’s and TOSE (DS)
Genre: Wrestling
Series: SmackDown vs. Raw (Previously SmackDown!; it would become WWE in future)
Released: October 20 2009 (US) and October 23 2009 (UK)
Certificate: 16
Consoles: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS, Mobile and iPhone

Although it seems silly to imagine in hindsight, at one point there was a genuine chance that there wouldn’t be a SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 game. The previous SvR titles had been officially announced in March of their respective years, but whilst the late March release for Legends Of WrestleMania undoubtedly was a factor, there still wasn’t a peep about SvR 10 as we entered August, leading to some concern about the future of the series. Fortunately, though, information soon trickled out, and as it turned out, an unexpected treat was on the way.

For SvR 10 focused on providing more creative options than ever before, beginning with an innovative new Story Designer mode. Here, fans could put together their own WWE storylines, from in-ring promos to backstage brawls to feud-deciding matches, and it stretched to an entire show and even a calendar year or more of action, meaning that fans could essentially create their own mini WWE. Sure, the matches were always a way to achieve this, but now you had the chance to put your own storylines together to complete the experience. The only downsides (and they were big ones) were that there could only be ten appearances by any created wrestlers in each story, and that text-speak couldn’t be automatically inserted, meaning that unless you had a keyboard, it could take a long time to put together a simple back-and-forth promo. Of course, the unlimited dialogue in text form meant that voice-overs were absent, since it isn’t possible for anyone to record absolutely every line imaginable.

That being said, the mode was still a great addition, if one for the hardcore fans, as was the new Paint Tool option, which allowed you to create logos for use on attires for created wrestlers. What’s more, Create A Finisher now allowed for high-flying moves to be composed, and a new – and long-awaited – Superstar Threads option allowed you to create alternate attires for existing wrestlers. Granted, you could only change the colours of current costumes rather than, say, giving Triple H a suit, but it was a big step forward, and many alternate attires consist of colour changes anyway. You could also create customised entrance videos for wrestlers, largely via the established Highlight Reel option. the Online side of the game was given a boost with the brilliant Community Creations feature that allowed you to upload your own creations and, better yet, download those of other gamers, which allowed you to import the best likenesses imaginable. That you could now also create up to 50 wrestlers, a new peak for the series, was the icing on the cake, as well as 3D clothing for created stars and shorter loading times during the CAW process.

The expansion of the creation suite was the main selling point for the game, although other changes were made. The gameplay was enhanced to include more grappling options from a standing position, ring apron moves, ground grapples and new diving animations, as well as shortening the on-screen HUD to a small bar at a wrestler’s feet, making the screen look less cluttered and more like real-life television shows. And Royal Rumble matches had new elimination mini-games consisting of pressing the right button at the right time, from a standing, grounded and corner position, as well as being able to eliminate someone instantly with a finisher. The Rumble match still wasn’t perfect, but it was an improvement on what had been in place previously.

Other additions included some new match types: the Championship Scramble (remember that?) and the Mixed Tag option for males and females to hook up and automatically enter the bout when someone is tagged in. There were also new areas for Backstage Brawl, including the set of The Miz and John Morrison’s talk show The Dirt Sheet. And an Ambulance match was made available for the Nintendo DS version (the DS release also boasted a new button-based control scheme and a collectable card mini-game; this would be the last WWE game released for the DS, incidentally). Also, females could now compete in most match types, although the days of male vs. female bouts were now over, probably because of WWE going PG the previous year. This had a minor effect on other areas of the game: the barbed wire-wrapped weapons were a goner, and the One Night Stand arena was excluded altogether. There was a new Training Facility option to practice moves in between matches, with a plethora of mini-tasks which made this a challenge mode of sorts. The final major change concerned the use of the Havok collision detection system, which improved animations and move reactions to a great degree.

