Wrestling fans everywhere had to wait for close to a year to experience the WWE with next generation graphics. With the recent legal troubles between THQ and the WWE some questioned whether we would have to wait even longer. THQ even cancelled the Playstation 3 version so no one quite knew what to expect from the Xbox 360 version. The big question is, was it worth the wait? Generally speaking the answer is yes. The graphics are amazing. The wrestlers have never looked so realistic and neither have the arenas or crowds. However with that being said there are some definite disappointments. Some of the entrances are not accurate and the rosters are outdated. Combine that with the fact that some of the announcing isn’t cohesive with what is going on around you and you can see that there is a lot of room for improvement.
When you start up the game for the very first time, you are immediately offered tutorial videos to view. You can bypass them if you would like but since this years version has an all new control scheme, I would recommend that you look at these videos. There is a bit of a learning curve for this version however once you get the hang of the controls you will find that it is far more intuitive than it has been in years past. No longer do you have to memorize button combos like on a fighting game. Now all you have to do is flick the right joystick toward your opponent and you will grapple with him and then flick it once more to perform a move. To perform a “finisher” all you have to do is be by your opponent and hit the “LB” button.
When getting to the main menu WWE fans will be happy to see the opening sequence for either Raw or Smackdown! It appears to be a random occurrence as to which one plays as I have seen both of them multiple times with no apparent rhyme or reason as to which one plays. There are many modes for the player to choose from once you are in the main menu. There is an exhibition mode, a mode where you basically manage your career, a mode where you can create just about anything as well as a locker room mode and of course a mode to allow you to play against others via Xbox Live.
If you choose an exhibition style of match you are then asked what type of match you want. You can choose from a singles match, tag team, a triple threat, a fatal 4 way, a handicap match or a Royal Rumble type of encounter. The final two options are really interesting as they are called “Main Events” and “Title Match”. If you pick the “Main Events” you are then taken to a screen where you can choose the type of match you want such as a Buried Alive match, an Elimination Chamber match, a “Money in the Bank” ladder match and many more. At the bottom of the screen it will even give you a brief description of the match that is highlighted so you know what you are getting into. In the “Title Match” mode you can choose to immediately put yourself in a match for a championship, such as the WWE Championship.
If you want to start your career with WWE then you would go into the “Game Modes” section. There you will get three different options. The first one would be to start a “season” and work your way through the WWE ranks as your favorite wrestler. Another mode on there is the “WWE PPV Mode”. In this mode you can actually create your very own pay per view. Want to re-create WrestleMania 22? You can do it here. You get to name the show, pick the arena, decide the number of matches, pick who is doing commentary (either Raw or Smackdown! commentators) and then actually set the matches up yourself! With all of the WWE legends that are in this game, wrestling fans could also create a “dream match” that maybe they wouldn’t ever be able to see on television.
The final option to pick is the “GM Mode”. In this mode you get to be the general manager and call the shots. You have the choice of creating your own roster or just having the computer do it for you. It is your responsibility to not only set up matches for each week’s show but to also create rivalries. Want to see two guys feud? No problem! You can basically write storylines as you go. Once you create a rivalry you get to set how long it lasts and more. There are a bunch of different storyline rivalries to choose from as well. You can go through anything from an “Ungrateful Rookie” storyline to a “Betrayal” storyline to a “Legend Killer” storyline. The WWE is truly in your hands in this mode. You also get to hire storyline writers to your team. Don’t like what your writers are doing? Simply hire different ones! Finally you need to be careful as to how you set up your rivalries because if you are the Raw GM you are directly competing against Smackdown! After your show “airs” then you will get feedback from fans and you will get the ratings in. If the fans favorite show for the week was Smackdown! then you might want to reconsider your booking practices.
One of the other options would be the “Locker Room” option. This is where you will go in between matches. You can totally customize your Locker Room however you want down to the carpet, the wallpaper on the walls and everything. You can also put posters up representing Raw, Smackdown or whatever else you want. It is also the spot where you would check your e-mail and read about what is going on by reading wwe.com. There were many times where my antics were the featured story. While on wwe.com this is also where you would purchase legends to add to your roster such as Bret Hart for $12,000. In season mode you earn $2500 per match, assuming you win. There are also options where you can create your own wrestler as well as your own championship and things of that nature. Once you have created a championship you can actually defend it over XBox Live meaning that you can actually lose the championship you just created!
As far as actual game play is concerned, as I stated above it is pretty intuitive once you get the hang of it. All of the wrestlers have their custom movements as well. For example after Shawn Michaels hits you with a flying clothesline he will leap up onto his feet just as he does in real life. If you perform Sweet Chin Music on your opponent he will stomp his feet in the corner just as in real life if you set it up correctly. In this aspect the attention to detail is impressive. Going through the match you will also see that the wrestlers are actually sweating and graphically it looks awesome. It is definitely something to show off the Xbox360’s power. The loading screens in the game are somewhat frequent however short so it is not too much of an issue. There are now environmental hotspots in the game as well. You can actually grab a weapon from a fan at ringside and use it on your opponent. You can also fight in the crowd and throw your opponent into speakers, put them through tables, or climb to the top of a structure and take a flying leap right on to your opponent. It is quite apparent that THQ tried to fully immerse the player into what it is like to be a WWE superstar without all of the bumps and bruises. It is also a surprisingly deep game with all of the different options you get to try and run the WWE.
With all of that being said, there are definitely things wrong with the game. If you are not a WWE fan you might not notice them, however for longtime WWE fans they are inexcusable. When I choose to do a tag team match and pick D-Generation X, the announcer only announces HHH. Not only doesn’t the announcer announce them as D-Generation X but she completely ignores Shawn Michaels! She’s basically announcing it as if it was a singles match, when in fact it was a tag team match. Another thing was that champions were not announced as such. When the WWE Champion John Cena comes out he is not announced as the WWE Champion. Instead he is simply announced as John Cena even though he is wearing the belt. Another problem I noticed was outdated entrances and videos. Rather than have the current King Booker entrance, instead they chose to put in the old Booker T entrance. I realize there has to be a cutoff date of what they can put in the game but Booker T became King Booker back in the early summer, so THQ had plenty of time to put that in. Another example was when you pick Joey Mercury to wrestle. When he makes his entrance the video that plays is one that is specifically for Nitro and Melina instead of the MNM video that should be playing. As I said before if you are not a WWE fan you’ll never notice this stuff. However for people that are these kind of mistakes certainly don’t break the game but at the same time they are inexcusable to all of the fans who want a game that accurately portrays their favorite wrestler.
Overall this is a great game. The controls feel right and the storylines you experience going through season mode are exactly like the ones WWE fans see every week. If you are looking for a great wrestling/fighting game then be sure to give this one a try. I definitely recommend it to people, just beware that it is not 100% accurate in its portrayal of some of the wrestlers. The achievements in this game vary from something as easy as creating a stable to something like winning matches over Xbox Live. If THQ can just issue a patch over Xbox Live addressing the issues that this game has then it could be one of the best WWE games ever. As it stands right now it is a great game, however it could be better.
Originally posted on December 3, 2006 on Totally Gaming Network