The number of different gameplay options that are present on Smackdown vs Raw 2011’s main menu is almost funny. Last year’s iteration was certainly no slouch in that department, but sitting next to what appears to be as much as 30% of all of the available onscreen options, is a bright yellow ‘NEW’ symbol. For the hardcore devotees, the most appealing new feature is sure to be Match Creator, which appears to be – even after only a few minutes spent toying around with it – borderline extensive.
For fans of last year’s Smackdown vs Raw 2010 – arguably the most polished and enjoyable version to date – there is no call to be worried about undue alterations. Most of the gameplay fundamentals remain unchanged, although what is perhaps most impressive about this year’s game is the clarity of the visuals, with the WWE Superstars in particular looking even more uncanny than they did last year. It isn’t a complete graphical overhaul, but it definitely represents a significant step-up in quality.
During our lengthy series of campaign matches, many of the new gameplay tweaks were visible in full effect. You now no longer have to wait to use your signature moves; instead of being forced to wait until your opponent is stunned, you can now unleash them as soon as they’re cooked. You also don’t have to hold down the grapple button to maintain it anymore, and when your opponent is in the perfect position for a body slam, you are now able to dictate exactly where they are going to land.
The Road To Wrestlemania story mode returns, and it appears to be as compelling and (most importantly) as amusing as it was last year. Although a reasonably significant amount of the gameplay involves trundling between objectives, because the environments are so compact and because wondering off-path will occasionally result in you seeing something extremely amusing, it never feels dull or laborious. It’s still moderately novel, very entertaining, and doesn’t take itself seriously for even one second.
The hilarious Story Designer mode is back too, and it has been greatly expanded. 2010’s iteration of the mode was entertaining in the extreme, but hampered slightly by a tight restriction on the number of times that you could use a created wrestler in any one scene. Now you can allow up to fifteen created wrestlers to appear an infinite amount of times, and you can also design branching plot scripts. Downloading other people’s story designs was possible last year but nothing about that DLC could be modified – now, almost all of it can be.
The brand new WWE Universe mode is looking thoroughly cracking too. It correlates data derived from all of your exhibition matches – including things like favoured wrestlers and win statistics – and fully reacts to it, generating scenarios and rivalries that’ll filter through to every other part of the game. It’s an extremely interesting approach to the tired and traditional single-player campaign mode, and if it works, expect it to be deeply influential.
Developer Yuke’s have publicly stated on more than one occasion that SvR 2011 is one for the fans – with many of the changes having been made after the team received copious amounts of intensive fan feedback. These alterations appear to have assisted in making SvR more enjoyable and more comprehensive than ever before, so it seems to be an ideal spot for newcomers to jump in too.
Smackdown vs Raw 2011 is released on October 29th on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2 and Playstation Portable. Everyone who pre-orders their copy of the game from zavvi.com will receive an exclusive limited edition WWE T-Shirt absolutely free. This pre-order bonus is exclusive to zavvi.com, and is not available anywhere else.
Watch the Smackdown vs Raw 2011 trailer here: