Xbox 360 Review: WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011

Is this one Smackdown too many?

Another year and another WWE Smackdown vs. Raw arrives like clockwork. I’ve been playing the games over the years and been waiting for an evolution of the gameplay, but it seemed to be locked in a familiar pattern for ages now. Can 2011 be the version that redefines the series?

Sadly, no. But it isn’t all bad news; there are some improvements but they feel minimal in what could have been achieved. In essence, Raw 2011 feels very much like last year’s game and the year before that. The real problem I found is that the game just isn’t accessible to newcomers and expects you to understand how every mode works first-hand.

The Road to Wrestlemania mode has been improved and gives you the dramatics of the WWE with bad-mouthing, fighting in the dressing room and plenty of useless dialogue that only true hardcore fans will enjoy. You move your wrestler through the backroom before each fight, but you get messages on your phone and gain experience from fights that you can allocate to your wrestler. If there’s a problem with the mode, it’s that it all feels unnecessary, there are invisible walls everywhere and the camera sticks right up close behind you.

There is a deeper career mode called “WWE Universe” which builds storylines, and integrates cut scenes and rivalries between wrestlers based on the matches that are wrestled. You can also create new match types in “Match Creator”, even playing them online…just expect horrible lag at the time of this article going live. Expect a patch to reduce it, but as of now it’s pretty bad. All other modes like Hell in a Cage and Exhibition return for fans and are good fun, although unchanged.

There have been improvements to animation, but the controls are starting to show their age and feel clunky in comparison to newer games on the market. Hit detection is also off, resulting in missed punches and kicks that should connect. It essentially plays the same as Raw 2010 and while that isn’t a bad thing, it’s about time that the gameplay evolved from its current state. It’s becoming dated and repetitive.

Visually, the engine is also starting to show its age and needs an improvement. There are some great moments to look at, but the actual in-game engine itself needs an overhaul. Voice-acting is terrible from the wrestlers and the commentators are hardly accurate with their dialogue. Music is a mixed bag also, but will please hardcore fans.

The Verdict

The improvements made are just so minimal that Raw 2011 is hard to recommend to anyone who bought Raw 2010. If however you haven’t bought a WWE game for a few years then you won’t do far wrong with this new instalment.