The WWE game series has little to no competition in its field as of late. Once upon a time, TNA Wrestling released their own game, and although graphically superior to any WWE game released thus far, it was a let-down gameplay wise.
Perhaps it is this lack of competitive motivation which has led to WWE games gradually slipping in quality, with WWE 12 being the latest addition to the franchise which hasn’t lived up to its billing. Whereas the previous title in the series (SmackDown vs RAW 2011) introduced us to the new ‘Universe’ mode, WWE 12 has failed to build upon this, instead deciding to make only minor edits to what is now the core game-mode of all future WWE games. Filled with glitches, questionable gameplay and a sometimes almost inaccessible online mode, WWE 12 is a far cry from being the Heavyweight champion in the gaming world.
WWE 13 releases later this year, but here are a list of improvements I would like to see which would push it into the higher echelon of WWE games, alongside the likes of ‘SmackDown vs RAW 2011’ and ‘Here Comes The Pain’. Don’t get me wrong, WWE 12 is a great game, but it is lacking in areas where it should be excelling. These potential alterations may not occur as early as the very next WWE game, but if the re-branding of the series from ‘SmackDown vs RAW’ to simply ‘WWE’ isn’t the start of a transition to a new, more evolved breed of WWE games, then THQ will have missed a great opportunity to give a fresh approach to the series.
1) The Universal Truth – Improve Universe Mode
Universe mode is a fantastic addition to the games. Combining the core of the previous ‘General Manager’ mode with a full calendar year of WWE programming to play through, users can create their own matches, rivalries and stories.
It is a fantastic concept, however despite the improvements made to it since ‘SvR 2011’, Universe mode remains riddled with flaws. Since its debut in ‘SvR 2011’, we can now defend championship titles on regular Smackdown and RAW shows; however options that you would’ve expected THQ to have included in the first place, such as wrestler promos, remain absent.
As far as additions to Universe mode go, I would start by allowing the full browsing of the Universe Mode calendar. For some reason, you can never view your match-cards for episodes of RAW, SmackDown or PPV’s from more than a week ago. This means that you can easily lose track of current rivalries and are unable to view previous matches you have booked in retrospect. It would be a nice feature to look back on your past decisions, but the fellows at THQ seemingly disagree. Either that, or they don’t see the problem.
In WWE 12, THQ introduced a ‘Momentum’ system which temporarily improves the stats of a wrestler based on how well they are performing in the ring. Taking this idea, it would be nice if THQ could add a list of pre-set wrestler promos to improve the momentum of a superstar without the need to compete. What would also be a welcome addition to WWE 13, would be the option to add or remove an event from the match-card, meaning that an episode or RAW could feature 6 matches, or an episode of SmackDown could include just 3. Also, just like the promo idea, how about a new ‘Superstar Event’ system which allows the player greater control over the stand-out moments which occur in the WWE Universe? Gone are the times when Michael Cole arrives at ringside and attacks the Undertaker, instead replaced with much more realistic moments.
Here’s what the current match-cards in WWE 12 look like:
- MATCH ONE
- MATCH TWO
- MATCH THREE
- MATCH FOUR
However, based on my theorized additions, here is what they could look like:
- SUPERSTAR PROMO (Generates Minor Heat)
- MATCH ONE
- MATCH TWO
- SUPERSTAR EVENT (One SS saves another from attack)
- MATCH THREE
- SUPERSTAR EVENT (SS walks out on tag partner)
- SUPERSTAR PROMO (SS returns from injury, attacks another SS)
It’s just an idea, but this is what I think WWE Universe mode should already look like. Maybe in WWE 13 Universe mode will be as in-depth as this, but for now, it is still a terrific game mode with a lot of room in which to grow.
2) Connecting…Connection Failed – Fixing the Online Mode
The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may be applicable to several aspects of WWE games, but when it comes to the online component, it would be much simpler just to erase the whole thing and start over again.
If this means that WWE 13 has no online option, then so be it, but when a game is so constantly inaccessible over Xbox Live, then maybe it is time for an overhaul. When online does work though, the menus are bland, slow and unresponsive, with the matches themselves regularly lagging based on poor connectivity. Perhaps a re-think is in order for THQ and the online component of future WWE games.
3) Arrive. Lebell Lock. Yes. – Improving Gameplay
Throwing an opponent at 200 miles per hour has gotten tiring rather quickly. So has somebody as weedy as Daniel Bryan lifting Mark Henry with ease.
The changes in gameplay don’t need to be as drastic as having a cruiserweight constantly try and fail to lift a heavyweight, but more attention needs to be paid to the move-sets of each superstar in this respect.
The fluidity of chain grappling is poor. Even if you have an opponent set and ready in the perfect clutch for your next move, your superstar will regularly have to reset the clutch before executing the following move. This isn’t realistic, and it is a complete waste of time. Certain moves also look terrible. A belly-to-belly suplex in the move-set of Brock Lesnar is seemingly executed at light speed, with his opponent even hitting an invisible ceiling before dropping unceremoniously back to the canvas. If it takes motion capture to get the moves looking as polished as possible, then it would surely be worth the effort of re-capturing the majority of the unrealistic looking ones.
For years now the WWE series has been crying out for a higher in-ring player count. At its highest, you can have six wrestlers in the ring at one time, but with larger numbers being seen in the ring during regular WWE programming (like during the Royal Rumble, Tag Matches and Battle Royale’s) an increase to at least eight would be a terrific update. With eight possible wrestlers in the ring at once, melees are more chaotic, and you have the possibility of introducing new match types like a four-way tag team turmoil match.
4) Breaking the Walls – Adding a Soundtrack
The times of Breaking Benjamin and Chevelle being part of a WWE game soundtrack has come and gone. Hell, I would’ve even settled for WWE entrance themes being part of the games menu.
Disappointingly, WWE 12 features nothing but a single, generic looped menu theme which leaves much to be desired. You may think that having a soundtrack for the game menu is not of paramount importance, and it isn’t, but my desire to check out all of the different menu options is quelled by the monotony of this awful tune. Too many times I have reluctantly muted my TV when on the menu, and pending any licencing issues, THQ should make a beeline for a selection of licenced music to use in WWE 13.
AFI, Killswitch Engage, MGK…pretty much anyone besides Drowning Pool and Papa Roach.
5) Like a Royal Rumble…but in reverse! – Adding new Game-Modes
We’ve walked along the ‘Road to Wrestlemania’ several times across various WWE games. We have done it as our Created Superstar, as a tag team, as Mysterio, Cena and Jericho. Now, it’s time for something new.
A new game-mode or two would be great, but even bringing back an old game-mode from exile could have its benefits. I propose the return of ‘General Manager Mode’. Sure, some would say that the best parts of ‘GM Mode’ are now in ‘Universe Mode’, but a reboot of the fan-favourite game-type could see welcome changes from ‘Universe Mode’ which make it just as popular. In the rebooted ‘GM Mode’, players have to deal with things like Wrestler Morale, Injuries and deeper lying feuds. They could implement a ‘brand-warfare’ style variant, or even recruit new superstars from licensed parent companies like FCW.
This is an unlikely addition, but for the sake of an entirely new experience, how about a game-mode where the users created superstar goes on a career-defining journey starting out in FCW, before moving on to NXT, Superstars, SmackDown, RAW and then the main event in a PPV.
A new way to play may be just the thing to revitalise the series.