games / Reviews

WWE 12 (Xbox 360) Review

December 13, 2011 | Posted by Sean Garmer

Game: WWE 12
Developer: Yukes
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Wrestling Simulation
No. of Players: 1-4 players Off-Line, 2-6 Online
Rating: T For Teen

Bigger, Badder, Better. That sounds like a tag line WWE would love to use for a PPV. However, it’s actually been chosen for the revamp of WWE’s annual video game franchise. THQ decided it’s better just to name the series WWE 12′ and give the whole thing a fresh look. The game does provide bigger things in nice additions to the creative suite, changes in gameplay, and more freedom in Universe mode. However, there are problems with Road to Wrestlemania, online play, and graphical issues with the game. WWE 12 is quite ambitious in scope and it does well in certain areas but in others the “Badder” part of the tagline is an understatement. Is the game “Better” for the most part? Yes it is, but it may need another year to truly be “Better” than everything that came before it.

The big change in WWE 12 comes with a welcome strip down of the controls to a more simplified version. It seems THQ decided to take a page from their family friendly WWE All-Stars released earlier this year and make the face buttons important again. The A button does the grappling while the control stick can determine which set of moves you activate. Whips into the ropes are easier to do with the B button, punches and kicks are done with X, You pin opponents with Y, as well as doing signature moves and finishers with the same button. The other stuff is virtually the same, but the face buttons make things a bit easier to control. Submissions can now be limb targeted which makes it much easier to play as wrestler’s such as Daniel Bryan that are submission specialists. When you place an opponent into a submission the word “Breaking Point” will appear on the screen and you just press the face buttons as much as possible to get them to tap out. Pinning an opponent is a little different than in year’s past as well. Now the player must hold A and try to place the bar in the correct spot a few times to be able to kick out. I think it adds a bit of strategy to pinning to where you can even kick out of some serious moves. Whereas before you pressed buttons hoping that the A.I. would find it in it’s heart to give you another chance, now you have more control which is always a good thing.

Most of the game will be spent figuring out the reversal system which in it’s default mode is not hard because it’s all done with one button the Right Trigger, but it is the A.I. and the short timing window that are the issue. The game does have sliders where a player can adjust the effectiveness of the A.I. but the timing window is still a bit too quick and most of the time, matches end up in reversal fests or dominated in large parts (which I guess would be like a normal WWE match) by whoever can keep on their opponent and not let them get a reversal. I do like that the game doesn’t clutter the screen with a health bar and that it doesn’t allow you to store finishers either. In real life wrestler’s do perform their finishers out of nowhere but I like that you have a short window to put the nail in the coffin. It also gives the other player a chance to recover and make it a fair fight. I don’t necessarily like the comeback system however. I think something like that works for WWE All-Stars where kids can always have a chance to get back in it, but to me in WWE 12 it seems out of place. I wouldn’t mind it, if they wanted to make that part of their signature move and you can string the signature move along by pressing the buttons on screen like Legends of Wrestlemania. However, to me if you aren’t going to give every wrestler their own comeback or make it available to all of them, then it defeats the purpose. I also just find it more annoying than anything else. I do like the addition of quick time events as the form of elimination in the Royal Rumble. It makes things more balanced and gives you or other players a chance to get back in the match. I came in at # 5 and made it through the whole way, while still facing elimination plenty of times.

I give Yukes and THQ major props for replicating the feel of WWE matches. That’s what is great about the new controls, I felt as if I was developing a match from start to finish. You start slow with simple moves and running attacks. Then once you gain an advantage players can delve deeper into the stronger moves, start targeting body parts for submissions, and eventually it all leads up to signature moves. Then when the finisher shows up it’s that final step to the match, as it should be. Fantastic job to overhaul the gameplay into what the WWE is and to me that is one of their best accomplishments in this game.

I don’t know why every year they have a problem with the online mode? Half the time it’s broken or there is some really bad lag. I only got through one match with no issues and that’s because it was a plain jane singles match probably. I know a lot of folks use online more for the community aspect to post created stuff than actually wrestle on there. However, that isn’t an excuse to deliver a piss poor online mode. They shouldn’t be charging 10 bucks to buy online axxess if half the time the mode is going to have trouble. I hardly ever play online so I could care less. However, some people might not like that every year, online seems like an afterthought.

