Let me start this by saying I haven’t played a wrestling video game since the Super Nintendo. However I have been following wrestling since I was about 5 so that puts me in the fandom category for 27 years or so. When I was younger my dad used to take me to wrestling events at Madison Square Garden. Over the years I have caught just about every Pay-Per-View. To this day I watch or record every episode of RAW, ECW and Smackdown. I enjoy wrestling for what it is which is Entertainment.
Smackdown vs Raw 2010 does an excellent job of capturing that entertainment aspect of wrestling and making a decent video game of it. It has a fairly up to date roster of wrestlers though the landscape has changed a little since the release of the game. The different story modes with the road to Wrestlemania are nice and give you a well rounded experience of the WWE. The creation of your own superstar is fun and can be quite involved. Also the ability to write your own storyline is pretty phenomenal and a great treat for the die hard wrestling fan.
For those that just want to jump into some wrestling the game puts you right in the ring with John Cena and Randy Orton to go over the basics of the game. This tutorial area goes over the all you need to know and after you do all the moves you even get an achievement for it. I highly recommend doing the tutorial and really getting the moves of the game down before jumping into the story modes. The career mode is a little more forgiving but I didn’t learn that until much later. My initial experience with the game was throwing the game in, making my own superstar and then trying the road to Wrestlemania story mode with my superstar.
The first match was a breeze just mashing buttons. The following cutscene was fun and had the feel of a typical wrestling storyline. It was the next fight with two of the WWE’s biggest wrestlers that kicked my butt repeatedly. I admittedly tried about 8 times soundly getting my ass handed to me before I put down the controller and turned off the game. Luck would have it that the next game I put in frustrated me more so I put Smackdown vs Raw 2010 back in.
Having cooled off from my last experience I started from the beginning. I actually played the handy tutorial and then revisited my superstar. This time I started up the career mode. This ramps up at a much smoother pace and I eventually got the feel of the game. I felt challenged but never frustrated. The career mode is a nice setup of matches to earn a contender spot for a belt. You earn a certain number of stars based on performance and wins. Reach enough stars and get a shot at a belt. Each belt unlocks a new type of match like ladders or hardcore.
Superstars also get a bit of a role-playing style advancement in the game. As you win matches you gain points which you can apply to different ring styles. If you do grappling a lot in the game you get access to more points to be a better grappler. You only unlock points by doing the actions in the match. If you heavily rely on submissions you will get access to more points in submissions but other parts of your styles will be weaker. It is a good system to mimicking wrestler styles you find in professional wrestling. You can also choose a small selection of specialty techniques and abilities to add to your arsenal. An example is being able to use the ropes to gain leverage when pinning someone. More abilities are unlocked as you get better at certain skills.
Creating a superstar is pretty easy and diverse. You have a range of body types and accessories to make a wide variety of wrestlers. It is also easy to create classic superstars or some of the current missing roster with this system. You can even give your superstar an entrance outfit, a ring attire outfit and an outfit for promos. I am not sure if they have fixed this with an update but one of the most frustrating bugs I discovered was that anytime I added or changed my superstars outfits it reset my character. I lost all of my points and unlocked abilities. Granted I didn’t lose my place in the rankings for belts in career mode but those matches became a lot harder without my earned experience from previous matches. This happened to me twice before I figured out the correlation. So tip from me to you: Make all of your characters outfits at once before beginning the career mode.
Once you get past the easy you can get a lot more complex with your personal superstar. You can design entrances, make highlight reels, create moves, and personalize your repertoire of moves you use. Entrances can be crafted with camera angles, movements, and theme music. Music from your Xbox can be used as a theme song. Each match captures some of your best moves which you can in turn cut apart and create highlight reels which can then be added to your entrances. You can make two different types of moves, turn buckle leaps or grapples. The moves let you adjust trajectory and even has a variety of blends that make the animations look really smooth. Each of your move sets can be personalized and take hours to do. The amount of personalization you can put into the wrestlers really is top notch. Add in that you can design entire storylines, write dialogue, set up matches and watch it all play out you truly have a really fun and replayable game.
The music selection of the game is very limited and repetitive. I can only listen to the same theme entrances on repeat for so long. They could have served to have some other music or sound in the game that was designed to loop over and over. When you are spending hours tweaking your perfect superstar I don’t want to hear Rey Mysterio’s theme song 5o times. Another aspect of the game I was disappointed with was the treatment of the female wrestlers or Divas. Obviously they are considered a lesser part of wrestling and the WWE. They serve as eye candy which is a shame because most of them are also very talented athletes. The game does no better in its treatment of the Diva division. They have silly moves that are more akin to cat fights and pimp slaps than actual wrestling. I was hoping for less of the silly and more of what the men’s division got. Of course when you refer to your female wrestlers as Divas what can you expect.
In the end Smackdown vs Raw 2010 is a respectable game. If you are a wrestling fan you will probably get more out of this game than someone who is not. The attention to details are impressive and are definite nods to fans like me. Yes there are frustrating bugs but they are able to be worked around. I have volume control on my system so I can turn down the games sound and put my own music on when I get tired by the repetitive theme music. Though the Diva’s got the short end of the design they are at least in the game. Smackdown vs Raw 2010 gets 4 out of 5 stars.