WWE 12 Review
Written : Tuesday, November 22, 2011
By: Richard Walker
As a long time fan of WWE - since before it was forced to change its name from WWF - each year that a new WWE title is released (that's every year then) brings a strange wave of anticipation. Will it have changed since last year, and if so, just how much will THQ and developer Yukes have changed? Moreover, is it worth buying if last year's iteration is pretty much the same? It's a franchise that's been happily plugging away year after year with a solid fighting system and unparalleled customisation, but with WWE '12, there's a subtle name change and with it, some overhauled grappling mechanics, a few new additions and a bit of streamlining.
Gone is the Smackdown vs. Raw suffix, meaning that this is just plain old WWE '12, pared down to its raw essence, embracing all of the WWE brands under one big umbrella, and packing in a typically expansive roster of wrestlers both old and new. Oiled up and wearing its best pair of lycra pants, WWE '12 sees a return for many of Smackdown vs. Raw 2011's previous features, including the WWE Universe introduced for the first time last year, enabling you to play through preset match cards that you can customise to create your own events, where you'll also unlock a few retro wrestlers like Brock Lesnar, Vader, The Rock, Ricky Steamboat, Stone Cold, the late Eddie Guerrero et al.
"Trust me, this'll save you money on chiropractors."
You can simulate these events to race through the calendar, play through each event as the wrestler of your choice or interfere mid-match, making WWE Universe something that's great to dip into occasionally in between exhibition fights or the Road to Wrestlemania mode, which also makes a comeback with a story divided into three sections. You'll start out as Sheamus playing the villain role, as you invade a John Cena match with the sole aim of messing things up and inviting as many boos as you can from the baying masses. In the second act of Road to Wrestlemania, you'll embody Triple H for the heroic storyline and then finish up with a stint as a created superstar. All in all, Road to Wrestlemania covers 18 months of matches, including two Wrestlemanias, so it's a pretty substantial chunk of story-driven events to wade through, embracing all of the silliness that makes WWE so damn entertaining, from the backstage scuffles to the explosive matches themselves.
And in the ring, the new system, complete with its 'Predator' technology providing the revamped animations, takes some getting used to, thanks in no small part to the role that timing now plays in the grappling to and fro. Button mashing simply isn't an option, and you'll be duly punished for it with a serious drubbing. Countering requires a press of the right trigger at exactly the right moment, and it's a slender window that you're given to react. This obviously varies depending on each wrestler's attributes, but if you get it right, you can break animations, leading seamlessly into a counter attack without any of the weird sliding across the canvas or warping into the correct position for a signature move or a finisher. You're also now able to target limbs while holding onto an opponent, keeping RB held while pressing a face button to pummel your appendage of choice. So, Y smacks up the head, while the other buttons target arms and legs. It's a smart system that enables you to tactically work on a specific area to then home in for a submission or a quick pin.
"Smell my foot!"
This is all a step in the right direction towards overhauling WWE's core gameplay, but there's clearly still room for improvement, as it's not the most accessible and intuitive system, demanding a fair bit of practice to master. That said, wrestling fans will appreciate the refinements, and essentially WWE '12 plays better once you've invested the time in sussing it all out. Introducing friends to the new gameplay might prove especially difficult if they've yet to play it though, as it's not quite as casual as previous entries. Or maybe we're just rubbish at the game. We'll stick with the former explanation for now though.
If anything's going to bring you and your friends together though, it's the creation mode, which is even more comprehensive and in-depth, enabling you to create your own arena, from the ring design, to the announcer's tables and other ringside accoutrements, with all manner of designs and logos that you can paste onto your creations. Can't find a logo or design that you like? Then you can also create your own bespoke ones using a variety of layers and custom options. Creating a superstar or diva is also endlessly entertaining, as you're able to adjust the physical parameters of your wrestler to ludicrously extreme degrees. In short it's hilarious, and we spent loads of time with mates simply trying to outdo each other in creating the weirdest character possible, and Yukes has really outdone itself once again with the sheer wealth of options and features you can fiddle with.
You can share your creations online with the WWE community too, so if you're exceptionally proud of your lime green, polka-dotted arena or your obese, blue-skinned superstar with foot-long arms, matchstick legs and gigantic hands, then you can show them to the world and rate other people's characters, logos, arenas and so forth. You can also take the fight onto Xbox Live too, with all of the modes and frills you'd expect including Royal Rumble, as well as all of the aforementioned sharing and so on. WWE '12 really isn't lacking in features, and it's possibly the most significant advancement for the franchise in some time. The same can't be said of the achievements though, which still consist of a string of secret ones to uncover.
Like before, most of the achievements are tied to the central game modes like the WWE Universe and Road to Wrestlemania, but some secret ones you'll happen upon entirely by accident, such as the achievement we stumbled upon for inflicting heavy damage to an opponent's head, arms and legs. WWE '12's achievement list is actually rather decent, boasting a good spread across all areas of the game, encouraging you to dive headfirst off the proverbial turnbuckle into the customisation and each of the game's modes. Gaining the full 1000 points worth of cheevos will take a long time, but put in the time and you'll steadily work your way through them.
Like WWE '12's table-turning comeback moves, this latest iteration in the series is a great turnaround, worthy of a championship belt. Every facet of the actual WWE is catered for in each of the game's modes, all of which have been suitably streamlined, and the creation options are as deep and all-encompassing as ever. The changes made to the gameplay will take a short while to get into, but once you get the gist of the counter moves and the timing, as well as the newly introduced systems, WWE '12 becomes one of the best entries in the franchise in quite some time. Factor in the huge roster and the promise of loads of DLC grapplers to come, and you have one of the biggest wrestling titles around, despite the lack of competition these days.
Business as usual. Rockin' rock guitar music, decent commentary and voice work from the WWE Superstars and Divas themselves. Perfectly serviceable stuff.
Quite possibly the best looking WWE '12 to date, with all of the shiny, glistening sweat and spot-on likenesses that you'd expect. Some of the textures are a little shoddy though.
It takes some getting used to, with nailing the timings and mastering the new grappling devices, but once it clicks, WWE '12 is actually pretty good fun to play. Some may find it overly frustrating, but bear with it and it's ultimately rewarding.
There's an absolute ton to see and do in WWE '12, from the revamped Road to Wrestlemania and WWE Universe modes, to the customisable matches, unfathomably deep creation menus and online elements. It'll last you ages.
A decent spread of achievements across all of the modes and customisation bits encourage you to sniff around all of the menus and things that the game has to offer, which is a lot. Exploration pays off though, with plenty of cheevos awarded for trying out the creation aspects and all of the game modes. Solid.
WWE '12 takes the plunge and ditches the Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 moniker, mixing things up and slamming down the franchise for the three count. The overhauled system is a positive first step towards advancing the series, and the customisation is still second to none. So, pop on some tight pants. It's time for some wrassling.