WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 Review - Are Wrestling Games Going Downhill?

WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 Review - Are Wrestling Games Going Downhill?
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No Heavyweight Champ Here - WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 Review

Wrestling games used to be hotly anticipated releases that fans of professional wrestling promotions once looked forward to. My, how wrestling games have gone downhill since the days of No Mercy, SmackDown: Here Comes the Pain, and Day of Reckoning. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 is the latest entry in THQ’s grappling franchise, and while it’s decent enough to warrant some long hours of playtime, the total package lacks the fundamentals that wrestling games need in order to be more than just petty cash-ins.

WWE Universe (3 out of 5)

The first thing worth mentioning is the all-new WWE Universe mode. This feature, which can be toggled on or off, tracks all of your exhibition progress and creates free play into a season mode of sorts. You play through weekly episodes of Raw, Superstars, and SmackDown, and after four weeks, it’s pay-per-view time. The little things are really what give this mode some staying power. Repeatedly making two wrestlers battle creates a bitter rivalry; teammates that can’t pull off a victory ultimately turn on one another; and successfully raking in wins launches a Superstar into the championship hunt. The mode is a great new addition, and it eliminates the need of notepads for those gamers who like to jot down their own storylines, championship feuds, and pay-per-view cards.

As cool as this new feature may be, it does have some noticeable flaws. For starters, championships can only be contested for during pay-per-events. This a pretty big bummer considering the fact that WWE programming often features title matches during Raw and SmackDown tapings. Additionally, if two wrestlers face off one time, they’re almost guaranteed to enter a feud with one another. Though these are only minor flaws, they do add some unnecessary restrictions to the game and put a damper on the experience.

WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 Gameplay (3 out of 5)

Putting opponents through the top of the cell is still completely satisfying.

If you played SmackDown vs. Raw 2010, you can pretty much expect a similar experience this time around. Unfortunately, while the last game refined some of the mechanics of the series, SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 almost feels like a step back. Collision detection is horrid, clipping is still a big issue, and the mechanics themselves seem broken at times. For a product that’s been around for so long, the bugs seen here unacceptable.

Make no mistake about it, SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 is fun, but at this point the series seems to be in need of a major overhaul. The gameplay has gotten so ridiculously stale that it’s time for THQ and developer Yuke’s to go back to the drawing board and brainstorm ways to make the product feel fresh again. SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 may be an OK game, but if some massive changes aren’t made, SmackDown vs. Raw 2012 is doomed to provide one of the most lackluster experiences in the history of wrestling games.

Controls (4 out of 5)

Time for some Diva action.

SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 has a slightly modified control scheme from the previous game. Hitting the right analog stick in one of four directions will allow you to put your opponent in a cached grapple. While in this position, you can perform one of four maneuvers depending on the direction you tilt the analog stick once again. Strong grapples are performed by grappling a dazed or stunned opponent. A kick to the gut, fatigue, or lifting your rival off the mat all lead to a stunned state, and performing a strong grapple here results in a high impact move. This system works well for the most part, but sometimes executing moves can be a pain due to the game’s subpar collision detection.

Graphics (3 out of 5)

SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 isn’t a downright horrible-looking game, but it isn’t anything spectacular to look at either. Wrestler models are decent and arenas all look good, but animations are still stiff and robotic. And due to the new physics that have been added to the ring ropes, wrestlers tend to get caught in awkward positions whenever they’re down on the mat near the ropes.

Sound (2 out of 5)

The game certainly does not suffer from a lack of modes.

One thing that the developers have yet to really nail is the sound design in the series. Entrance themes are all accurate and sound excellent, but the audience, in-ring action, and commentary team of Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are severely lackluster in their audio presentation. The audience is practically dead; moves don’t exude the same hard-hitting vibe that they do on TV; and commentary is a complete bore to listen to. By the way, where the heck are Matt Striker and Todd Grisham?

WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 Review - Overall Score (3 out of 5)

WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 on the PlayStation 3 has plenty of lasting power. Aside from WWE Universe mode, you can participate in Hell in a Cell, TLC, Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, and dozens of other match types. You can also create your own grapplers, finishing maneuvers, and storylines. And if you’re brave enough to venture into the sometimes-laggy online play, you’re bound to stay busy for a long time. There’s a lot of game here, but most of it is laden with issues that THQ and Yuke’s should have fixed a long time ago as well as newer bugs and glitches. There are definitely worse wrestling games out there (Like TNA Impact!), and there’s plenty of fun to be had with this package, but if you’ve made complaints about the series in the past, expect to make those some complaints this time around.