Review: WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2010 (Nintendo Wii)

Smackdown Vs. Raw 2010
Developer: Yuke’s
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Professional Wrestling
Release Date: 10/20/09

The relationship between Nintendo consoles and wrestling games has been a rough one since the glory days of the N64. The Gamecube gave us the cruel joke that was seemingly half-finished Wrestlemania X8, then followed it up with Wrestlemania XIX a game centered on having WWE superstars attack security guards and construction workers.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

After those, the two mediocre Day of Reckoning games seemed like masterpieces. They are not. For example, if you spend all match beating down Shawn Michaels with Bret Hart, HBK will start no selling, kipping up like crazy, and super kicking everything in site.

(Then again, maybe it was Bret Hart who screwed Bret Hart.)

The Wii’s track record hasn’t been any better. Smackdown Vs. Raw 2008 featured some of the worst motion controls around, and no variety when it came to moves, move sets, match types, or pretty much anything. Moreover, it was just weird in the things you could and couldn’t do. JBL could do springboard moves and wrestlers couldn’t leave the ring during tag matches for some reason. You could use your character’s cell phone to hit on Divas, start and end relationships with them, but there were no managers or valets allowed in the game. These things could be forgiven if it played well or was fun, but alas, it was not. SVR 2008 was the first wrestling game I ever traded in for store credit, and mind you I still own WCW Mayhem.

SVR 2009 saw some improvements, and greatly expanding on such areas as types of matches, and adding interactive entrances. As a whole, though, the game still suffered from an unresponsive motion control system, and was frustrating more often than not. Plus, it featured some godawful nonsense such as zombi-fying Fit Finlay in the Undertaker vs. Boogeyman storyline.

With all these things in mind, let’s see what this year’s model does.

1. Story/Modes
In terms of story, we have three options: The Road to Wrestlemania, Career Mode, and Create a Storyline.

With the Road to Wrestlemania you can choose between a handful of mostly linear story lines that take place from the time right before the Royal Rumble all the way up to Wrestlemania (duh). Here is what you can expect from these things.

1. The create-a-wrestler storyline involves you chosen CAW answering an open challenge from comedy character Santino and winning a championship belt. This action, for some reason, makes Vince hates you. He saddles you with a bad gimmick and outfit that would make Al Snow long for his Leif Cassidy days. Logic is ignored almost as much as it would be in an actual wrestling plot, and a chicken suit is involved. You can’t play this mode with a female CAW.

2. If you do demand to wrestle as a Diva, the Road to Wrestlemania offers you a storyline with Mickie James. You wrestle as Mickie, and Natalya develops a girl-crush on you. It is an odd retelling of the Trish Stratus/Mickie James storyline, with Mickie in the Trish role. You also date the (long since fired) Brian Kendrick, in a relationship just as Sapphic as the one with Natalya. The storyline branches exactly once, when you are forced to choose between your two potential love interests. I chose Natalya, who seemed to be the more masculine of the two.

3. Edge’s storyline is basically a rehash of his Vickie Guerrero storyline, with Maria in the Vickie role. His main foil is (the long since fired) Kennedy, and (SPOILER ALERT) he seems to lose the title match at Wrestlemania to Kennedy no matter how well you play. I don’t know whether to call this Bogus or call Shenanigans on the whole game at this point, as Edge is my role model.

4. In the Brand Loyalty Storyline, you get to choose between the internet’s two favorite wrestlers Triple H and Cena. (See what I did there?) Basically, those two and the Big Show see who can better bury the undercard. Cena and HHH together get to squash the entire ECW roster. (Is it art imitating life? No. Video games aren’t art.)

There are also storylines for HBK and Orton. Basically, each story is linear; there is about one choice to make per story. You have to meet certain conditions to unlock items, but not to advance the story. Most of the unlockables are extra outfits or wrestlers you couldn’t possibly care about (read as: Jesse and Eve).

So, onto career mode! This is pretty much the same as it was last year. You start off on one title path. You need to accumulate a certain number of stars by having matches with a short list of opponents. Once you get enough stars, you can challenge to be the number one contender. Win that, and you can challenge for the title. Win that, and you can start the whole thing all over again with a different title.

Career mode isn’t very satisfying. You just book yourself to the top of the card. There is no story whatsoever, and all the title wins feel fairly empty. Once you win all the titles you care to win, you can choose to defend those things, or just ignore this mode entirely.

