Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WWE '12: The Review

THQ has released its annual depiction of WWE programming, except this year they have promised a "Bigger, Badder, and Better" gaming experience. Did THQ and WWE hit a home run here in their latest development of video gaming, or was it only a step backwards for the struggling franchise?

The pure hype and excitement for this game, alone proves just how dedicated the producers at THQ are in terms of making the best wrestling game humanly possibly, but unfortunately, this title merely did not meet the through the roof expectations that this gamer had heading into GameStop. While, WWE '12 is not necessarily a bad game, it is one that really doesn't feel all that different as a whole in comparison to its predecessors.

What WWE '12 does right and does the best is without a doubt the entire visual presentation of the game. Featuring slightly enhances graphics from last year on top of brand new camera angles and an improved crowd that is watching the Superstars in action, WWE '12 succeeds at actually making you feel as though you are a living, breathing entity in the WWE Universe. Presentation in this game is like no other in the past, as WWE does all the "little things" right such as introduction packages to PPV events, pyro, and even improved trons throughout the arena during a Superstars entrance. It is obvious THQ had listened to their fans and for that, we say thank you for the best visual presentation that the WWE has yet to see in their licensed, annual game

However, as good as they are, they aren't flawless. Entrances tend to be hit or miss, with the bigger names in WWE history getting a lot more attention. The fact that Mark Henry has the same exact look and entrance in his babyface run this year after being a dominant, reborn heel for almost a year now when Randy Orton gets his beard implemented as an alternate attire is really a shame. Instead of getting the dominant Mark Henry everyone has seen on Smackdown since April, we have to create our own entrance and attire for him. Although it isn't that big of a deal, that was a real disappointment to this personality.

This goes even without mentioning the biggest let down yet, Alberto Del Rio, whose entrance looks like he was a model in a PlayStation 2 version of the game. The combination of his lousy car entrance to Ricardo Rodriguez giving a horrid introduction, one can not do more but slap themselves in the face for even viewing that. While WWE has done a very good job with the presentation, some key aspects in the graphics department severely and noticeably lack. Even in Road to WrestleMania mode, the characters still fail to show truly solid facial expressions and they still lip sync to an extent, although improved from last year. Most fans are used to this in WWE games by now, but in comparison to other sports games on the market, there isn't really an excuse for these mishaps on the major consoles nowadays.

Speaking of Road to WrestleMania, THQ has gone left field and made three separate modes featuring Sheamus, Triple H, and Jacob Crass. Yes, Jacob Crass. While the stories themselves are solid, yet somewhat predictable, this really is a let down. Storylines focus far too much on verbal segments and pointless, prolonged beatdowns backstage or on entrance ramps, which really takes a lot away from the experience. Storylines are all a matter of taste, but the exemplification and execution of the mode, itself, was poorly done. THQ also failed to correct themselves last year, by once again forcing the player to compete in matches that they cannot win in the first place for far too long. When beating up an opponent for ten minutes, only to be cut off by a cut scene that suddenly has you being kicked the crap out of, it really is a head shaker that must be re-corrected and looked at for WWE '13.

Choices in characters also, at least to me was somewhat of a letdown. Having Sheamus play a heel feels awkward since he has been a face for quite some time as well as Triple H playing an outsider, which will be cool to some, but again, awkward due to the fact it just doesn't make any parallel to the real and true, WWE programs. That can be said for much to RTWM, which will not bother many, but to see the WWE title or Miz on Smackdown, will bother the true die hard fans of the product. Again, this is not to say WWE RTWM is this awful and unplayable game, but it is nowhere near the level of expectations and some glaring problems in the execution just make it more of a chore to play than anything else.

The roster in this game, however, is simply phenomenal. From seeing the usual guys like John Cena and Steve Austin to the new names such as Daniel Bryan and Sin Cara is very good. Where WWE '12 really shines however, is the legends and extra names made available. Brock Lesnar is an absolute blast to play as and seeing the modern day Rock and The Road Warriors in the game was very fun. The only issue that has proven to be problematic is the fact that most of the better names take an enormous amount of time to unlock. Personally, I bought Fan Axxess, which took that experience away, which I'm very grateful for seeing as unlocking Heath Slater is a bit of a stretch. Who would do that? Who would play hours upon hours to play as Kevin Nash or Steve Austin? Nonetheless, the roster is phenomenal and one of the best in years. THQ has even mastered their movesets, even with moves Superstars don't use anymore or never used in WWE, such as Daniel Bryan's Cattle Mutilation. There is no doubt they did their research.

