WWE '12 Review
When WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 launched for the PlayStation 2 back in 2005, it offered a completely different take on the previously arcade-like series of WWE games. The gameplay was slowed down, requiring a more methodical approach and attempting to closely recreate the experiences seen on WWE programming. The game was a success, and it was a great deal of fun, but it paved the way for what would be years of mostly mediocre wrestling games.
Now, the Yuke's-developed WWE '12 has hit the scene, and according to THQ, this is the game that wrestling fans have been waiting for. If I had to be completely honest, I'd say THQ was right. Well, for the most part.
It seems like we've come full circle. After delivering one solid wrestling sim and following it up with a cluttered mess of subpar titles, THQ has finally made the necessary changes to make the WWE series of video games feel fresh once more. WWE '12 isn't just another grappler with recycled mechanics and gameplay--it's a wrestling game that attempts to offer something new for fans of the WWE that are tired of the abysmal SmackDown vs. Raw series.
The first thing worth noting is that WWE '12 uses a completely new game engine. Dubbed Predator Technology, this new engine adds significant changes to the speed, animations, and technique of what has been the basic formula for wrestling games over the past several years. The game is fairly methodical, but it isn't sluggish like SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 was. It's also a hell of a lot less buggy, with collision detection issues largely removed from the overall package. Now, collision detection flaws and clipping are still there, but they're nowhere near as prominent as they were in the last game.
In a way, it almost seems as though Yuke's decided to revert to a few older standards of wrestling games. Thankfully, they're the standards that made games like SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain and WWE Day of Reckoning so much fun. Even though WWE '12 goes back to basics, it adds enough tweaks to those mechanics to make them feel fresh again. In some cases, the game introduces some new elements that are interesting for the most part.
Grappling, for example, is pulled off with a tap of the X button. When you have an opponent in a cached state, you can perform several moves depending on what direction you're holding the analog stick when you press X a second time. Meanwhile, holding X performs a number of different submission moves. When your adversary is groggy--usually after a combination of strikes or after being picked up off the mat--you can perform stronger moves. The interesting thing here is that the moves you pull off depend on how beat up the other competitor is. This is certainly a nice touch, and it's one of the newer refinements that I dug about WWE '12.
Another cool aspect introduced in WWE '12 is the addition of Wake Up Taunts. After you've stored a finisher, pressing up on the D-Pad while your opponent is prone on the mat will set him up for a devastating finishing move. So if you're playing as Sheamus, for example, you'll see the Celtic Warrior pound his chest and extend his arms outward like he does on TV while his weakened opponent struggles to get back to his feet, only to turn around and be met with a painful finishing maneuver. That is, of course, once you've hit the Triangle button, and bearing in mind that he misses his cue to counter.
Speaking of countering moves, this is another mechanic that has been changed greatly in WWE '12. You can reverse or defend against a move using the R2 button, but now, your window of opportunity is a lot smaller. To make up for that, there are several spots where you can counter a move, making for a more strategic and rewarding gameplay experience. You need to be quick, but because you now have more than once chance to counter a move, the overall feel of the game is a bit more involving.
Of course, it's not all great additions and sweet modifications with WWE '12. The game, though fun, still has some wrinkles that need ironing out. The AI is most certainly improved, but oftentimes, you'll face a computer opponent who has massive brain farts (if AI opponents could have brain farts). Sometimes they'll repeat the same moves over and over again, one after another, and other times, they'll do absolutely nothing. During one play session, I was standing on the apron with Sheamus, waiting for my opponent to get close so I could grapple him, but he stayed standing still in the middle of the ring. It wasn't until I went back in that the AI adversary snapped out of his trance-like state.
Pulling off running attacks can also be cumbersome at times. You'll attempt to hit a clothesline but will miss completely, even if you touched your opponent. Sometimes you'll need to be in the exact perfect position just to successfully dish out a running grapple. And more times than not, you'll bump into an opponent, knocking both of you back and resulting in a loss of momentum for the aggressor. This would have been written off as nitpicking on my part, but it happens so frequently that it warrants more than simple nitpicking.
