WWE Smackdown vs RAW is a series that's been small on updates. Each year we hope for something significantly different that will make the game a big step up from what has gone before, but THQ has definitely been taking baby steps. It's no surprise then that the arrival of this year's edition didn't cause much excitement in the office. We'd seen it all before, or so we'd thought. While SDvsRAW 2010 is once again more of an iterative update rather than a new start, it's brought together everything that's been improved over the past few years and put it into the best WWE game we've played in a long time. If you've been biding your time, waiting for the game that gets most things right, now is a good time to climb into the ring.
What you get with SDvsRAW 2010 is a tonne of content. The amount of game modes, match types, customisation options, training tools and other bits and bobs is mind boggling the first time you see the main menu - something that is actually hidden behind a FIFA-style pre-game ring in which you can have a practice fight or just mess about. Considering presentation has been a bit rough in previous WWE titles, 2010 makes a great first impression.
So what are all these game modes? Well, if you want a single match, either against the AI or friends, the Play option lets you choose between one-on-one, two-on-two, triple threat, fatal-4-way, 6-man, handicap, Royal Rumble (with new ring-out mini-games and finishers) and championship scramble. Championship scramble is brand new to the series, putting five superstars in the ring together to compete for the throne. Most of these match types can be played in a variety of ways, too, be it simple tag team, Hell in a Cell, steel cage, ladder, falls count anywhere, money in the bank and loads more. Elsewhere there's now the ability to choose rivals and allies for your created superstars, resulting in dramatic in-game events that give more believability to your matches. We haven't closely followed WWE for some time, but it's hard to imagine any fans being disappointing by the wealth of match options here.
Road to WrestleMania presents you with a story-driven campaign for a set few characters as they fight in matches leading up to the big event. As well as being able to play through with your created superstar, you can experience a storyline as X-rated superstar Edge, Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, Legend Killer Randy Orton, WWE Diva Mickie James, John Cena and Triple H.
A feature new to 2010, one that was much needed, is the ability to earn attribute points by using your created wrestler in any match type and any game mode. In previous titles you had to play through the career mode in order to build up your superstar, but this new system means you'll be able to do whatever you want and still make progress towards becoming one of the greats. It's not that the Road to WrestleMania mode isn't good fun (fans will definitely want to play through the various storylines at least once), but now you have more of a choice as to how to go about improving your created wrestler.
In the ring there have been small changes, but these combine to make for the smoothest, most authentic game in the SDvsRAW series. As well as a number of completely new moves, transitions between moves flow better than ever, and the reversal system is now all mapped to one button - a huge improvement on the two-button system we had last year. Not only does this make the game more accessible (something the excellent training tools have a big hand in too), but it's also more enjoyable. Some fans may have liked the extra degree of skill that the two-button system required, but it overcomplicated things to the detriment of overall enjoyment.