Release Date: 11/22/2011
I’m a big fan of wrestling games. I have fond memories of Fire Pro Wrestling: Six Man Scramble for the Sega Saturn and Toukon Retsuden 4 for the Sega Dreamcast. I still occasionally pull out WWF Rage in the Cage for my Sega CD and I even listed WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2006 as one of my ten favorite games for the Playstation 2. Unfortunately there is a lot of bad with the good. I’ve sat through steaming piles of crap like TNA Impact! and Wrestlemania XXI. Hell, Wrestlemania XXI not only received the lowest score I’ve ever given a game (at the time), but it was unanimously elected into the Video Game Hall of Shame when it was nominated.
WWE video games have been especially hit or miss over the last few years. You never knew what you were getting with the Smackdown Vs. Raw series. 2006? Great game. 2007? GM mode wasn’t at good, controls had some issues compared to the year before and there were noticeable bugs that weren’t in 2006. It was noticeably worse and people complained. 2008? Well known for its terrible controls and design, along with a score of bugs. The Wii version in particular is cited as being near unplayable. 2009? We reviewed the PSP, PS3 and Wii versions of the game and found all of them to be the best the series has been since 2006. After a two year slump, Yukes got their act together once again. 2010 was not as good as 2009, but it still had its moments. Then came 2011. Wow was this game not good. Kennedy reviewed it and it nearly drove him to drink. I myself owned the PS3 version. While I couldn’t say my experiences were as bad as Kennedy’s with the Wii version – it still wasn’t a good game by any means. I mean, I was consistently in the Top Ten for the rankings and was well known for my CAWs for the game, but WWE Universe was horribly done (title matches only on the PPV and no control over the booking of them). The game was bug ridden and while I enjoyed all five versions of Road To Wrestlemania, I basically just made CAWs and found myself consistently shocked at the downturn in terms of control quality along with how insanely easy the game was.
Yukes seemed to take the massive amount of complaints 2011 got to heart and promised a lot of fixes. They also gave us Brock Lesnar, the Road Warriors, Vader and Demolition as playable legends. That’s a mark out moment for me. So, even though I was pretty disappointed with 2011, I decided to give the series one last chance. Now repackaged as WWE ’12, I was dismayed to learn that the game was just 2011 with some slight improvements and a LOT of new issues.
In terms of modes – WWE ’12 is almost exactly the same as Smackdown Vs. Raw 2011. You have the same match types which is sad because it shows that Yukes didn’t even try to add any new matches. Casket and Buried Alive matches are still missing from the game. Table matches still have the same issue as last year where you can’t actually put guys on top of regular tables, and you can’t have more than six wrestlers in a ring at once. Why my Sega Genesis could handle a four on four Survivor Series match and Yukes has yet to be able to make this happen since they got the license during the Playstation ONE era is beyond me. Same with the Royal Rumble. I could have nine wrestlers in 2000 on my Dreamcast but Yukes hasn’t figured out how to make a quality game where I can have more than six on a PS3, Wii or 360? In the words of Shane Helms, “What’s up with that?” We get a decent example of WHY Yukes hasn’t tried in Road to Wrestlemania this year when the entire game culminated with WAR GAMES, the old NWA/WCW gimmick match supreme that older wrestling fans haven’t been able to see in over a decade. Well, Yukes tried but the end result was a massive train wreck plagued by more slowdown, frame rate issues and collision detection problems than at any other point in the game. It also doesn’t help that the match is scripted (more on that later) completely and they had to make it an elimination match simply because, once again, Yukes has yet to figure out how to make a four on four or five on five match after all these years of making NJPW, WWF and WWE games.
The game brings back a lot of the different “Create-A-” Modes where you can design your own wrestlers, logos, finishers, story lines and more. All of these are exactly the same as in SDvR2k11 however, meaning “Create a Finisher” is poorly done, especially when compared to something like Fire Pro Wrestling D. Again, how Yukes could make this mode worse than one we had a decade ago on the Dreamcast is beyond me. Creating your own wrestlers and storylines are very well done however and it’s a lot of fun to make those if you’re into replicating classic wrestlers from the past or soap operas such as, “Eddie Guerrero Vs. Edge Vs. Dolph Ziggler for the love of Vickie.” I personally created Dan “The Beast” Severn and Masahiro Chono for the game, and will end up making a few others. The new thing this year is “Create an Arena,” where I was able to make a replica of an AWA ring from the 1980s, complete with logo. That was pretty cool. Unfortunately the server has reset itself repeatedly since I received my review copy and I’ve had to upload my creations four times. Annoying. This is not the game’s fault as the server was being monkeyed on and off with before the game officially goes live. I strongly doubt this will be a problem past release date but JUST IN CASE, I’m letting you all know what happened.
