WWE comes slamming to consoles this year with a new name, new modes and a redesign of the core fighting mechanics. Smackdown! vs. Raw is gone and WWE ’12 is here. With the new name, comes a new assuring promise at providing you with the best wrestling experience ever in the comfort of your own home. WWE ’12 for the most part lives up to that promise, with only a few hiccups along the way which keep it from reaching perfect status. It’s not Here Comes the Pain (one of the most highly-reviewed WWE games yet), but it’s one of the better efforts in recent years and it’s certainly an indication of THQ being on the right track to reaching Here Comes the Pain‘s high praise.
On the surface, WWE ’12 is spectacular. The graphics are the best yet in a series of games that never takes pride in that specific department. The WWE show is always full of colors with fancy entrance lights and various different colored costumes and stages. Usually the games look clean and bright, but not polished enough to compete with other titles in release. WWE ’12 is remarkably detailed though; it’s finally a step up in graphics. You’ll instantly be able to notice the crisper image once you power it on. If you compare it to even last year’s game, you will see a noticeable change.
Part of this change is due to new camera angles. In an effort to recreate real WWE programming they’ve decided to completely overhaul the camera angles. Instead of the mounted side angle, allowing for both players to be seen in ring, WWE ’12 now pulls the camera back and allows for more of the environment to be soaked in. The entire ring plus some of the crowd can be seen in addition to the superstars and referee. Camera angles change after certain moves or taunts, allowing for the action to be uninterrupted during the whole match.
The camera flows in and out of dozens of different angles that are used in real WWE programming. These new angles help give the player a sense of actually being in the game while allowing for the more detailed graphics to shine in the beautiful environment of a WWE arena.
Adding to the simplistic visual approach are even better entrances. Each superstar is fully equipped with his or her own music, entrance video and introductory moves. While some superstars lack their trusty ring coats or T-shirts, most have correct movements and music. I really like how WWE has added most tron videos for each superstar. You’ll notice the entrance video on the big screen and several other videos on the smaller screens that usually flash the player’s name or current gimmick logos. Tiny details like that really help make the game feel even more realistic.
Name bars are still a thing of the past during actual game play. The all-new body and limb damage feature comes across the screen when needed, displaying what body part is injured. An indicator for a built up finishing move will also flash at the appropriate time.
The limb damage feature is just one of the many new added features. Now you can work on specific parts of your opponent’s body, wearing them down as the match plays out. Targeting specific areas gives you benefits like making them submit easier or keeping them in a groggy state longer. It helps slow down an otherwise strong or fast enemy.
An all-new breaking point submission system has also been added to help reinstate how crucial submission moves really are. Now you must fill up the bar to make your opponent tap out or, if you’re on the receiving end, you must button mash until the bar is empty. This new feature is really a nice addition because virtually anyone can button mash. If you’re not paying too close attention to the match, you could easily get tossed into a stronghold and have no choice but to tap or try your hardest to break out. It helps keep players on their toes and it also helps make the limb damage system all the more important. The more you work on a specific arm or leg, the faster and easier it is for an opponent to tap.
Grappling has also been given a fresh overhaul. It’s done with a designated button now as opposed to the thumb stick. Some might find it hard to get used to but, once you do, I guarantee you’ll appreciate the move. It helps keep everything controlled in one area. You can string together grapples and punches much quicker with the new layout. If you’ve been playing these games as long as me, you’ll remember back when all the moves were done with buttons, so this change is actually just a switch back to what works best.
One big feature that people were asking for in the Smackdown! series was the ability to break up moves. Nothing sucks more than getting put into a hold with the outcome already determined. Now your friends can simply kick The Undertaker as he puts you up in The Last Ride. It helps make multiplayer matches that much more enjoyable and unpredictable.
The biggest difference in WWE ’12 is the new game engine that allows for smoother and faster game play. Now, matches start out fast-paced and quick, just like a real match. The longer it goes, the slower the characters move. If you have the upper hand for most of the match, your character will show it. Previous games had problems keeping things steady. If someone hit two or three moves, then your character would be on the ground for 10 seconds. This would gap the game play, causing one person to get the advantage for most of the match. Now, you’ll jump up after a move and hopefully have a chance at some offense.
