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4 Reviews

WWE 12

Not the reboot we were hoping for...

How hard is it really to bring about change? CM Punk guaranteed a 'new era' for WWE in an apparently off-script tirade at Raw this summer - but so far he's provided no more than a new T-shirt. (Where's the new title belt you said was coming, Phil?)

Here in the gaming world, THQ's rebranded WWE series promised a radical upheaval of features, but actually offers little more than some new gloss painted over an old product.

Developers Yuke's will point to a substantial animation system shake-up, and in their defence this does create a speedier game that's marginally easier on the eye. But what it hasn't done is eliminate the stop-start nature of the series' core grappling - and it's this cumbersome clashing that holds the game back.

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Wrestlers still clatter together like in the old days, and for all the talk of new animations there's no noticeable improvement in fighting flow. Gameplay improvements should have been used to bring in more fluid move-chaining skills (as showcased in WWE All Stars' countering and grappling systems).

Instead, the opposite now seems to be true: singles matches are as stilted as ever, and now that moves can be interrupted, attacks are often halted in unnatural ways whenever there are more than two people in the ring. There are question marks about the robustness of the new animations too. Bodies pass through ring ropes with alarming regularity, and it isn't uncommon to see the superstars falling out of the ring altogether if they stray too close to the apron.

To make matters worse, it now takes longer to perform most moves thanks to a new body-shifting grappling system that replaces the old control scheme. Then there are the narrow backstage areas - some of the least wrestle-friendly zones to ever grace the series - or the new Road to Wrestlemania match progression system that does away with legitimate fights and reduces your entire role to that of a mere spectator.

In typical WWE game fashion there's the usual dated material on top, although as WWE's roster rearrangements have been relatively calm this year the game-to-real-life superstar ratio is healthier than usual. Still, the entire first month of the opening Road to Wrestlemania story focuses on now defunct pay-per-view Bragging Rights and feeds into a story so preposterous it's almost up there with the infamous 'Candice Michelle has a magic wand' tale from Smackdown vs Raw 2007.

WWE Universe - the neverending merger of exhibition matches and story mode - isn't as stable as it could be either. We experienced a couple of instances of number one contender match losers inexplicably getting title shots at PPVs at the expense of the contender winners.

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And if you want to play each and every match you'll be faced with a miserable quandary: do you choose to play 'Next Match' after each and every pinfall but put up with the fact that you'll be dumped into bouts without the faintest clue as to who's fighting for what honours, which wrestler is defending a title, or what the match stipulation might be? Or do you opt to duck back to the Match Card menu before each and every bout to get the info you need, but put up with monstrous loading times in the process?

Of course, because WWE 12 was built on top of the pre-existing game systems there's now a vast amount of content waiting to be rooted out. Creation modes continue to pioneer console-customisation options (even if the new create-an-arena feature won't let you go quite as wild as you'd like) and despite their clear downfalls the story modes are huge improvements over last year's.

What WWE 12 isn't, however, is the instalment capable of fishing the series out of the obtuse waters it has slowly drifted into. All Stars proved that simple ideas could create a pick-up-and-play WWE title without sacrificing depth for the hardcore, and WWE 12 would have done well to learn from its arcade-focused cousin.

The verdict

As awkward as 'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan wrestling today, WWE 12 delivers but a fraction of the changes needed to fix its problems

  • A wealth of options and content
  • Speedier bouts and new animation system
  • Core engine is creakier than ever
  • Disappointing Road To Wrestlemania mode
6.7
Format
PlayStation 3
Developer
THQ
Publisher
THQ
Genre
Beat 'em Up

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