You'll find plenty of variety as far as game modes are concerned. Expect all of your favorites from past entries in the series. TLC matches, cage matches, the Elimination Chamber, and Hell in a Cell are just a few of the options WWE '12 has to offer. There's also a new and improved Royal Rumble. While it's a lot like last year's installment, this time around you don't need to tap the D-Pad like crazy to eliminate opponents. Simply follow the context sensitive prompts seen on the screen before your opponent and that wrester is out. It's a lot more simple than before, but it's also better.
WWE Universe returns once more, and it's slightly refined from the mode introduced in SmackDown vs. Raw 2011. For those unfamiliar with it, Universe mode was almost like an amalgamation of exhibition and season modes in a wrestling game. You wrestle matches across Raw, SmackDown, and Superstars, and you build feuds, No. 1 contenders, and partnerships depending on what wrestlers you use, how often you use them, and how often you win with them. Last year's entry was a nice addition, but it had its limitations, many of which are addressed in WWE '12. Title matches, for example, are no longer confined to pay-per-views. You now have full control of when, where, and how to conduct a championship bout. There are also new situations that create or progress rivalries. Unfortunately, random situations and a lot of the flaws that appeared last year are still here, so I would suggest playing this mode with a buddy who also likes the idea of somewhat creating storylines in a wrestling game.
Road to Wrestlemania is back, as well, and this time, the game features one lengthy season that consists of three different storylines. The first revolves around Sheamus, whose goal is to wreak havoc as he attempts to become the main man in the WWE. That's followed up by Triple H's storyline, where the Cerebral Assassin returns to claim his throne as the King of Kings. It's all rounded up with a created character, who you must carry through the final moments of Road to Wrestlemania. The writing is decent, and the storylines are pretty entertaining, but once again, the voice acting is nothing to write home about. Also, if you don't care about either Sheamus or Triple H, you'll probably get annoyed playing as them for such long periods of time. Still, it's good to see a change from the previous Road to Wrestlemania modes, which featured unbearable storylines.
You can also take the experience online in WWE '12, and you'll be happy to know that it's fun overall. You can join other users' matches, depending on whether you meet their requirements. You can create your own matches for others to join. You can even take part in a 40-man Royal Rumble. The online in WWE '12 isn't perfect, though. The constant loading screens can get tedious, and don't be surprised if you encounter a bit of lag every once in a while. During my time with the game, I really only experienced annoying lag during one match. It wasn't game-breaking, but it was there. Thankfully, the rest of my online bouts were smooth, so that shouldn't be a problem often, if at all.
WWE '12 hosts the bevy of creation modes that have become a staple of the series. Wrestlers, finishers, and now arenas can all be created to your liking. The tools are as robust as ever, so you can create to your heart's content. You can also share the fruits of your labor and download other users' created content, as well. I already snagged a sweet ECW arena and some decent Austin Aries, AJ Styles, and Chris Jericho CAWs.
As far as presentation goes, WWE '12 really attempts to nail the vibe of sports entertainment more accurately than ever before. The game does a good job of achieving this for the most part, featuring crazy camera angles, realistic moves, and the aforementioned Wake Up Taunts. Unfortunately, the audience sounds pretty drab at times, the commentators are still boring (though they're not as bad as before), some moves look wonky, and entrance mannerisms for wrestlers have been recycled from previous games in the series. Additionally, wrestlers still look kind of ugly and innacurate. Considering Yuke's started from scratch as far as the in-game engine goes, it's a bit disappointing that it didn't rebuild every aspect of the game.
WWE '12 is a game that does plenty of things right, and it only gets a few things wrong, as glaring as these flaws may be. That said, what makes WWE '12 even worth giving a damn about is that it is finally a new game rather than a simple rehash. The past few entries in the series seem to have catered to the kiddies, while WWE '12 will likely be enjoyed by older wrestling fans and gamers. The new engine is a welcome change, and there's plenty of variety here to keep you entertained for quite some time. You'll still encounter some issues with the game--and these issues aren't even subtle--but WWE '12 looks to finally be a true revitalization of THQ's long-running grappler franchise. To put it bluntly, WWE '12 finally brings the fun back to wrestling games, which is something fans can most certainly be happy about.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]