Yuke’s took some cues from its top-shelf UFC 2009: Undisputed game in an effort to make things more realistic and SvR 2010 is better for it, although not up to par with that game overall. Instead of relying on a miniature character in the corner to display damage, you now have to rely on visual cues to determine how beaten up someone is. If they’ve got an injured limb, they’ll favor it (ala the Aki wrestling games on the N64). Bruising and bleeding are also very similar to how they were in Undisputed. Each type of wound builds up over time before becoming more severe, and splattering on the rival who isn’t bleeding - adding a lot of realism to the proceedings. Also, like Undisputed, submissions are attempted (at least on the ground and in strong grapples) by clicking in the right stick. It’s a fast system that makes the action more seamless than before.
After downgrading the amount of strong front grapple moves to 8 for the past two years and forcing 2 UCM spots on you, you can now do 12 front grapple moves and choose as many or as few UCMs as you want. Unfortunately, this doesn’t give you as many moves as you had in SvR ‘07, where you had 16 front grapple slots and could still do four UCMs. However, it is still nice to see the amount of front grapple slots go back up. I also love the new ability to transition from one front grapple position to another just by tapping a shoulder button and moving the control stick, and since you can also now transition from the front grapple position to the back, it makes doing finishers from behind much easier. After being gone for the past two games, you can finally manually target enemies again, which means that it’s actually possible to do running finishers on a regular basis! So now, if you’re a wrestler who relies on a lot of running attacks, you can now do them to whomever you want to do them to. Thank God this feature is back because the flaky auto-targeting just wasn’t cutting it.
Beyond major things like that, a lot of small features have been improved that enhance the realism of the game. Vastly improved rope physics also help the realism as they react whenever a body part hits them - which also allows for things like disputed finishes if someone’s foot is on a rope during a submission but is missed by the ref. It’s a little thing, but it does a lot to enhance the game’s realism and provides more ways to have a feud progress. You can also now break up your own pins manually and have it appear that the foe kicked out as opposed to you getting off of him - making matches more dramatic and enhancing the experience as a whole. Finishing move counters have also gone from being blatantly obvious, due to differences between the counter animation and the move, to being largely seamless - a huge improvement over past games that also makes things more realistic. Being able to finally turn people around either on the mat or in the corner allows the action to flow much better. Before, matches became disjointed because you were stuck with a foe being in one position when you wanted him in another one - and now you don’t have to worry about that and have more freedom in matches.
With all that said, there are still some annoying realism issues here that have plagued the series before. Wrestlers tend to get up way too soon from moves, or even major falls - I had a Cell match with Orton vs. Taker and after throwing Taker off the top of the massive structure, he was up within a second. Then I lept off of it onto Taker, landed on my neck, flopped like a fish…and got up in a second. Stuff like that completely kills the drama and until these issues are resolved, the series will never reach its full potential as a wrestling simulation.
Issues like that are sad to see since Yuke’s made a lot of improvements to the gameplay this year. Beyond the changes to the submission system and damage, they added a variety of move positions that haven’t been seen in the series before - like allowing you to do ground grapples near the legs and head (like normal) and adding in the side position that was previously seen in their Day of Reckoning/GC WrestleMania games. The ring apron can now be used for more than just cheap attacks in a tag match, so fans who grew accustomed to fighting on the apron in every other series over the past decade can now have some fun with it here.
To Yuke’s credit, they actually did some stuff here that hasn’t been done before - like allowing you to sweep someone’s leg off of the apron and either have it slam into the apron or hit the floor, and throwing someone off the top rope from the apron. You’ve also got more choices for moves you can do to people who are on the apron than you could there (but not Raw 2, which offered up a ton of moves from that position). Unfortunately, the apron combat as a whole doesn’t feel quite as well done as it did in WWF No Mercy, which is now nine years old, but given how well it was done here in the series’ first entry with it, I can see it being topped after a while.
The creation tools have been expanded somewhat this year as the create-a-wrestler option now allows you to use 3D attire parts, as opposed to the “painted on” ones of past games. One downside to this is that the new limitation of 48 points total spread throughout the whole CAW model is more limiting than the previous entries’ layer system, but the 3D garb makes them blend in far better with the in-game roster than they have before. Taking a cue from the Day of Reckoning series, you can now create your own logos for attire - so if something isn’t in the game, you can just make it yourself. Making its debut is Create a Storyline, which allows you to plot out long stories for the in-game roster, but greatly restricts CAW use in this mode, which definitely hurts it as many who would like to use it for things like e-feds can’t really do so. It’s still an awesome feature though, and gives you enough options to craft great stories for the in-game roster, I just hope next year’s installment isn’t so restrictive towards CAWs. Fortunately, create a finisher has been expanded with more parts for front finishers, and now allows you to make finishers off the top rope. So if you want to make indy moves like the reverse 450 splash, you can. For the first time since Raw 2, you’re also able to make your own entrance videos for wrestlers using the highlight reel feature from last year’s game in a new way.
You’re also able to edit the colors of existing wrestler attire, unfortunately, SvR 2010 also falls short of NM and Raw 2 when it comes to in-game wrestler customization. NM has them both beat as far as visuals go since you could change every single part of the wrestler’s attire - not just the color of the outfit, and change their body types, while Raw 2 didn’t let you change their body types or hair, but did let you put them in any outfit you desired. Here, you can only alter the wrestler’s outfit, and the effectiveness of this feature works better for some than others due to the limitations on what can and can’t be recolored on some wrestlers. For example, no matter what, Goldust will always have a part of his head that absolutely must be gold with black - making any color scheme that doesn’t involve those two colors look horrible. Similarly, John Morrison’s fuzzy boots must always be red - so you’re greatly limited there, and Undertaker’s tights can recolored - but not the part that actually gets recolored. Fortunately, while this tool falls short for some guys, it works almost perfectly for guys like Rey and CM Punk who can have almost every possible part of their attire recolored.
