WWE '12 marks the first time THQ has omitted the â€śSmackdown vs. Rawâ€ť name in six years. Don't be mislead into thinking this is an entirely new series though; while WWE '12 represents a change in direction, a bit of content is recycled from Smackdown vs. Raw 2011.
Developer Yuke's has done a good job on WWE 12's grapple system. It mixes the old button grappling with SVR 2011's analogue position changing. The control scheme allows casual players to play with the basic throws and strikes, while offering something a little deeper for experienced players.
Although the change may take some getting used to for those of us who spent the last year playing SVR 2011, it allows for the introduction of the new limb targeting system. Limb targeting makes submissions easier by letting players target specific limbs from either groggy or grappled opponents - you can work the arms, legs or head.
The single modes are broken down into three types, including "Play" - a quick play mode; simply select a match type and wrestle away. Unlike SVR 2011's Exhibition mode, Play has no affect on Universe mode and has its own separate title holders. Match types on hand include improved an version of the Royal Rumble - it's no longer a button matcher - now throwing someone out has become a fairly easy quick time event - as has avoiding elimination.
A new addition to the "Play" mode is Free Brawl, in which you (and a partner) can wrestle a number of opponents back stage, knocking them out on a vending machine or various other parts of the environment.
The main singleplayer mode is WWE Universe, an improved version of the mode that debuted in last year's SVR 2011. For the uninitiated, the mode is essentially a WWE sandbox - you can crown champions, wrestle matches on the weekly shows and pay-per-views. It can go on forever.
WWE Universe also allows you to switch participants in the matches, change arenas, stipulations - the works. Story line matches are told through 'remarkable matches' these will often end in a post-match attack. It's the high point of the singleplayer modes, for good reason.
The final of WWE '12's singleplayer modes is Road to Wrestlemania. In this story-driven mode, players have to meet the set goal in a match - typically consisting of weakening the opponent(s), then pressing Y in a specific area to finish the match.
There are three stories - Villain, Outsiders, and Hero - which are unique and put you in some intriguing scenarios. Villain features an entirely new stable called the United Kingdom, for example, while Outsiders has Triple H feuding with the Miz and his pack of 'Mizfits'.
Unfortunately, the voice acting is weak - the only exception being The Miz, who carries his character over well. There's also little freedom in the Road to Wrestlemenia, with few matches ending without a pre-determined event, and any walks you take backstage are guided by the camera.
The road is long, drawn out, and rather dull. Unfortunately you will need to play the Road to Wrestlemania to unlock every character and item - unless you buy the 'All Unlockables' or 'Fan Axxess' DLC.
WWE '12's roster is huge and keeps the outdated superstars to a minimum - excluding legends, of course. Only a handful of stars released this year made it to the roster (Vladimir Kozlov, Chavo Guerrero, and John Morrison). Edge, who had to leave for medical reasons, is there as a legend - along with Brock Lesnar, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Eddie Guerrero, Arn Anderson, the Road Warriors, and Demolition.
Among the wrestlers notably absent are the Usos - the sons of former WWE wrestler Rikishi. On the Divas front, released divas Maryse and Michelle McCool are featured, while currently signed divas Tamina, AJ, and Kaitlyn are absent.
As great as the roster is, WWE '12 is riddled with technical errors. Examples of the glitches include as wrestlers clipping, announcers talking while the announcer booth is empty (oh spooky!), textures not loading, and wrestlers sliding around the ring.
Also of note is the commentary that, while witty at times, suffers from recycled sound clips which don't match the in-ring action; during a Tyson Kidd match, for example, Cole said, "Tyson Kidd's bringing the pink and black attack." However, Kidd wears gray and black shorts in WWE '12.
AI issues pop up a lot too. Managers will often break out in a fight mid-match and the referee will be more interested in what they are doing than the action in front of him. In one instance, even the announcers were paying more attention to what the managers were up to than talking about the in-ring action.
Managers aren't always a hindrance however; their AI has improved significantly when it comes to aiding you. For instance, if you Irish-whip an opponent towards your manager's side of the ring, the manager will jump up and pull on the top rope - sending your opponent tumbling to the floor.
WWE '12 expands on the creation mode. The biggest new offering is the arena creation in which you can customize everything from the apron, to the announcer table and barricade. There are loads of arenas available to download - including rival company Impact Wrestling's Impact Zone. On the finisher front, Yuke's has added corner finishers, allowing you to perform one with your opponent in the turnbuckle.
On the multiplayer front, the online Royal Rumble returns - now upgraded to a 40 man Rumble - as do player and ranked matches. Unfortunately THQ is still having server issues so online play is off and on for now.
Overall WWE '12 is a solid game, but far from perfect with a dozen graphical glitches and camera issues holding it back. At the time of writing, THQ is compiling a list of technical problems to patch. Although, most of them should have been caught before release.