When I was a wee lad, I used to go over to my friend Dave’s house just to play wrestling games. Back then we would watch WWF RAW and then switch the channel to WCW Nitro (I think that’s what it was called) before switching on the N64 to try and mimic some of the matches we had just seen. When more than four of us were there is was a mad round robin game, where the losers were eliminated. It was simple, it was fun, and it’s still probably one of the fondest memories from my childhood. Now while I haven’t watched any wrestling myself in number of years, I find myself with a son who does just like I used to, and he wants to play wrestling games like I did as well – so how well did THQ do here? Did it fondly remind me of days gone by?
The short answer is “not really”.
I’m normally the guy who likes games with a few miss steps in them – like the runt of the liter when you’re picking out a puppy. I might not give those games the best scores, but I’ll let my readers know that I genuinely enjoyed playing them despite those flaws. In regards to the single player experience here, that’s sadly not going to be the case. For starters, the A.I. doesn’t actually do anything intelligent at all, but rather spams grapple the entire time you get close. It’s the equivalent of playing a Mortal Kombat or a Street Fighter game against someone that only knows where the high kick button is. It’s more than annoying, it’s downright boring.
Even worse, is when you go to try and do something with a partner, and they seem to want to make your help pointless. I was in a match of the Miz and John Cena vs Kane and the Undertaker, and when the ref was down and I ran in as Cena to do his finisher on Kane, the Miz just kept walking up to him punching – effectively ruining any two one one bonus. It’s simply mind blowing to me that things like this even happen in games today – especially in one like this with so much potential in the single player realm.
Modes like The Road to Wrestlemania could have been great, had they just worked on it a little more. Maybe get some of the actual WWE writers to come up with the story next year to start, because the story here is an extreme yawn fest, and more predictable than if they had just included the transcript in with the game. Not only that, but the action never feels fresh at all – like you’re doing the same thing over and over (and I don’t just mean wrestling). Even the backstage brawls lose their excitement as soon as you realize there is only one backstage area.
Fortunately for THQ, this game does have a few saving graces. For starters, the character models are pretty damn amazing to look at. Modeling a character on a game after a real life person is always hard work (unless you have the crazy face tech of L.A. Noir at your disposal), and WWE ’12 does a decent job at it. While the models might not look exact, they’re the best any wrestling game that I can remember has come to replicating real life. That doesn’t apply to the wrestler entrances though, as a lot of the animations look sloppy, and the sound is kinda like listening to your television from two rooms away.
The wrestler creation mode is nice as well, with plenty of options for you to fiddle with if you want to make absolutely sure your wrestler is perfect for you. I spent a few hours messing with it and was happy, but I’m sure someone with more time and talent than me could really make someone look special (or just like any old wrestler that’s not in the game). The other really big thing for me, and the only reason I’ll keep coming back and playing this (because is SURE isn’t for the single player experience), is for the multi-player fun.
While my son is only nine, going on ten in two months, we haven’t had this much fun playing video games together before. We tried loads of lame Kinect titles, and some of the pathetic Move offerings, but just sitting there with controllers was more of a bonding experience than those two “gimmick” systems could hope for. We trash talked. We pushed each other around. At one point he threw a pretzel at my head to distract me and go for the pin. Those moments, and those moments alone are what made me truly happy to be playing this game. It also still has four player multiplayer, which means when his friends come over it’s gang up on dad when I’m around, or round robin battle royale when I’m not.
The Bottom Line: Look, I know this game has more than its fair share of problems in the single player realm, but if you have a few friends to call over and have a couch war with, it’s well worth the money (it also has an online mode, but when I tried it that was down and I haven’t had a chance to go back to it).
- The Create A Wrestler mode is very well done, and can lead to some nice looking players
- The graphics are really improved over any other wrestling game I’ve seen in the past, and the characters look “right”
- The amount of fun you can have in a room full of friends with this can not be quantified – words won’t do it justice
- The A.I. is laughably abysmal – or at least it would be if it wasn’t so cheap that it made you swear every five minutes
- The story is just downright pathetic – were the writers found behind a dumpster?
- The intro sequences are literally painful to watch, and you’ll want to turn them off ASAP