WWE Universe is somewhat improved. You can have title matches whenever you want, which is a HUGE improvement from 2011 which was so badly designed I was shocked people were paid to make it. Unfortunately (there’s that word again), if you book a title match, it won’t count toward any trophies you are trying to earn, and you still can’t change the competitors in a #1 contendor’s match. If you try that, it resets to a regular match. The cinematics are almost exactly the same as last year save for the introduction of injuries or bits when you unlock a character, but unfortunately, injuries don’t work correctly at all. For example, Chono pretty much murdered Ted Dibiase and he has a “career ending injury”. He’s still not back months later and he is completely unselectable in WWE Universe. That’s how it should be, right? Well a few in-game weeks later, Chono injured Christian with another career ending injury. Well, oddly enough, I wrestling Christian for three straight weeks after that even though he wasn’t selectable anywhere else and he shows up as injured on the Superstar list. The fourth week WE WERE TAG TEAM PARTNERS, the fifth week we were tag partners again but he turned on me and the sixth week we had a triple threat match with Wade Barrett and after the match Christian and Chono hugged and then Christian was never seen again. What the hell? Once again, a Yukes game makes Bethesda or Obsidian title look bug free. This is just one of the MANY bugs in the game we’ll be looking at, but it’s specific to Universe so I thought I’d mention it here.
Finally, we have Road To Wrestlemania, which is not only scaled back from last year (down from five options to three AND it’s now completely linear instead of being able to choose from various paths at certain point like when Christian cashed in Money in the Bank and against who or if Rey was a heel or a face in last year’s version), but it is, without hyperbole, the worst this mode has ever been in the history of story modes for wrestling games going all the way back to the original Smackdown. The big problem is that this year, it’s basically an interactive novel instead of a wrestling game. Sure you play a little bit, but it’s only to get to the point where you press the triangle button and then a scripted ending happens. You don’t even get to have a full match, you just take your characters to specific spots, press triangle and then watch everything be decided for you. I think I was able to actually finish a match under my own control three times throughout the entire thing. I just found it utterly distasteful that I would dominate the computer, but then I’d have to drag them to a particular spot, press triangle and watch my guy lose for some reason. You know what would have been nice? Branching paths. It would have made the game flow better, offered more replay value and let the gamer feel more involved instead of just along for the ride. Last year’s mode did it and hell, it’s been done since the first Smackdown for the PSX. Yukes needs to be evolving, not backsliding and gamers need to hold them accountable – otherwise they’re just part of the problem as well.
There three stories in Road to Wrestlemania feature Sheamus, HHH and a made up wrestler voiced by TNA wrestler Austin Aries. With Sheamus you start off injuring John Cena then forming an all UK alliance with Wade Barrett, William Regal and Drew Mcintyre – eventually winning all the titles. Then you injure HHH and abruptly breakup without any real reason or sensibility and have a four way dance at Wrestlemania for all the titles. The idea of an all United Kingdom stable is awesome, but it’s implemented poorly through objective based bits rather than actual wrestling matches. What’s worse is that you lose the majority of matches in the Sheamus storyline and it’s not actually YOU losing but the cutscene deciding you lose. I’m sorry, but watching your character lose simply because the game wants it to is not only boring, but stupid. It’s basically the equivalent of the “DM vs PC” style of tabletop gaming that is almost universally criticized. I grew irritated and then completely lost interest after repeatedly jobbing throughout my storyline. Add in non nonsensical face/heel swerves throughout an a weird quasi feud with the Four Horsemen when only Arn Anderson is in the game, and you have a storyline that could have been GREAT, but simply ended up being insipid. This was TNA bad. This was “Lost in Cleveland,” “Katie Vick” or “Mae Young gives birth to a hand” bad.
The HHH storyline was equally dull as it was the same repeated storyline throughout. HHH gets injured. HHH comes back and squashes everyone to win the world title. Repeat three times but change who does the injury until Summerslam when HHH wins the title and retires. Yawn. The lack of forethought or any attempt to make anything of quality is most apparent here. I actually laughed out loud when HHH was randomly jackknifed by Kevin Nash, who had never shown up until that moment and then is never seen nor heard from again. Just terrible.
