WWE '12 Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Nov 22, 2011

From the ashes of the popular SmackDown vs. RAW series rises WWE '12, a game that only barely resembles the game you've been used to playing for the last couple of years, with the doors thrown open and a new philosophy that breathes life into what was already a pretty good franchise.

The Pros
  • Re-imagining of the WWE franchise breathes fresh life into the game
  • Everything is customizable, making for a deep experience
  • Road to Wrestlemania is fun, new, and interesting
The Cons
  • The AI, while improved, could still use some work
  • Still some frustrating button mashing involved
  • Online lag can play hell with timing

WWE '12 Review

Sometimes, even when you've got something that's been largely successful from year to year, it comes time to take a look at a gaming franchise on a cellular level, tear it up, and start again. And so, from the ashes of the popular SmackDown vs. RAW series rises WWE '12, a game that only barely resembles the game you've been used to playing for the last couple of years, with the doors thrown open and a new philosophy that breathes life into what was already a pretty good franchise.

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

THQ and Yuke's really went out of their way with WWE '12 to adhere to the motto they'd set for themselves, which is 'Bigger, Badder, Better,' which you'll see all over the game. And, for the most part, they nailed it. The game is certainly bigger than ever before, especially as pertains to the WWE Universe 2.0, which allows you to control all of the WWE programming over the course of many years, by rejiggering superstars and sending them from brand to brand (including, for the first time this year, the annual WWE Draft).

Also, in Universe mode, everything is customizable, including, also for the first time, the ability to create and customize arenas, which will allow you to brand everything from the mat to the ring posts to the announcer's table the way you want. There are templates, too, which means that you hardcore WCW fans will finally get to recreate the WCW arenas and fight for the old belts.

Your Create-A-Superstar wrestler will also be a big part of the action, as you can insert them wherever you want them and have them interfere in matches, become friends with whomever you like, be a heel or a baby face, and continue that action through several years of WWE programming. It's really, really deep on its own, without the myriad other parts of the game. So, yeah...bigger is covered.

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Probably the biggest change and the greatest relief in WWE '12 is the idea that the control scheme has been revamped to make for a whole lot less button mashing than in the past. Matches progress the way they're supposed to, and opportunities for submission or pinfall moves and finishers appear when they're supposed to, as opposed to thoroughly thrashing an opponent for about 20 minutes, only to be completely unable to put him away when the time comes, leading to you just giving up, a hallmark of the past games. The new Breaking Point submission system is fantastic, and the mechanism for kicking out of a pin is a revelation.

Yes, the AI is still a little lame, and can chance the momentum of a match on a dime, regardless of how badly you've been beating them, and some of the fighting animation is still a little rough, but that's minor necessary improvement compared to the games of the past. The matches run fluidly, and you can tell what you're supposed to be doing from one moment to the next.

Match modes, too, are improved greatly. TLC matches, cage matches, ladder matches, even the dreaded Elimination Chamber looks and plays wonderfully. Superstars play according to their ability, speed, strength, and they level up as they go on streaks through the Universe, in what is a very nice touch. A word of warning: you're going to need to learn to use the RT to counter offensive maneuvers, and you're going to have to do it in very small windows of time if you want to succeed. This counter move is the key to your enjoyment of the game. Learn it, know it, love it.

WWE 12

Kayfabe, And How To Do It Right

One of the most important elements of any wrestling game is the writing of the storylines that wrap themselves around the matches. Without them, what you have is an above-average fighting game. With them, you have wrestling, plain and simple. The Road to Wrestlemania mode in WWE '12, which had been a liability in past years, is enough, on its own, to justify the price of the game.

First of all, by making the Road to Wrestlemania objective based, instead of predicating it on a never-ending string of matches, WWE '12 assures that you'll remain connected to, and interested in, the storylines. And what storylines they are, indeed. Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, the Road to Wrestlemania focuses on three stories, in particular, that of The Villain, The Outsider, and The Hero, each of which is a very rich, very deep story that, quite frankly, is better than anything the actual WWE have come up with in a long, long time.

In fact, if any of these storylines had actually appeared on WWE air, they would have been easily the most talked-about in the past decade or so...that's how good they are. It's a real pleasure playing along with them, and I was genuinely surprised at how invested I was in the twists and turns of the plot, which runs together over a couple of years. The Road to Wrestlemania is, honestly, a triumph. It was addictive, and I found myself spending lots of lost hours finding out what was going to happen next. Better? Oh, hell, yes. This is better.

WWE 12

Is It Really Him? Is That His Music???

Finally, the love of wrestling that the WWE '12 development team has is apparent in the game. Long-gone superstars make their triumphant return here. Did you ever think you'd see Brock Lesnar in a wrestling ring again? How about Arn Anderson? You want that 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin vs. CM Punk match? It's all right here for you.

There are extras all over this game. Ring attire, characters, belts, videos, entrance music...all of it can be earned, and there will be more coming soon by way of DLC. Wrestling fans will mark out at the depth of the roster and some of the old school WWE touches that the game has throughout. Badder? very, very much so.

WWE 12

Here Is Your Winner, And Neeeew WWE Champion!

Is WWE '12 perfect? No, it's far from it. But, when you uproot a game and make as many positive changes as they've made with this one, you must stand up and recognize. There might be tweaks to make WWE '13 a better product, but WWE '12 is, quite simply, the very best wrestling game ever made. If you've left the SmackDown vs RAW franchise over the last couple of years, now is the time to come back. This game will change your mind.