WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 Review

By Sterling McGarvey - Posted Oct 22, 2009

After some a few misfires and some relatively okay attempts, the Smackdown series returns to form with WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010. With a heavier push on user-generated content, it's the first game in the series to truly embrace sharing of fan-created wrestlers, finishers, and now, your own storylines. Although there are some misfires and unaddressed long-term issues, it's among the best wrestling games this generation.

The Pros
  • New Grapple system provides new depth to gameplay
  • One button counter-reversals are a vast improvement
  • Top-notch presentation
  • WWE Community Creations is a real game-changer
The Cons
  • Collision detection still imprecise
  • AI still has brain farts
  • Online still has lag and balance issues
  • Limitations to Story Designer hurt its potential

The Smackdown series has seen its fair share of ups and downs, with the games seeing some stagnation during the transition from the PS2 era to our current HD generation of gaming. Yukes made some decisions that felt a bit regressive when it came to feature sets, and gameplay adjustments were minor at best in many regards. Enter WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010, which shakes up the franchise with some much-needed updates to reflect the capabilities of this generation.

SmackDown vs Raw 2010

Welcome to the WWE!

The first noticeable improvement in SVR 10 is the presentation. It’s evident that Yukes has studied other sports games to create its inviting in-game menu. Now, like EA Sports titles such as NBA Live and FIFA, SVR 10 starts up in a training ring, where you can test drive the new movesets, or brush up on gameplay if you haven’t picked up the series in some time. It’s a smart move that helps drive home the improved accessibility.

SVR 10
carries plenty of subtle touches that lend authenticity. Pull off enough “Whoo”-worthy Ric Flair chest chops and welts will start showing up on your opponent’s chest. If you open up your opponent’s face, his blood will eventually show up on you if the action keeps dragging out. They’re small but effective features that, like the end-credit Smackdown and Raw moments during Road to Wrestlemania -- complete with color commentary sign-off and a fade to black mid-brawl, help sell the credibility of the WWE experience.

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Slimming Down Is the New Bulking Up

But, like many sports sims -- only the uninformed would lump the series in with fighting games -- the devil’s in the small details, and SVR 10’s new systems are arguably the biggest improvements to the franchise in years. For starters, the counter-reversal system has been remapped to a single button, rather than “grapple reverse” and “strike reverse” buttons. It really streamlines the process of protecting yourself from attacks. In addition, the grapple system has seen some big improvements. If you lock your opponent into a strong grapple, you can hit a few buttons to keep the grapple going while you move around him/her. For example, if you lock in a front grapple but want to perform a belly-to-back suplex, you can tap a few buttons and shift the right stick to move yourself into position. These two elements maintain the complexity that wrestling fans want without convoluted mechanics.

The More Things Change...

The overall grappling and reversal mechanics have seen some big changes, but some of the problems that have plagued the series from the beginning are still there. Collision detection is still awkward at times. I watched as Triple H put his entire hand into The Big Show’s belly during an abdominal stretch. Rope physics aren’t so hot, either. At times, feet clip through the bottom rope, yet other times, it’s a weapon. Although SVR 09 put a heavier focus on tag teams, it still has brain farts -- if the Undertaker has me in a suplex and is walking around the ring to my corner, shouldn’t my partner bum rush him to break the hold? That’s a problem when you’re dealing with specialty brawls such as six-man tag matches. AI inconsistency has been an ongoing problem for the series, and although it’s better about certain elements, it’s still a long-term work-in-progress.

SmackDown vs Raw 2010

Are You the Next Stephanie McMahon?

Outside of the ring, sim-focused misfires like 24/7 Mode have been flushed down the memory hole in favor of WWE Story Designer. It’s here that hardcore wrestling fans will sink hours upon hours into the game. Ideally, not only are you the GM of your show, you’re also the booker. You can micromanage feuds, match types, and conditions for matches. If you’re anal retentive enough, you can even tweak cinematics down to whether your superstar ends up in a brawl after cutting a promo, or whether you’re going to escalate tension in other ways. It’s ridiculous in scale -- you can theoretically book up to a decade’s worth of programming -- but a little myopic in scope. For example, if you want to book your created superstar to fit within your stories, you’re very limited in the number of times you can use him or her. Otherwise, it’s a deep mode that’s designed to satisfy the urges of fans looking for that extra degree of personalization.

Character customization is vastly improved, as well. The depth of create-a-superstar extends beyond prior games and nears the anal-retentive detail seen in Neversoft’s games. You can even create alternate outfits for your created talent. In conjunction with last year’s Create-a-Finisher, you can also edit the movesets for current superstars. If anyone on the WWE roster changes a specialty move or finisher, you can go in, tweak his moveset, and adjust accordingly. The level of detail for what the user can do is quite impressive.

Millions of Comic Book and Anime Characters!

The biggest additions to SVR 10, overall, come through user-generated content and how the game distributes it. Make no mistake, wrestling games have been at the forefront of fan-creation for over a decade, but developers have been slow to capitalize on community-based creation. With WWE Community Creations, you’re now able to not only upload your superstars and highlight reels (added last year), but also finishers, screenshots, and most importantly, created storylines. It’s a huge leap (albeit one we should’ve seen years ago) for the franchise. I can’t vouch for the total quality of what’s been uploaded at launch (the user-uploaded plot I test drove was hilariously awful), but the technology is finally there to share.

It seems like SVR tradition that online has its ups and downs. SVR 10, for all of its offline fun, seems to clunk along when you factor in Xbox Live or PSN. Is it because the inherently imbalanced nature of the game breaks when you put it into an online environment? Is it because the canned move animations (a Smackdown staple) break up the flow of the action when you’re staring at someone putting you in an unbreakable move for several seconds? Or the lag that creeps into matches at inopportune moments? There’s certainly an audience that loves playing against other people online -- and they’ll love wrestling in SVR 10’s numerous online match modes, warts and all -- but at this point, that audience knows who it is, and if you’re not willing to put up with it, you’re better off playing on the couch with in-the-flesh friends.

SmackDown vs Raw 2010

On This Day, I See Clearly…

After years of awkward development on HD consoles, WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 is a matured game. Despite some persistent annoyances -- clipping and collision detection problems, dumb AI, and spotty online -- the amount of care that’s been put into refining the grapple system and counter-reversal mechanics is more than evident here. Plus, WWE Community Creations updates the series to the demands of today’s consoles. SVR 2010 is the Here Comes the Pain of this console generation. It’s a huge leap for the series, and one well worth playing if you’re a hardcore WWE fan. Just spellcheck your story dialogue before you upload it, please.