Finally, there is the hero storyline, where the game asks you to insert an already made CAW into the role of Jacob Cass. Unfortunately doing so will overwrite your already saved move-set and entrance. Why the game doesn’t have you make someone new instead of messing up an already made CAW is beyond me. I ended up making a gorilla and using that for Cass because it was just as ludicrous as the rest of the storyline which involves another WCW Invasion. This was as badly done as the alliance storyline with people constantly doing face/heel turns or swerving a heel turn only to not actually turn after all and then turn for real a week or two later in-game time. Seriously this was something that Vince Russo would lack and say, “Man, this is too screwy, even for me.” Much like the Sheamus story, get ready to have a lot of forced jobbing going on. Again, so much potential here, but this WCW based storyline is almost exactly parallel to why WCW eventually fell. The real WCW focused too much on the nWo and never had them lose until everyone, fans and wrestlers alike, burned out. This invasion is exactly the same way and it’s hard to enjoy. Again, a gamer wants to see the character they are playing as win – not job even when they do a really dominate job. That’s not fun.
The bottom line is that WWE’12 is several steps backwards from last year’s version, which in itself was steps back from the year before. Yukes and THQ should be improving with each passing game – not getting worse. That’s a sign of laziness, greed and sloppy programming. There should be new matches and notable improvements. Instead everything is worse aside from the ability to control title matches. I was really disappointed by the obvious lack of effort put into this thing and a lot of gamers will feel the same way. When things are the same as they were in the 16 and 32 bit eras of gaming, you know the dev team has no interest in actually making things better for the average gamer.
Modes Rating: Bad
Graphics are a mixed bag here. Sure everything is in high definition but there are so many visual bugs and animation issues, it’s hard not to notice them all. For example, characters look a bit weird, especially compared to last year’s version. For the most part, the physical models are great but facial expressions, mouths and eyes look terrible. When a character is talking in some cutscenes, it looks like their jaw has been dislocated. You’ll also get exceptionally creepy facial expressions during moves like the head based attack from the limb target system. It’s hard to explain unless you see it firsthand, but that is not an expression that is physically possibly to make unless you are a Muppet. As well, arenas and backgrounds look fantastic, but there are tons of issues each time you start a new card. Yukes and THQ boasted about how you get an intro with pyro and music each time a card starts, but what they didn’t tell you is that this new intro has frame rate issues, speed up and massive slowdown, freezing for a few seconds and some severe animation clipping at times. Worse, there is no way to turn this intro off, so you have to deal with all of these visual eyesores each time you start a card. EVEN WORSE, every time you exit out of a card and come back, you’re still subject to this opening sequence which gets annoying quickly, especially when you can start to tell when the slowdown or freezing of the sequence is going to happen (it’s the same each time). The end result is a very jerky and terribly executed mess that starts off looking great but quickly becomes a technical nightmare. The good news is this sequence has only crashed my PS3 once. Of course, other bits of the game have crashed the system, but that’s for down the road in this review. Basically the new opening sequence was made with the best of intentions and with a nod towards emulating an actual Raw or Smackdown card, but the end result is a visual mess that you can’t skip. Why they didn’t include that option is beyond me.
Other visual issues involve frame of animation missing from some moves which creates a jerky mess, invisible walls sometimes showing up in the ring (You’ll be running and treated to the “collision with another wrestler” animation), or be in the middle of doing one move only to have the game jerk and suddenly it’s in the middle of another move altogether. There’s also an issue with blood. I’m noticed that if a wrestler bleeds in a match and you then try to save a moment from the match for your highlight reel or entrance video, the blood is missing. These are all somewhat amusing and minor in the scheme of things, but they can be quite annoying depending on when they happen.
The end result is that WWE ’12 has character models that are a step backwards from last year with some pretty bad facial animations going on and a score of visual bugs that range from the comical, to rendering a match unplayable (such as when I was Irish whipped and my character phased through the ropes like he was Kitty Pryde and then floated over the announce table, past the guard rail and through the crowd in one frozen character model frame, never to be seen again. The game crashed shortly thereafter…). The bugs aren’t serious ones, but there’s such a plethora of visual issues with the game a critical eye is going to be annoyed more often than not when playing WWE ’12. A less critical eye is simply going to make a drinking game out it.
Graphics Rating: Decent
You would think that this would be a solidly positive category for WWE ’12 considering how involved the WWE is with this game, lending its wrestlers and commentators to do voice acting and allowing THQ to have full access to its musical library. Unfortunately, it’s not. Some of the music isn’t quite right. For example, Jerry Lawler doesn’t have “The Great Gate of Kiev” as his entrance theme. It’s something generic. Yet American Dragon aka Daniel Bryan has “Ride of the Valkyries.” So it can’t be some sort of rights issue. There are a few other places where the music doesn’t match up with the character but since you have the ability to upload songs from your MP3 collection and use those instead, it’s a very minor issue.
