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WWE 12 Review

by Michael Becker

We all thought the change from the clumsy-sounding 'RAW VS SMACKDOWN 2011' to 'WWE '12' would only be a cosmetic one. But it is a good thing we were wrong because THQ finally delivered a wrestling game that feels completely fresh this time. There are only few completely new features (wake-up taunts and comeback moves), although most elements of THQ's wrestling franchise have been revamped (Road to Wrestlemania, Universe Mode, hust to name a few). Furthermore, many moves have new animations which look really good and are closer to the real wrestlers' trademark moves. However, other ones clearly still hail from the very first Smackdown game which had been released ages ago on the PS One - and those moves look like it.

The best news is that the gameplay of WWE '12 has become a fast-paced and yet tactical wrestling sim where you can beat up your opponents any way you like. If you prefer stiff brawlers like Big Show, high-flyers like Rey Mysterio or submission specialists like Daniel Bryan, the choice is yours! Compared to its predecessors, WWE '12 offers more intuitive controls which are easy to learn. First of all, the grapples have moved from the analogue stick to the A button (respectively X on the PS3). That way, newcomers can learn the ways of WWE '12 easier.

The matches also feel more like the real deal: First, everyone jumps up instantly after a throw, but after a couple of minutes, you tend to stay down longer and longer. But even if you're out, you can get a second chance with the new comeback moves: Some superstars start their comeback by showing off their iconic moves (in John Cena's case, prepare to witness his famous and feared '5 moves of doom'). If the corresponding QTEs are done successfully, you can directly hit your opponent with a finisher and win a match that seemed lost for several minutes! One thing though: Don't expect your opponent to be happy about it. The reversals have also been overhauled: You cannot spam the button any more. After you press the reversal button, it is 'locked' for around 2 seconds. As a result, timing is very important in WWE '12.

For the first time in years, there are no additions to the various match types. However, many modes have been tweaked to become more fluent: The Royal Rumble is more fun than ever, Hell in a Cell allows new moves against the steel cage, and the ladder matches have been re-vamped and need more tactics now. There are lots of different arenas although they basically have the same size ... Difficulty has gone up as well: Don't expect to easily win on Legend as you've been used to in the past. In fact, the AI can hit you a few times and all of a sudden, you have lost a match before knowing it. Be prepared.

The roster of WWE '12 is pretty big even without DLC and created wrestlers. You can choose from more than 60 different wrestlers. Among them are today's superstars such as John Cena, CM Punk, The Undertaker and Randy Orton, some real legends like the 'Heart Break Kid' Shawn Michaels, The Legion of Doom or Arn Anderson, and some divas (sorry, no Bra and Panty matches this year, blame WWE and their damn PG). The DLC wrestlers include all time favourites such as the late 'Macho Man' Randy Savage, Mick Foley, Batista or the devastating female beast Kharma - oh, and Brodus Clay (but strangely not as 'The Funkusaurus').

Unfortunately, not all innovations have turned out to be that good. The idea for the new Road to Wrestlemania is a great one: Instead of having 5 independent stories, you have one big story arc and you control 3 different wrestlers one after another; the last one being your created alter ego who rises from rookie to hero. But in-game, there are way too many scripted events and outright boring backstage brawls which just irritate you to no end. At least there's a silver lining: The last story leads to an amazing finale which reminded me of some of the greatest story lines ever.

The new Universe Mode is really great in all aspects: You can book your own show in any way you see fit. If you feel Santino is WWE Champion material, he becomes your WWE Champion. The game also offers 'remarkable matches' which are accompanied by cutscenes (and there are definitely a whole lot more different scenes than in SvR 2011). And there's more: You can create rivalries, teams, rosters and even entire brands! If you are tired of RAW and Smackdown, you are free to change them to WCW, ECW, TNA, ROH or your individual league - and you can even create your own logos and arenas! In terms of customization, WWE '12 satisfies all your wishes and needs. Among the tons of customization options taken over from the predecessor are the creation of your wrestler, individual entrance motions, finishing moves, your own stories and movie clips of cool actions in the ring. Above all, you can upload them to the Creation Center and download wrestlers, clips and stories from other WWE '12 players.

Sadly, the Creation Center is riddled with crashes and glitches so it might take some time to download your Chris Jericho (who is not part of the game) or your favourite TNA or indie guy. Online match-making was prone to crashes in the beginning but works fine now.

After all, WWE '12 is a big step to the right direction. True, developer Yukes should get rid of the ancient animations and employ a proper QA team to check the online issue before the release of the next game, but WWE '12 succeeds in the most important department: It is fun to play. It doesn't matter if you play alone against the sometimes pretty smart AI, together with a couple of friends on your couch or online - matches are dynamic and you never know who wins until the match is over. Combine the amazing gameplay with all those awesome customization options and the ability to create your very own wrestling league, WWE '12 can definitely compete with the likes of WWF No Mercy and the Pro Fire wrestling titles. And that's the bottom line.

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