Stamina. It's a term that is incredibly relevant to everything related to the wonderful world of WWE. It's the difference between mid-card and main event, the change from jobber to superstar, and the proof that longevity breeds a successful career. Take a look at Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and even Triple H just to name a few. After being in the industry for years upon years, they still pull out all the stops, put their bodies on the line and keep on doing it for the fans. The WWE Smackdown franchise is the video game equivalent, and with sequels now in the double figures spanning three generations of consoles, we're very pleased to say that the 2010 edition of WWE Smackdown vs. Raw is indeed one of the best wrestling games not only of the series, but of all time.
Why, do you ask?
Creativity. Creative freedom oozes out of WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 in a way never seen before; sure, you've always been able to create your own superstars and recently even create your own finishers, modify the roster and so on. Hardcore wrestling fans have always been wanting just that little bit more, and that little bit more ladies and gentlemen is the ability to create your own story lines. How many times have you sat down with your mates and discussed what you think should happen with superstar interactions and the week-to-week narrative, discussing who deserves a push and contemplating possibilities for serious character development? We've done it endlessly over the many years we've been watching WWE, and the ability to put it all there on the screen in front of us and watch our work play out in front of our very eyes is, quite frankly, all kinds of awesome.
We're trying not to repeat ourselves after our fairly detailed preview last month, but the amount of stuff to personalise in this game is just ridiculous. From the incredibly detailed Create-a-Superstar mode (which loads a bit faster this year, by the way) to the Create-a-Finisher mode which is also far more detailed than usual with the ability to add diving finishers too, you can tailor make everything just how you want it to be. Entrances have always been a highlight in showing off the presentation of the WWE games, and here you can create your entrance right down to the specific lighting cues and music that plays; for a film-makers touch, you can even edit together snippets from your matches to make a custom entrance movie that plays on the titan tron. If anyone says there isn't enough options in this game, we'll slap them down and spit on them, because we're almost wondering how they crammed so many options onto a disc.
The greatest thing about all of this content that you can create is that you are able to share it online with the rest of the world. The fact that you can upload your own storylines and download other ones to play through means that the content is potentially infinite if it's embraced by the community; and to be honest, the system is so easy and fun to use that we can't see why it wouldn't be embraced wholeheartedly. Being able to download each others created superstars also will extend the longevity of the game as there is the ability to constantly keep your roster fresh with new characters and therefore, more strategies. While we're sure there will be some unique creations, it's going to be handy to download superstars that have been created based on real-life counterparts from those created players who want to play as their favourite new superstar or legend from the past.
One thing that did resonate with us from last years edition of WWE Smackdown vs. Raw was the inclusion of the Road to Wrestlemania mode, a story mode designed specifically with a handful of particular characters in mind. These are a lot of fun to play, and range from playing as Mickie James all the way to the other end of the spectrum, playing as a desperate Shawn Michaels who refuses to give up and retire. More importantly, you can now take your created superstars through this special mode, starting out as a fan that gets insulted by Santino while sitting in the front row and playing through the narrative from there. There are moments in this mode where you have to make decisions that alter the path in the story, and there are also special match conditions you can meet such as winning in a certain way or using a certain move which goes towards unlocking more goodies for yourself later.
The presentation in WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 is top notch this time around as well. While it's always been said that the games try to be as close to the real thing as possible, it's 2010 that more than ever proves that it's certainly not far from the truth. Replacing some loading screens are the logos of company and show copyright pops up at the end of matches as your superstar celebrates in the ring. There are even more subtle touches to the presentation, including actual reactions from superstars outside the ring after they've been eliminated from the Royal Rumble, and the HUD has been replaced with a simple circle around your superstars feet which lets you know how much momentum you have, so that you can time your trademark moves and finishers.
Because of a new physics engine, you'll actually see the ring ropes move and get knocked about as your superstar walks into them, and you can visibly see when a superstar is in the ropes during a pinfall as they'll actually react with the weight of a leg being pushed against them and so on. It may not sound like a massive deal, but every WWE fan who has played the previous games just nodded their head with approval, guaranteed. The whole package genuinely feels like you're experiencing the actual programming, which is great to see after so many years of trying to nail it. Blood also looks particularly realistic this year, dripping from opponents and getting more bloody and messy as the matches progress and as the busted open part of your opponent is targeted. You'll even see your opponents blood on your own superstar, which is a nice touch.
Gameplay has also been refined for the better, moving to just the one reversal button rather than using both the shoulder buttons. The timing of each counter really needs to be more precise, and it just feels more natural when counters do occur rather than just picking a side and mashing it in the hope that you are predicting whether your foe is using a striking or a grappling move. There are also a few new moves in there for good measure, and the mechanic for kicking out has moved into a mini-game of timing rather than being merely about bashing the control pad. The Royal Rumble has copped some serious upgrading in terms of how to eliminate people also, with timing-based mini games replacing the old formula which essentially was frustrating and cheap if you were ganged up on by the AI at any point. And finally, the Championship Scramble has been added as a match mode, where (for those who don't know) the title can change hands as many times as necessary over a period of either 5, 10 or 20 minutes, with the winner being the last person holding the belt at the end.
The bottom line here is of course that WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 isn't a perfect game, but there isn't a serious need to go over the flaws when it's such a big step forward for the franchise overall. There are so many improvements that it stands out as one of the most successful wrestling games of all time, and easily the best of this generation. The creativity that it allows you is unmatched, and the fact that you can share your stories and creations with the world means that the game could effectively last you forever, and the entire game has been given an edge in presentation that genuinely makes you feel like you're watching the programming, which is not an easy thing to deliver. Improved in almost every way, this is one chunk of gaming goodness that's impossible for any true wrestling fan to ignore.