The major issue is with the voice acting. A lot of the wrestlers just phone it in here. People like Hunter Hearst Helmsley mumble through their lines without any emotion or tone. He ends up sound more like Ben Stein then the guy we’ve seen wrestling for almost twenty years. Other wrestlers making this transgression are Kevin Nash, Wade Barrett and Randy Orton. You’d think these guys had never delivered dialogue before. Considering Nash has always been great on the stick (if not in the ring), this was a disappointment. On the positive side, Austin Aries does a great job as your generic cruiserweight wrestler, as do The Miz, Sheamus, William Regal, Rey Mysterio and Arn Anderson. These five put as much into their voice acting for the game as they do in the ring and as bitchy as I’ve been in this review, they definitely deserve their moment of praise here.
One odd thing that is new here is that the wrestlers trash talk when they do a reversal. This is only audible in a backstage brawl, but it caught me off guard and just seemed out of place. Perhaps it’s simply because there isn’t a lot of talking in an actual match that this stood out so much, but it is worth nothing here. Another odd thing is that in story mode, the voice acting would cut out from time to time. The scene would occur, but it would do so in silence. I’m glad I had subtitles turned on or I’d have no idea what was being said. This bug ends as soon as the cut scenes does and then things go back to normal. It happened to me half a dozen times in Road to Wrestlemania, so don’t be surprised if it happens to you too. A third auditory issue is that sometimes the default crowd cheering will be louder than the commentary. It’s as if the volume for both randomly swaps on very rare occurrences. Still, like the sound going out completely, it’s worth noting that this happens.
Finally, there is the commentating itself. This has been a regular source of scorn by reviewers over the years, although I’m happy to say it’s much improved this year. King and Cole do a pretty good job. The only downside is that there is very little recorded and you’ll hear the same things over and over again – often in the same match. Getting the “Thank You Edge” trophy was a real eye opener to this. With that, you have to win thirty-seven matches as Edge in one session (More on “session” later) and by the time I was done I knew exactly what comments would be made and when. This will happen to anyone going for this trophy, so it would have been nice to see more lines by the announce team. It was a treat to hear King and Cole talk about themselves while they wrestled, breaking the fourth wall on multiple levels though.
Much like the graphics, the audio aspects of WWE ’12 should have earned pretty high marks from me. Unfortunately, the shoddy programming, phoned in voice acting, recurring bugs and lack of commentary depth has me saying Yukes did a decent job with the audio, but things are nowhere as good as they could have (or should have) been. It’s something you can have fun with, but there are too many technical issues going awry here.
Sound Rating: Decent
4. Control and Gameplay
Now we’ve already talked about a lot of bugs in the game so far, but we haven’t even got to some of the big ones that plague gameplay from beginning to end. Because the rest of the bugs all effect gameplay to varying degrees, I’ll just going to do a big list of them here and get it out of my system. The good news is that it’s not as long as the bug list I did for TNA Impact!. The bad news is that it’s still pretty long.
A. Collision detection issues run rampart in this game. One example would be a wrestler with a longer reach not being able to grab a smaller wrestler, yet the smaller can grab him from the same distance apart.
B. Phasing. Occasionally wrestlers will move right through each other.
C. Reversal issue #1. Sometimes the R2 image (to let you know you can reverse) doesn’t come up. This will adversely affect younger or less skilled gamers, but veterans of wrestling games will know the correct timing by heart.
D. Reversal issue #2. Sometimes the animation severely messes up for a reversal, so the offensive character animation will continue doing the move as if the reversal didn’t go through, only to have it clip to halfway through the reversal animation.
E. Staggering is done in such a way that you can have an infinite attack on an opponent if you time things correctly. This is akin to the infamous double redizzy combo of Guile in the original Street Fighter II. This is going to aggravate some players big time.
F. Opponent detection is invariably broken as soon as you have more than two wrestlers in the ring. Even on auto detection, your wrestler will sometimes aim for the person farthest away from him instead of the one right next to him. If you turn on manual, the game doesn’t tell you how to actual switch between targets so you’re left to fend for yourself. (Hint: it’s not hard). The more opponents, the worse this gets.
G. The game has trouble detecting tags in six man tag matches. Instead of tagging one or the other, you’ll just sit there.
H. L1 is overused. For example it’s both the button for finding an item under the ring and trying to get back in the ring. More than once the game will choose the action that you didn’t want to do. It’s also used to climb the ladder or to pick it up. Again, watch the fun of trying to climb a perfectly placed ladder when everyone is down…and instead you pick it up.
