WWE '12 Review (Xbox360)

After a few years of pussy-footing around the matter, it's good to see THQ finally changing the WWE formula up. It started with the switch in name, as the Smackdown vs Raw title was swapped for year number. With WWE '12, it's obvious the foundations have been laid for the future of the series. While many gameplay tweaks work swimmingly, certain things don't feel quite right, and feel like they need an extra year or two in the cooker before they explode to their full potential.

This is undoubtedly a game for the fans. If you haven't been watching the weekly television programmes, it's more than likely a lot of WWE's interesting subtle touches will go over your head. For one, the presentation is excellently realised, replicating the feeling of a live show better than before. RAW starts by panning around an overly excited crowd until a pyrotechnics show blows the roof off. Entrances are pain-stakingly recreated, as The Undertaker menacingly strolls towards the ring, and Stone Cold struts down the ramp ready to kick some ass. The WWE games have always excelled when it comes to presentation, and this year it's no different. If you love your wrestling, the authenticity of each match will be very well received.

Brock Lesnar returns, and he's ready to bring the pain

In the ring proceedings have changed a little more. The reversal system has been altered so it's no longer a fiddly guessing game, and it definitely makes the drama of each move more realistic. Before, you'd have to quickly press either LT or RT depending on if you want to defend against a grapple or strikes. Now, RT has been implemented as the universal button for all your reversal needs. The gap in which you have to execute such a manoeuvre has got marginally smaller, meaning there's more chance of a pummelling if you don't get your act together. Moves can be reversed even when momentum is in your opponent's favour, and the addition of the comeback system also strives to replicate the 'OMG' revivals we see in WWE every week. If you've been battered from start to finish, initiating a comeback could see the match flip on its head, as a simple QTE mini-game lets you reel off a few moves in quick succession.

One problem I've always had with the WWE games are that they've never quite captured the essence of a decent wrestling match. Repetitive moves and dull pin falls have always enforced the knowledge that you're playing a game, but WWE '12 does try to eliminate this. Moves can be altered as you're performing them, meaning your foe must be ready for anything. The best example of this comes from the ability to pin straight after you've landed a significant slam. Wrestlers such as Dolph Ziggler, the kind who will do anything to win, can sprint towards their opponent, send them to the ground and rack up a quick victory in a matter of seconds. If you have the timing, catching someone off guard can make all the difference. Similarly, pin falls are fairer and less predictable, than ever. You now have to hold A and try to stop a bar rising at a certain point. Generally, you will get three chances at this, and sometimes the ability to reverse the pin comes into effect. When you pull this off and grab a sneaky win, expect to feel like a squared-circle god.

Expect to see the Apex Predator slither about the ring with his trademark aggression

Just like last year, Universe Mode has been reinstated, and it's definitely the most exciting aspect of the entire game. This allows complete control over the WWE, meaning you can control rosters, match preferences, stables, and a whole host of other intricacies. Want to give Santino Marella a title shot? Then do it. As many matches as you want can be manually played, simulated or interfered in, all of which contribute to the rankings for each title. If you're feeling particularly creative, entire shows can be wiped from the schedule, and a new one put in it's place. Fancy creating your own brand, or the return of WCW? How about making the entire WWE Universe boo John Cena? The tools are here to do so.

Other than this, it's standard fare throughout the rest of the game. The Road to Wrestlemania is still pretty unexciting, as this year you complete story lines with Sheamus, Triple H or a created character. Sure, there's some neat features, such as watching Cena enter the arena from backstage, but in reality, there's little substance to each match. You'll often be given objectives such as 'Eliminate The Miz', before a cut-scene comes into play. It's definitely fun for a short-period of time, but the constant breaking up of each match works against the flow of the game.

On the customisation side of things, there's more option here than ever before. Superstars, entrances and moves can all be tuned to your heart's content, often resulting in some bizarre concoctions. Whether you want to recreate a legend of wrestling or build your own future Hall-of-Famer, you won't be short changed. For the first time ever, arenas can also be customised, giving players an element of control that has never been equalled.

The Ryder Revolution continues!

At the time of writing, the online multiplayer has been experiencing some crippling problems. In the few matches I have experienced against others, WWE '12 stands up to its predecessors. There's something about playing against friends, as you weave your own story lines for each match (often resulting in someone getting put through a table). THQ are working to overcome server problems, but for now, it's a mixed-bag of great fun and frustrating connection issues.

It's an exciting time for WWE fans. THQ's attempts may have fallen slightly short this year, but there's plenty of potential in a title that looks towards the future. Finally significant progress has been put into place, as the game's backbone is starting to feel sturdy enough to carry the weight of expectation. Universe mode continues to have the most appeal, and with the improved in-ring dramatics, it's more enticing than last year. Similar to their UFC franchise, THQ are now slowly progressing towards a definitive formula that captures the craziness of the WWE world brilliantly. Just like the emergence of Zack Ryder, the revolution has begun.

Top Gaming Moment: Universe mode is by far the best aspect of the game. Will sell copies by itself.

Game advertisements by <a href="" target="_blank">Game Advertising Online</a> require iframes.