WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 picks up exactly where last year’s edition left off, adding new features such as a Storyline Designer and more, which makes it seem like it could be the best wrestling game ever. Unfortunately, some of the problems that have plagued the series for years are still present in SmackDown 2010, which largely makes it difficult to recommend if you already have last year’s game.
Maybe I just don’t get why other people buy wrestling games. I’ve heard stories that people buy them because they just want some multiplayer action; I’ve heard it’s the storylines, and I’ve heard that people want a wrestling game that isn’t about having direct fighting gameplay, but rather a managerial role. SmackDown 2010 addresses a few of these issues in some interesting ways, such as the Storyline Designer.
In the Story Designer, you can essentially call the shots and decide how each week of storylines plays out by adding scenes and text. There are a few options such as interviews, poses, car accidents, and attack sequences. The other option is to add matches to the show to further these storylines you’re creating. This really leaves the door wide open as far as storylines go, and does somewhat address the complaint about how wrestling games should be representative of what the real product consists of, that being carefully planned storylines alongside preplanned winners and fake drama. While this is a step in the right direction, there is a giant problem with all of it. Throughout the storyline designer, there is only room for 50 total scenes (PS3 version, I’m told there is 500 on the 360 version) and you can only use a maximum of 10 created superstars. Now, that 50 scene limit could easily be filled up in a single week, making this part of the game practically useless to me.
My next complaint comes from the shallow career mode. In career mode, you take a superstar (created if you choose) through the championship ranks by fighting a series of matches until you’re given the option to fight the champion for the title. This is all well and good except that it just feels so dry and empty. There’s no storyline, and no connection between the matches; it’s just a list of matches to complete until you manage to snag the belt.
On the flipside of the career mode, there is the Road to Wrestlemania mode. This is the same mode ripped from last year’s title, but with all new storylines to take on. These storylines are all fully voiced by the real WWE Superstars. Each one of these should take about a couple of hours to complete, requiring a good 10-12 hours to complete all of them. I don’t really have any complaints about this mode as it’s probably the most focused part of the game.
Now, ever since the first SmackDown on the PlayStation, the series has been known for its excessive and wild game modes. In 2010, this trend continues with the addition of Championship Scramble. This mode is a six-man battle for a championship, where the object is to have the last pinfall or submission as the time runs out. I can’t say I found this mode to be that special or challenging, and it’s actually a bit of a mess really, due to the way the game controls your character’s viewpoint.
The gameplay is, for the most part, unchanged from last year as well. By that I mean, it controls almost exactly the same. Tilt the right stick to grapple, push R1 and the stick to do a strong grapple and push square to strike. The one nice change is the simplified counter system. To counter, just hit the R2 button. In earlier entries, a counter required either a push of L2 or R2. This added a layer of complexity that the game really didn’t need, and I’m rather glad to see it changed.
Abilities do add a bit more to the gameplay, allowing you to do certain special moves that give a slight edge over an opponent. For instance, Shawn Michaels can rile the crowd to garner a finisher status, and Randy Orton can escape out of the ring to regain his bearings when he’s in trouble. It was a nice touch in gameplay, but the game does not explain the feature well and requires the player to search in the pause menu to find out what the abilities mean. Due to the incompetent presentation, I found myself forgetting that the feature existed and never really touched it.
As with every wrestling game since WWF War Zone, this one has a create a superstar mode and proclaims to have redesigned the mode entirely. I found this to be a false statement, as it’s still very much the same, except it only allows a certain (small) amount of clothing on your superstar. Having said that, I did not enjoy this year’s mode that much. There is a paint tool and such that allows you to customize down to the very centimeter, but I seriously doubt that many players are actually going to use it. The nicest additions in this mode are the ability to create the wrestler’s entrance video, and the ability to share the creation with the world.
Perhaps one of the most requested and neecessary features of a game with so much to create is a way to share it with everyone you know and those you don’t. Smackdown 2010 addresses that in a system allowing you to upload and download Created Superstars, Movies and Created Stories. This is nice and keeps it on a simple interface with some healthy search options. My biggest complaint comes in the form of not being able to edit anything you’ve downloaded. Why this was omitted I can’t be sure, but until I can make my downloaded Hulk Hogan come out to his ‘Real American’ theme I can’t count this as a total win.
Online multiplayer is included, allowing you to play any of the modes online, but is still just as broken from when the series first went online. There is usually unruly amounts of lag, and your opponents will do everything in their power to make you lose, including editing the movesets of characters to make them overpowered. I can’t stress enough just how bad this part of the game is so I’m just going to leave it at that.
The roster is very important in wrestling games and SmackDown vs. RAW 2010 mainly delivers in that department. The roster has all the big stars like Randy Orton, Triple H and John Cena, but also the lesser known stars like Kofi Kingston and Festus. There is also a host of divas and unlockable characters to choose from that round out the roster nicely; however, some inclusions such as Jeff Hardy and Ken Kennedy are out of date.
SmackDown 2010 has an interesting approach in its presentation as it immediately boots into a wrestling ring attempting to show you the controls. This is a good feature for new players so they can learn the ropes quickly. Once a match has started, the wrestlers still waltz down the aisle to their rock ballad themes like a bad rock opera. The commentary is still repetitive and bland, which has become the norm in these types of games. The HUD is a bit simplified as it is now nothing more than a ring around the wrestler’s feet showing their current energy and, once full, allows for a finisher.
As has been noted all throughout this review, I have a lot of complaints about WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2010. The thing is, they should have been fixed about 4 or 5 games ago, and not still be present in this year’s edition. Each new addition added to this version feels like Yuke’s is only going halfway in their approach because the features are never fully realized. I think my biggest complaint and piece of advice that I can offer to the developers is that the game lacks focus. There are a lot of features here, but none of them are what they could be if there was more focus on what they wanted to do with the game. As it stands, 2010 is an improvement on the franchise’s previous installments, but it’s still not where it needs to be, and I find that inexcusable. I do like SmackDown vs. RAW 2010, but it’s hard to ignore that this game could be a lot better than what it is.