It's been an interesting few years for the WWE franchise on the Wii. In 2007, the SmackDown vs. Raw series debuted on the little white console that could, but it brought with it a bunch of motion controls and very few match types. Last year, THQ expanded on its wagglin' efforts by adding in interactive entrances and victory celebrations along with some matches, but the overall product still lacked anything that felt as serious as the iterations on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, or even PlayStation 2. That's a pretty big issue seeing as how most wrestling fans demand a serious wrestling game.
This year, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is giving fans that serious game. Yes, this is just a straight port of the game fans can find on the PlayStation 2 – which is a port of the PlayStation 3 version of the game with a few options lopped off – but it's still better than any Sports Entertainment game the Wii has seen before.
Can you take the heat?
If you've missed all the coverage on IGN, SVR 2010 is the latest installment in THQ's annual wrestling series. You're getting 67 Superstars and Divas, a handful of match types, and a whole bunch of modes this time around. Road to WrestleMania (the six story-driven, character-specific tales) is back along with the Create-A-Superstar-honing Career Mode and the roster editor that allows you to move championships and brands with the press of a button.
However, the biggest news is what's new to the traditional SVR formula -- namely, Story Designer. Last year, all versions of SVR introduced Road to WrestleMania, uber-specific stories that were focused on a particular character. That mode is back this year. The stories focus on Edge, HBK, Mickie James, Triple H/John Cena, Randy Orton, and your Create-A-Superstar (CAS) -- but Story Designer gives you all of the tools to make your own tales. You're getting more than 100 preset scene animations that range from giving a speech at a podium to someone getting hit by a car to someone finding a briefcase. You take these scenes and put whomever you want into the animation roles and then tweak the camera angles and music. From there, you can input your own text and have the Superstars/Divas say whatever you want them to.
Want to create a story about Jericho falling in love with the Bella Twins? CM Punk quitting the Straight Edge Lifestyle? Mark Henry missing Mae Young? All the pieces are here for you to create those epics.
You'll take these scenes and use them to set up matches on calendars that can last for up to 10 years. If someone gets wailed on in a scene before a match, you can go in and set the health for individual parts of the body. If you want a run-in, you can choose who will run in. If you want someone to lose by DQ or win by count out, you can set those stipulations so that the player knows what he or she needs to do. Every belt is available to put in a story and assigned to a given Superstar or Diva via the character select screen.
This is awesome stuff. There are a few restrictions – although you can go for 10 years in a story, you can only have 55 scenes and 55 matches in one tale – but they're not that big of a deal. Are you going to make a 100-part story all that often? Interestingly, this version has an upside compared to the PS3/360 version of SVR 2010. Over there, you can only have 10 Created Superstar appearances in a given story. Now, that's 10 "appearances"; if you use two CAS in one scene, that's two appearances. If you used one CAS in three scenes, that's three appearances. On the Wii, there are no such restrictions. You could have 10 years filled only with Created Superstars if you wanted. Of course, you can only save two stories on the Wii, which is a bit limiting.
Still, when I was writing out Create-A-PPV plans in my high school notebook, this is what I was dreaming about.
Another nice addition when you compare SVR 2010 to any version of SVR 2009 is the serious push to make this game feel like it's legitimate WWE programming. When you finish selecting the competitors for a match, it flashes "World Wrestling Entertainment" before taking you to the standup screen before the entrances. Choose to go on and you're launched into entrances. If it's a championship match, you get the screen with the belt on it before the ref holds up the title and you're kicked into the ring. For the first few moments of the match, the "WWE Live" logo appears in the bottom left corner, and when a bout is over, the show copyright pops up. That ugly HUD from years past has been dumped and replaced with a simple halo around your Superstar's feet, too. You'll build up momentum, earn your signature move, hit that, and you'll have the chance to hit your finisher.
These are tiny touches that make the whole package shine.
Getting beyond visual enhancements such as the new camera angles, there's a bunch of tweaks under the hood. A number of new moves have been added to the game's tried and true PS2 repertoire that Wii owners are just getting to try. You have strikes, grapples, strong grapples, and more -- but there are now chokeslams and other moves from the apron; the ability to execute grapples on the sides of downed opponents; and Collar & Elbow, Side Headlock, Rear Waist Lock, and Wrist Lock strong grapples that each come with four moves apiece.
