Every year a new WWE game hits the store shelves and every year they are seemingly ignored — especially by gamers who have smartened up to the formulaic approach. That doesn’t seem to be the case for this year’s title though, because THQ has nixed the Smackdown vs Raw series in favor of a reboot in WWE ’12; and people have taken notice. For a gaming series that desperately needed a facelift, even catching wind of the fact that they’re going to attempt to change things up before seeing a single screenshot was exciting news. Now WWE ’12 and the changes are here, but are they enough to warrant the spending of your hard earned money? Read on to find out.
When you boot up the game, the first thing that will come to mind is ‘overwhelming.’ That’s because there are options upon options to go through in the menus. Also worth noting is the gritty look that WWE ’12 has taken that already makes you feel like the game is taking itself more seriously than ever before. Actual pictures of wrestlers are also shown while selecting your wrestler or browsing around, and that’s something I prefer over the in-game models being used for everything.
Hopping into a match in WWE ’12 is something that I’m sure most people will be interested in before going into the more in-depth modes, and it works really well. You choose how many people will be in the match, what kind of match, your superstars and you’re good to go. Along the way you can also pick which arena you would like to brawl in and the more detailed stuff, including the time for count outs, if there will be rope breaks, submissions, etc. It’s also very user-friendly because there are not a lot of slowdowns and load screens. I remember earlier this year’s WWE All Stars had a slight delay each time you highlighted another wrestler because it took time for the game to load each individual, and that was incredibly annoying. I know that WWE All Stars and WWE ’12 are very different games, but I just thought I’d mention something that I’ve seen in other games before.
When in a wrestling match, WWE ’12 very closely resembles what you see on WWE programming on television. We’re in an era in videogaming now where graphics are pretty darn good and WWE ’12’s attention to detail outstanding. First of all, wrestlers look eerily the same as their real life counterpart. I don’t think any wrestling game has ever had the superstars look this good before. Also, to help recreate that feeling that you’re watching your Raws and Smackdowns, the crowd looks good, the ring ropes move and shake when someone is slammed, and camera angles change just like on WWE television when someone is pulling off a big move. There is also virtually no HUD outside of letting you know that you have a signature move ready or finisher. You can toggle the options to turn things like your meter or button prompts on, but having them off, again, helps recreate that real WWE atmosphere. The one gripe I do have is with the audience chants; there are almost no chants from the crowd outside of the occasional “woo” when someone gets slapped in the chest. It’s too bad, because they almost got it all right.
Playing the game is something that you would expect from a wrestling game; striking, grappling, submissions and finishing moves are all here. The difference from this year’s title from the past is the pacing of it all. This game is a much slower and methodical wrestling title, and that is something that is less arcade-like and more simulation-like. Countering also happens quite frequently if both players know what they’re doing, and this gives a very satisfying back and forth experience. Also, when there are more than two wrestlers at once, a third party can actually break up finishing moves. This is very much of a double-edged sword, because although it warrants a more realistic approach, it makes matches with 6 wrestlers at once almost unplayable. There is just too much going on at once for you to actually pull off anything you intent to. A new limb targeting system is also here to help isolate body parts for more strategic players, and it works very well. I’m sure submission minded players will use this feature in their advantage to its maximum potential.
If you couldn’t already tell from what I have been saying, graphically, the game and presentation looks awesome, but WWE ’12 falls a bit flat technically. After playing a handful of matches, I would be surprised if you didn’t experience anything that left you wondering “what the heck just happened?” I think the most common instance where this happens is when I would be running toward my opponent and my wrestler would fall flat on his face from out of nowhere. Hilarious, yes, but a little frustrating too. Lots of glitches are also experienced with some of the more interesting matches, such as the Hell in a Cell and ladder. Falling through the top of the cage spontaneously happened just once from my experience, but once is enough to know that there are problems to be had here for everybody.
Those looking for a single-player experience will find a lengthy one in the Road to Wrestlemania story mode. That’s not to get confused with it being a good one though, because this mode falls flat quite quickly. You have a mode that will give you 10-15 hours of gameplay (depending on if you want to skip all the chatter), but playing actual matches are very far and in between. To progress in the story, you’re mostly going to be told to fulfill a certain requirement that is more mission based than anything else. An example of this is having the game tell you to finish off a wrestler in the backstage area in a specific location to complete a task. And this isn’t limited to the backstage area, because the in-ring stuff unfortunately works the same way. There should be no reason why I can’t pin my opponent until the game allows me to, but WWE ’12 forces this upon you. It just feels a bit too restricting and that equates to a not very fun experience.
On the customizable end of things, WWE ’12 held nothing back. I know I said that the plethora of modes was overwhelming, but the customizable options are even more so. You can create and edit pretty much everything and anything in this game from a wrestler’s eyebrows to the logos used in the middle of the ring. There is so much here that I’m sure you won’t know where to begin, because I sure didn’t. The greatest thing about it all is that it’s all very accessible and easy to use. Recreating favorites that weren’t included in this year’s wrestling game was easier than I thought. You can also fool around with the stats of the already established wrestlers, and how your WWE Universe plays out. In your WWE Universe, you can have John Cena become the weakest wrestler and then have someone like Zack Ryder become the best. You can do whatever you want in WWE ‘12, and that’s the kind of control that can help your real world WWE fantasies play out.
Bringing the game online is also something I’m sure lots of players are looking forward to doing. The overall menu set up and options work very well, and getting into a match is done in a snap. The only issue is that with a game that is heavily based around timing for kicking out and countering, playing WWE ’12 online doesn’t compensate for the sometimes less-than-perfect network connection, and that becomes a problem really fast. Leaderboards are also here to show people who’s the best, and there’s a ranking system that is anticipating hours and hours playtime. Let’s just say that the word prestige is involved here – not exactly the way you think, but still.
A great multiplayer, passable story mode, tons of unlockables, lots of customization options, upcoming DLC content (takes a deep breath), online modes and leaderboards, hefty roster, and tons of modes will keep you invested in WWE ’12 for a long time. WWE ‘12 is not perfect and the single-player stuff could have been better, but there’s no question that this is a game that you will be having a good time with. Gamers who are also wrestling fans will certainly be pleased with WWE ’12. Everyone else should give this a try too.