The landscape of professional wrestling is ever changing. But while superstars come and go and entire organizations rise and fall, the fundamental appeal of the business remains constant - people love to watch two guys climb inside a ring and pretend to knock the snot out of each other.
Sure, the soap-opera theatrics add context to why Person A is cracking a steel folding chair across the skull of Person B, but I've never met anyone who watches pro wrestling only for the promos. That's like tuning in for an NFL pregame show, but then changing the channel prior to kickoff.
To borrow the latest catchphrase from the Great One himself, pro wrestling is now, and has always been, about putting boots to asses. And "WWE 12" lets you do that better than any wrestling game in a long, long time.
"WWE 12" is a wholly re-imagined game from long-time developer Yukes Media Creations. This isn't another edition of "Smackdown vs. Raw" with a new name - "WWE 12" features a new engine, new graphics and new design focus that separates it from past WWE-branded titles. The changes are immediately noticeable, from the slick new interface to the attention to detail paid toward recreating the look and feel of an actual WWE broadcast.
But the differences between "WWE 12" and previous "Smackdown" games are most obvious once you select your superstars from the huge roster and climb into the squared circle. Momentum is now the driving force behind what happens in the ring, as you must build up your momentum before being able to hit more powerful moves and, eventually, your finisher. This gives each match a more realistic pacing, with the action going back-and-forth between competitors. Matches may not last 10 minutes, but they certainly feel longer because of the momentum swings and the natural flow that results from those shifts.
Chain grapples allow you to quickly maneuver around your opponent, and the new limb targeting system lets you methodically pick apart your foe. These new limb-specific attacks not only add to the realism of "WWE 12," but they have tangible benefits. For example, if you constantly attack a leg, your opponent will move slower and struggle to run. This adds a layer of strategy that previous "Smackdown" games failed to deliver.
Other improvements to gameplay include a smoother reversal system, the ability to interrupt moves (even finishers) during matches involving more than two competitors, a new Royal Rumble elimination mini-game, and new wake-up taunts that may be the single coolest addition to any wrestling game ever. Watching Randy Orton pound the mat before striking with an RKO is awesome, but I was even more in awe when I saw the sequence countered by the AI.
Indeed, the AI in "WWE 12" is no joke. I've been playing for nearly two weeks and am still being challenged by computer-controlled opponents. Not every match is a struggle, of course, as a wrestler's ratings seem to have a real impact on how they perform in a match. Taking a main-event caliber guy like John Cena against a jobber like Heath Slater wasn't much of a contest, but once I stepped into the ring against the CM Punks and Undertakers of the WWE, I had my hands full.
The WWE (and pro wrestling, in general) has always reached peak popularity when the in-ring action has been complimented by interesting story lines and angles. Likewise, the outstanding gameplay in "WWE 12" is complimented by the giant sandbox that is Universe Mode. Here you can create your own pro wrestling universe, customizing everything from the wrestlers and titles to the shows they compete on.
Want to bring back the WCW vs. WWE feud? Go right ahead. Want to resurrect ECW from the dead? Knock yourself out.
Once you have your Universe set up the way you want, the game will generate matches, rankings and story lines based on your actions. But all of these are merely suggestions - you have total freedom over how you want your fictional world to progress. You can wrestle as many or as few matches on each card as you wish. You can now make any match on any show a title match. You can interfere in any one-on-one match, which can create new story lines or feuds and alliances.