I. There is noticeable slowdown and frame rate issues when you design your own match. The best example of this is in Road to Wrestlemania with its attempts at a “Bragging Rights” match or the weird version of War Games it uses. Things get jerky.
J. If you have springboard attacks and dives on the same character, the game will often choose the wrong one as they both use the same sequence (running + Square) to activate. So instead of diving out of the ring onto an opponent, you springboard onto the canvas and knock yourself out. This also becomes a problem in tag matches. Try to punch the opponent on the apron, and watch yourself springboard instead – even when standing still.
K. The Momentum meter occasionally disappears from the screen for stretches at a time. When this happens you can’t use special moves or signatures. As well, sometimes the meter will fill up signaling you have the option for one or the other, but then it will turn out to be a graphical error and your meter isn’t actually that full. Annoying.
L. Wrestlers stay down for a short but specific amount of time in a match. This leads to hilarity where your opponent never gets to do a move on you (it’s down until you do either two stomps, a submission, two limb targets or four flying moves) as pressing buttons doesn’t get you up any faster. The converse is true in something like a multi person ladder match or Money in the Bank where the wrestler is only down for a brief amount of time (a fraction of what they would be in a single or tag match) and so there is rarely a time where more than one person is on the mat. The rest are all clustered in the middle of the right pounding each other so you can’t do anything with the ladder.
M. I won the Royal Rumble with Masa Chono (coming it at #3!). However, I was never given the choice to face either world champion at Wrestlemania. In fact, Chono wasn’t on the card at all. Hell, the WWE Championship wasn’t on the card. The main event was Ezekiel Jackson Vs. Mark Henry, neither of which had titles. What the hell?
N. I won Money in the Bank with Chono. I was never given the option to cash it in at any point. Then, in a match where Dan Severn beat John Cena for the title, Chono came out and cashed it in on me and I was not allowed to play as him. That’s a pretty bad one to me – especially as a trophy revolves around you being able to cash in the Money in the Bank that you won. The only other option was to play through nearly a year of the game again. Who designed this crap?
O. Speaking of trophies, there are an inordinate amount of bugs around them. Some are not obtainable, meaning if you plan to platinum this game, you’re going to have to wait until Yukes severely patches this. Here’s a list of all the trophies with bugs and what exactly they are:
“The Birth of a Historic Tag Team” – this is based on winning or defending the tag titles with a CAW. This did not trigger when I won the tag titles (Severn and Lawler). It did not trigger on my first five defenses either. It only triggered at WM when I defended them.
“Wildman of the Ring” – this involves breaking twenty tables, ladders or chairs. This triggered after I did forty-three.
“Professional Material” – this involves winning twenty matches on hard or legend in one session. It triggered after 31.
“Submissions Specialist” – this involves winning twenty matches by submission in one session. It triggered after 32 matches won by submission.
“Berserker” – breaking fifty tables, ladders or chairs in one session. This triggered after 13.
“Legend Status” – win fifty matches on hard or legend in one session. This triggered after 21.
“Look At My Titantron” -use a movie created in Custom Entrance in an entrance scene. This NEVER triggered for me even though I wrestled literally hundreds of matches with my two CAWs.
“I’m Gonna be Champion” – win a #1 contender’s match with a CAW. This never triggered.
“I Like Titles” – win three titles with a CAW. Well, this too never triggered even though Severn held the World Heavyweight title, the IC title AND the tag titles all at once, also while Chono held WWE and US. All were won in WWE universe in matches the game set up rather than myself or just putting belts on them
“Grand Slam Champion” – win five titles with a caw. Never triggered even if I won all the titles with one CAW at the same time or if a CAW had five or more total reigns.
“A Successful Cash In” – Cash in Money in the Bank. It never let me even though I won it.
“My Target at Wrestlemania is…” In WWE Universe choose your opponent with the Royal Rumble Winner. I never even had the option to do so and as mentioned earlier, said winner didn’t even get to WRESTLE at WRESTLEMANIA.
“Holla” – create your own show in WWE Universe. I made two – one for ECW and one for the old AWA. I even played through a full show with each, not simming any matches. It never triggered.
That’s thirteen trophies that appear to have some sort of bug with them – some of which appear to make earning a platinum (or full gamerscore for those with a 360) impossible. Again, I could just have been unlucky that a big hit when these trophies should have been triggered, or it could even be that the condition for unlocking them isn’t actually what it says in the trophy list (I’ve seen that happen before), but for those gamers out there that actually care about trophies and/or achievements, you should know these things.