Road To WrestleMania was back with new stories, this time spotlighting Shawn Michaels, Edge, Randy Orton, Mickie James (the first storyline for females) and a story tailored for a created wrestler. There was also a Brand Warfare story where, depending on which wrestler you picked out of John Cena, Triple H and Big Show, you played through to make yourself the eventual Champion Of Champions. The stories were hit-and-miss: some stories (like HBK’s battle against threatened retirement) were very realistic and entertaining, others less so. It was a good sequel to RTWM in SvR 2009,and each one involved decisions which would dictate your path (resulting in multiple endings), although it was noticeable that some big names (like The Undertaker, Jeff Hardy and CM Punk) couldn’t be used in the mode, along of course with the rest of the roster. Career mode had barely changed at all; it was virtually the same mode, and since it was limited the first time around, it wasn’t exactly a key selling point in SvR 10 either.

Other minor alterations were that blood was modified so that it began with drips and would lead to full-on juice jobs, with wrestler’s hands and chests being splattered with blood during particularly brutal matches (which contradicted the changes necessitated by the PG rating). The soundtrack was updated, and included some songs used on actual PPV events (like the two Skillet tunes Hero and Monster), although some wrestler themes were also played occasionally during the menus (this time for those further down the card). And this was the first game in the series whereby you could earn trophies on the PS3 console.

On the downside, the graphics, whilst improved in some areas, somehow took a step back when it came to the overall vibe of wrestler likenesses; whereas SvR 2008, SvR 2009 and LOWM looked incredibly close to real-life, here you could tell that it was a computer game. It’s hard to describe, but if you compare screenshots of this game with those of previous titles, you’ll know what I mean. There were only 16 arenas, the fewest for years (ONS was omitted, as noted before, but there were no special bonus arenas of any kind). Downloadable content, which was introduced in SvR 2009, was scaled back to focus primarily on Community Creations: Steve Austin as the pre-order exclusive was the only downloadable wrestler available, meaning that 2009 newcomers like Sheamus and The Hart Dynasty would have to wait until the following year, which was a let-down.

Perhaps the biggest flaw concerned the staleness of the roster. At 68, the number was respectable, despite being lower than that of the last game. But the only main roster newcomers were Jack Swagger, Vladimir Kozlov, Dolph Ziggler, The Bellas, Maryse, Natalya, Gail Kim and Primo, with returns for Christian and Goldust. Sure, there were big names aplenty, but just like WWE itself at that time, the line-up just didn’t feel fresh, and many stars who had appeared in SvR 2009 were absent. And it was quite outdated, with a number of performers who had been gone from WWE for many months (as well as Tazz on commentary, who left WWE nearly seven months before this game was released). On the retro front, it’s clear that the developers didn’t know what to do with LOWM being released just a few months earlier. Most were under the belief that legends from LOWM would be imported into SvR 10, the same way that SvR 2009 wrestlers could be imported into LOWM. Instead, that didn’t happen, and Austin, The Rock, Trish Stratus and “modern” versions of Dusty Rhodes, Ted DiBiase (Sr) and Cowboy Bob Orton (in his series debut) were the only legends available. Oh, and the Green and Red characters seen for years during Create A Move Set were now playable wrestlers. So, it’s fairly safe to say that the roster was a disappointment. The game also had releases on Nintendo Wii and iPhone, although both had limitations (which was particularly frustrating for Wii owners since this was the third SvR release on that console). From a personal viewpoint, one limitation on PS3 was that you couldn’t save game data onto a USB stick, which is a problem when your console is inexplicably crashing every few months.

Judging it as a whole, SvR 2010 was a lot of fun to play, and its appeal mostly comes from the much-improved Creation Suite. Create An Arena still wasn’t in, and Create A Championship had yet to return, but almost every other creative option imaginable was included, and Community Creations made the wrestler-creation process so much easier. The weakened and stale roster, the minor limitations caused by the PG rating, the occasional frustrations caused by gameplay (which had been improved, but was still inferior to that of the likes of SmackDown! Here Comes The Pain), hit-and-miss RTWM and the unchanged and underwhelming Career mode swung things considerably in the other direction, ensuring that this wouldn’t be a contender for the best game of the series. It did, however, gather more positive feedback than the previous two games, so while the main issues had yet to be fixed, SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is generally remembered fondly, if not quite reaching “great” status.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good