WWE '12 ReviewBlake Anglin
Going into this year's release of the annual THQ-developed WWE title, I fully expected it to be the best wrestling game ever made. The gameplay has made significant strides in the last few years, and with the addition of the new Road To Wrestlemania mode, I thought the only weakness, sub-par story presentation, was going to finally be shored up. I would have been happier dusting off my N64 and popping in WWF No Mercy.
The surface elements of WWE '12 are inoffensive. The roster is fairly large, and the cast of unlockable characters is quite impressive. A few questionable absences like Chris Jericho and Brett Hart exist, but overall this is a good representation of stars past and present. The game controls work well enough, and I love the addition of specific limb-targeting in grapples and submissions. The fact that you can now segue from a taunt to your finisher is pretty cool as well, and reversals work well enough…against human opponents.
The creation elements are still probably the best part, and have been expanded with the addition of Create-An-Arena. An absurd amount of customization options, both cosmetic and in your move set, allow you to sculpt basically anything you want. Making your finisher is still tedious work, but the storyline creator is fairly easy to use and offers enough options to make a serious (or in my case hilarious) storyline. Uploading your own custom storyline to Xbox Live or PSN is simple, and I really can't wait to see what the community comes up with in the next few months.
Road To Wrestlemania, a mode new to the franchise, attempts to add a cohesive and absorbing narrative to the WWE experience. Despite mostly solid writing and a few smart ideas, it is mostly an abject failure. The tale follows three different grapplers (Sheamus, Triple H and "rookie" Jacob Cass.) in unique storylines. While plagued by wooden voice acting and stiff animations, the overall plot is well done, and would feel right at home on Monday night. Unfortunately, the gameplay behind the mode is extremely frustrating. Instead of marching through a series of regular bouts with some backstage theatrics sprinkled on, you are forced to suffer through a barrage of annoying and vague QTEs. If I had to suffer through beating someone up only to have Big Show come in and decimate me automatically again I was going to break my own legs in backstage. The game arbitrarily disables tags and even pinfalls without telling you, until you can figure out how to make the glowing button appear over your opponents eyes. Once, my objective was to finish off Edge in a six-man tag team. I couldn't do it, however, because his other two partners just started tagging each other in and out in rapid succession, forcing a restart. Only the most hardcore wrestling fans will want to make it through this mode.
The returning WWE Universe fares a little better, but hasn't made any real advance since its inception. You can customize the participants and match type for each show, swap characters between brands and even take your created character stable to the Tag Team Championship. Creating your own interferences and cashing in your Money in the Bank is cool, but it still feels like your not getting all the control. There are no real integrated stories in the Universe, and you have to physically work your way through the ranks if you want your character (or any other character) to be champ. The new 40-Man Royal Rumble is pretty cool though.
A few other problems left a bad taste in my mouth. Character animations are pretty lifeless at the best of times, and a few common glitches derailed the visual experience. Characters routinely floated ten feet above the ring while performing moves, and obvious hits, especially while running, will clip right through characters. The reversal system takes perfect timing to pull off, but while you may be struggling with it, the computer does not. Mark Henry reversed every move I threw at him one match, and defeated me without me landing a blow. You could argue that that could be due to player skill, but I'm no chump, and Mark Henry isn't exactly known for his reversal aptitude. The THQ servers are still as shaky as ever, so people excited about serious online competition should check their expectations now.
If you like gathering four people around your living room and participating in Fatal 4-Way TLC matches, you likely won't be disappointed in WWE '12. The gameplay is solid enough to enjoy. But with the lack of any real improvements and a lackluster story, I can't recommend it to anybody but the most serious of modern wrestling fans. It's disappointing, but I fear WWE's glory days may be behind them.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.