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November 19, 2009
WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2010 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
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WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2010 on PS3.
It's been a long time since I followed the wrestling scene - back then the WWF was the only show in town, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were beginning a legendary rivalry, Shawn Michaels was still a member of The Rockers tag-team duo and wrestling games were largely unplayable for all but the most avid fans. A lot has changed since then; the WWF turned into the WWE who in turn introduced the Raw, SmackDown and ECW brands, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior are well and truly retired, Shawn Michaels is now "The Heartbreak Kid" and wrestling games are developing credibility in the wider gaming world. So when SmackDown vs Raw 2010 came along, I decided to break out the spandex, brush up on hyperbole and see for myself what all the fuss is about.

Like last year's title the main single-player mode is Road to Wrestlemania, this time featuring Edge, Randy Orton, HBK as well as John Cena and Triple H together in either single or co-op mode. For the first time created Superstars can be taken on the Road to Wrestlemania, as can Diva Mickie James. For those unfamiliar with the Road to Wrestlemania, the format follows a pattern of a cut-scene setting up the next fight, a quick trip to the locker room where you can save your progress, listen to voice-messages from friends or opponents and learn of any special conditions you need to meet in the upcoming bout. From the locker room you head out to the ring for your fight. Provided you meet all mandatory criteria during your fight you are then treated to another cut-scene setting up the next scenario and the process repeats. The road to Wrestlemania is twelve weeks long, which means, in most cases, you'll have twelve fights to win in order to complete each wrestler's sequence. Depending on your proficiency (and whether or not you skip the cut-scenes) this will take around six or seven hours each to complete.

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Wrestlers are well, ermm, modelled.
There are over sixty-five Superstars and Diva's in SmackDown vs Raw 2010, and more match-types than you can poke a stick at. The Royal Rumble has received an overhaul this year, introducing a mini-game to help you get opponents over the ropes. The mini-game in itself is a bit limited – you're either pressing a single button when prompted, mashing a button repeatedly when prompted, or trying to stop a moving arrow in a small target area – but even so this is a nice addition and a simpler way of handling eliminations.

One thing that can be said of SmackDown vs Raw 2010 is that if you love all things wrestling, you're going to find a lot of additional content to keep you busy outside of the ring this year. You can create your own Superstars, personalised move-sets, finishing moves, highlight reels (using clips from your own fights) and entrance videos. If you feel like your created fighter needs even more personalisation you can paint custom tattoos and logos onto them (you can also modify existing Superstars). And then there's the most impressive new feature, one that will certainly keep fans busy – Story Designer.

In Story Designer you design and script your own WWE stories that can span up to a decade in length. The story can take whatever shape you like, and can contain up to fifty scenes and four-hundred and fifty fights! As you can see, the scope for story-telling is huge, and this mode alone will be reason enough for some avid fans to pick the game up. The one slightly disappointing limitation to Story Designer is that your created fighters can only appear in the story a total of ten times, scenes and fights combined. Aside from that, the possibilities are nearly endless. For starters you select a scene you like from the abundant (roughly one-hundred) pre-set scenes available. There are all sorts of options here ranging from conflict between two or more fighters, Diva's encouraging or discouraging amorous advances from Superstars, contract signings, getting fired by Vince McMahon and more abstract scenarios like finding a suitcase full of money, or having a Superstar run-over by a car backstage. With such a variety of scenes to choose from, created stories can have incredible depth.

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Creating a Wrestler in SVR2010.
Picking the scene is just the start; once that's done you choose the wrestlers of your choice, select the camera angles, decide on a piece of music for each scene and even set the crowd reactions to the drama you're unfolding. Once all of that has been selected you can type in your own text for each and every scene. If you're going to do this I heartily recommend you have a USB keyboard handy, as the controller does not make for an efficient input device. Once the scene has been set to your liking, you can set-up any kind of match you like, be it a Hell in a Cell match, a cage match, a fatal four-way or something else. You also get to set the victory conditions, whether or not there will be run-ins during the match and even how much health each fighter has coming into the match. For enthusiastic fans Story Designer is going to eat up a lot of time and provide weeks of enjoyment.

If you're not so into wrestling that you want to create your own stories, you won't be left out in the cold – simply go online and download the cream of the communities crop and play through the scenarios other people have put together (be aware that text speak is prevalent in many of these creations, which can well and truly shatter some stories' magic). You can also download (and upload) created fighters, finishing moves, highlight reels and entrance videos. Potentially this gives SmackDown vs Raw 2010 unlimited replay value as there will always be more content to check out.

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Selecting the cast.
Wrestling fans will be pleased to know that the PS3 supports up to six players in offline multiplayer modes this year, an increase from four in last year's game. There's still plenty of in and out of ring action for participants to get involved in, particularly in the no-rules matches where two-by-fours, chairs and even sledgehammers can be grabbed from under the ring. Online multiplayer is limited to four players, and is significantly more difficult than what you'll get from the AI-controlled opponents in single-player modes. I found the lag in online matches varied significantly from fight to fight – sometimes it was barely noticeable whilst at other times it made fights practically unplayable. The majority of my online matches were of the former type thankfully, making it well worth checking out.