Players will have a better fighting chance and it feels much more even. The match will slow down towards the end, but that’s how it really happens! Up until the very end, the match will have the possibility of going either way. The fluid game play is probably going to be considered the biggest strength of WWE ’12 because of how it helps maintain stable matches that can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 55 minutes, with both players fighting back and forth.
WWE Universe mode is back and better than before. You can fully customize weekly shows, PPVs, champions, characters, tag teams and more. You can play the matches as they were set or create your own unique show. Arenas like WCW Nitro are in so, if you’re feeling retro, you can recreate a classic show with updated superstars or created superstars.
The only problem I ran into when playing Universe was trying to go back to the menu after simulating matches. I’d play a few matches and notice that it keeps continuing, asking you to either play or simulate the match. To get back to the main screen, you have to exit out of a match while playing it or exit it after the card has been loaded.
Other creation modes include creating an entrance, story, superstar, move and arena! There are tons of creation mode options that allow you to completely customize pretty much anything. Create An Arena is the newest feature and it works well for the most part. Having the ability to customize the stage better would have made the feature perfect, but it’s great for a first try. Those factoring in the replay value will have a sigh of relief after they look at how in-depth the create section of the game really is.
As for the story mode, you have Road to WrestleMania. One of the biggest flaws of this mode is its cheesy story lines, but that’s mostly WWE’s blame. There actual shows take dives off the deep end a lot and you can’t blame the game for doing so too. This mode is much more integrated this time around, making you perform very specific missions or tasks instead of simply playing matches with videos intertwining a story. Some might like this bridged way of playing the game, but I found it rather annoying sometimes. It will make you waste 15 minutes on a lengthy match only to lead to you pressing an indicated button for a predetermined outcome. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you won or were winning the match, as you’ll still have to follow the exact story with little chance for decision making.
WWE ’12 continues with the traditional set of online options, allowing for players to compete against each other in massive matches like the 40 man Royal Rumble. They can also download others’ created stories or superstars.
Mostly everything about WWE ’12 is rock solid. The new additions, plus its updated superstars and modes, really help make WWE ’12 one of the best wrestling games in recent years. However, it still has a few bugs. The loading times are faster than previous years, but it’s still too slow when compared to other titles. Five seconds between each entrance and another ten or twenty when loading Road to WrestleMania really disconnects the consistent game play. That happens to be a very minor complaint though. It’s just something that you’d think they would have tackled by now, this late in a series.
The biggest flaw without a doubt is the commentary. It’s repetitive and it rarely makes any sense. Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler announce every match with the same dry and dull monotone voices. They say characters’ names and then randomly tie in a move or two with a stupid joke or back story on one of the wrestlers. It never feels like real commentating when you’re playing. The only decent parts are during the Road to WrestleMania bits, when they have long, scripted pieces of dialogue to work with. Then again, even that sounds like they’re reading it from a piece of paper. It’s really irritating listening to such wooden delivery over excellent, life-like game play.
In all other areas WWE ’12 is a winner. The polished graphics help make the game look like the actual programming and the quick response time during matches helps make for a more fluid and realistic experience. The camera angles are simply awesome. They help make it feel much more authentic and they always keep the action stylish and different. Regardless of how many times you repeat the same move, each blow looks different from the previous one.
The story mode sometimes gets boring because of its pre-determined feel that doesn’t give you the real control over the outcome, but it still feels similar to an actual WWE show. The story is silly, but what WWE show isn’t?
THQ and Yuke’s understood what the fans wanted and they changed the actual gameplay accordingly. Little details like breaking up moves, new submission system and limb damage are all what helps elevate WWE ’12. The game really does feel like something else entirely, which is exactly what it should feel like. WWE has been making these games for over 10 years and WWE ’12 shows that they know how to evolve with the players. This release helps bridge that gap from watching WWE TV and actually being a part of it!
This review is based on an Xbox 360 copy of the game which we received for review purposes.
The new gameplay makes WWE '12 feel like something totally brand new, rather than just another rehash. It's by far the best outing for the franchise and a must-have for fans of wrestling.