The graphics for WWE 12 are better than the previous games by a small fraction. The predator engine showcases smoother transitions and makes the wrestling flow better as a whole. The arenas look very good and you get to appreciate that more when creating your own arenas. The game is already stocked with it’s own WCW, ECW, AWA, Nitro, Clash of Champions, and Starrcade arenas to give players nostalgia. So you don’t have to make those certain ones. I made a Legends arena and I was amazed with the amount of freedom I had to create my arena. Players can edit each ring apron, the canvas, each rope, the ring posts, what kind of barrier they want, where to put logos around the arena and much more. For some reason they left out the ramp and stage in the creation process. I understand leaving out the stage, as this is the most complex thing to an arena. They would have had to spent probably extra months with this game in order to institute a legit creation of stages. This is certainly a part I can see added into next year’s game. I think having full control over the arena adds a lot to the experience. For a first time feature, they gave us a lot to work with and they should be commended for it. If anything creating the arena gave me a new appreciation for what the ring crew and planning team have to do each week when setting up things in every new arena. This is another create feature that continues to add to WWE’s incredible stable of these features. All the other modes are here as well, players can create their own story, and create a video too. I like that you have a little more freedom for created videos but why on earth do they take so long to load every time? I’m literally staring at the crowd for almost 30 seconds to a minute every time my character comes out. There’s all the create-a-wrestler stuff as well (entrance, move set, and finisher included,) that is a lot to do just to make one person, but it’s worth it to have.

Also on a personal note, thank you THQ for adding more names for the ring announcer to say in WWE 12, as I can once again make my character and have his entire name said by the ring announcer.

I would really like to see Create-A-PPV make a return to the WWE creation stable. Yeah sure, they give you full control over PPV’s in Universe mode but it is not the same. I thought it was a wonderful idea for THQ to make exhibition and universe mode separate. The best way to capitalize on this is by giving us a create-a-ppv. I want to be able to make my own ppv, logo to go along with it, match screens, and that’s where I think the create arena feature would have been best served as well. Not to mention the best part is that I get to choose how many matches I get to have (which is something not present in universe mode that should be.) Exhibition doesn’t have as many restrictions as Universe Mode does and I think if you are going to make the two modes separate you should be able to make a PPV. Mainly so you can have that separation feel without having to use Universe mode at all. I just want the feeling of a progressing show in exhibition, that you don’t get by just setting up random matches.

There are a few issues that always seem to pop up in wrestling games for some reason. The collision detection is a bit off again as you will still see wrestlers go through each other and wind up in awkward moments where they will go through the ring. I also had an issue with flying moves on downed opponents not hitting half the time because I guess the game didn’t like the way my wrestler was positioned. I commend THQ similar to what EA did with Madden, in trying to take the suction away on things like lock-ups and flying moves. However, I contend that it makes the game seem wonky because you almost have to be in the perfect spot to land some of these diving moves, and it’s probably more accurate to the wrestling, that the superstars have to deal with doing moves regardless of how their opponent is positioned. So a little suction for the diving moves wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Also what’s with the horrid facial animations on the wrestlers? Even wrestlers like Sheamus and Cena don’t look that great and usually it is the other way around for WWE games. Some of the wrestler’s faces look worse than Madden’s generic football players and they don’t animate well either. It just baffles me how far we are into this console cycle and the wrestlers still look like this. I understand that it requires a lot of time and effort to do this, but it’s the attention to detail that matters. We aren’t talking about creating thousands of players like in regular sports games. I will say that a lot of the legends do look pretty good, but overall I felt like the graphics were a let down. The predator engine may have made things smoother but it didn’t make things look much better.

One last thing, the announcers once again are awful and seem more off the pace than they normally are. I can’t stand Michael Cole, sometimes I really wish they would give us the option to choose announcers, I’m glad I can just hit mute on my television.

I will give THQ brownie points for only charging 960 MS points (it equates to about 12 dollars) to give players the ability to unlock everything in the game. Other companies would probably charge about 20 bucks for this, so I think THQ’s careful thought in making this cheap is a great touch. I also liked the variety of legends this year too, though I think one great tag team would have been enough. There is already some awesome characters awaiting on the DLC train so they did knock this section out of the park.

Now we get to the meat of this game, how long you play WWE 12 will probably be contingent on how much you enjoy this mode and the creative aspect of the WWE. THQ continues to try to expand their attempt at a mesh between a season mode and GM mode with Universe Mode 2.0. The rankings are still in place here for those that want a season mode type experience. However, they still haven’t fixed the issue of exactly how you go about becoming #1 contender. You could literally have 10 matches with numbers 2-4 and the current #1 contender and still be down in the rankings. I always thought WWE Smackdown! 2 did it the best. They gave you an endless season mode and the way you got through the rankings, was by beating each opponent once or you could hurdle a few of them by beating someone above them. I don’t understand why they can’t apply that to Universe mode. I know WWE doesn’t follow any guidelines to choose their matchups, but I think some kind of logical progression makes sense for a video game. However, they have fixed it to where you can choose to have a title match whenever you want, regardless of ranking. It really is the way the mode should be.

