The latest wrestling game released by World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE '12 offers incredible customization but somewhat lackluster gameplay.
WWE '12 is a wrestling game styled after the WWE's signature television shows, such as "Monday Night RAW" and "Friday Night Smackdown!". It includes every talent currently on the WWE roster, as well as unlockable characters from the franchise's history. The basic mechanics of wrestling will be familiar to any fan of the shows, but in essence gameplay generally revolves around either weakening an enemy so they can be pinned for a 3-count or fulfilling some specific objective dependent on the match type.
The game has several main modes. The simple exhibition mode is just a throwaway one-shot match for up to four players, with all sorts of applicable conditions. "WWE Universe" is a sort of "season mode" where specific bouts take place on the WWE's different shows, setting up title bouts and other major competitions. In this mode it's also possible to set up new franchises and edit the attributes of existing wrestlers. Finally, "Road to Wrestlemania" is a sort of "story mode", following either the Heroes or Villains in a linear set of matches where the player assumes the role of different WWE superstars.
The gameplay is relatively simple. Wrestlers primarily use striking (i.e. chops/slaps/punches) and grappling (throws, chokeholds, etc) to wear down their opponents. Certain special move conditions, such as attacking off the ring's ropes or attacking from a run, also exist. While every character has recognizably different moves, their playstyles aren't really dependent on them. The striking is simply attacking, while the grapples are executed with little player input (i.e. you would press forward-plus-X to do a certain grapple, and other than that it's not that different).
The player's defensive options are, quite annoyingly, limited to hitting R2 immediately before being attacked; there's no blocking options or anything similar, so if you miss that small window to counter an attack you're basically stuck. In some cases, you're not even given an opportunity to hit R2, so you just have to sit there and watch your character get pummeled. Conversely, it's easy to get an enemy caught in a long combo, because they've got the same problem.
In terms of customization, though, the game is absolutely amazing. Characters can be customized in terms of their facial features, physique, outfit (or outfits), abilities, moves, crowd response, and entrance. The moveset creator, in particular, is incredibly detailed, with a huge library of wrestling moves for every possible situation. Characters can even be given names that will be said by the announcers during their entrance and as commentary on the match, though these names must be chosen from a (fairly large) list. Furthermore, all these things can be uploaded and downloaded on the PS3's network, giving players access to a wide variety of custom characters, movesets, and even arenas. It's even possible to import custom music and videos from the PS3's hard drive to apply it to the game.
The game's graphics aren't that great; the textures seem kind of flat, especially for a PS3 game. The animations are good, though they tend to have problems when the ring itself gets in the way. The game doesn't look too bad when it's in motion, but in any circumstance where the graphics are the focus (such as entrances), they just look noticeably low-quality. They're hardly awful, especially given the customization of the characters, but they're not great either.
Overall, WWE '12 isn't really good enough to recommend to non-wrestling fans. Its somewhat frustrating controls and gameplay aren't really made up for by its incredible customization if you're not into wrestling already. On the other hand, if you ARE into wrestling, it's about as comprehensive of a game as one could hope for.
We purchased this game with our own funds for the purpose of doing this review.
Buy WWE '12 from Amazon.com