This is a guest review by Mad McGobbo
Ever since I can remember I've been a fan of wrestling, from the days of World of Sport with wrestlers such as "Big Daddy" and "Johnny England" up to the modern WWE's brand of "sports entertainment". Over the years there have been many wrestling games for all formats, most have never achieved their full potential, some being rather good. Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 is something else.
Over the years THQ have added small in-game additions to the franchise such as "Road to Wreslemania" to add flavour, but they have never really made the previous games that extra bit special. With the 2010 edition it seems that almost everything the fans wanted has been granted with 67 superstars and a bucket load of new features. Fans of the previous games will be able to get straight into playing due to the largely unchanged control system, and you will notice when the game loads that you are put straight into a "Training Facility" which helps you get to grips with the moves and controls. It's a really nice feature and at anytime you can press the "start" button to call up the main menu and access all the juicy new features and revamped old ones.
The biggest changes to the game have been in the "Create a..." area with so many improvements. "Create a Superstar" has had an overhaul with the ability to make wrestlers not only easier with its points based creation system, but considerably more life-like. They have even added in a paint tool that can be used to make unique logos for your Wrestler's outfits. With the whole "create a superstar" mode you can possibly make any famous wrestler you choose or even your own unique creation, the only downside is the list of names that the announcers can call you seems to have been shortened(that's only a tiny niggle though.). When you pit your wrestler against one of the established Superstars they no longer look odd and miscoloured and for the first time they fit right in.
You'll need a set of moves for your wrestler, and 2010 has bulked up the amount of moves available for your wrestlers. THQ have even gone as far as retooling the "create a finisher" system to enable you to create unique top-rope finishers that would make even Jeff Hardy proud. But for me, the most important addition to making your created wrestler even more unique is the wonderful ability to use the "Reel Editor" to make your own entrance film. Add that to the returning ability to use music off your own hard drive and you have a wrestler that could actually be a real superstar! Levelling up the superstars is easier as you are no longer just constrained to the Story-mode as you were last year, THQ have also given players the choice of what areas to level too with points allocated after matches for you to spend as you like.
Players will notice that the biggest change has come from the Storyline Designer, which enables players to create a story that can last over several shows, months or even years. When you create your own story you are given a plethora of clips that you can edit to make your story unique. I created a small story that started on the ECW show as a match(a fully playable match too) with run-ins that ended up with William Regal getting fired and then getting his revenge by running down the character that got him fired. Yes, you can create outlandish storylines just like the real WWE and you can even share them online with the rest of the community too. So not only do you have your own storylines, there are ones that are unlockable and ones you can download. It's enough to keep anyone happy.
Storylines bring me onto the important feature; "The Road to Wrestlemania". As always this is the way you unlock extra move-sets and characters by playing through as the different WWE Superstars and making different choices along the way, each different choice you make has the possibility to alter what you unlock so you do have to play through the feature as the same Superstar a few times to get all the locked content. Thankfully at the end of your first play-through you unlock the ability to skip through "the drama" when you replay as the Superstar you have played as. Once again THQ have not forgotten the created Wrestlers either, by giving the created Superstar their own "Road to Wrestlemania", a very impressive add that brings so much more colour to the game.
The heart of the game though is always the game play and Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 succeeds where a lot of the previous wrestling games fail. As soon as you start playing there are small immersive details like "WWE Live" appearing at the bottom left of your screen, making it feel like you're watching rather than playing. There are other details as well, for example if you play and choose to put a title on the line (or fight for one) after both wrestlers have got into the ring the Referee shows both of them the belt, it's touches like that that make this game a very immersive experience.
When you start playing the first thing you will notice is the ugly and intrusive HUD has gone; now all you have is the Superstar's momentum meter which is now around his/her feet. When you have enough momentum built up the meter will have either an "S" representing that you have enough impetus for a special move or "F" for finisher.
In the past when you have done certain aerial moves they have looked sloppy and didn't quite look right, in this edition when you pull off an aerial move as you hit the game seems to instinctively make it complete without sloppy landings, now although this is a really nice feature it isn't all that smooth and there is a milli-second pause while it decides how you land on your opponent. They have smoothed out the ring ropes to a more acceptable level, as they now react if get a wrestler land on them, of course they aren't perfect but hey it's a massive difference from last years effort.
Graphically the game is superb with lots of detail, they have managed to improve upon the blood splatter and keep the wrestlers looking like who they are meant to be. One of the things I noticed is that when you keep beating up your opponent their chests get redder as they would do in real life if you were slapped by a bodybuilding monster several times, it's a nice touch and it's these little things that make SDvR 2010 better.
Combine all these cool features together along with enough quick-play match modes and you have this gen's definitive and most immersive wrestling game, overall there are only a few minor tweaks THQ could make to make this untouchable as a game. As it is it'll keep you coming back for more, and will keep anyone (wrestling fan or not) entertained.