Review by Koerie

"An old engine can learn new tricks as SVR 2010 proves"

The Smackdown Vs. Raw series has been a soulless experience for me as of late. Devoid of any emotion and intensity, the series failed to capture my attention like the utterly brutal UFC: Undisputed and other wrestling games. Instead, what we got each year was the same engine with more tweaks and additions thrown in. And so I picked up the controller with pretty low expectations.

Right off the bat, I was surprised by the inclusion of a training facility, where one can get used to the controls or just goof about — with you only needing to hit the start button to access the main menu. It's a great inclusion, allowing for any newbie to get to grips with the controls.

And the controls are easy enough to get into, with an analogue configuration being utilised. The configuration can get a bit confusing at times though. I often found myself going through many moves before I could find the one move I really wanted to use. Other than that, the controls get the job done well.

The series prides itself on being the go-to title for those wanting to display their creative side, with create-a-superstar, create-a-finisher and create-an-entrance being staples since at least the last title. New create modes include the option to create your own logo to place on your created grappler, the ability to create an aerial finisher and a much-vaunted create-a-storyline mode.

A great feature

The latter is an outstanding addition to the series, allowing you to create your own stories, complete with a script, the ability to insert your own created characters as well as the option to share your creation with others online. It adds heaps of replayability to the game if you're into that sort of thing. There is even support for USB keyboards for those wanting to create a storyline of epic proportions.

On the create-a-finisher front, there are now up to 30% more parts in the create-a-finisher mode, but the end result still looks like a move hack thanks to the erratic animations — even with all the tweaks and settings at your disposal. Still, it's nice to know that the feature is there if you saw something insane on YouTube and would like to recreate it.

The game itself still feels like classic SVR, with some great animations to be had in places and a relatively easy learning curve. The individual superstar abilities do a good job of differentiating each wrestler from the other, such as high-flier Evan Bourne's ability to do springboard attacks and Batista's powerhouse ability.

The game looks pretty great for the most part, with little details like facial expressions during matches making for a nice touch. Another awesome detail is the way blood stains the mat and even the opponent as the match goes on (as gruesome as that sounds).

An ageing engine

But in saying that, the series' greatest weakness still remains the archaic engine it's using, in essence a barely-upgraded PS2 engine. The age shows when it comes to collision detection, with strikes lacking any impact, animations being snapped and clipping on display. It gets a bit annoying having to watch my opponent 'snap' into the proper position for a kick after the hundredth time.

A large part of this is due to the same recycled animations, some of which stretch from the PS1 era. With games like TNA Impact and UFC: Undisputed boasting brand-new or heavily-modified engines, smooth animations and conveying a great sense of force, the SVR series really needs a new engine.

Despite the engine niggles, the series is still the ideal game for those wanting the complete WWE experience thanks to the many match types, create modes and large roster. With a program like the WWE's, the roster changes frequently. This has resulted in the inclusion of many guys that have either been released (see Mr. Kennedy and The Brian Kendrick) or have passed away (see Umaga). It's a problem out of the hands of the developers but one which can potentially be addressed by downloadable content. Still, the roster is pretty huge, and chances are that your current favourite is featured.

There is tremendous value for money to be had with the latest title thanks to the now-standard inclusion of two main gameplay modes in the Road to Wrestlemania and Career modes. The former sees you take on the role of one of six featured wrestlers and play through their customised story arc, while the latter sees you pick anybody and fight your way through a gauntlet until you earn a title shot.

Speaking of gauntlets, the Royal Rumble match has also seen a redesign, with button mashing being the order of the day. It's a great change that leads to many a frantic moment as you attempt to bail your opponents over the top rope.

Smackdown vs Raw 2010 offers plenty to do and will keep you occupied for a few weeks — whether you're creating Chuck Norris, directing your own stories or ploughing through the career mode. But if you're a veteran of the series and are looking for a gameplay revolution, you won't find it here.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/05/10

Game Release: WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 (EU, 10/23/09)

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