Online, things are slightly better than they were last year in the sense that online CAW trading is back. However, I’m disappointed to see that it’s done worse here than ever before since you can’t alter anything about the CAW you’ve downloaded. This is pretty ridiculous since it’s a feature that was in past installments, was removed from ‘09 along with CAW trading as a whole, and then they bring it back with more restrictions than ever before - and not the good kind that might result in fewer maxed out creations either. It’s a puzzling issue that makes the game worse and dilutes the whole “the world is yours” theme the game is built around. Online play itself is pretty laggy, and far too many players are still able to use unblockable or cheap moves to win - it completely kills the fun of playing online.
Last year’s Road to WrestleMania mode is back and once again provides more personalized stories for a smaller amount of wrestlers than the past entries’ career mode, but winds up better for it. This year’s incarnation features more in-game wrestlers than last year’s rendition and even allows for created wrestlers to be used. The usual issues of poor lip synching remain, but the acting is better overall, which helps a lot since some of the cutscenes can get quite lengthy. Also like last year, the career mode sees you pick from any superstar and go through a series of matches for the title(s) of your choice. Then, it was the only way to give your creations attribute points, so it wound up getting really old quickly. And while that’s still true to a degree here, you can at least earn points in any mode - including exhibition matches, so it’s very much a skippable mode now as opposed to being a chore like it was before.
It also seems very strange to me that there are modes in the RTWM mode that aren’t in the full game - like special referee and I Quit matches, which were in past series games, as well as match types that are done now but haven’t been in games before - like having a singles title on the line in tag matches. If they could put that option in the game in some form, why not make it a feature in the whole game as opposed to just a one-time thing? It doesn’t make much sense and beyond giving players more freedom, it would be something new to hype the game with.
New to the series is the championship scramble match from Unforgiven 2008, which was partially done before in the hardcore battle royal mode from the early SD games, but has been refined here to more accurately replicate the newer rendition of the match. The match is fun to a degree, but can get too chaotic with six wrestlers available for the match, and it’s also very hard to actually win the title since you can’t score a pin anywhere. While that makes winning seem more special, it also adds a layer of frustration to things since if you don’t get a fall in the first few minutes, before someone else comes in, you probably won’t get one and the match will probably end as a draw.
The Royal Rumble mode, which was revamped in the Legends of WrestleMania game to revolve around timed button presses instead of just button mashing, has been refined further. Now it actually feels like a real Royal Rumble - eliminations can happen quickly, and you can save yourself from elimination, even if you’re in a 2-on-1 situation, which you couldn’t really do before. Mode-specific finishers have also been added and make the mode feel even more complete. They really didn’t skimp on these as there are over a dozen of them, and quite a few of them are customized for those on the in-game roster, while most others fit everyone else well enough. They don’t make things too easy either, as you can only earn them after doing enough damage to earn a signature move, then do that move to even have a finisher slot open, and the move can be countered as well. If that happens, then the one shot you hoped would take your foe out will take you out - so you have to be careful with them. It adds another layer of strategy to things that makes the mode even more fun. The only thing I didn’t like about it was it taking forever for a lot of the roster to walk down to the ring - it really kills the flow to have a chain of big moves, and then have to just stop for a minute while someone takes forever to get into the ring. Otherwise though, this mode rocks.
While 2010 is a huge improvement in a lot of ways, it’s still got some technical issues that hurt it. Slowdown and occasional temporary freezing certainly interrupt the action, and there are some weird animation issues that bug me as well - like running towards the complete announce table causing your characters legs to flicker. It’s distracting and hurts the enhanced realism of this game compared to past SvRs. Some small improvements to the presentation however, do make the game match the on-air product more closely, like the show-closing copyright symbol coming at the end of matches, and the “WWE Live” graphic in the lower left-hand corner, as well as pre-match title belt graphics and sponsorship ads.
Beyond enhanced presentation elements like that, the more realistic character models and new, smoother animations for many moves along with the aforementioned improved bleeding mechanic make this the best-looking entry in the series yet. Unfortunately, despite all of the improvements made to the graphics, the sometimes unrealistic animations that remain from past games prevent the game from looking as good as it should. However, this issue isn’t as big as it has been in past games - it just stands out more here because of all of the other improvements made.
The commentary in 2010 is among the worst in series history, however, the soundtrack is easily its best yet. Filled with roster theme songs and music from well-established groups like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the mostly rock soundtrack fits the game’s action very well. Unfortunately, the commentary doesn’t quite hold up as well due to it frequently not matching up with what’s happening on screen, and the general boredom that the commentators seem to have throughout the game. The most notable exception is Matt Striker’s commentary, which is full of life and almost as good in the game as it is on WWE programming.
With so many enhancements and additions compared to previous entries WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is an easy recommendation for long-time wrestling fans who have tired of seeing few improvements made in key areas to the core gameplay. For the first time in years, a lot of improvements have been made to smaller parts of the gameplay that make a big difference in actual matches, but don’t sound so impressive on the back of the box. Now, the game actually works pretty well as a pro wrestling simulator - not up to par with the Fire Pro or Aki engine games, but it’s easily the best one Yuke’s has done since the Day of Reckoning series, and this may wind up surpassing that - time will tell. Casual fans of wrestling will probably be fine just renting this if they only like a few wrestlers, but anyone wanting to sink their teeth into it will need to buy it - there’s no way someone could enjoy the whole game with just a quick rental. Aside from some lingering issues with the gameplay and horrendous online issues, it’s a well-crafted game that should satisfy fans of the series, and bring back those who have lost faith in it in the past.