WWE ’12 or The Road to WrestleMania is paved with good intentions

First of all, Rabidgames would like to sincerely apologise for the excessive use of catch phrases.

WWE ’12 is a rather strange game. On the one hand, the new engine definitely is a huge improvement. Due to the so-called “predator engine”, the fighting system is now more realistic than ever and WWE ’12 almost looks like the real thing. On the other hand though, the customisation options are almost exactly the same (except the amazing Create-a-Arena) – and the single player’s most fleshed-out mode is a bit stinking pile of crap.

The Road to Wrestlemania wasn’t that great in the predecessors to be honest. You chose one from five wrestlers (yes, Mr. McMahon, they are wrestlers, not entertainers) and you had a scripted succession of matches with some branching storylines. Last year, developer Yukes implemented some rudimentary free-roam (which actually wasn’t that great).

This year, it changed completely – for the worse. The Road is now a downward spiral of scripted events, useless fights in the ring and way too many backstage brawls. The saddest thing is: The stories are awesome (and better than everything WWE has done in the last 10 years). Well, at least two of them are: Sheamus founds a stable called “United Kingdom” (dear whoever-is-responsible-for-this-travesty: Ireland has not been part of the UK for quite some time now; do your history facts!), and a newcomer defends the WWE from a hostile WCW takeover – and believe Rabidgames, the finale of this story is epic. The Triple H story however is a giant ego trip to please the Game: The hero takes out everyone and everything and then rides off into the sunset.

But what is it that sucks worse than John Cena’s gimmick in the bumpy Roads to WrestleMania in WWE ’12? For one, 80% of all matches are scripted: you beat people up until a “Y” appears over their head, press the button, and you see a cutscene (which pretty often makes you think “that’s why I beat Big fucking Show up for 10 minutes? Really? Really?”). But the backstage brawls are even worse. You beat up an opponent (or rather up to 4 at the same time) with a limited move set until the Y appears and you take him/them out. Rinse and repeat. And Rabidgames means Rinse and Repeat because you will keep doing it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again …

Ok, now that we have the bumpy dirt track to Wrestlemania out of the way, let’s talk about the stuff WWE ’12 does right. Which is actually a lot. The new engine makes animations and gameplay more realistic and more believable than ever before. You can have epic 10 minute battles where one wrong move means defeat – even on Normal! The AI is way better now – hit a finisher and the opponent will quickly roll out of the ring if he has this ability (although it can only be used 3 times in a match). Of course, there are still some glitches here and there (play Big Show versus Mysterio and you’ll know what I mean, and long hair looks better but still bad) – but additions like Wake Up Taunts (mock your opponent and hit your finisher on a helpless enemy) or Comebacks (yes, the 5 moves of doom are in) make WWE ’12 close to the real deal – it is now to wrestling what PES is to football.

WWE ’12 features around 60 wrestlers (+ 14 DLC) and you can create (or download) up to 50 more. Customisation is basically the same incredible amount of choice as it was last year – you can create virtually everybody (from Hitler to alien, it’s all possible), give him a cool moveset, build finishers and create videos and proper stories. While all of this is old news to WWE games veterans, the Arena editor is the only new feature: you create your very own ring (mostly colours and design).

But the best thing is you don’t have to go to caws.ws and work according to their formulas anymore; you can download wrestlers – completely finished with entrance and move set again. If the servers work … and it is rather an if than a when you think about the servers of SvR 2011 which never seemed to work properly … Truth is, the servers of WWE ’12 are even worse. Lately, there has been some improvement but server stability is certainly a foreign word in THQ’s dictionary.

Why would you want to download wrestlers or arenas, you ask? Well, you can create your own shows in the hugely improved Universe Mode of WWE ’12. You don’t have to use the brands RAW and Smackdown any more. If you like to, feel free to start a ratings battle between TNA and WCW – or create your very own shows like the LWO (the Luxembourg Wrestling Organisation). It’s all up to you. There are way more cutscenes this year in Universe and your guys can even get injured – but sadly, it’s all random. And the ratings thing is still part of your imagination – would it have been that hard to implement parts of the good old General Manager mode again?

While it sounds overwhelming in general, there are many odd design choices if you look at things in detail: Why is there a Nexus armband – but no Nexus theme or entrance movie? Come on Yukes! It’s really the same procedure every year: Each time Yukes adds 11 new moves but removes 10 others. Why do you keep removing stuff? Another blatant stupidity is the “choice” to buy the Diva DLC if you want to play with more than a handful of female wrestlers. Let’s leave PG territory for a short time: Stop fucking around with us and stop milking us with fucking DLC!

Rabidgames says: If it wasn’t for the troublesome Road to Wrestlemania, minor gameplay hick-ups and the servers, WWE ’12 would have been a strong GOTY contender. The gameplay is great and fun, Universe Mode is a long term amusement if you are gifted with some imagination, and customisation is great as usual. But Yukes always does the same mistake over and over again: It’s always about two solid steps forward and one stupid leap back again. Admittedly, Rabidgames is rather nitpicking – apart from the truly abysmal RtWM – but after 10 years of experience, you would actually think Yukes would be able to give us a perfect wrestling game. Anyway here’s the bottom line: WWE ’12 is the best wrestling game since Here comes the Pain or No Mercy (whichever you prefer) for sure. If you smell … what Rabidgames is cooking.


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