Once in a while, with a batch of very sub-par games in a genre, one will shine brightly among the rest, proving that such a game genre should exist in the first place. WWE ’12 is that wrestling videogame who rescues the pack, showing the public a phenomenal title can come from such a niche.
On an apparent downward slide, the wrestling videogame industry was hurting. A cult following could only provide so much support when the franchise slowly spiraled out of control. It eventually went into a place where even the most hardcore fans wouldn’t follow (see Hulk Hogan’s Main Event… *shudder*). As of lately, it’s been hard for the wrestling industry in general. But with major changes in the industry (such as The Rock coming back! Who’s stoked?!), the whole aspect of wrestling seems to be on the upswing as it fights its way out of a very deep hole. And it’s swinging hard and fast.
A quick side note before diving deep into the vast universe of WWE ’12: My apartment is full of diehard fans that were drooling at the sight of this game. Collectively, we’ve been playing these games together since we all met in freshman year of college. Nights have turned into mornings as we’ve created our own characters, move-sets, finishers, and story lines, challenging each other’s titles, interweaving character paths. This traditional has gone for four years and counting as our created superstars, such as Bo Wilson, the Canadian Olympian, or Bad Doktah V, the mad scientist with a hobby of creating evil monsters, have all gone through the test of time just like the real wrestlers through the decades. Just be wary of the judgments made in the review since the game was not only scrutinized by me, but also by the hardcore fan boys that I live with.
We tend to be a bit intense at times.
With that said, let’s explore WWE ’12.
The first thing you’ll notice when you pop the disk into your console is that developers took serious time and effort to make ’12 as smooth and realistic looking as possible. Superstar faces, for the most part, look like the real superstars, the voices are actually their voices, and their move sets and their entrances are exactly their real entrances. The graphics are impressive, clean and the presentation is out of this world. In games past, frame rates would get caught in the currents and freeze up, limbs would go wild into spasms during matches, and the presentation slowly decayed. No such thing exists in ’12. It took me hours of game play for me to experience my first glitch (which I expected much, much sooner considering how glitchy both Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 and 2011 were).
The superstar entrances are truly pristine. The fireworks and pyrotechnics are 99 percent accurate and the entrance videos are the real thing. The lighting is very cool and the fluidness of moves makes for a great show. Even when characters talk, their mouths are attempting to work with the words that are spoken. It’s nice to see so much time spent on even the tiniest details in a game so large.
Combat is usually where past wrestling games have been lacking. They’ve been a lot of show and no mechanics. My roommates had mixed feelings on how the game handled when in the ring (or outside of it). Thinking since we had been playing the series of wrestling games for so long, we upped the ante and put the computer difficulty on “Legend.” This was a very poor choice, as developers have changed controls completely to make combinations and chains free-flowing. After creating my character, Flynn Withers, the crack-cowboy-hooligan, I decided to try him out against Chavo, who is a relatively low level. With him on set on “Legend,” Chavo decided to bring the pain and tossed my poor cowboy around like a rag doll, totally disregarding the fact that his level was 12 or so below mine. I swear he Gory Bombed me at least twice… If you’ve played previous wrestling games like Smackdown vs. Raw ’09, ’10 or ’11, you’re in for some abrupt changes in controls.
Countering and reversals, the most important thing in any wrestling game, is still one trigger, but a lot more difficult. One of the first things my friend yelled out as Mark Henry was beating him to a pulp was that the game was not user friendly to beginners. I would have to agree. If caught in the rampage of a chain or combination, it can be teeth-grittingly frustrating to try to reverse your way out of it. Not to mention, the signatures and finishers can be so quick to follow, at times, it seems impossible to block. It all takes time to get used to. Time and practice.
The grappling system is what took the biggest changes. Grappling is set to one button (“A” or “X” depending on your console) and then works with directional stick movement. When grabbing an opponent, you have seemingly endless options. You can hold the bumper and target a part of the body to deal a strike to, you can toss them, Irish whip them, you can signature/finish them if you have such an option cued up. It was overwhelming at first and really confusing, considering we we’re all a bit too stubborn to check out tutorials. Taking the time to know your superstar’s move set is vital, and once you know the set it’s possible to string together some devastating combos.
Pinning has been changed as well, removing the desperate button mashing routine. Instead, there is a meter that can be compared to kicking a field goal in Madden. You’ll hold “A” and attempt to stop the meter in the blue area to kick out from a pin. Using the resiliency ability can give gamers the opportunity to temporarily enlarge their blue area for an easier kick out. The more your superstar is beaten up, the smaller the blue area is. It makes for some pretty quick matches at time and is insanely nerve racking.
