82Smackdown vs. Raw is never a bad game; it always serves its purpose as a piece of WWE entertainment outside of the shows themselves, but it was in need of some new features in order to keep things interesting and improve on the ground that’s been treaded over and over again by the series. There’s always more you can do–more modes, more characters, more costumes, more features–and thankfully, Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 adds plenty to the series while building on its strong foundation.

Publisher: THQ
Developer: Yukes
Oct. 20, 2009

There are a few new gameplay improvements that bear mentioning. For one, the animations have improved, so things look a bit more realistic now than they used to. Wrestlers react to being struck in specific areas more, and you can use things like the ropes to great effect in order to take your opponent out. Strong grapple transitions are now manually performed, which means you can switch from one grapple position to another without having to let go of the grapple first–considering that THQ wrestling games from 10 years ago made you do this, it’s about time this change came about. There are also new positions to attack from and grapple from, which gives you even more options per Superstar when it comes to your move set.

Reversals have received a makeover too–now you have to press the right trigger to reverse everything, but it is timing based, so you can’t just spam the button and hope you reverse it. The window for reversals is pretty small, but with some practice it works effectively. Of course, if you aren’t able to reverse, you’ll take a beating; the good news is that now you will be able to see that beating’s effects on you and your opponent’s body. Give someone a hard chop to the chest? You’ll see their chest redden, which is a cool damage effect that mirrors real life. There’s also a lot of blood in this year’s edition–while the cuts start out small, the blood keeps on coming if you beat them down, so things will get messy.

The bulk of the Smackdown vs. Raw experience is the same as previous editions, but there have been some cool additions that make this much more than a roster update with a fresh coat of paint. The Road to Wrestlemania mode features multiple storylines that have been developed with the mindset of replicating a WWE experience. Copyright logos show up at the same time they would during the actual Raw or Smackdown shows, you go to the backrooms to talk to other wrestlers and view cutscenes, and there’s much more going on than just fight, fight, fight. They also do a very good job of harnessing these Superstar’s personalities–Edge is the kind of guy you’re going to love or hate, just like in real life, as he tries to take over Smackdown in his scenario. He’s presented as a twisted, sick-minded (but talented) wrestler who should not be given the reins to Smackdown, and even the announcers get in on that kind of information as they call his matches. These scenarios are well done and feel very much like a WWE experience.

The Royal Rumble has had some work done to it, as there are now different minigames for eliminating opponents. These change depending on where you try to throw an opponent out (or where you’re being tossed out). These are simple, like tap X repeatedly then tap Y repeatedly until you get back in, or sometimes they are more quick-time event oriented, but they are easy to grasp and make the Royal Rumble a more frantic and fun experience.

Maybe more interesting is the Championship Scramble though, a new match type that has five wrestlers going at it at the same time. You can put the different WWE championship belts on the line in these matches, which have an intriguing concept: two wrestlers start, and the three others enter the ring at set times. Each time someone is pinned or falls via submission hold, the wrestler responsible becomes the new champion; the twist is that there is a time limit, and the last one standing holding the belt is the champion. This becomes very difficult though, as there are five of you in there at once, meaning there are three people ready to stomp on your face every time you go for the cover. The matches are loads of fun though, especially given their difficulty–you aren’t just going to throw a few strong grapple moves around here and come away victorious if there are four others in the ring that all want to hurt you.

The create-a-wrestler mode has also seen improvements, with options for creating entrance movies using highlights that you have saved; you take these highlights, splice them together, and add sound and screen effects in order to come in to a badass theme. Taking a cue from the 2009 edition of the game, custom finishers are back, but you can now also create your own aerial finishers–those of you that love the high flying Superstars are sure to be pleased by this development. The obvious thing to do is to make everyone perform a hurricanrana, but you can string together your own preferences before the final blow. There is also a paint tool that you can use to create custom tattoos and the like for your Frankenwrestler, so you aren’t limited by what comes with the game any longer.

If you don’t want to create a new wrestler, then you still get to toy around with create-a-wrestler features, as you can now customize the Superstars that come with the game more, changing their colors. For me, that meant that John Cena had to wear girly colors, but you can mock or improve whichever wrestler you choose in the way you want to (P.S., make Cena like girly things). You also have the option of downloading other player’s created wrestlers, which means that you don’t need to struggle to create the legends of the WWE hiding in the costume designs if you don’t want to, because someone else already did.

While these modes are all well and good, with either improvements or totally new features that enhance the Smackdown vs. Raw experience, the meat of the game for many is going to be the WWE Story Designer. You don’t need to even make one yourself in order to enjoy this, which is probably its greatest strength–you can simply download other people’s scenarios over Xbox Live, which means you have a limitless supply of brand new stories to play through. While the chances that all of them are memorable experiences is slim, the fact that you will have some serious hardcore fans writing their own stories–this is basically a fan fiction generator–is great news for those who love their WWE.

You may be shocked at the breadth of options you have at your disposal in this mode. You’re basically scripting a 10-year show instead of just playing General Manager of either Smackdown or Raw, so you not only set the matches, but you get to create backstage scenes, start rivalries, create alliances, or, if you’re feeling frisky, create some Diva/Superstar relationships. You write the scripts, and you use the over 100 animations you have at your disposal to emote the lines.

You not only have the entire WWE roster at your beck and call here, but you can also use your created wrestlers, meaning there’s no shortage of talent for you. This also allows you to give your created Superstars some personality that can be played out somewhere besides your noggin. This gives you a lot to do after you’ve finished the story modes included in the game, and as stated, if creativity isn’t your thing, there is always other people’s work to play through. That shared content isn’t restricted to just created-wrestlers and the Story Designer though, as you can download pretty much everything from other people that you can create yourself.

Blast Factor: There is no shortage of things to do in Smackdown vs. Raw 2010. The game that comes packaged has loads of game modes, from the traditional career stuff to a more story-oriented Road to Wrestlemania, and let’s not forget about the enhanced Royal Rumble and the brand new Championship Scramble. Outside of that though, creation is the name of the game, from characters to entrances to your own WWE storylines–and of course, if you aren’t creative or don’t have the time, you can always download other people’s work to extended your Smackdown vs. Raw experience.

Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 is available on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 2, Wii and Nintendo DS. A copy of the Xbox 360 game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes.

About The Author

Marc Normandin was gaming editor of Blast from 2008 to mid-2010. You can reach him via e-mail at m[email protected], or follow him on Twitter @Marc_Normandin

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