The bell rings and once again the stars of the WWE get back into shape to face each other in the square circle. But there are changes afoot my friends, oh yes. First of all the title now is simply called WWE 12. No more shall the series be called Smackdown vs Raw. In some ways this is a shame, in other ways it means that the series has decided to take bold steps forward even if the TV product is for some going backwards at the moment.
First major tweak you'll notice is in the presentation with in ring camera shots getting up close and personal with the action. You'll see that the graphics have been tweaked again and most if not all of the likenesses are spot on or near as dammit is to swearing. However some of the Divas do not look as accurate as they should, with Kelly Kelly coming out of this looking badly rendered. Where for one, is the trade mark smile?
But others come out of this better than last year (Natalya for one) so on the whole that is an upgrade that's welcome. The other overhaul that will become very apparent very quickly is in the combat/control system. Now you can target individual body parts rendering them weaker ready to lock in that killer submission hold. But this is tricky to get used to. Initiate a grapple with the Right Button and either press any of the colour buttons to attack a specific body part. B will target the arm, X the legs, Y the head and A the torso/body. To throw an opponent or lock on a submission hold, press the Right button and then flick the left stick.
Now I do add that in the options there is a control option b, but I for one could not see what option that gave you. It sure as heck is not the control system of SD vs Raw 2011. Can someone help with that one?
Now another tweak comes in the enemy a.i.. It's sharp as a razor and like with WWE Superstars you are going to find moves countered, blocked and generally dodged like nobodies business. Even on the easiest option, the A.I can beat you hollow even if it seems you have the match almost won.
My advice, is go to the options screen, select in game options and find the balancing menu. Here you can tweak it to make it easier (advised for new comers) or harder. You can alter the a.i. block/dodge rate and change the amount of damage you give as well as receive. This is well recommended if you want to avoid frustration.
One thing that has needed to be tweaked and I am afraid has still not been altered to any degree of satisfaction is in the notorious targeting system. It STILL is a dodgy affair. Connecting with running attacks unless very close to your target is STILL a hit and miss affair, (mostly miss I find) so be careful you don't nail the referee with that trademark Triple H running knee strike.
There is still a great variety of matches on offer, and the creation options allow you to create superstars and divas to your hearts content, and now you can design your own arenas, well rings anyway. You cannot design your own titantron or ramps, which is a shame or you can download creations from the online community.
But there sits another bugbear. Since the games release there have been reliability issues with the servers, and the last time I tried logging in they were STILL playing up. I have not tried for some time but I sincerely hope they have fixed it by now. It was an issue that should have been addressed much quicker than it has. Not like Rock Star who fixed a bug with Red Dead Redemption within 24 hours of it being reported.
So is this the ultimate wrestling sim? No. Is it the best in the series? No. BUT it is a marked improvement in most of the areas it has tried to tweak, but there are elements where you think it wasn't broken, so why did they fix it? Lord knows what they did with the servers, and again why haven't those targeting issues been fixed? Targeting has bugged this game since SD vs Raw 2009, please THQ, for WWE '13, sort it!
And then comes the worst aspect of the game and I do not bother with it at all. The Road to Wrestlemania now comes in chapters with no selection of the superstar involved. Eventually a created star will get involved into the story but it is so pedestrian and lacks the backstage free roaming that was in SD vs Raw 2011. This was not broken, so why fix it? It does NOT work for this reviewer at all and as said, after dabbling with it, I now ignore it.
Hopefully the next one will be more like the good old days of Here Comes the Pain with a bit of WWE Attitude and War Zone thrown in or the road to wrestle mania will be more like SD vs Raw 2011. It's a bold reinvention of the franchise that does not quite work in some areas but shines in others.
Not bad but by no means perfect.