WWE ’12 Review

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Well, it’s a new year and therefore a new update to the WWE videogame stable. But wait, WWE ’12 is no update, in fact, it’s a whole new beast, one that runs on predator technology and I can only say well done to THQ. This game is better in every department than recent titles in the long running franchise. Gameplay, music, controls, action and atmosphere have all been improved. Don’t take my word for it though, lets dive right in and see what makes this game the best wrestling I have ever played.

The Road to Wrestlemainia is perhaps the best place to start with WWE ’12. This is the game’s story/campaign mode where you embark on the long and entertainingly arduous trek to wrestling greatness that hopefully culminates with a headline match for the WWE championship belt. Twists, challenges and choices are thrown at you from all angles as you participate in the house shows and Pay-Per-Views that lead up to the grandest of finales. THQ have done a good job in making this latest Road to Wrestlemania feeling fresh, and the over-the-shoulder camera view you’re provided with as you walk your superstar around around the arena and backstage areas is well throughout and executed.

You can really feel the atmosphere as you see the masses of cheering fans and the sheer size of the venues, and when your music hits and the pyro starts, you get a real sense of the adrenaline the actual WWE superstars must get whilst coming down the ramp. The entrances are done with such love; every unique move and musical detail has been perfectly recreated. I really think the guys that made WWE ’12 were serious wrestling fans, or if any weren’t to begin with, then they must have become serious fans whilst making the game.

Aside from Road to Wrestlemania, when you turn the game on, you have a multitude of different options to play around with. First, there’s the ‘Play’ mode, which is the game’s exhibition mode. Here you can chose a basic match type (one-on-one, tag, fatal 4 way, handicap or speciality), and any special rules (Extreme, Hell in a Cell, Inferno, Iron Man, Ladder, Steel Cage etc). Once this is all done, you can choose your fighters, and wow, there is a lot of choice (near 60). All of the current roster is here, with fan favourites John Cena, The Big Show, CM Punk present along with villains such as The Miz, Mark Henry and R-Truth. On top of these, the game also includes wrestling legends like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, and if that wasn’t enough all the Divas are present as well.  All together, this is probably the most superstars I have seen in a wrestling game.

Once you begin the game, the controls are simple. You move with the left stick and taunt with the D-pad, while the square button is used for striking and L1 is the button to hold when you want to enter or exit the ring. L1 is also the button used for climbing the cage and the turn buckle as well as picking up items. To run you press L2 and the L analogue stick for direction, whilst grapping is mapped to the X button. To whip your opponent into the ropes you need to press the circle button, and the all-important finisher has been assigned to the triangle button.

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One of the nicest features of WWE ’12’s game mechanics is the limb targeting system which allows you to focus attacks on the head, arms and legs of your foe, thus wearing them out quicker so you can pin them. To target a specific body part, you simply grapple and hold R1, then press one of the buttons to target said area. Not only do the new controls add some depth and strategy to fights, they also make WWE ’12 a much easier game to play for novice/casual gamers; allowing anyone to jump in a begin performing moves of the highest quality. Another great feature is the ability to chain grappling moves together as this allows much smoother transitions between moves, and, as a result, more fluid matches like those you watch on the TV.

The next option in WWE ’12 that deserves some attention is the WWE creations mode. Here you can create pretty much everything from superstars, entrances, move-sets and finishers, hell, even the arena can be altered to your specific tastes. THQ have once again done a fantastic job of making a malleable and accessible wrestling game, and this ethos is show nowhere better than in the ‘Create a Story’ mode, where you can create both linear and branching storylines. Once done, you can upload your efforts to the WWE community site and have other people play out your stories. You can also download custom superstars and use them in your stories, and this impressive level of depth shows how THQ really work hard to develop their WWE games. The story mode is good, but being able to share and play other people’s stories is pretty slick and the short tutorial that teaches you how to write them means they’re pretty easy to produce. I can’t wait to see what the minds of the WWE universe come up with.

As mentioned previously, the Superstar Creation mode allows you to build literally any wrestler you want. Choose from Superstar or Diva and away you go, you can even use logos you make yourself to adorn their costumes with. I tattooed my name on my Divas chest. Yeap, you heard me right. In the Arena creator you can change everything about the ring including the apron, mat, ropes, ring posts and turnbuckle pads. You can also change the ring side mats, the messages on the electronic billboards around the arena and the match-up nameplate. I can honestly say this is very fun to do, and again, you can upload your efforts, see what arenas other people have made, and share and swap them too.

The action in WWE ’12 is intense and fun, playing single player against the CPU is good fun. The AI enemies are very smart and will lay the smack down on you if you’re not careful. As I said above, every match-up is in here, with the all new 40 man Royal Rumble making its debut in the series as well. This is probably my favourite match type as it’s done so well, capturing the absolute mayhem on screen but at no point causingyou to lose your character. For the vast amjority of the time, the grappling mechanics work perfectly well, sometimes the focus does not change fast enough so you’re left grappling empty air, but this does not happen too often. The moves are easy to pull off yet look spectacular, especially the deadly finishers, and the new pinning mini-game, where you have to let go to match the bar on the screen, is another nice innovative feature.

Most wrestling games are best when played with friends, and with up to 6 players, WWE ’12 gets very fun, very quick. It great having a ladder match or a cage match with your friends and then kicking their respective asses, and it’s almost as much fun when you do it online against someone you’ve never met. The online community for WWE ’12 is vast and THQ have thought of everything here. Oh, and did I mention there are a ton of unlockables including Superstars, belts, arenas and other things that really help the replay value.

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The music in WWE ’12 is fantastic. There are some decent rock tracks to accompany the menus and the various entrance themes really get you going. Also, I don’t hate the commentary, which is a huge bonus.

There are some gameplay flaws it has to be said in the grappling and running departments. Sometimes your player will run into a barricade and just look at you, sometimes they will get hit with a chair and not fall over. They’re little issues, and while there’s no ignoring them, these issues don’t stop you enjoying yourself. The presentation is just sumptuous as the polish thrown on this game is clear to see.

Overall, WWE ’12 is a very good wrestling game. All of the new technology and ideas that have been packed into the game improve the overall product almost without exception. Playing the game really feels likes you’re in an episode of Smackdown or Raw.  The multiplayer options and creation tools are both comprehensive and impressive and really add a lot to this game. Couple all these things with the fantastic graphics and overall polish and you have a kick-ass game. WWE ’12 is the first of the next generation of wrestling games and it really raises the benchmark for future releases. Bigger, Badder, Better? You bet your ass WWE ’12 is.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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