It's that time again; the WWE bandwagon has been shrunk down onto a tiny disk and is invading all four consoles, and both two hand-helds, but is the console versions any good?
The answer is yes!
That didn't take too long, but you want to know why this years Smackdown! is good and where to begin...
There are now 70+ wrestlers to chose from, the loading times in all but the PS2 version has been improved upon infinitely, the Road to Wrestlemania; which is the fully voice acted story mode for seven superstars including a co-op story has more branching paths then ever to choose from. But the big new addition to this years Smackdown! is the community upgrade.
I can now create a wrestler, with 3D clothing parts on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, and stick him on the server ready for someone to download, edit, tinker with and put back on the server. In short that is awesome! Now your potentially getting an endless amount of wrestlers. Want to create Diamond Dallas Page? Check the servers. Want Andre the Giant? He's probably somewhere on the servers.
Also on PS3 and Xbox 360 you get to customize WWE superstars so if Ray Mysterio gets a new mask, you can update that.
The Wii and PS2 have created wrestlers as expected, however the clothing parts are not in 3D and there is no server support for those two systems. Also you won't be able to update WWE superstars appearance like you can on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.
Aside from being able to create awesome new superstars you can also create story sequences for your favourite or created superstars! The story designer has the next ten years of WWE programming including the three weekly shows and the PPVs. You get to choose the cut scenes from tones of in game animations including: guys being blown up, guys getting run over, ambushes, meetings, betrayals right up to mysterious brief cases being discovered. You also get to book matches on the shows. After you’re done editing a show, you can decide to end it there or you can continue on to the next show, it's your call.
Create a video has been upgraded and now created videos can be seen on the giant titantron behind superstars or divas. Also create a finisher has been updated with even more moves to choose from, including aerial moves from the top rope.
There are still a few issues with the game, the Road to Wrestlemania can feel limiting considering it's supposed to be branching but you have to win all your matches. The developers are going for realism but that's not realistic, a wrestler winning all his matches in the two whole months leading 'til Wrestlemania. Also some weird mandatory tasks such as beating wrestler x in three minutes. That wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for poor damage detection. We were Randy Ortan in his story and had to beat Kane of all superstars in three minutes, so we knocked the ref out, hit Kane with chairs, sledge hammers and ring steps; then did our finishing move and Kane kicked out. This happened for another twenty matches, at one stage we used multiple finishing moves in a match moves but ended up with the same result, yet in one of our matches we simply did a couple of suplexes and one finishing move and won. That is so frustrating how is that last match more damaging to Kane then the previous twenty? Sledge hammers are more powerful then suplexes, how can they mess that up so bad?
Another weird moment in the Ortan story is Dibiase and Rhodes took the World Title so Ortan comes to the ring; RKOs Dibiase Snr. then the message comes up we have to run to the ring and grab the title, but when we get to the ring the camera is zoomed so far back Ortan looks like an ant and you can't tell who you are, which is not helped by the fact that two people are beating you up and they know who they are because they're computer controlled. That's just damn right atrocious game development, something that not even a home-brew one man game developer should be aiming for, let alone a multi million dollar hundred man game developer company - that is a game-play ruining fault not to mention a game-play imbalance as the computer always know who they because it doesn't need to look at the screen but you do!
Another weird thing in this game is that created wrestlers can only appear ten times in story creator mode on the PS3 and the Xbox360 versions, but not on the PS2 or Wii. Also created superstars are not allowed to hold WWE belts for some reason.
The Royal Rumble has seen an awesome upgrade to the previous years editions, instead of it just being a button mash - this time to eliminate opponents you need to win at a pretty neat quick time mini game that's quite fun to play.
The controls are the same as last years, left stick moves and right stick grapples. If you never got into the whole new control method from 2007 on-wards, don't expect to be won over by the controls in this game, although the pacing of matches generally speaking feels a little more methodical in this game. Also the commentary has been simplified to get rid of the notorious commentary errors that plagued the previous versions of Smackdown!
But even with all the improvements mentioned in the review, it seems the Smackdown games are becoming a little too politically correct to be fun video games in certain instances, such as divas being allowed to hit superstars but not the other way around. Now we play video games to escape real life, but getting politically correct to that degree feels weird and like THQ had to turn the 'fun dial' down a bit to turn the 'politically correct' dial up. Again on the political correct thing, why can't the same two wrestlers fight? For example Triple H vs. Triple H which would at first seem silly, why would THQ allow you to make a match like that? But these type of same wrestles vs. same wrestler matches are a good way of seeing who the better Smackdown! gamer is in say; a household with more then one Smackdown! gamer.
In the end we had fun in Smackdown 2010, just not as much as we could have. Yes storey editor is cool, yes it feels authentic right down to the WWE logo popping up during a match and the end show graphic after the match, referees holding up world titles before title matches, dynamic camera like in the real TV shows, (though they can be a bit dizzying at first) return of loads of backstage areas; yadaa, yadaa. The list is almost endless, there are still silly instances of faults, the game becoming too politically correct etc. that take away from the enjoyment of the game.