Whew. Still with me after all that? The good news is that bugs are all random and some of these might not hit you at all. That’s the problem with bugs – some gamers might never be hit with them, while others might be plagued. Hell, I have a friend who has never encountered a single bug in Fallout: New Vegas! Do you know what the odds are of that are? So just remember, WWE ’12 CAN be quite fun even while it’s a massive technical mess on all levels. Think of it like an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It plays exactly like Smackdown Vs. Raw 2011 except for more bugs, flaming tables and a non-working injury system. It’s the same matches and same control scheme. Well, not exactly the same. The game tries to claim that a new “limb target system” has been implemented but these games have had this since All Japan Pro Wrestling Vs. Virtua Fighter. Now it’s just all the wrestlers have one guaranteed move to do to each of the limb regions (head, arms and legs) and everyone has the same move for each. Other than that it’s still the same game as it has been for years, complete with the usual collision/move detection issues and the occasional bit of lag or slowdown.
Without the massive amount of technical issues that plague WWE ’12, it would still only be a mediocre game compared to a lot of older, better wrestling games. The engine here just isn’t very interesting and matches tend to have the same flow, regardless of who you play or what difficulty setting you use for CPU opponents. Taking all the bugs into consideration, this is simply a badly done game – one that should have spent far more time in QA. Some of these bugs (most really) are minor to middling annoyances while a few are flat out unacceptable. It’s like seven years in, THQ and Yukes still have yet to figure out how to blend a wrestling video game with a universe/efed type system ala EWR or TNM and the end result is something that is charming on a superficial level, but a terrible train wreck the more you play it.
Control & Gameplay Rating: Bad
This is the one positive aspect of the game. If you can get past the bugs, you can spend an insane amount of time with the game. Sure, you’ll only play through Road to Wrestlemania once as there aren’t diverging paths like last year and it’s so bad once is more than enough, but WWE Universe is technically never ending. Scenes may repeat, but they will be with different characters. You can also keep making new CAWs, play matches online, or even use the game to run an efed. Of course, the truth is you’ll get bored with the game eventually, but there is always the option to start a new fed or make some new guys. I know for the past few years, the majority of the fun I’ve had with WWE games was making odd wrestlers and seeing how many people enjoyed that someone took the time to make that character. I remember my Day One creations last year were Doink and Animal. This year it’s Masa Chono and Dan Severn. The difference is that this year, I won’t be making any more characters than that. I’m too burned out on bad WWE games. Plus I have things like Skyrim and Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 to play.
If you love professional wrestling enough to look past the myriad of issues that plague this game, you can (and will) get a lot of mileage out of this title. Even though I found the game to be somewhat dismal, I still had fun with it at times. It’s not well made by any means, but the fact they fixed the two big issues with WWE Universe (Titles matches only on PPVs and inability to pick who gets a title match) will go a long way with someone who wants to run an efed through this game or who just wants to watch their CAW of Jon Lovitz make John Cena tap out.
Replayability Rating: Good
The truly big problem with WWE ’12 is the difficulty. Or rather, the complete and utter lack of any challenge whatsoever. The game’s A.I. is abominable bad, even more so than in previous years. Most of the time the computer acts as little more than a punching bag, even on legend difficulty. I’ve gone through entire cards without the CPU getting a single blow in. It’s pathetic. Because of this matches are only about two to three minutes long and are little more than total squashes. When the enemy does do damage, it’s generally through a reversal. Then it will either stand around and wait for you to get up or grapple you and sit there without finishing the move. On rare occasions the game will follow up with a flurry of offense, but this tends to be only in multi-character matches, such as handicapped brawls. Even in something like Money in the Bank or the Royal Rumble, you pretty much can walk around picking people off at your leisure. In my first Royal Rumble, there was never more than myself and one CPU at a time. I just whipped them out as quickly as they came in. I was really shocked at how easy this game is against the computer and since online was spotty at best (Not the game’s fault. I was playing it before launch) that was 99% of my time with the game. It’s also easier than ever to get a tap out with “breaking point submissions” as it’s just button mashing.
