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Hello everyone and welcome to Monday Night Lazygamer, the longest running episodic reviewing site in history. We’ve got a great line-up tonight, and a main event that features the latest WWE game in a no holds barred, last man standing review match.

But can the long-running competitive franchise emerge victorious tonight, or is this match over before it even begins? Ring the bell and let’s find out.

WWE 12 marks a new era for the popular series of sports entertainment games, as THQ and Yukes try to shake things up with gameplay that is dubbed as faster, smoother and simpler. There’s a whole host of new ideas and features in this year’s iteration of squared circle fisticuffs, but not everything is perfect.

So, what exactly has changed this year? The developers have gone to great lengths to present a package that looks like it was ripped straight from the TV show and pay per view specials, with slick menus, entrance themes and music that captures the entertainment vibe of the show, while new camera angles, setups and some sharp in-character commentary further cements that link.

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Wrestlers perform brilliantly, walking and performing all their signature moves, taunts and finishers, while receiving a pummelling that mirrors on their anguished faces quite realistically, but the character models are in desperate need of a texture overall.

After numerous years and sequels, the Yukes graphical engine is starting to show its age, giving players character models that resemble shiny Barbie dolls, while the audience animations and textures resemble visuals that were ripped straight from a PS2 WWE game. Granted, the brawlers have an impressive amount of detail on their vaselined bodies, but its details that could have easily been improved upon, setting new benchmarks for the genre itself.

You’ll find a lot of animation where character models ghost through one another, while reaction shots play out rougher than a backstage interview with Mark Henry. Speaking of which WWE 12 features an impressive roster of WWE superstars, from fan favourites such as John Cena, Triple H and CM Punk, to the despised industry heels such as Seamus, Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler, as well as a few surprises along the way.

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In addition to the regular, massive customisation options of exhibition matches, which allow players to set up their dream clash and match stipulations, Road to Wrestlemania acts as the main “storyline” for players looking for a little narrative in their elbow-drops, while WWE Universe plays out like a regular episode, with various matches and characters that can be participated, simulated and interfered in.

Road to Wrestlemania puts players in the shoes of three characters, the brutish Seamus, the game himself, Triple H, and one of your custom wrestler creations/abominations. You’ll take part in all the melodrama associated with the WWE, from backstage brawls and betrayals, to championship matches with high stakes.

Matches now have set objectives and goals, although these can be unclear at times, resulting in numerous restarts until you figure out what exactly to do, so that you can finally pin the opponent and finish the match. It’s not the greatest of ideas, and feels more like a hastily implemented feature than a true match-defining and worthy addition to the game.

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The general gameplay has been redesigned yet again, this time to include some much needed limb targeting, allowing for players to act according to the strengths of their favourite performers and set up finishing situations that are more in tune with turnbuckle atmosphere of the show. Hit an opponent on a specific limb, and they’ll be slower, weaker or groggier, depending on the strike and frequency of the attack.

It’s a beautiful system that works wonders for the game, breaking in the authenticity of the action of being a WWE Superstar. It’s just a shame that it’s so mind-bendingly difficult to actually get a chance to use.

Be prepared for some frustration, as WWE 12 has to be one of the most ridiculously unbalanced games in the series. While a back and forth tussle between the good guys and the villains makes sense, you’ll often find yourself wanting to tombstone-piledrive your controller through a table when the enemy AI makes use of its precognitive in-ring abilities, effortlessly blocking and countering your moves.

Trying to counter an attack on your character is just as futile, and unless you have reflexes faster than the Flash, you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of one too many German suplexes. If you actually manage to block and begin a counter on your opponent, don’t start ululating just yet, because the damn AI will counter that counter and start the aggravation all over again.

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The controls also have some unnecessarily simplified inputs, while other more crucial moves are more complicated and have trouble connecting on a regular basis. Dialling down the difficulty is one way to get around this, but combined with imperfect controls, you’ll soon find yourself wrestling less, and performing some impromptu MMA moves, effectively killing the idea of a proper WWE match.

Online has also proven to be quite an issue, with numerous matches being suspended, left hanging or featuring glitch-filled gameplay, at least at the time that this review was drawn up. At least the robust customisation mode returns, allowing for characters that look like they were pieced together by Dr Frankenstein, or at least appear to be normal, based on your current state of mental well-being. Created characters, moves and items can then be uploaded online, for some community rating, giving a little more longevity to the title.

Scoring

Gameplay: 5/10

There’s a lot of great ideas floating around in WWE 12, some which could have really set a new benchmark and direction for the franchise. But they’re pulled off more horribly than a Big Show bikini shoot, resulting in a game that is an abysmal mess to play, and will make you want to choke-slam your console through a Mexican announcers table. A buggy online mode and ridiculously difficult opponent AI just makes things even worse.

Design and Presentation: 7/10

The wrestlers look great, and perform well, but the visuals haven’t truly taken a step forward in the last few iterations, due to the developers having obviously sat on their laurels for too long.

Voice-acting is top notch, provided that it comes from the WWE superstars with actual acting experience, while some of the other performer’s dialogue feels stilted and awkward, and clearly reeks of ring-rust. Still, those wrestlers are few and far between, leaving the majority of the acting to the professionals, which is a small mercy.

Value: 6/10

Tons of match options, customisations and an established roster of performers that is massive. As well as some unlockable surprise characters and DLC options give the game a whole range of variety, but the laggy online play and imprecise controls make it a wasted opportunity that only the most hardcore of fans will appreciate.

Overall: 6/10

What should have been the next big step for THQ and the their wrestling franchise instead feels more like WWE Beta, resulting in a decent looking package that is annoying as Vicki Guerrero on a mic. THQ and its developers need to once again go back to the drawing board, and find a way to combine their great ideas with a more solid control scheme and a complete graphical engine overhaul.

Reviewed on PS3

Last Updated: December 7, 2011

WWE 12
Summary
6.0

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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