Taking a long running franchise and trying to breathe some new life into is what Yuke’s has tried to do with WWE’12. The SmackDown vs. Raw series has been the ongoing WWE wrestling game franchise for some time now and Yuke’s realized it was time to try and bring something new to the table and they were able to act out that plan with moderate success. WWE’12 improves on last year’s model but it isn’t the total revamp that THQ would have you believe that it is. If you’ve played a SmackDown game before you should know exactly what to expect.
I haven’t watched the WWE in a long time as I usually drift more towards TNA so I was surprised at how much bigger the roster is from last year’s game. One thing I felt was kind of a downside of 2011 was the seemingly tight roster but this year has a lot more athletes and some great returning legends. Even someone out of touch like me was able to find a wrestler outside of my created character list that I could have fun with. The game modes are all the same returning ones with some minor tweaks. The Road to Wrestlemania mode again has multiple stories but unfortunately you are forced to play them in order starting with the most boring one first. You have to play through a whole long story involving Sheamus and the other European wrestlers before you get to play the story where you use Triple H and the Sheamus story seems like such a drag. Since the stories are more focused you do get some more interesting scenarios but the writing and voice acting doesn’t compare to the real thing.
The strong point of the game is the WWE Universe mode that returns from SmackDown vs. Raw 2011. The Universe mode compiles all of the wrestlers (even the created ones) into weekly shows and events and they can play out any way you want. Wrestlers can form rivalries or an alliance as they head towards the next Pay-Per-View where they can defend or win titles. What this year did better was add more random events between and during matches and a better controlled ranking system. The Universe mode also allows you to unlock some of the games hidden content ranging from arenas, championship belts, and other wrestlers. On top of the Universe mode is the return of the plethora of different creation modes such as create a story and create a wrestler although these remain mostly unchanged aside from a few updates. There is now a create and arena mode which is really fun to play with and it gives you the opportunity to create some really interesting environments for your wrestlers.
One thing that Yuke’s always does is try to simplify the controls but I never really felt that was necessary. This year is no different and the controls have almost gotten too simple and I feel it takes away a level of control that was present in 2011, but while they may be over simplified that doesn’t make them bad. The game is pretty easy to pick up and play and when you first play the game you are always presented with a short tutorial every time you encounter a new situation. I still found it pretty fun to play this game and never had any trouble with the controls. There are some minor animation issues where you feel like you are missing punches for no reason but if you can overlook a little bit of subtle animation issues then there is still fun to be had. There is also some new mechanics to the combat such as comeback taunts which give you a slight edge in the match if you are losing that are fairly useful and can turn the tide of a match.
One major downside is the online play. If you are lucky to even get into an online match there is usually pretty bad lag and it’s hard to find any specific type of match that you would want to play. Fortunately the user created downloads work just fine although sometimes you get booted from the server for no reason, although that seems to be getting better with time. It just seems disappointing that getting this far into the series Yuke’s still hasn’t managed to create a noteworthy online experience.
I will say WWE’12 is the best looking simulation wrestling game on the market. They have managed to capture the stadium look really well and this game has the best looking audience ever seen in a wrestling game. The character models are slightly improved but could still use some major work. One of the biggest additions to this game is the improved animations. Now wrestlers can interact more seamlessly and instead of just standing there kicking air as you attempt to hit a wrestler performing a move you can now strike them to interrupt the moves or finishers. This adds a lot to the game and while it’s not perfect yet as some moves can’t be interrupted it is a huge step forward for the series and could be greatly improved for next time.
Whether it’s throwing down a DDT or crushing your opponent with a Rock Bottom beating up on people is still a lot of fun. Even with some of the problems in WWE’12 I still found it worth playing if you like wrestling games. I can easily say if you had any fun with 2011 then you will more than likely have a lot more fun with this one. If this is your first wrestling game then some of the animation issues could seem a little weird and turn you off but being the last one standing in the ring after a six man ladder match is still pretty satisfying. I highly recommend just spending tons of time with the WWE Universe mode especially if you are fond of following one character or using your own created character.
It’s a series that needs a lot of work and WWE’12 is the first step towards something that could be great. While it’s nothing drastically different from what it was in the past, this game is still improving on a franchise that could have just as easily repeated itself into oblivion. The improvements made here aren’t perfect but it manages to set the ground work for something great in the future and helps make this game stand out among its predecessors.