I don't know if that sounds like a game changer on paper, but I assure you it is in this title. The way this game moves feels more fluid than any version that's come before it – PS2, Wii, or otherwise. The fact that you can turn opponents from their bellies to their backs, seamlessly move from one strong grapple to another without breaking the hold, and so much more makes the game move in a way that's completely refreshing while being completely familiar.
Ladies, ladies, ladies!
If my descriptions of the controls seem a bit a vague, it's because the Wii gives you the awesome option of multiple control schemes. You can use the Wii-mote and nunchuk, a Gamecube controller, or the Wii's classic controller. Go the Gamecube/classic controller rout and you'll have a dual stick setup just like the PS2. The left stick will move your character and the right one will perform grapples. Take the Wii-mote and nunchuk route, and the joystick moves you while B executes grapples.
This control scheme also packs one reversal button. Back in the day, THQ was making you click one button to reverse strikes and another to reverse grapples; now, one button does it all. It might sound easy, but you only get one shot at tapping the reversal for a given move and the window is pretty tiny. I've been playing quite a bit, and I only now feel like I'm getting in the rhythm for when to properly use it. Being able to duck under HBK's superkick after he's gone through the whole rigmarole or wiggle off of Cena's shoulder before he can deliver the FU is an amazing feeling -- especially when it looks this good and is accessible enough that you never feel completely out of a match.
Honestly, all the gameplay stuff I just talked about is straight from my PS3/360 review with some minimal stuff changed. Personally, I find that pretty damn impressive. Obviously, the Wii version of SVR can't compete with the PS3 version in terms of visuals, but it actually plays pretty much exactly like the higher end versions. It's smooth, responsive, and fun. It's the solid gameplay of the last few years with a whole bunch of needed and great tweaks. Plus, you get to play with whatever setup suits you best. That's huge.
Sadly, Create-A-Superstar doesn't move forward like the rest of this iteration has. Just like the PS2 versions that came before this and the Wii one from last year, the clothes are still painted on, and everything seems like well-worn territory. Don't get me wrong, there are still a ton of shirts and hairstyles, but it's the same stuff you've seen for years. Another low point is the fact that only generic names are available for the announcers to call you. There are no first names or descriptive titles; just 35 call signs such as "The Rocker" and "The Show."
There is an upside to Created Characters this year. In SVR 2009 on the Wii, you started with a lackluster, sub-50 overall ranking for your CAS and had to beef that up by playing the Career Mode, which was a story-less affair that just had you playing match after match on a ladder to earn attribute points that you didn't get to decide where they got assigned. This year, Career Mode is back and mostly untouched, but you'll be earning attribute points by the handful for any match you take a CAS into no matter the mode. If you want, you can even enter your CAS into matches as a computer-controlled character against a computer-controlled opponent and bank the points at the end of the match without ever playing. Thankfully, you get to apply the points to whatever attribute category you want when all's said and done.
Personally, I dig this year's spin on leveling-up created Superstars. Now that I'm not forced into the boring Career Mode and can level-up no matter the match I choose, I'm fine with applying my own points. I know that the kids who want to make armies of characters might be disappointed to have to go out and earn the points and cooler abilities, but it's nowhere near as limiting as last year's game.
Again, Road to WrestleMania stories are back, and once again they are extremely well-done and entertaining. Each one is 12 weeks or so of WWE matches and scenes. For the brand new option of taking your CAS into the tale, you'll find yourself starting in the front row before being insulted by Santino and making your way into the WWE. From there you'll go on a tear for the Intercontinental title, take on Vince, and more that I don't feel like ruining.
What makes these stories stand out from last year is the fact that there's quite a bit more interactivity. In the Mickie James story, you begin dating Brian Kendrick and need to choose between him and an increasingly creepy Natalya. When JBL launches a Shawn Michaels Retirement Campaign in HBK's story, they'll come a time when you need to decide if you'll accept Bradshaw's blackmail demand. It's these little moments where you get to choose whom you take out or what you want to say that make these instances interesting. It made me feel like I was playing the role of that character in the WWE.
A few other nice touches are the optional and mandatory goals for some of the Road to WrestleMania matches. These tasks -- leap off the top of steel cage, beat someone in a few minutes, etc. -- are cool in and of themselves because they unlock characters, costumes, and areas, but the fact that most are introduced with the Superstar explaining why he'd want to do something really drives home your reason to do whatever it is you're being tasked with doing. Shawn Michaels' whole story is showing that he's not ready to retire, so you feel for him when he explains why he's going to vault off the cage or bust Jericho open.
