THQ's popular and successful Smackdown Vs RAW series was released for the first time on the iPhone earlier this month. WWE fans looking for a wrestling fix on the go will want to look elsewhere, however. I've spent a few hours with this iPhone version and truth be told, it's got a lot of problems. I can't recommend this even to die hard wrestling fans.
Before examining what went wrong with SvR 2010 on the iPhone, let me point out what this $5 title has to offer. First, there are three modes: Career, Exhibition, and Quick Match. Eleven WWE wrestlers are included, all available to select from the start. A twelfth custom playable character, Ultimatum, is also included. When you start your Career, Ultimatum can be customized to your liking. While he's not a real WWE wrestler, the other eleven characters are, including: Batista, Cena, Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, Triple H, Undertaker, Big Show, Edge, Vladimir Kozlov, and Matt Hardy.
I'll get back to the Career mode shortly, but lets say you just want to play an Exhibition. In this mode, players pick which wrestler they want to control and who the CPU controls. Then, you pick your match type and arena. There are six match types to choose from. With Regular, players can only win with a pinfall. The ten second countout rule applies, and there are no foreign objects that you can use to gain an edge on your opponent. The No Disqualification mode means that players can win via pinfall or submission, and there is a single object outside of the ring that you can use against your opponent. WWE Extreme Rules allow for pinfall or submission in and out of the ring, and there are two foreign objects available. In Iron Man, the wrestler who earns the most pinfalls or submissions within the ring within a two minute time period wins. Submission mode simply means you cannot win with a pinfall. Ultimate Submission mode has the wrestler with the most submissions within two minutes inside the ring winning. Finally, Last Man Standing is a no disqualification mode with one foreign object. In this mode, which became my favorite, the only way to win is to completely drain the opponent's health meter.
After choosing your Match Type, the final step is to pick from one of six arenas. The Smackdown, RAW, ECW, Summerslam, Survivor Series, and Wrestlemania 'arenas' are all here for the choosing.
The difference between Exhibition and Quick Match is that Exhibition allows you to go through the selection process while Quick Match just randomly selects all of these settings for you. That's your best bet for a quick game on the road, unless you have a Career started and you're wanting to continue it. In Career mode, players take their custom created player from training to the top of the WWE. Career Mode starts by allowing the player to customize their character's name and appearance. You do not assign points to different areas of your wrestler's skills or anything in depth like that, unfortunately. Instead, you'll choose from a handful of hair styles, hair colors, body types, facial hair, and clothing. You can change the name of your wrestler, too. That done, an optional tutorial mode is offered, and then the Career starts. During the course of the Career, you can unlock and additional twenty-seven outfits and ten signature moves.
I highly recommend the tutorial mode to learn the controls. The controls are simple to learn once you go through the tutorial, but you'll quickly realize they're a big reason why the gameplay is so stagnant and uninteresting. Players control their character's movement with the left thumb. Touching a point and then dragging your thumb to another point will make your player walk, while a swipe makes them run. A single circular button for your right thumb is how every other action is performed. You'll want to watch this control closely as it changes depending on what your wrestler is allowed to do at the time. For example, if you are close to your opponent, the control changes to where you can punch. Or, if you hold the button for a second, optional controls to grapple and then shove, and so forth, become available. While holding, the flow of the game slows down and that creates a lot of awkward, unnatural pauses to the action. Combined with the stiff animations, the game's pacing feels off from what you would expect from a wrestling title. While it would have reduced visibility, I think a virtual d-pad and face buttons would have better suited SvR 2010.
I did, however, like what Universomo did with the pinfall and submissions controls. Assuming your opponents health meter is low enough, you walk over to them and hold the control button when the icon appears to start a pin or submission. Then, to maintain your position, you have to quickly match and hold colored icons that appear from the sides of the center control. It's a simple idea, and I thought it worked well for that application.
With the controls being what they are, it's already hard enough to recommend SvR to anyone, but if you needed still more convincing, the presentation should do it. While the console version of SvR has plenty of licensed music, fiery wrestler intros, and all of the glitz and glam that goes into a WWE production, the iPhone version is quite the opposite. Now granted -- we're comparing a battleship to a rowboat here in terms of technical capability, but I was at least expecting more from SvR on the iPhone. For starters, the graphics are bad. Character detail is minimal, animations are stiff, and there's a lot of clipping. The sound package is bad as well -- there are no announcers or really any effects at all except a constant, and oh so repetitive crowd noise. There are some music tracks, none that play during a match, but they are few and all just generic rock (i.e., not the official themes of the WWE).
With that, let's get to the summary...