DLC for the game also seems very good, but not great. Additions of Michael Cole and Jim Ross are not necessary or interesting, while Randy Savage and Brodus Clay are more than welcome to the WWE roster. Divas too, are hit and miss as Alicia Fox does not seem very appealing, while Kharma more than excites this gamer. One final thought on DLC is that some of the names should not be DLC, such as Batista, who really has only been away from WWE for a year or so. Either put him on the main roster or don't include him. He has yet to be gone long enough for people to want to purchase his character for a nostalgic feel, unlike fellow DLC name, Mick Foley. 

Another main feature brought back from SvR 2011 is the Universe Mode, which is by far the biggest letdown of the entire game. Sure, WWE implemented solid PPV presentations, more logic, and the WWE Draft, but the overall experience lacks and is not nearly as addictive as previously. You can no longer exclude some wrestlers from the Universe, nor can you make your own show on any days but Monday, Friday, or Thursday, which replaces only the main WWE calendar events. It is very similar to last year's game as well, as the rival feature isn't all that great and it just doesn't feel like you truly have any power in your Universe. GM Mode was something many wanted to compare this to, and it is far from GM Mode, although it is obvious replicating that mode was not the blueprint for this one.

It just feels like this game is trying to become more like a sports game, and while good, this mode didn't feel realistic. NBA, MLB, and other major sport franchises always have some sort of realistic and enjoyable management process to their game, and that is what WWE lacks. There is just so much untapped potential in Universe, that is is simply just a bore to play. Injuries weren't implemented well and WWE could have given the stars some personality or a contract  of sorts, similar to real life to become free agents. Many simple things could have been added in to enhance the gamer's experience, but it is obvious WWE Universe 2.0 is nothing more than the same, with some key aspects being taken away. If you want a feud between Raw, Nitro, ECW, IMPACT, and ROH, it seems as though you will be awaiting WWE '13 next year.

Moving on to customization modes, WWE has done a very exceptional job in giving the fans the power to create anything they wish. The return of CAWs is back and better than ever, although it does lack any true differentials from its predecessor. A few additions here and there would have been welcome. However, Create an Entrance Video and the much improved Create a Move Set do wonders for all your created wrestlers.  Additions such as Create an Arena as well prove to be a very welcome add on, as it is thrilling to create any arena you wish. From classic PPV events to Indy promotions, WWE does a great job making you able to illustrate anything you wish. One drawback to some may be the amount of time needed to efficiently make a creation, but there always is Community Creations, which is chock full of awesome content from other players.

Speaking of, WWE '12 online has vastly improved as well. Lag has decreased and customization to your profile is more than appreciated for online gamers. Here is the best competition and the most accurate creations available. While it has recently suffered from server crashes, the THQ team has reported to be aware and is working on fixing it. Aside from that, the online is very fun and quite competitive to even the best gamers.

Before concluding this review, I mustn't forget discussing the gameplay mechanics, which have taken the biggest overhaul of them all. With new controls, many fans will no longer be able to dominate from their first match. The learning process for mastering the mechanics is one that will take time and one can not expect to win many of their first matches. However, once you get the handle of it, the addition provides the smoothest and most accurate presentation of match storytelling to date. All is not perfect though, as glitches are very apparent from time to time and provide confusing and sometimes infuriating results. There is no room for error due to the AI's new competitive attitude, which is great and welcomed, but reversing moves requires exact precision or else they will dominate for a good amount of time. Gameplay has really taken a step up, but some glaring issues make it far from perfect.

When taking a look at WWE '12, I can't feel as though it reached my expectations, as I didn't look at it from a realistic point of view. Predator Technology is in the infant stages of development and will take time to improve upon. That, I understand and await in WWE '13. However, attention being very unbalanced in terms of roster quality, nothing new in WWE Universe besides the boredom and repetition, and the talkative, prolonged, and at times frustrating Road to WrestleMania mode keep it from being in the same league as Here Comes the Pain or No Mercy. It is the best WWE has produced out of all the SvR games, but WWE has a lot to do before it can be in the same spotlight as the best wrestling games ever made.

Then again....maybe WWE '12 is a realistic rendition of the programming. Storylines are the focus, Universe isn't appealing, and it is full of bothces and confusing booking. Maybe it's too real...Who knows?  Maybe the biggest error was releasing it around the same time as Assassins Creed Revelations, Modern Warfare 3, and Skyrim. It looks minor league in comparison. It's a game for all WWE fans, but it doesn't meet its hype.

Breakdown 

+ Great Presentation
+ Large Roster
+ Gameplay Takes a Step in the Right Direction
+ Most realistic
+ Awesome Customizable Options
+ Online Play is Very Addictive  
- More Attention on Some Stars than Others
- Road to WrestleMania is hit or miss Story wise, but is Very Frustrating Execution
- WWE Universe is a let down
- Hype of the Game Alone Will Disappoint Many in Terms of Quality
- Looks Minor League in Comparison to Other Games Released this Month

Overall: 7.25 out of 10

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