The last time I played a wrestling game was in 1998 on the original PlayStation 1. WWF Warzone was the first 3D wrestling game ever, and although I had no particular interest in wrestling it was a title I came back to every so often. So, twelve years on, how much have things changed?
On the surface, gameplay remains basically the same. Matches consist of two or more wrestlers clotheslining, chokeslamming and DDT-ing each other into submission. There is a new control scheme, and of course there is a myriad of new characters, moves, and features, but the core of the wrestling is (not surprisingly) very familliar.
Combo moves are still a put off. You can still perform grabs, locks and various other pain-inducing movements, but figuring out which buttons you need to press is the real challenge. This is really frustrating as I know what moves I want to do but I just can’t remember the button combinations for them. I’m sure this is part of the challenge for hardcore players but punching someone in the face repeatedly gets tiresome when you know there’s more interesting stuff you could be doing.
The content creation options have been massively expanded with new ways to customise the game to the player’s liking. Almost everything is customisable: audience signs, entrance displays and even story arcs. The character creator is actually incredibly advanced and rivals that of The Sims series in the amount of options it has. It does, however, seem a little unhinged: we managed to create a shiny pink monstrosity with two metre long arms and a protrusion from his belly that was very reminiscent of something from Alien.
The best part about wrestling games is playing with friends, as you essentially get to beat each other up without anyone getting hurt. Local multiplayer is available and is actually pretty amusing, but playing multiplayer online is incredibly slow. There’s no control over players who haven’t picked a character yet so everyone has to sit around waiting for idlers. When I tried a game in ‘Royal Rumble’ mode, I got 30 seconds of wrestling for approximately half an hour wait. I literally sat there watching other people wrestle for about ten minutes.
Overall, WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2011 is not a bad game. There really is a lot of content on offer here if you’re interested, so if you like wrestling then you definitely should buy this game. For everyone else though, the old problem is still present: this is a game about wrestling, designed by wrestlers for people who like wrestling. Sure, fighting your friends can be amusing for a while, but if you’re someone who has no particular interest in wrestling it’s hard to really see what Smackdown Vs. Raw 2011 can offer you.