Worst of all is the implementation of the “Momentum” meter. Basically the more matches a character wins, the better their stats get. The more they job, the worse their stats get. This mean it grows increasing harder to beat a human controlled character and easier to beat a CPU controlled one. Example: Dan Severn’s base stats are at an 87 overall. With a full momentum meter, I was in the upper 90s for overall stats. This made him better than every other possible character in the game. Considering I was dominating when I gave him slightly above average stats (I build my characters true to their peak years as a grappler), he was now unbeatable. I could sit there and let the CPU wail on me for a minute and then come back and still win. In fact I lost a total of three matches in WWE Universe. One purposely by countout, one six way when I was unable to move due to several bodies laying in front of me and one where I got DQ’d being all sneaky heel and failing miserably. Honestly, the only way to lose a match in this game is on purpose, because you are screwing around, or due to a bug. If you actually lose against the computer…well, you probably aren’t very good at video games. It’s that easy. Playing against a human is just as easy. Basically whoever gets the first blow in wins. From then on it’s just picking them off slowly but surely. Sure there are ways to get around it, but most of the time, it’s going to be “first punch wins.” The staggering and guaranteed time on the mat that is implemented in this game makes everything way too lopsided for PvP play. It’s still far better than playing the computer where you are guaranteed that even if there are two or three runs ins against you, you will still walk away with an easy win.
Balance Rating: Worthless
For all intents and purposes, WWE ’12 is a new game in name only. There’s a new version of Road to Wrestlemania, but it has less options and it’s far inferior to previous years. It’s also been done to death. WWE Universe has only been around for two years, but it’s the same as any season mode. There’s nothing really new here. Flaming tables? How often will those come up? Injuries? Been done before in other wrestling games and nowhere as buggy as it is here. Limb Target System? Been done before just under other names. No, the only real new thing here is are the options to create new arenas and/or shows, along with the Momentum Meter. The first two are merely fluff at best and the later is a horrible idea and it’s implemented so poorly that you have to wonder if anyone play tested it. Nope, WWE ’12 is pretty much devoid of any originality and innovation. It’s a half assed product put out to guarantee Yukes and THQ a yearly paycheck because they know people will blindly buy it the same way people buy some sports games even when there is just a roster update and nothing else. Honestly, Yukes either needs to be given the chance to start a game from square one without a yearly deadline, or the WWE needs to get someone else to make a game. Yukes has grown too complacent and they’ve shown they’re unwilling to actually do hard advances to the series. Until either of those things happen, you’re just going to get the same game with different legends and a slightly tweaked Road to Wrestlemania.
Originality Rating: Worthless
Even in spite of all the bugs, WWE ’12 has its charm. Sure it’s the same exact charm as the past dozen or so games, but there’s something inherently fun about take a steel chair to someone’s head fifty or sixty times or seeing blood in a wrestling match again. It’s not a charm that last very long as after a few days or weeks, you see the game for what it really is – a buggy rehash of the same game that’s been put out for a decade. During the honeymoon period though, it’s exceptionally hard to put the game down. Sure a match might have a few bugs in it and you get annoyed by the start of the card animation problems, but you spend the entire match with a giant grin on your face as you beat your opponent down mercilessly. You have a warped sense of achievement when you cripple Mason Ryan after five straight choke slams or you finally make the Undertaker tap out at Wrestlemania on Legend difficulty. You spend a lot of time scouring the parts in the CAW system to see who you can make pretty easily and if it’s possible to actually make Hakushi this year with the noticeable lack of layers in recent Yukes games. It’s not by the way. Jinsei Shinzaki, yes but Hakushi, no. Come on Yukes! The guy was living out of his car after the tsunami this year. At least let us make him in all his forms.
Even when I knew the game was not something I could recommend to anyone but the most ardent of WWE fans, I still had fun with it and had a hard time turning my PS3 off. “Just one more match” was a common motif in my mind. I wanted to see if there were any new cut scenes particular to a pay-per-view or how many times Koslov would be a mystery opponent for C.M. Punk (This particular weirdness also happened in my version of 2K11). I’d say “Oh, I have to see if THIS trophy is buggy too” but the truth is I really couldn’t stop at times. WWE games, especially in a fully bookable season mode are crack to me. I loved efeds as a kid. Hell, my friends and I did efeds even before the internet with pen, paper and dice. It’s just something I love. So no matter how bad the game got, I still found reasons to keep playing. That’s a pretty big positive, because it means no matter how terrible this game gets, and trust me – it does get terrible, you can still have fun with it. Unless you know, you hate professional wrestling or video games, but then why are you reading this?
Bottom line, the critical side of me knows WWE ’12 is poorly made and has more bugs than the last few incarnations of the series, but the wrestling fan in me could still find ways to make the game fun. Because this is a review, the critical side needs to take center stage, but please believe me when I say that there is fun to be had here.
