Sunday, November 15, 2009

Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 Review

I know I'm about a month late on this and you've probably moved onto Modern Warfare 2 along with 7 million other people (I seriously don't get the fanaticism that game inspires), but I don't like to review things without extensive time playing it. Since THQ didn't send me a review copy (remember me next year!), I had to get Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 on release day like everyone else. With my job, other games, and real life getting in the way, my time with SvR10 has been sporadic at best, but now I think I've played the game enough to give you the definitive review... just in time for Christmas shopping!

Let me start by saying that I have never really been a fan of the Smackdown series. If the franchise had been all we had when it first came around, then I might be a little more fond of it, but going back to the PS1 era, those early Smackdown games were fun, but couldn't hold a candle to the N64's WrestleMania 2000 and No Mercy. When the franchise made the jump to the PS2 with Just Bring It, instead of building on a fun premise, it became a complete mess that it never fully recovered from. There were some decent offerings - Here Comes the Pain & Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 - but I think both those games were incredibly overrated by fans who were starved for a good wrestling game and would take whatever they could get.

When the series jumped to this generation and went multi-platform, SvR2007 was a lot stronger of a console debut than Just Bring It, but still wasn't anything special. SvR08 was embarrassing and 09 got the series back on track, but there was still something missing. The gameplay has been solid for years, they got the presentation of WWE down to a science, but it was still lacking the magic and charm of those N64 games, which haven't aged well, but are still remembered so fondly.

Enter Smackdown vs. Raw 2010: It's Your World Now. It's not perfect, it's not even "good enough," but I feel like this is the first reinvention of the series in its history. They still have a lot of work to do over the next few years, but I feel like SvR finally has a solid foundation, and it only took them ten years! Let's take a look at the good:

Story Designer - easily the greatest addition to wrestling games since Create-a-Wrestler. It's a bit in-depth, and you might go a little overboard with it (like I did), but there is endless fun to be had here. If you want to download stories, you do have to sift through a lot of crap, but if you can find a decent story, you'll have more fun with this than the Road to WrestleMania mode!

Road to WrestleMania - but that's not to say that RTWM is bad, it was one of the big highlights of SvR09 and it returns this year with some fun storylines, that are a bit more grounded in reality than last year's. I haven't played HBK's or the CAW stories yet, but I've really enjoyed the other four, especially Brand Warfare and the quest to become Champion of Champions. The mode suffers from a bit of a "same thing every week" feel, but it's still much better than what we had been getting in terms of a story mode every year before.

Royal Rumble - a match type that has never translated well to video games, they finally created something that's not only playable, but downright fun. It needs a few tweaks, but with the way this series works, don't expect many improvements for another six or seven years.

Customization - The Superstars Threads, which allow you to edit the color of the in-game wrestler's clothes, is long overdue. It's a bit limited, and it's only colors you can edit, but it's amazing how something so little can freshen up the appearance of the game. Also, stuff like WWE Rivals, along with returning features like roster editing, championship switching, cheer/boos, movesets, etc. make this the most customizable Smackdown to date.

And now for the bad:

Needless limitations - As nice as some of the new customization features are, the series still suffers from the biggest problem that has plagued it from day one: useless restrictions. Things like only being able to use your created wrestlers a total of 10 times in one created story, not being able to edit downloaded wrestlers, not being able to customize your matches, etc. Please explain to me why I can't edit a download created wrestler? I understand that some people may not want someone to alter their creations then re-upload them as their own, but just lock any downloaded content from being re-uploaded!

And please tell me why I can't have an Elimination Chamber with First Blood rules? Or a six-man match where I can actually get out of the ring? Or even something crazy like a Royal Rumble with pins, over the top rope eliminations turned off, and falls count anywhere? We could do stuff like that in No Mercy and that was damn near ten years ago! I know stuff like this doesn't happen on WWE TV that often, but considering this series has featured zombies and men being magically turned into women, are they THAT concerned with 100% realism?

Forgetting about other match types - hey thanks for fixing the Royal Rumble, now how about we do something about Hell in a Cell, which has been crap for years? And how about fixing the Table Match, so that when tables break, it doesn't look like PS1 physics? Or fixing the cage match so that it's not over as soon as someone gets 3/4 of the way up the cage? Why do we get an Inferno Match, a match type that's happened maybe five times in WWE history, but we can't fix match types that happen more than once a year?

Move elimination - there is no excuse for taking any move out of a game, ever. Even if a guy doesn't do a certain move anymore, why take it out?

But despite those gripes, the positives far outweigh the negatives this year and we finally get an enjoyable Smackdown game that can keep you entertained for more than a week or two. It may not be the greatest wrestling game ever - I'm one of those nerds that's still partial to Japan's Fire Pro series - but this is possibly the best WWE game ever and unquestionably the greatest Smackdown game. If you're a wrestling fan and you play video games, you need Smackdown vs. Raw 2010. Even if you're like me and have lost interest in the series, this is the perfect time to come back, there's a lot of fun to be had.


  1. A very fair game review.

    I agree with you on the needless restrictions, and the need for modifications to matches such as Tables and Hell in a Cell.

    However, I'm not a subscriber to the idea that the SmackDown series hasn't been very good at all until the 09 game came along. I thought each game had it's moments which made it good.

    Again, fair review. What else can we expect outta K-O Wrestling, though?

    - Matt Saye

  2. You know I love the Fire Pro as well (because let face it, when it comes to actually pulling off compelling wrestling matches, Fire Pro is the king), but I have to say that even I wish it had more options and freedoms than it allows you (like in FPR, you can't use created wrestlers in any of the GM-type modes, there is no story mode, if you make a belt, you can only defend it in the kind of match you created it under... I have a belt that is a 4-man team cage match belt). I wish Fire Pro was more successful so the two series could spur each other on to greater things.