PS3 Review – WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2011

The WWE is hands-down the most popular ‘Sports Entertainment’ brand in the world. Every year millions of fans venture to their local arena to see their favorite superstars from The Miz to the Undertaker to John Cena put on an amazing display of athleticism and endurance. Fans also rush out to their favorite local gaming retailer to purchase the yearly edition of WWE Smackdown vs RAW which is always loaded to the Blu-ray full of content and good times. Does 2011 Edition have enough additions to make you want to climb the ladder and snag your copy high above the ring or would you rather pay to have the Big Show chokeslam you through 2 tables? Brother, you’re about to read this review and find out!

This year’s biggest addition is the WWE ‘Universe’ mode. The teams at THQ and Yuke’s decided to combine the career and exhibition modes into one gigantic, never-ending, well, universe of storylines, matches, and possibilities. Fans of the WWE could spend an endless amount of time getting lost in the vastness of it. You can easily jump in and out of any match, deciding the outcome and molding your own storylines if you’d like. Do you think your favorite wrestler deserves to be the #1 contender for the WWE Championship title? Simply control his fate and increase his ranking (by winning) so that he can have his rightful shot at the title. A note to all your hardcore WWE superfans, you’re about to lose hours, if not days, of your life to this newest mode that could very well be a staple of the WWE Smackdown vs RAW series for years to come.

Gameplay is as stellar as ever for the WWE Smackdown vs RAW series. While the series has always been about a more simulation feel for fans, it has never been too hard or difficult for casual fans to get into. One of the most interesting and original ‘modes’ of the game is how it teaches you the moves and how to do them. Before you even press start, John Cena and Randy Orton are alone in an empty ring, as you press any and every button, a move box pops-up above your head as a check-off list of sorts. As you learn each move, you’re on your way to earning trophies for doing so. It actually pays to learn each and every move that the game offers you. With an improved physics engine this year, you don’t have to land your opponent in the direct center of a table to smash it to smithereens. I performed a suplex to my opponent on the edge of a table and watched it shattered into a million pieces, which helped simplified the overall gameplay experience. You can now also grapple an opponent move them in whatever direction that you what. Want to powerbomb your enemy to the outside mat? Do it! Such small, but simple, adjustments really help keep the gameplay fresh and fun. With over 70 different wrestlers to choose from, the gameplay will help keep you hooked for a long time indeed.

The create-a-player mode has been further expanded with new creation options as the game also encourages to use your very own original superstar in the WWE Universe mode. With a total of 6 different trophies being awarded for using your creation, it’s easy to see that the create-a-player mode is more important than ever before. So for those of you who turn on the game and create yourself before anything else, the game rewards you for doing so, and also makes sure that you give the WWE Universe mode a good, long try. The create mode aspect of the game has also been further expanded, as you can also create entire set moves, finishers, storylines, and more.

The online Royal Rumble, a much requested addition over the years, finally makes its appearance this year. You and 11 of your favorite online ‘rasslers’ now have the chance to see who will be the true online king of the ring. You start out by choosing your favorite wrestler of choice. Once he is is eliminated, the computer will randomly assign you a superstar until 29 opponents are defeated and someone is crowned winner.

This year’s Road to Wrestlemania Mode focuses on Rey Mysterio, The Undertaker, Christian, Randy Orton, and John Cena, but for some reason has decided to look pass the WWE’s Diva division storyline. Instead, the devs took the time and focus to introduce the back-stage area of the game into the mode. When starting off every Road to Wrestlemania, Vince McMahon himself personally calls you, wishing you good luck and let you know all about this new digital world for your character to explore. You come across fellow wrestlers who will offer you words of advice or challenge you to a match later that night. There will also be mini-events where you can help out the back-stage staff who happen to be in dire situations. There is a few odd moments though: I came across a certain Superstar who was talking smack about  me during an interview, he then proceed to talk call me out… as I stood right beside him the entire time. Weird? Yes. Does it ruin the experience? Not exactly, but it would have been cool if I could have interrupted him mid-interview and give him a taste of what I was cooking. Always a goal for next year, I say.

As always, Yuke’s has down a great job with the graphics. Each and every superstar who happens to be a part of the 70+ man roster is highly detailed and looks exactly like their real life counterparts. Entrances are also perfectly replicated based off the Wrestler’s very own strut to the ring. Enjoy R-Truth’s rap before he enters the ring? It’s in the game. Enjoy the dazzling display of Shawn Michael’s fireworks after he strikes his patented pose? It’s in the game. Like watching the Diva’s wrestle in their very own Royal Rumble of sorts? You’ll be happy to know they’re all perfectly proportioned according to the very ‘real’ measurements. There’s only one problem with the roster. While it may contain many current and past WWE Superstars, THQ has finally figured out that fans will actually pay for more characters, so such rising stars as the entire roster of the incredibly popular stable, The Nexus, are absent from the game. The only way you’re going to get your grubby hands on them is through buying them online. The roster is still one of the best the game has had in years, I would have rather had the Nexus over some of the ECW duds they have in the game. However you’re still going to have a blast deciding who you want to use to lay the smackdown on your friend’s candy ass.

Also, a small note  for those of you who might be buying this game used to save some greens, make sure you remember that THQ has implemented the Online Axxess pass with WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2011. Meaning unless you buy it new, you’re going to have to pay $10 to gain access to the online gaming portions of the game. So remember, you could end up paying the same price used that you would be paying for a new copy if you’re not careful.

While the game certainly rocks, AI can be completely and utterly stupid at times. During a tag team match, my partner, Chris Jericho, grabbed a sledgehammer and entered the ring to help me. At first, this was a good thing. Until he attacked me repeatedly with it. No, it wasn’t some storyline twist or whatever, it was the AI being a sack of stupid. This wasn’t the only time though. An ally of mine ran down to the ring to help me during a match against the legend killer himself, Randy Orton. The AI once again messed things as he soon attacked me, then went to back to attacking Randy. This happened on several different occasions, although it never costed me a match, it could for others while playing on higher difficulty settings. Graphical clipping is still present in the game, however it’s improved over last year’s problems.

WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2011 adds more than enough content to warrant a purchase this year. With so many modes to enjoy and so much content to unlock, WWE fans are going to lose themselves in the game until next year’s edition hits. The WWE Universe mode is the new star of the show here and WWE fans are going to love it. If you skipped out on 2010, make sure you don’t miss WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2011, as it’s easily the best edition in years. WWE fans and Superfans alike are in for a treat!

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ One of the best editions in years.

+ New WWE Universe mode is a fans dreams.

– AI can be utterly stupid at times.

9 out of 10