WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 Review
When I agreed to take a trip to THQ and see the new Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 and review the game, I didn't realize what I was getting myself into. I haven't really been into wrestling since I was a kid, and the old days of Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, and The Ultimate Warrior are long gone. They were like comic book characters come to life with simple backstories, rudimentary rivalries, and narratives that kids could follow.
Wrestling grew up, and its fans grew up with it. Now, the WWE has extremely complex stories with tales weaving in and out, constant betrayals, and much more adult themes than I remember back from twenty years ago. But at some point, wrestling lost me. When wrestlers' success became tied more to their attitude and marketability than their talent or acrobatics, I lost interest.
Going into WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010, I was immediately impressed with the amount of fan service this game provides. It captures the spectacle of pro wrestling better than most sports games represent their real-life counterparts, but at some point I still found a serious disconnect between the acting and drama of seeing wrestling on TV or pay-per-view and the way I was expected to take it seriously once I was playing the game.
Many reviewers who love wrestling games will surely be enumerating every plus and minus over SvR 2009 and lamenting the rather small number of downsides here while praising the pluses. For example, creating your own superstar is easier than ever and your result will look much better than in years past (mostly because loading times have improved immensely and clothing and accessories are actually modeled in 3D rather than "painted on"), but now there are stricter limitations on the number of accessories that can be added. The series' biggest new mode that allows you to create your own story by putting together and editing scenes both in and out of the ring is going to be huge for wrestling fans, but you can only put any one superstar in a limited number of scenes - this kills any opportunity for creating a very long story for any given character.
The wrestling is smoother than it's ever been, but some animations still don't quite line up the way that I kind of expected them to after coming from fighting and boxing games over the last few years. There's also the kind of suspension of disbelief where I'm expected to agree that smashing a stepladder right into another superstar's midsection repeatedly isn't actually going to cause serious injury. They're humans in real life, but do they elevate to some kind of immortal status here in SvR 2010? It's not like anyone has a true health bar in this game - you can always get up eventually, no matter how many times you've been dropped on your head or beaned with a heavy object. Even after an hour-long match, you can still escape a pin if your timing is impeccable enough. It creates a real disconnect that makes me feel like the on-screen video game fighting extra fake - at least with UFC 2009 or Fight Night Round 4, the pretend stuff on screen represents a real-life battle. There's an extra level of fiction here that the developers have asked me to swallow, and being that I'm not a fan of wrestling, it killed it for me.
But for those who are fans, this is an amazing game that will give them many weeks or months of immense fun. Considering all that SvR 2010 offers, it's hard to be too critical of the few places it falters or just doesn't provide the ridiculous level of depth or user customization that other areas have. The seemingly endless ways you can pit one superstar against another, with different rivalries, match types, or whole storylines is mind-boggling. The presentation is generally solid, with only a few minor complaints to go around, and the online modes allow you to post your huge, sprawling story battles for others to play, along with the superstars you've created.
All that said, most of that is wasted on someone who just doesn't like pro wrestling. I was hoping that after so many years away from it all, maybe I could see some glimmer of appeal to it all once again, glean some new level of understanding about the sport from the wrestling-friendly press at the THQ event I attended, start actually getting into it again as some kind of guilty pleasure. But after playing SvR 2010 for hours, I can say that while this is one of the best examples of fan service in a video game I've ever seen, it's still not enough to actually make me a fan. I'm pretty sure you'll agree, too - if you are a fan, well, you probably had this game on pre-order since May and you don't need me to tell you to rush out and buy this game. But if you think "heels" and "faces" are body parts and don't know your Hulk Hogans from your Triple H's, stay away. This game is made entirely for people who are already fans.