Addictiveness Rating: Good
9. Appeal Factor
Even though Yukes is infamous for buggy wrestling games these days, WWE titles sell a lot of copies. There are nearly 1.1 million fans of the official WWEgames Facebook page, many of which will happily part with sixty dollars for this game no matter how bad it is. It’s THQ’s best selling game ever year and without the license, the publisher would be hurting. The question is WHY? Why do these games sell even though it’s 90% the same game every year? Well, it’s the same reason that football titles sell. There is a very fanatically loyal core audience that doesn’t mind the same exact experience every year. An audience that wants just a roster change and feels that’s worth sixty bucks a year. An audience that wants new trophies or achievements. An audience that can look past sloppy programming and a multitude of minor bugs simply because THEY HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE. That’s the key right there. You have WWE ’12 or you have nothing. WWE has a monopoly on wrestling games. TNA tried, but their video game makes WWE ’12 look flawless by comparison. Midway had neither the talent nor skill to make a wrestling game. Konami and Slang/Immersion Software & Graphics gave us a decent title in Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring and it was actually a better overall game than WWE ’12, especially when you consider that was their first video game ever and Yukes has been making wrestling games for almost two decades. That game doesn’t have WWE “SuperStars” though and so not too many people picked it up.
So where does that leave us? With Yukes making half assed wrestling games that sell simply due to the WWE license. Why doesn’t THQ or the WWE request someone else to make the games? Because they don’t need to. People will buy a WWE wrestling game (Although not something like Betrayal or Crush Hour) simply due to the license. It may sound sad, but it’s still a fact. That’s why Aki, makers of WCW vs. nWo, Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy are now known as Syn Sophia and make games that are only released in Japan now (including a Yakuza game for the PSP!). Sure everyone and their mother considers them the best wrestling development studio ever, but why aren’t they making wrestling games? Because WWE and THQ are happy with Yukes making the same exact mediocre affair each year and no one has a license to couple with an Aki engine so that they make their money back. In short, we are all screwed until people start to make a statement with their wallets. It’s never going to happen, so people are going to continue to buy these games, even know they know they could have better WWE game. Even though they know there are older games that play better than current gen ones. So yes, this is going to sell hundreds of thousands, if not a million+ copies, but only because gamers don’t have a choice anymore and younger gamers don’t know any better.
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Fourteen pages in and we’re almost done. Look, WWE ’12 is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with wrestling games. Yukes could do so much better than what we get in WWE games. Hell, play the New Japan Pro Wrestling games they have made. They are AWESOME. Why is there such a difference. Hmm. Maybe because Yukes is THE MAJORITY SHAREHOLDER in New Japan so they care more? Maybe because Japan still has other viable top feds that compete with New Japan like NOAH and All Japan so they have to try harder? Maybe because wrestling games aren’t released each year so they can take the time to make quality games instead of being rushed? Look at Wrestle Kingdom I. It was Yukes made game. It came out in 2006 for the 360 and PS2 and it still played better than this game. It had a HORRIBLE saving bug when it first came out and it sure doesn’t look as good as WWE ’12 since it’s six years old, but it was bug free compared to the last few WWE games. As well, when the save bug was discovered, they recalled the game to ensure quality. When is the last time something like that happened stateside? Also, Spike
is doing will hopefully eventually make a new Fire Pro Wrestling for current gen systems besides the current 360 Avatar game. It too won’t look at good as this, but I guarantee it will play infinitely better and the CAW system will probably be light years ahead of what we have here.
Look, I know I’m lucky/experienced enough to know that Yukes can make better than this but also that they have a much better track record across the Pacific. I know Aki can make a better game than this in their sleep. I also know I might come off as a pretentious douche telling you to press Yukes, THQ and the WWE to gives you a less bug ridden experience, but guess what? If you’ve read this far now you too know there are better games out there, even if you’re not going to try them. You now know you have alternatives with better CAW systems so you can have a better gameplay experience and make your own WWE wrestlers for it. Don’t buy this game people. It’s just poorly designed. It’s not the worst wrestling game ever made. Not even close, but it’s nowhere near being a good game either. Save your money. Just because something is the newest rendition doesn’t make it the best.
Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Appeal Factor: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: Poor Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
WWE ’12 isn’t even close to being the worst wrestling game ever made but it IS a sloppy bug ridden game mess. Road to Wrestlemania is the worst it’s ever been, but WWE Universe is slightly improved from last year. There are a ton of bugs this year that range from amusing to annoying but there is still fun to be had if you want the same basic experience you had last year with even stupider A.I. in your opponents. I honestly can’t recommend this to anyone but the most zealous of WWE fans, simply because there are better (albeit older) wrestling games that blow this away in all respects. The fact that over five pages of this review is just a list of bugs, gameplay errors and visual issues that plague the game should be warning enough, but for those that choose to pick it up anyway, there is something strangely satisfying about clubbing John Cena in the head with a mop until he is carted away on a stretcher.