Overall, the buttons have been swapped and changed around to the point where ’12 is a brand new addition to the genre. It can be difficult to get the hang of, but through the creation of a move set or playing any of the story options, it gets easier with time. A few of my friends would argue that it’s too complicated and would prefer it go back to 2010 set up. It really depends on the gamer’s preferences.
WWE ’12 has set a new bar with options for creation to the point where it’s almost too much. After pouring hours upon hours into creating a character, a move set and an entrance, I realized there was still the possibility to create a ring, a logo, and even a story with scenes and matches cued up. There are probably even more things to create that I haven’t even found yet due to the vastness of ‘12’s creation opportunities.
Although I’m still angry for one sole reason: The point system still exists…
The point system is at the bottom of the screen when creating a character. Players are allotted only a set amount of points to dress and accessorize their superstar. These points run out extremely fast when trying to dress your character appropriately, making it difficult to really make what you want. You may like a jacket that fits with your character’s persona, but it may cost so many points that he’ll go pants-less, much like our created superstar Batty the Banker (a very formal man with a very nice green velvet jacket and no pants we loves leg drops – very professional, we thought). Since our original creations on Smackdown vs. Raw 2009, it’s been absolutely impossible to recreate our masterpieces due to the point system… We all loathe it, and you most likely will too. It’s a terrible flaw to a wonderful concept.
On the other hand, the opportunities are endless with customization. It’s easy to gut sucked in. You may plan on putting an hour aside to work on your superstar, but you’ll glance at the clock when you’re finally finished to see that five hours have gone by. It’s fair to say, even though the point system limits creativity, it makes for evolution of characters if you’re recreating on the new platform.
There are quick options too, if you’re not looking to spend ages on any one thing in particular, which is a nice touch. There are pre-set move sets from old superstars, and you can even use some older superstar move sets that just aren’t labeled in the game specifically (just poke around online and they’ll show who corresponds to each number). Same with entrances: there is a quick edit option to just use someone else’s entrance. What’s great is you can still utilize personal mp3s for entrance music, so if you’ve already uploaded music for previous wrestling games onto your console, they should be good to go.
There’s absolutely no limit to what you can make (unless, of course, it’s actually dressing your character). It’s up to you to decide how deep you want to go into customizing your wrestling world. It’s having the option that makes it so fantastic.
Road to Wrestlemania is the attempted storylines for WWE ’12. And, honestly, they weren’t as bad as I assumed them to be. Usually, the purchase of a wrestling videogame was for the sole reason of multiplayer. This mode, however, is worth one play through.
The modes are broken into three paths. It’s the standard “bad,” “neutral,” and “hero” set up. With each path obviously labeled, the game does not allow you to make your own decisions. You’ll be prompted to fight matches with certain superstars and your fate will already be decided. It probably could have been made better by giving players the option to make a choice, that way there would be some sort of replay value, but the story is already scripted and ready to roll. If you fail an objective, you’ll be forced to restart.
Even winning some matches will earn players a prompt to hit “Y” (or triangle depending on platform), which will cue a cut scene. Sometimes, after laying down the smacketh on an opponent, you’ll still lose because that’s the path of the story. This is understandable considering it’s a story, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
Of all of them, the hero path is the best (which always seems to be the case in videogames). Players will control a new wrestler with the name Jacob Cass who has just joined the WWE and is being mentored by Rey Mysterio. They’ll be prompted to either create Cass or choose someone to model Cass after.
Do not choose an already custom made superstar!
In case you couldn’t read that, I’ll put it in all caps.
DO NOT CHOOSE AN ALREADY CUSTOM MADE SUPERSTAR!
The game will make your superstar into Jacob Cass, changing the character’s build. The appearance should be fine, despite that, but if you’ve spent a long time tweaking the build of your superstar, you’ll find this immensely frustrating.
Getting past that flaw, you’ll fight against Kevin Nash and his WCW cronies as they attempt to destroy Monday Night Raw for good. It’s a story filled with betrayal and twists and, overall, it’s definitely worth the play through. There were a few dull moments of filler where you fight Vader and Animal in backstage brawls over and over again, which definitely gets old. But teaming up with some legendary superstars is pretty cool, not to mention homage is paid to old legends such as Eddie Guerrero. If you play any of the roads, it should be the “hero” path.
Universe mode is probably one of the coolest and in-depth options ’12 has to offer. You can play as any superstar, included custom ones, and work your way through a schedule of events. You’ll be matched up with and against random superstars as you fight your way to the top. You can play through every match on the calendar, but that would be outright ridiculous if you did. A simulation option is available for players to breeze through matches that don’t involve them or their allies. Again, this is a prime example of WWE ’12 giving players complete control of their game play.
