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Community Discussion: Blog by mgspada | Entering the WWE Universe: A SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 ReviewDestructoid
Entering the WWE Universe: A SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 Review - Destructoid




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About
I am MG Spada, but go right on ahead and call me Mike. I love video games and have since an early age. I currently hold a Bachelor's of Science in Game Art & Design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh's Online Division. Don't worry, it was totally not a "tighten up the graphics on level 3" kind of school.

Ultimately I would like to write in relation to games somehow. Be it writing the stories of games, writing reviews and editorials, or updating my Facebook status about video games professionally, I just want to write.

My Top 10 Games of All Time

1. Metal Gear Solid 4: Sons of Liberty
2. Portal 2
3. Super Mario Galaxy 2
4. Banjo-Kazooie
5. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
6. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
7. Super Mario World
8. We <3 Katamari
9. ToeJam and Earl 2: Panic on Funkatron
10. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

I'm also a rapper, sketch comedy actor/writer/producer, and I host a wrestling podcast. None of these things are successful.

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Since there is no official Destructoid review of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 up yet, I’m going to sneak right in there and drop this unofficial review in to whet the appetites of the probably three wrestling fans in the Dtoid community! LET’S DO THIS THING.

I became a wrestling fan fairly late in the game, as far as my age group goes. I first saw the WWE (WWF at the time) with WrestleMania XIV. At the age of 11, my immediate instinct was “GAY,” but within minutes I was hooked on the drama and excitement. While I stayed faithful during the Attitude Era of the late 90s and early 2000s, my interest waned in the middle of the decade, only to skyrocket back up around late 2006. Now a full-fledged adult wrestling fan (I even host my own wrestling podcast!) in a day where wrestling is rated TV-PG and has lost the blood, sex, and profanity that made it so popular with me in the first place, I have in my hands WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011.

Wrestling games were a mixed bag back in the day, but ever since THQ decided to go the yearly installment route that made legitimate s
Since there is no official Destructoid review of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 up yet, I’m going to sneak right in there and drop this unofficial review in to whet the appetites of the probably three wrestling fans in the Dtoid community! LET’S DO THIS THING.

I became a wrestling fan fairly late in the game, as far as my age group goes. I first saw the WWE (WWF at the time) with WrestleMania XIV. At the age of 11, my immediate instinct was “GAY,” but within minutes I was hooked on the drama and excitement. While I stayed faithful during the Attitude Era of the late 90s and early 2000s, my interest waned in the middle of the decade, only to skyrocket back up around late 2006. Now a full-fledged adult wrestling fan (I even host my own wrestling podcast!) in a day where wrestling is rated TV-PG and has lost the blood, sex, and profanity that made it so popular with me in the first place, I have in my hands WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011.

Wrestling games were a mixed bag back in the day, but ever since THQ decided to go the yearly installment route that made legitimate sports games so popular, starting with 2005’s SmackDown vs. Raw 2006, the series has been mostly solid. While never truly amazing like 2001’s WWF No Mercy for the Nintendo 64, the SmackDown series has remained a respectable, enjoyable series. So just what sets the 2011 edition apart? What is so new it can’t be missed? Well, kids, let’s find out together.

WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2, PSP
Developer: Yuke’s
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: October 26, 2010

SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 is everything you would expect from a WWE game. It’s got a massive roster featuring all the superstars and divas that keep the WWE running. As long as they were in the company before WrestleMania 26. Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, the Miz, and the eternally terrible John Cena are all here and all play just like their real-life counterparts, but recent stars like Wade Barrett and the Nexus, Daniel Bryan, and Alberto del Rio are all missing in action due to their recent debuts with the company. This is an unfortunate side effect of the yearly production cycle that happens in every year’s edition. Hell, last year, Sheamus won the WWE title in December, only a month after the 2010 edition, and he wasn’t even in the game. Currently, two superstars holding gold in the WWE are not in the game, but THQ promises to toss in as many recent wrestlers as they can with paid DLC this holiday season. Additionally, many wrestlers in the game are no longer with the company, such as Mike Knox (who?) and Mickie James, who has joined the competing TNA’s roster.

The game’s presentation, like every other year, is top notch. The visuals are stunning, with lifelike character models and fancy new muscle-flexing technology bringing every superstar to life. Every entrance, every logo, every camera cut is straight out of WWE programming and truly makes you feel like you’re watching it live on television. The sound is equally impressive, with every wrestler’s theme song blasting clear as day as they make their way to the ring and every boom, crash and thud making an impact on the canvas. My one gripe with the sound, however, is the commentary. Now, wrestling game commentary has never been good (think “THE ROCK… has a great… THE ROCK BOTTOM!”), but this year it’s somehow worse than before. They went from three commentary teams to one (Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler, for the record), and it’s completely butchered. They’ll call wrong moves, wrong wrestler names, even confuse genders! I don’t know where it went wrong, but it went WRONG.



