The Smackdown Vs. Raw series has been the undisputed king of the ring (pun intended), when it comes to wrestling games, just like the parent franchise WWE has pretty much been ruling the wrestling franchise for generations. Sure there's TNA Impact and a few other games that do turn up every now and then, but nothing has come close to the level of success or fan following as SVR.
But as with any great sports gaming franchise, the new titles released each year get more and more stagnant, giving the players little reason to upgrade besides updated stats. Does the game that represents the top name in sports entertainment suffer from the same stagnation?
The one thing that made the SVR series a blast was the create-a-wrestler mode, which has been the benchmark for character creation tools for ages now. But the developer Yukes has been smart, and over the years they have kept adding significant upgrades and features to this system. The few releases saw tools that allowed you to create entrances and specific moves and this time you have the option to customize just about everything - from clothes to even the tattoos on your superstar's body.
The good thing is that the buck doesn't really stop there. Everyone who has played a SVR game before, knows that there's just so much tweaking that can be done on the core gameplay or, well, the wrestling genre. This is why Yukes is keeping things fresh by giving you the option to create and customize just about every aspect of the game.
Last year we saw the introduction of the new "Road to Wrestlemania" mode, which was a fleshed out story mode for select superstars. I was hoping that there would be more superstars featured here this year, but you're still limited to a handful. The good thing is that you can play this mode with a created superstar as well, which is actually a lot of fun.
New to the series is create a story mode, in which you can create your own WWE storyline using some predefined scenarios. This feature turned out quite entertaining, especially because you're allowed to share your created storylines over the Internet with other players, and you can play through someone else's created career path in return. A very good attempt in getting some community interaction into the series.
Besides these new modes there are some changes in the fundamental gameplay itself.
Much to my liking, there is only one button that does all reversals now instead of 2 (as in last year's release). Because of this, the reversals can finally be used as a part of your wrestling strategy rather than buttons you spam when you're in a fix. Even the basic controls have received a slight modification to fit in more moves, but nothing too drastic. I'm still not happy with the running controls though. Considering that in a player-vs-player match running up to the opponent plays an important part, here the game still makes you run aimlessly in a single direction. But on second thought, it may be a way of recreating the ridiculous running that the real wrestlers do around the ring.
Win 10 matches by submission to get the "Ask Him Ref!" achievement
There are no stamina and injury indicators anymore, and in fact you have the option to turn off stamina depletion in your matches. This works out a lot better as the player animations give an excellent indication of the damage level, to the extent that you even get a clear idea which body part you should be focusing on. Your player still has a little energy curve at the bottom, indicating when you're ready to pull off a signature move or a finisher, but you can turn that off as well to give the game a TV-presentation kind of look.
You have a roster of over 60 wrestlers and divas to select from, and with create-a-superstar your options are practically limitless. A lot of the new faces will be lost on you if you haven't been keeping up with WWE for a while (like I admittedly have), but there's a good selection of superstars that have been around for a while to select from as well. Frankly, I'm just happy that The Undertaker, Triple H and Shawn Michaels are still considered as key players in the business.
Visually the game may not seem too different from last year's iteration at first, but on closer scrutiny, you can tell how the details have gotten better. Some clipping issues aside, the addition of the Havoc physics engine, the wrestlers' interactions with the ring, ropes and all the hidden goodies under the ring react noticeably better this time. I really liked the fact that the wrestlers' bodies start showing a natural shade on redness after a heavy impact on a particular area. I'm surprised that they didn't have that all these years. Though not by too much, SVR 2010 is better looking than all its predecessors.
Succeed at a total of 100 reversals to get the "Technical Wizardry" achievement
In all the recent years of me playing the SVR series, it's good to see that the folks at Yukes are actually evolving the franchise even after all these years, instead of just sitting on their past laurels. Even with the minor changes here and there, WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2010 is a significant improvement over last year's edition, which is why I don't need to think twice before recommending it to fans of the franchise. On the flip side, if you have gotten saturated of the series in the previous iterations, there's little here to bring you back.
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