The story designer mode feels equally empty. You can put together episodes of Raw, ECW or Smackdown by setting up scenes, matches, backstage antics, etc. The problem is that there is no feedback. There are no TV ratings or buy rates to say if you are doing a good job. No snowflake rating system to the matches you wrestle. You can’t share the stories online, so basically you can spend two hours creating a story that you spend two minutes playing through (or watching the computer play through). You can’t even book who wins shy of wrestling to get that result.

In short, the Road to Wrestlemania isn’t open ended enough, whereas Career mode and Story Designer are too open ended.

Still, judged as a fighting game or a sports game, the sheer variety of modes makes up for the lack of story. For heaven’s sake, there are multiple types of ladder matches! You can choose between a six man Money in the Bank, a TLC match, or a regular Ladder match. There are inferno matches, extreme rules matches, an ELIMINATION CHAMBER, Hells in Cells, and all sorts of gimmicks to keep us busy.

2. Graphics
The graphics of this game are a mixed bag. The big name guys look pretty good, especially their entrances. During Road to Wrestlemania mode, however, characters resemble horrifying clown monsters whenever they try to emote.

No, seriously. Mickie James tends to look absolutely terrifying during her story. I was afraid to go to sleep for fear that she would eat me.

There are other problems aside from sad clowns, though. If you ever look out into the crowd, you will notice a large number of people have replaced their hands with giant irregular pentagons. I don’t know what you call that surgery, but I don’t want it.

There are also plenty of instances where long hair travels straight through any given wrestler’s deltoids and/or clavicle. This sort of thing happens far too much, even during Edge’s entrance. There is no excuse.

3. Sound/ Music
Wrestlers and shows have their proper and respective theme music. (This is a good thing.)

There are also some extra rock tracks for your CAWs. (This is also a good thing. )

The mostly useless voice mail messages are a quaint mixture of bad acting and over acting. (This is a thing.)

The announcers are worse than a drunk Tony Schiavone during the third hour of Nitro. (This is a bad thing.)

Moves are routinely miscalled. Not just a little miscalled, mind you. It’s not like confusing a side slam and a sidewalk slam. The announcers confuse clotheslines with head scissors. They confuse chokes with scoop slams. They call men “she” and women “him”, yet still manage to overuse “their” as a gender neutral singular pronoun. Michael Cole routinely pimps WWE.com and brags about Raw“Ëœs longevity for no good reason.

I didn’t think it was possible, but virtual Michael Cole is even worse than regular old, homunculus Michael Cole.

Also, the CAW voices are just silly.

4. Control / Gameplay
When I started up SVR 2010 for the first time, I was surprised when the Wiimote didn’t do anything. I realized that I had my Wavebird plugged in, and that you can use Gamecube controllers in this thing.

I tried with the Wavebird for about 2 minutes before resetting the game. It stunk. The A button was used to strike, the C-stick was used to weak grapple and the C-stick with the Z button (!) was used to strong grapple.

Seriously? The C-stick? Isn’t that ignored in every Gamecube game unless you want to move the camera? And the Z button? Half the time I don’t even remember that the Z button is there!

It looks like you can change those settings, but I was too angry to do such a thing. Those are the most counter-intuitive wrestling controls this side of Three Count Bout.

The Wiimote – Nunchuk combo was a lot easier to grasp, but not without it’s problems. It uses the A button to strike and the B button to weak grapple, which is backwards compared to everything that Nintendo has told me about wrestling since WCW/NWO Revenge.

Also, all reversals are performed with the B button. Since this button is already used for weak grapple, this is a bit of a problem.

Strong grapples are performed by hitting A and B at the same time. It usually works, but you also might end up weak grappling or reversing. Strong grapples have multiple parts and based on the direction of the control stick when you held A+B you will either start with a collar and elbow tie up, an arm bar, a headlock or a rear waist lock. After that, you hit some more buttons to do some more moves, and about half the time do what you intended to do.

Hitting A+B is also how finishers are performed. B and down is used to pin.

The C button is for running and for changing the position of an opponent.

The Z button does almost everything else from picking up weapons to dropping weapons to removing a turnbuckle pad to climbing a ladder. C+Z Irish whips a standing opponent. C+Z also picks up a downed opponent. C+Z and a direction drags a downed opponent. C button by itself flips a downed opponent over.

So good luck with all of that. I managed to pick up opponents when I tried to drag them, flip over opponents when I tried to pick up, and run when I tried to flip an opponent over.