While the presentation has few flaws, the gameplay has even fewer. With all the same match types that 2010 had to offer, plus all of them now playable online, more of the same is definitely a good thing. It’s largely unchanged from 2010, but for those people out there like me who played the most recent title religiously, the little changes are what bug you the most. Changes like pinning being mapped to the B/circle button and lifting your opponent from the ground using up on the right stick can cause some serious confusion for series veterans looking to get into the swing of things right off the bat.

The most noticeable change, however, is in the grappling system. While it is still mapped to the right analog stick, you can no longer choose whether to perform a weak grapple or a strong grapple. Instead, the game chooses for you, depending on the situation and the condition of your opponent. The lame part about all of this is that you end up doing weak grapples far more than strong ones, which not only do significantly less damage, but are also limited in variety; every wrestler has four weak grapple moves, as opposed to sixteen strong grapple moves. While that can be a problem, it’s been more than made up for with the addition of being able to change your position with a large amount of moves. Now, when performing moves such as suplexes or powerbombs, you can change the direction of your landing mid-move. That’s right: no more awkward positioning of yourself just right in front of tables before landing moves!

And that leads me to one of the two biggest new features in 2011: the physics. Putting opponents through tables or doing battle on ladders has never been better thanks to the implementation (finally) of the Havok physics engine. Before, using weapons was very awkward because they were these bulky obstacles in the ring instead of objects. You could do a chokeslam RIGHT in front of a table, only to have your wrestler slide back and slam the dude just inches away from it. Now, though, the tables react as they would in real life, shattering and splintering upon any impact. And the broken pieces stay! You can slam an opponent onto the steel steps, crush their face on a steel chair on the ground, and German suplex their back through the announce table. The physics have been implemented beautifully, with bodies and weapons bouncing all around the ring just like on television. You can push your opponent off the ladder, outside of the ring, through a stack of two tables because that’s what would actually happen. No more sliding tables or canned animations – everything reacts naturally to the environment and it’s incredible. TLC (tables, ladders, and chairs) matches have improved vastly, and you and your friends will have an absolute blast wrecking each other match after match.



The other massive new feature this year is WWE Universe mode. This is a brand new, ever-changing story mode. Instead of having straight exhibition matches, the game actually plans out entire episodes of Raw, Superstars, and SmackDown for you, based on previous matches, assigned allies and enemies, and story sequences. Now instead of just deciding you want to have John Cena take on Sheamus in a submission match, that is a match that happens on Raw that leads to future matches depending on the outcome. Did Sheamus win the title? Rematch at the next pay-per-view. Did Randy Orton interfere? Triple threat match next week. Did Vince McMahon order the match be restarted as an Extreme Rules match? Kick Sheamus’s ass enough and he’ll be rolled out on a stretcher. There are a set of story sequences that come into play in every episode, and the game creates future episodes based on these randomly generated occurrences.

And I must say, it’s excellent groundwork for a feature that will certainly be implemented better in the future. As a first iteration, it’s a great idea and well executed, but it’s just not as smart as it should be and doesn’t have nearly as much variety. You’ll often see the same story sequences twice in an episode, or have something happen that makes no sense within the context of previous episodes. It’s all very bare-bones storytelling, and it’s not nearly as cohesive as the Road to WrestleMania mode, but it’s a really fun mode that gives you much more incentive to play continuously. And if you hate it? You can shut it off with the right analog stick! Let’s hope they make it truly outstanding next year so no one wants to shut it off.

Speaking of Road to WrestleMania, it’s back and with five new story modes to choose from. You can play as John Cena, Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho, Christian, or choose one of five superstars (including a create-a-wrestler) to chase after the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. Instead of just skipping around from cutscene to match back to cutscene, this year’s RTWM mode actually puts you backstage at every episode every week. Here, you can interact with other superstars, get into backstage scuffles, see the general manager, level your character up with experience points gained in matches, or get interviewed for that night’s show. It’s an incredibly immersive experience, at least for a wrestling game, and truly makes you feel like you’re a part of the show. Each story mode culminates at WrestleMania 26 in a match that is appropriately but painfully difficult, and truly makes you feel like you’ve made it when you reach the end. They’re short, sweet, surprisingly mostly well-acted, and suck you in much more than previous years’ efforts.



Other than that, everything is par for the course. Create-a-wrestler, create-a-story, and create-a-finisher are all here, all with more features than ever before, but are largely unchanged outside of that. All the community features from last year’s game are back and much easier to navigate through, the interface is slicker, load times are reduced, and the presentation is much more refined. Hell, even the online mode is better. Not only are all gameplay modes available, including the Royal Rumble, but the lag is significantly toned down. It’s still definitely there, and has still screwed me out of victories, but THQ has done an excellent job making the online mode playable, something it has certainly never done before.

WWE puts out one game a year, usually, and this year it scores big once again. While the commentary and some questionable gameplay decisions drag the experience down a bit, the new improvements more than make up for it. With a new physics system bringing matches closer to reality, WWE Universe mode making every move count, and the small improvements here and there polishing up the experience to the best of their ability, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 is a solid and enjoyable entry into the series that will keep wrestling fans busy for another year.

Score: 8 out of 10 – Great!



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