With the Wii dropping the motion stuff and embracing the usual format, Nintendo-only owners are going to be getting all sorts of matches they only heard about before. The Inferno match is here this year and only ends when you drag your opponent to the ring of fire around the ring and toss him into the 500-degree flames; Extreme Rules is in this version and lets you dig under the ring for a weapon of your choice; Create-A-Finisher is here and lets you create a final move that can combine up to 10 parts like a poison fog and kick to the groin as well as debuts diving finishers; and there's a whole bunch more that are old news to the rest of the videogame scene but brand new for Wii folks.
However, there is some new stuff for everyone. Remember how much the Royal Rumble has sucked for, I don't know, all time? This year, you're going to participate in one of several mini-games to eliminate opponents/fight to stay in the ring. When you have a guy against the ropes, you'll grapple with him and kick off a game where you need to tap whichever button is lit up on the screen. Pull off the taps faster than the opponent, and you hurl him over the top rope. For a corner elimination, three buttons will pop up one at a time. First person to nail them wins the moment. Sometimes, foes will go over the top rope and land on their side on the apron. You'll start pushing the guy with your foot, but to actually shove him out, you'll have to stop a bouncing line in a sweet spot a few times in a row.
If all these mini-games aren't your cup of tea, everyone also has Royal Rumble finishers. These are one-hit moves that eat up your finisher and knock opponents out of the match when they're on the ropes, apron, etc. There are 18 of these finishers that can be as simple as a powerbomb but can be character specific feats such as Sweet Chin Music, GTS, and the Pedigree. When you're creating a Superstar/Diva/CAS moveset, you'll be able to choose which Royal Rumble Finisher you want.
You can't see him.
Before I move on from the Rumble, it's worth pointing out that this has been given the presentation gloss as well. The event starts with the ring announcer welcoming you to the event and explaining it before introducing the participants who drew the first and second slots. When someone gets eliminated, you'll see them freak out on the outside before walking backstage. When it gets down to the final three and then the final two, there are in-game cutscenes of the participants reacting to the fact of the matter.
Similarly, Championship Scramble makes its debut this year in the 5-, 10-, and 20-minute varieties. Here, Superstars enter at preset intervals until five guys are in the ring. When time expires, the last person to score a pinfall or submission is crowned the champion of whatever title you've been fighting for. Again, presentation is rad here with the announcers walking the viewer through the rules before the beginning of the match.
Also popping with "new" next to their titles – which is weird considering most everything in this game is new to Wii owners -- are the Mixed Tag match option and Backstage match. Mixed Tag is just a girl and a guy taking on another girl and guy. When a member of the opposite sex tags in, the other team has to follow suit or face a DQ; just like in every other mode, there's no guy-on-gal action allowed. Meanwhile, the Backstage bout gives you access to five locales behind the scenes (no, you can't brawl to those locations from the ring) where there are interact-able objects. The "Backstage Arena" has laptops to smash over people's heads, the locker room has a door to throw people through, and so on. You can only win this type of match by a knockout.
On a smaller scale, First Blood matches now have specific moves you can do at the opponent's head to try and draw blood, TLC/Ladder matches sport a cone of light so you know the perfect spot to climb in, the weapon wheel is in color in the Extreme Rules Match, and the ref now follows you in the Falls Count Anywhere match. There are still no entrances for the Elimination Chamber, but you can climb to the top turnbuckle this time.
Seeing as how most of the new-to-Wii matches were solid on the PS2 and a welcome breath of fresh air here, I'm fine with the developers leaving them as they were. The blood-drawing moves in First Blood are nice and I enjoy the cone of light to guide me in ladder matches. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I enjoyed participating in a Royal Rumble match, so the new mini-game format totally had me pumped to start trying to see how long I could last, and the Championship Scramble is as much fun as it sounds. I know I haven't really dwelled on the match types, but that's because there's no real reason to. They're solid and fun; so that's all you need to know.
Oh, you also need to know that although auto-targeting is on in multi-man matches, you can once again manually target opponents if you like. This is a godsend.
The Wii version of the game looks good, but the crowd still looks blurred and lifeless. More alarming for some is the fact that even though last year's game had online matches, they're no where to be found in this PS2 port. You also can't share your created stories, which is one of the reasons the PS3/360 version is so awesome. Hopefully, THQ can get this kind of functionality running next year because we know the Wii can do it.
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