Oh, by the way, there is no training mode this year. Plus, neither the manual nor the in-game button guide tell you how to work an Inferno Match. You get thrown into one of those in the CAW Road to Wrestlemania storyline, so good luck with that, too.

The saddest part of these lousy controls is that this game controls so much better than the last two Wii SVR games. There are so many more moves and they work more often than both previous WWE Wii games.

New to the Wii this year are over 20 Superstar Abilities. These include things like Dirty Pin; where you can pin somebody with your feet on the ropes, Referee Shield; where you can hide behind the ref, Move Thief; where you can steal an opponent’s finisher, Springboard Dives, and Outside Dives. You can assign a certain number of these things to your CAWs, though some need to be earned by increasing the stats of your CAW. Usually there is a trade off involved. For instance, rolling out of the ring can save you from a finishing move, but will cost you some momentum.

5. Replayabilty
Even bad wrestling games are fairly replayable. SVR 2010 is a better than average wrestling game, and it is ridiculously replayable.

There is a sizable roster. There are a number of things to unlock via Road to Wrestlemania mode, each one requiring two go-rounds to unlock everything. You can decide heel and face alignments, make up stables, reenact famous matches, and change who is on which brand.

It is easy to waste a couple of hours making and fine tuning a CAW. Then you can waste another hour or so making his/her moveset. After that, you have to spend hours leveling up him (or her), and by doing that unlocking new abilities. I have a long term plan to make a Brock Lesnar/ Great Muta tag team and having them run wild all over the WWE.

6. Balance
Oh, wrestling games and balance, what is the best you can hope for here? Like usual, easy is pants on head retarded easy. The opponent just stands there and waits for you to kick the crap out of him.

It is pretty much the same thing on more difficult levels, except that the computer now stands around like an idiot, but has gained the ability to reverse every single move you throw at it. After that, he will destroy you with an endless sequence of moves. You will tap B (also like an idiot) but accidentally weak grapple him. That will be reversed and second verse same as the first. Basically, if you like doing strong grapples, leave it on Easy.

Normal and hard settings aren’t impossible. I won most of these matches by wrestling like a Memphis heel. The computer can reverse most of what you throw at it, but is highly vulnerable to top rope moves. If you have a five star frog splash in your regular moveset, it is easy enough to spam it and get the subsequent auto-pin.

On the positive side of things, Royal Rumbles are possible once again. Throwing an opponent over the top rope is accomplished via a d-pad-mashing mini-game, and there are Rumble specific finishing moves for tossing opponents out of the ring.

The D-pad mashing mini-game is terrible, but at least these matches are winnable for the first time since the N64.

7. Originality
While this is a much better wrestling game than previous installments, it is much less original in many regards. Gone are the interactive entrances. Gone are the motion controlled taunts. Gone is the ability to call up a diva to start a relationship.

The Story Designer is nice, in theory, but is more trouble than it is worth.

But, heck, there is an Inferno Match. That is a first for a WWE Nintendo game, eh?

8. Addictiveness
I could probably play this game every day and have fun with it. I have no irresistible impulse to do this thing. Creating a wrestler is a tad too time consuming and tedious to be as much fun as it should be. Matches are either far too easy or frustrating.

Mostly, though, this game would be a lot more addicting if there weren’t a hundred other wrestling games before it.

9. Appeal Factor
The ratings aren’t what they used to be, but the WWE is still a strong brand. It is popular to make a new version of this game very year, right?

I see kids with John Cena shirts at my daughter’s school. So this “Ëœrasslin’ stuff is probably almost as popular as that iCarly.

10. Miscellaneous
This game loses points for featuring a number of fired wrestlers in its Road To Wrestlemania mode, but it earns a lot of love back by allowing me to easily put somebody through the announce table via a Shane-o elbow drop from the top turnbuckle.

Plus I can light a two by four on fire and hit people with it.

The Scores:

Story/Modes: Good
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Above Average
Control/Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Incredible
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Enjoyable
Appeal: Great
Miscellaneous: Above Average
Final Score: Above Average Game

Short Attention Span Summary
Smackdown Vs. Raw 2010 seems a bit like a great car whose pieces were taken apart and used to make a train. Sure trains and cars do about the same thing, but not quite. You can see where parts of this thing could be used to make a great game. As it stands, it is merely an above average game. Sadly, this puts it head and shoulders above all the rest of the WWE Wii and Gamecube games.

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