WWE ’12 Review

WWE 12

For the last twelve years, THQ has been at the helm of WWE’s videogame franchise. Bearing the SmackDown! name for much of that time, annual installments in the franchise began to show signs of stagnation from title to title. This year, the company decided to do an overhaul by bringing a deeper, streamlined experience to the table in WWE ’12. Yet while a retooled control system and more faithful presentation makes the game one of the most impressive, if not best, entrant in the series, a myriad of technical issues that have lingered from previous installments keep the game from reaching absolute greatness.

The first thing that anyone will notice the second they pick up WWE ’12 is that there’s a whole new control scheme to get used to. The strong and weak grapples from SmackDown! vs. RAW have been merged into one all-encompassing grapple button that is then enhanced with use of the left and right thumbsticks: the left determines initial type of grapple, and the right lets the player transition to other types. The longer a match rolls on, the more devastating the moves will become, as grappling a groggy opponent will instantly call for stronger slams.

WWE '12

If players want to be more precise and psychological in their attack, they can do that, thanks to a new limb-targeting system. Once in a grapple, simply holding down one button and tapping one of the four face buttons will execute an attack to the legs, arms, or head. Taking the time to seriously hinder a limb will pay off, as wrestlers with a bum leg will limp and stumble while running, and those who have taken a bashing to the noggin will hold their head and stop to shake out the cobwebs.

Reversals have been tweaked to make matches even more tense and give that feeling that at any moment a player can retake control over their opponent. Some maneuvers will give players the opportunity to counter whatever harm is about to befall them twice in succession. It takes practice and proper timing, but once mastered it becomes a vital tool for success. Additionally, countering an opponent’s finisher is not only easier to pull off, but will give players a finisher of their own. The same is also true should an opponent counter a player’s finisher. Though it may sound a little cheap, it actually perfectly recreates the false endings, counter wars, and out-of-nowhere finishers that some of the most exciting WWE matches contain themselves.

These elements, along with the new comebacks and wake-up taunts — taunts that bring a downed opponent to a standing groggy state when the player has a finisher available — combine to make this just a part of why WWE ’12 is the most realistic videogame wrestling experience to date. New dynamic camera angles capture the precise cuts used in televised events, and although they can sometimes disorient the player and cause in-ring directional confusion, the trade-off for realism is worth it. Entrances come with all the bells and whistles that have made them true to life in previous installments, as do the post-match highlights and celebrations.

Switching over to the game’s revamped Road to WrestleMania mode will give players another dose of authenticity. Promos, in-ring and backstage shenanigans, and show-introducing commentary segments take up a majority of the mode. Players will be able to play full matches, but for the most part they will be wrestling to get their opponents to a certain state before being prompted to initiate the next cutscene. It gives the mode a sense of logic and allows for the unpredictable WWE moments that can’t be conveyed via gameplay to come to fruition, but anyone who isn’t a fan of the company’s habit of emphasizing entertainment over actual wrestling may be heavily turned off. It’s a shame if it does, as some of the actual storylines are so brilliant that it makes one think that maybe Vince McMahon should fire his creative team in favor of THQ’s writers.

WWE '12

Another change to the Road to WrestleMania, which can also be found in Universe 2.0, is a complete streamlining of the gameplay and events. As a show opens, the loading screens are the actual opening camera pans of the starting pyrotechnics and crowd. Once the match loads, the game lets you know so you can press a button to continue (RtWM) or just flows straight into the entrances for the first match (Universe). Once the promo action for Road to WrestleMania is over, the game will either go right into the action or have a match preview image like those on TV pop up as a loading screen. As soon as the match is over or action prompt is needed, the game goes straight into the next cutscene that, in those where the match doesn’t continue afterward, will go right into the opening of the next event.

These same match¬†previews will appear for Universe mode between matches. This is a great touch as it helps players who don’t remember the card to see what’s coming up next and decide who they want to play as or whether they want to skip ahead to the next contest. Once a show is over, the game will transfer right into the next one just like in Road to WrestleMania, although in Universe mode players can enter a rematch menu to exit back to the mode’s main menu after every match. The fact that it so seamlessly flows can make one easily lose track of time just playing bout after bout. THQ has trimmed fat where I didn’t even know fat existed.

Making a more refined experience isn’t the only update to the new Universe mode. Along with a momentum meter that will now increase or decrease stats based on wins and losses, players can now edit and create their own weekly shows. This is done by taking one of the premade shows — RAW, SmackDown!, NXT, WCW — and editing it to have its own custom name, logo, and roster. This roster could be a compilation of the current roster or could be entirely filled with created superstars or downloaded content. Though the ability to create belts for the show isn’t present, the game has a slew of unlockable classics and originals to go with the current set that can be placed on anyone in the show’s roster.

One other object that can be chosen for a player’s custom show is the arena itself, which is now customizable, as well. With exception to the stands, ramp, and stage, everything about the arena can be made to the player’s wishes. Custom logos along with various patterns and colors can be applied to turnbuckles, aprons, and even the banner lighting. When you add this in along with create-a-show and upgrades to the numerous other create modes like entrance videos, superstars, finishers, and more, it becomes the deepest, most user-content friendly WWE game to date.

WWE '12

Despite all of its achievements, WWE ’12 still suffers from many lingering problems from its predecessors. Occasionally, player models will twist and contort in ways bodies shouldn’t, AI opponents will get stuck behind objects, and refs will run in circles, to name a few examples of things that can break immersion. The rope physics, though sometimes nice, can often bend to such high degrees that they look more like strings of pasta than thick steel cables. It is also incredibly difficult to perform an Irish whip in backstage segments when an opponent is right next to an interactive object or location, which becomes annoying when trying to bring him or her to a certain section to complete an objective for Road to WrestleMania.

Road to WrestleMania is not without its own group of issues, as well. The aforementioned backstage brawls occur so frequently they can become tiresome. Also, if an opponent in a tag match has taken a ton of damage he will try to tag out even though the objective will prevent him from doing so, causing the grappler to walk back and forth in his corner until the player goes to get him. Some of the dialogue in cutscenes gets drowned out by crowd noise as well, and quite a few of the wrestlers’ performances feel like they were mailed in. Additionally, though a previously created superstar can be used for the look of the mode’s third protagonist Jacob Cass, it will actually overwrite everything for that custom wrestler with exception of his appearance.

Though WWE ’12 does have its fair share of issues that mar what could have been a perfect, be-all, end-all wrestling title, the game is still the best the series has ever brought to the table. The sheer level of depth, customization, and authenticity goes completely unrivaled. Never before has a wrestling game both looked and felt so much like the real thing seen on TV or live in arenas across the globe. Sprinkle in practically every conceivable match type from the wrestling organization’s history, a diverse roster of over 60 grapplers, plus an improved online component, and WWE ’12 is a surefire winner for wrestling fans.

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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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