In universe mode you can do essentially whatever you want do. You can edit each brand and make it WWE vs.WCW, or ECW vs.WCW if you so desire. This includes making permanent changes to match screens, arenas, rosters, title belts and show names among other things. So you can literally have RAW on Monday’s and WCW Nitro replace Smackdown! on Fridays if you wanted to do that. However, the show doesn’t become totally altered as it still starts out as if it was the original show. If you are going to include music for Monday Nitro, and have a bunch of different firework displays, why not let us make the show a complete overhaul? Hopefully this is something they can look at for next year. If I’m creating my own show, I don’t want it to look like 2001 came knocking and we can only get as far as if the Alliance had come in and changed the show’s banner.

I understand that the Superstars show’s original intention was to be the only co-branded television show, but they should have just scrapped that and let players make a whole 3rd show. You are allowed to make multiple rosters but you can only really edit RAW and Smackdown! While PPV’s and Superstars have limitations because they are double roster shows. I think total freedom in this department would increase the durability of this mode immensly. Especially considering that you have over 20 to 30 title belts and they could really find some use if you were able to make a third show. The big number of titles might also find some use if they could be used for Money in the Bank briefcase winners too. If you win Money in the Bank you can only choose between the two current WWE titles, I should be able to use any of the older major titles as briefcase rewards as well. Again, this is something else they could easily fix in the next game as they continue to grow the mode.

This is another reason why I think Create-A-PPV should be reinstituted because they have more belts than they know what to do with, and you can’t defend even half of them. I do wish they would have allowed for players to choose how many matches they had per show. Many RAW’s and Smackdown’s nowadays are having 5 to 6 matches on them (just last week each show had 6) and then if you throw in the 3 hour shows it can be more. So maybe next year we will see more freedom with the number of matches. PPV’s should go up to at least 8, if not10 (in case I wanna make my own Wrestlemania type event) in my opinion.

The biggest issue I still have with this mode is that if you are going to have 30 title belts, please allow them to be vacated. In exhibition you can have a title be vacant, but in the freedom mode of this game you can’t? That makes no sense at all. I don’t want half my roster coming out wearing a title belt, not only does it screw up their entrances, but then if I want them to have another title or they win one. Then I have to either find someone else to get the old title or they have to wear two belts. This makes no sense and I cannot understand for the life of me, why for two years THQ have insisted on doing this in Universe mode. WWE may have a habit of making their titles not mean much, but really? Having all these wrestlers have belts makes the whole aspect of having a championship stupid. I don’t care if you add 20 more belts for next year, but I’d much appreciate it if I wasn’t forced to use them. Also, why in exhibition mode can I have tag team champions that are not in a stable, but in universe mode I’m still forced to create a stable for them to be a legit tag team? Again doesn’t make sense to me. If the rankings are going to be side-stepped, then I should be able to side-step ranking enforced restrictions on tag-teams too.

Other than a few gripes (which the only one that really affects the review score is the no vacant titles,) WWE Universe mode 2.0 is a step up from the first one. You have more freedom than last year and making the rankings optional really helped me continue to play in this mode. I use mine more as a GM mode than a season mode, so maybe it doesn’t reflect how everyone feels about the things I mentioned above. However, I think for this year they hit the nail on the head. I do think they can continue to give us more freedom for next year and I’d also like to see more development on a true rivalry system. Where the game tries to keep track of rivalries better, similar to GM mode a few years back.

Road to Wrestlemania, to me, this is where THQ dropped the ball. They tried to be too ambitious and took the fun out of this mode. I’d like to point out that the three storylines in this game are very well done. I wanted to pay attention to what was going on and in true WWE fashion they put more into the promos than in-ring action. I wouldn’t care about that so much if it wasn’t because the action is literally slashed in order to move the story along. In almost every match you compete in, whether it be in the parking lot or in the squared circle will have a pre-determined ending. Even though I know wrestling is pre-determined, I don’t want to experience that while playing a video game. I don’t mind it if I’m playing an RPG where I’m following a story, but still, I don’t get every battle interrupted because it wants to show me a cut-scene. Even if I do get interrupted by the scene, the game still expects me to defeat the boss. Not for the game to make me lose and I just wait until the game let’s me play again. That’s how most of Road to Wrestlemania works. You watch the scenes leading up to said match, you fight until you complete an objective, and then the match ends. Most of the time the matches end with you losing, and then the story progresses the way it wants to, and you are left feeling as if everything you did was a waste. Especially since WWE appeals to kids now, I don’t see how this makes kids want to play the game? When almost every time they wrestle they lose.

