With WWE All-Stars due the end of this month, I thought it an appropriate time to revisit our review of THQ and Yukes’ WWE masterpiece from earlier this year, WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2011.

Title: WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2011

Developer: Yukes Media Creations

Publisher: THQ

Available For: Playstation 2, Playstation 3, X-Box 360, Wii, DS, PSP


WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 is this year’s edition of the storied franchise. It features the expected minor tweaks in addition to some major improvements and new features. But, is it worth your money?

In a word, yes. This year’s version continues to demonstrate why, though many other wrestling game franchises have come and gone, this is the one that is still standing. Let’s start with what’s staying the same. The graphics continue to push the boundaries of what next-gen systems can do. The arenas remain the same, as do the move sets for your favorite Superstars. In fact, there are more move sets than ever before. This game boasts the series’ largest roster ever, with more than 70 Superstars! Also remaining relatively unchanged this year is the fantastic Road to WrestleMania mode. There are exciting new stories this year, including one where you take on the daunting task of attempting to end the Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak. Online play returns as well.

Now, having detailed the similarities, I’m sure you’re wondering what has changed? Quite a bit actually, all for the better. First off, the character models have been completely redesigned, taking into account the different musculature of each Superstar. The muscles now realistically flex and move with each hold or grapple. Facial animations have also been vastly improved. The animation for every move has been overhauled, resulting in the most realistic Superstars ever. In addition, the control scheme has been completely re imagined, with the grapple controls now mapped to the right analog stick. This simple change makes a world of difference. With the grapple controls mapped to the analog stick, the game is more accessible than ever before. I have played with numerous people who couldn’t get the hang of the previous control scheme and they were all able to pick up and play this one with little or no learning curve. This is a fantastic achievement. The new control scheme, paired with the new character models and detailed arenas makes for the most authentic portrayal of the WWE product ever seen in games. Secondly, the Exhibition and GM modes have been combined into the new WWE Universe Mode. In this mode, you control everything, the rosters, the matches, the feuds and the friendships. You are free to craft your ideal WWE Universe. You can play any match on any show, or skip whole months. If you choose to skip any amount of time, the game will craft the story and fill you in via a loading screen. It is an amazing amount of depth for what used to be a story mode. Backstage arenas also make an a return. During Road to WrestleMania mode, you navigate backstage areas in first person. Areas include the Locker Room, Parking Garage and GM’s Office. The first person is a really cool addition which “puts you in the boots of your character.” Online play returns with one really big addition this year. This year, you can compete in the Royal Rumble online for the first time. It is frenetic and a lot of fun. Also, this year, THQ is committed to robust DLC support for the game. One DLC pack is available with the launch of the game. Others will be available soon, which will bring the NEXUS to the game. In a nice twist, THQ is offering a DLC package called Axxess. Axxess enables you to pay one price up front for access to every DLC pack for the life of the game’s DLC! Commentary is handled by Michael Cole and Jerry “the King” Lawler. Ring Announcing is handled by Justin Roberts for RAW and Tony Chimmel for SmackDown. The sound is crystal clear and all of the expected entrance music is present. This year the HD set is more realistic than ever, as Yukes has finally found a way to play the unique background stage animations for each Superstar’s entrance. This is a small thing in the overall scheme of things. But, it is a huge event in the authenticity department. Now, each entrance looks exactly as it does on TV. Yukes is to be commended for adding this small, but important bit of authenticity. It is this attention to detail that sets Yukes and this series apart.

In the end, I believe Yukes will be hard pressed to top this year’s entry. My only issue was a slight difficulty in putting people through the Announce table. The Roster, controls, graphics, sound and gameplay are the best they have ever been. Add in the new Online Royal Rumble and the spectacular WWE Universe mode, plus even more creation options, the new Road to WrestleMania stories, tons of match types and robust DLC support and you have the closest thing to a perfect WWE game. There is so much to do that you will be hard pressed to stop playing this game. In fact, it was very hard for me to stop playing it long enough to write this review. WWE fans, your game has arrived. Thank You to Yukes for making this game and I personally can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.

WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2011 gets a 5 out of 5.

UPDATE: Since the game’s release, 2 new DLC packs have been released. The first notably introduced Wade Barrett, David Otunga, Justin Gabriel and the NXT Arena. The second introduced the WCW Monday Nitro Arena into a WWE game for the first time EVER!

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