For the most part SmackDown vs Raw 2010 is an entertaining game, but there are some issues that will cause frustration. Firstly, some fights go way too long. Often you can pound away on your opponent for ten straight minutes, and yet when you attempt to pin them they're up before the count reaches two. In matches with multiple participants (for example one-vs-three fights, or fatal four-ways) it quickly irks that anytime you try to pin your opponent their team-mates or your mutual enemies will stomp on you to prevent you getting the three-count. Whilst this is realistic it can be frustrating, especially when the other wrestlers seem to get a turbo boost and make it to you just in time to stop the three-count.

Another issue occurs during the Road to Wrestlemania fights. Often you will have mandatory or optional objectives to complete during a fight, such as performing a finishing move on all three of your opponents, or spending at least one minute outside of the ring. However, during the fights there is no way to check if you have completed the objective. For my created fighter I went with the DDT as my finishing move as it is simple and one I remember from my younger days (RIP Jake "the Snake"). Three times I fought a particular one-on-three fight, and each time I performed a DDT on each of the three opponents, only to have Vince McMahon tell me I had not completed the objective when the fight was over. This was particularly galling in light of the fact that the fights took upwards of half-an-hour due largely to my opponents refusing to tap-in their team-mates. A simple checklist on the pause menu screen may well have solved this problem.

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We have a winner...
There are a couple of other, smaller irritations, like referees who seem determined to get in the way, "finisher" moves not finishing fights (though their damage can be adjusted in the options menu), a lack of common-sense by the auto-target AI (which makes manual targeting a must), dodgy collision detection and the occasional inability of your fighter to choose and attack that will hit opponent near the ropes, especially in Royal Rumble mode. None of these are major problems, but they will give you the odd controller-throwing impulse when they happen at key moments, especially the targeting issue.

Visually the game is a lot like it was last year. Superstars are detailed and instantly recognizable and the fighting animations are impressive. The animation in cut-scenes is mixed – commentators look a bit suspect and deliver their lines in unconvincing manner, whilst the fighters look much more natural. Arenas look alright, though they are once again let down by the crowds that occupy them. Just like last year the first couple of rows look fine, but as you go further back the crowd gets less and less life-like and more and more blob-like. Seriously, the people in the back rows would be at home on the Master System. I guess Yukes didn't get Dave's memo last year… Another slight let-down is that there's not more video in the game. The opening scenes in Road to Wrestlemania will get the goosebumps tingling as it shows crowds of up to ninety-thousand in attendance for some WWE events, and the atmosphere is amazing. The animated crowd and ring entrances simply cannot emulate that feeling.

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Two women, going at it...
The sound is a let-down unfortunately. The crowd reacts appropriately to certain in-ring happenings with cheering, boos, oohs and aahs, but their reactions just don't feel loud or engaging enough to properly capture the moment. The fighting sounds are disappointing too – there's just not enough grunt there in my opinion. If you're punching someone, you want to hear it. If you're slamming someone on their noggin you want to know about it. The commentary gets repetitive and can be inaccurate at times (saying "they" instead of "he", suggesting you tag in a partner during a one-vs-three match etc), but is not too bad overall. The wrestlers are a highlight as they deliver their lines very well in the Road to Wrestlemania mode. They convey their feelings in no uncertain terms and bring some personality and spice to matches.

WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2010 is a lot like last year's game in the ring, but it brings so much out-of-ring action to the table that wrestling fans will likely be kept busy until next year's edition rolls around. Story Designer in particular is an amazing addition for fans, which allows them to bring their own visions to life with surprising depth. Although many of the same issues from previous titles still exist, fans will barely notice due to the extensive new creation modes. If you're not already a wrestling fan then it's likely you'll get a lot less out of these additions, but there's still plenty here to play and enjoy. Overall SmackDown vs Raw 2010 is an improvement on last year's effort, but there are still some rough edges that need attention.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSThe fighters look great and their animations are smooth. The crowd is weak beyond the third row and there's some suspect collision detection at times. Now with blood.
SOUNDLike last year the wrestler's themselves are impressive, but the crowd, fight sounds and announcers are only average.
GAMEPLAYGood fun, especially in multi-player modes and Royal Rumbles. Online is a lot tougher than offline, so be prepared.
VALUEIf you're a creative wrestling fan you may have found your nirvana. The Story Designer adds almost limitless possibilities, whilst the Road to Wrestlemania makes a welcome return. There's trophy support too.
OVERALLWWE SmackDown vs Raw 2010 improves on the series by adding so much out-of-ring content, whilst making slight improvements to other areas (Royal Rumble mini-games, blood). Still has flaws, but this is an upgrade from last year's game. Add 5% if you're a big wrestling fan.

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