This idea is good in theory and it works every once in a while, but not all the time. Not only did you remove the variety of stories, but you eliminated the wrestling too.You don’t do these events in almost every match and give the player no freedom at all to feel like winning or losing mean nothing. Do you know why everybody loves No Mercy on the N64 so much? Not only for the great in-ring action (which THQ does replicate here), but because the story mode had meaning. Every time you won or lost it meant something. If you lost, the story changed. If you won, the story changed. At some point, the story came together and you were forced to win or go home but at least it felt unique. That’s what I want out of a story mode for a wrestling game, meaning. I want it to branch out and make me feel like everything I do will change the story mode around me. I don’t even mind that they centered the story around two wrestlers, it’s just the way they went about it, takes the player completely out of it. You really don’t do anything other than getting to the point where the game says “you’ve done enough, thank you very much.” And I don’t like the use of the game’s own created character either. I think the old style where you have a created character just be given a set voice is better than forcing one of our characters to fit Jacob Cass.

On a side note, why do most of the wrestler’s seem like they could care less about what they are saying in the promos? It makes the bad facial animations much worse and doesn’t deliver the power most of these characters should have. If there is anything to learn here is that wrestling is best when it sticks to it’s namesake and not be an acting job, which is basically what this mode has become.

Pros

+ Universe Mode 2.0 Adds features that make this the best thing about WWE 12

+ Easier controls make the game more accessible to anyone and the gameplay is tons of fun solo or with friends

+ Creating An Arena gives more authenticity to a created show or PPV

+ Great to see some new faces in the Legends department on disc and in future DLC

+ All the create modes put together give a great sense of freedom to the game

Cons

– Road to Wrestlemania is ambitious but ends up being annoying and a waste of time

– Graphics are overall a letdown, they look better in general in the wide scope, but look close and flaws appear

– Online play seems to have more problems than actually work correctly

– Universe Mode gives you a lot of title belts but the fact that they can’t be vacated makes them a chore to deal with.

The 411: On a gameplay aspect, the changes to the controls make the game more accessible and fun. I have a blast wrestling matches and it’s even better with friends locally. I think the reversal system could use some tweaking but you can adjust the A.I. so it’s not too bad. You literally have hundred’s of match types to choose from and a Universe 2.0 that gives you freedom to bulid shows how you choose. It even gives you the ability to bring back shows of yester-year in there full capacity if you so desire. There are certainly things they could add to the mode to make it better, but they’ve improved it a lot over last year. The game fails in it’s main story mode, on the graphics side, and in online play. Three sections that by this point in the series shouldn’t be glaring issues. The graphics do look better, but fail in other areas that it shouldn’t at this point. The revamp of Road to Wrestlemania didn’t pan out like it should have and instead is severly limiting and takes away from the wonderful experience that is the rest of the game. This also limits the replay value of this game a lot because if you get tired of Universe mode, there isn’t anything else. Online play shouldn’t be having this many issues after so many years to work with it either.

This game is still a great pick-up for any WWE fan out there, especially for those that love to create, post those creations online, and then use them forever in universe mode. There is plenty they can do to continue to improve the game in the future and I think that’s a good thing. But for now, WWE 12 is what it is, providing the closest thing you can get to WWE TV possible, while also sharing with you some of the company’s flaws as well.

Graphics7.5The Arenas look great, but it seems details on the wrestlers aren't as good, predator engine is good on smoothness though. Still collision issues too 
Gameplay9.0The game is a lot of fun, especially with friends, Universe Mode 2.0 is a blast, and the freedom to create keeps me coming back. 
Sound8.0The sound effects are fine, but the announcing and voice acting is bad and the entrance music isn't balanced some themes are loud and some aren't. 
Lasting Appeal7.5How long you play this depends on if you like Universe Mode, or have lots of friends to play with. If not, you may not have much to do. 
Fun Factor 8.5The wrestling in itself is fun because they made the controls easier and you have a plethora of matches and create modes. RTWM being a let down takes some fun away for me. 
Overall8.0   [ Very Good ]  legend

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Sean Garmer

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