Using my Flynn Withers, I inserted myself into lower matches, fighting against Otunga and Del Rio. After defeating them in the ring, cut scenes took place and one of them to a cheap shot to my crotch, causing a rivalry between them. Managers will get involved, allies will get involved, divas will get involved, there’s really no telling what will happen after each match. Tag partners will choose to not help, the Heavy Weight Champ will come in and wreck house, it all happens and without warning. I tried to make it as realistic as possible, so I worked my character into the upper ranks of Raw in order to fight my way into Smackdown. Winning matches and sustaining momentum will cause your character’s levels to rise slightly, while a defeat will crush momentum and downgrade you a little. You’ll fight Number One Contender matches to have a crack at specific belts and people can interrupt matches and alter who wins or loses. The best part is it is always changing. You’ll make shaky alliances that will flip-flop in the next match, or you’ll make the worst of rivals that will beat you down before the match even starts with a metal pipe (yes, that happened to me). Due to the unpredictable nature of the mode, it’s a lot of fun and keeps players coming back for more, even if it’s just to defend a title.
What’s nice is almost any mode in WWE ’12 can be turned into a multiplayer situation. The only exception was Road to Wrestlemania, which is primarily a single player story.
Multiplayer is much like it’s always been and probably the largest selling point for ’12. Again, developers really stress the idea of customization to gamers, and made every match option a possibility. You can have a 40-person Royal Rumble or you can fight your way to the top of a six-man ladder match (tried it, I suggest you don’t, it took over an hour). Everything is there, from First Blood matches to Iron Man matches to Elimination Chambers.
The Back Stage Brawl matches, however, were a bit of a disappointment. There is only one stage with multiple areas, which was amazingly intriguing at first, but got old real fast. You can push someone through car windows, or smash their head with a door, but honestly, 2010 got it right. There were plenty of items to use and the item grapple option was wonderful. WWE ‘12’s brawls are far more lacking and get stale after exploring the whole area once with friend(s).
WWE ’12 does offer online play as well as online sharing that’s definitely worth checking out. People will create absolutely everything throughout the game that can be shared and downloaded by other gamers. They’re rated, and the higher the rating the more downloads you’ll probably get. Say you’ve spent considerable time on creating an arena and want to see what others think. Just upload the ring and see how it does, it’s all in good fun. It is very similar to Halo Reach’s option to create maps with an online download option. Uncovering the process was quite refreshing, showing that other people poured as much of their life into ’12 as I did.
As far as unlockables go, there’s a ton. There are old superstars to unlock, new arenas, new titles and new attires. The Road to Wrestlemania will unlock a lot of them, and so will fighting through the WWE Universe. There’s a lot to unlock, however, and it will take full exploration of the game to get everything out of it.
To put it simply – if you have the time for WWE ’12, it will reward you.
BLAST FACTOR: Among the broken remains of the wrestling videogame world, WWE ’12 shouts over Cena’s taunt of “You can’t see me!” and demands recognition. It’s smooth and looks incredible, is outrageously accurate in representation of the superstars, and has fluid combat controls. If you’re a fan of the older games, be prepared for different controls. The customization options are through the roof and unrivaled by any wrestling game thus far. Players have the ultimate control they’ve been looking for… except for that damn point system. WWE ’12 demands a lot of time be put into it and is a very simplistic equation of “work in = work out.” For those looking to really dive into the depths of a wrestling game, this is the game for you. With endless options, gamers can literally spend days creating and building their own worlds. It’s truly amazing what can be accomplished.
There is a lot there for fans to reminisce about, and tons of superstars are available for play (I’m especially glad Edge is still in the game despite his recent retirement). On the other hand, some of the game play can seem repetitive and may bore some gamers if not played with friends. The Road to Wrestlemania will briefly satisfy some, but for most it will grow stale quickly. Universe mode is a huge plus to the game and can keep the single player mode alive longer than a normal wrestling game would survive. Ultimately, ‘12 is definitely meant to be played with friends and is a multiplayer game at heart. This is a game for the fans, but maybe not for the casual player. Exploring WWE ’12 and committing time to it, however, can spark interest of the wrestling world in anyone and give gamers a new appreciation for a genre that seemed so close to a three count. Get that shoulder up, WWE ’12 is here.WWE ’12 is available now for the Xbox 360 and PS3 from Yukes and THQ. A copy of the Xbox 360 version of the game was provided by the publisher for this review.