[Game Review] Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 (Wii)

System: Wii (Also on: PS3, PSP, PS2, XBox 360, Nintendo DS, iPhone, Wireless)
Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Wrestling

Each year the WWE releases a new, retooled version of their franchise video game, Smackdown vs. Raw. The 2010 edition boasts a few new gameplay additions, and the THQ-published game proves that by improving steadily a good game can become a great game within only a handful of years.

The one major addition that takes this game from standard entertainment to something truly special is the new Story Designer mode. The one thing professional wrestling has that more mainstream sports lack is the fan’s ability to “fantasy book.” Fantasy booking is taking these characters and charting their path and careers to suit your own personal taste. With the new Story Designer mode, you can take your favorite personalities and really make your own show. You can do everything from craft a backstage promo on Raw to build your own personal Road to Wrestlemania.

This mode is very time consuming, as you can really get into the nuts and bolts of booking. You use some basic templates for character interactions, and you can really change things to do whatever  you want. Wrestling fans often get frustrated with the direction of the programming, but with this game you can make your own. Really dreaming about teaming Rey Mysterio and The Great Khali? You can do it. Want to build the next breakout superstar in Jack Swagger? You can have him main eventing Wrestlemania against Shawn Michaels if you like. You can build a whodunit of Randy Orton getting hit by a car, only to discover that it was one of his Legacy cohorts. There really are endless possibilities.

The reason this is such a groundbreaking addition is because all of the Story Designer content is available online FOR FREE. That means that you can click around online and find stories you enjoy, and will be fresh to you. This gives the  game a long shelf life, as the endless possibilities leads to hours upon hours of new gamplay.

Other features that have been becoming staples of the franchise like the “Road to Wrestlemania” mode and “Create a Wrestler” mode have developed in such a way that they fail to stagnate. The “Road to Wrestlemania” takes six character-specific stories and allows you to play them, achieving specific parameters and unlocking bonus characters and outfits. This edition of the game even blends these two features together, as your Create-A-Wrestler can be thrust into a specific Road to Wrestlemania story. Throughout each Road to Wrestlemania story are choices to be made, and that will dictate which track the story follows. So, each is replayable at least twice, but actually even more so than that.

There are 67 WWE Superstars and Divas playable on this game, but the plague that haunts every wrestling game is that the roster is never as deep as it seems. Sure, 67 seems like a lot, and in reality it is, but the roster is always dated and unlockable content always limited due in large part to licensing and character rights. When a fan looks over the roster, there are always current superstars missing, and some included that are no longer in the company. Major omissions this year include: Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, The Hart Dynasty, Yoshi Tatsu, and Zack Ryder.

Now, those left off are always due to timing. Those superstars have been on WWE TV for less than a year, so their absence is expected. It’s always surprising to see the Superstars on the game who are no longer employed by the WWE. Names like: Mr. Kennedy, The  Brian Kendrick, and Jeff Hardy all work for the WWE’s major competition.  JBL has been gone for almost a year, and Umaga died months ago and was released last summer. The inclusion of these superstars is a treat, because they do add depth to the game. It’s just frustrating to be missing such major names currently employed by the WWE.

The other major flaw with the roster is that I would gladly trade all of these folks who are gone for a few more legends/unlockable characters. It seems like the game would have an entire extra level of awesomeness if more WWE Hall of Famers and popular characters were included. Again, I know it’s a money thing and it’s understandable, but it would add to the game. Also, not being able to modify in detail superstars included on the game is frustrating when someone undergoes a gimmick change and they are unable to be modified and instead have to be retooled in the Create a Wrestler feature.

Final Words:

Overall, the game offers enough unique modes and options to make it never feel like it’s getting played out. I’ve been playing regularly since Christmas, and I still have barely even scratched the surface of what this game has to offer. The Story Designer mode is a home run, the Road to Wrestlemania and Create a Wrestler features are evolving at a nice pace, and the roster is deep. This game is the best of the franchise thus far, and the game continues to offer more and more features with each passing year. I already can’t wait to see what THQ comes up with for 2011.

Score: 8.8/10 (Great)

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