The action feels more fluid this year and characters generally respond better to each other's positions, so your high-flying attack off the turnbuckle is less likely to go wrong. There are fewer animation hang-ups and things tend to flow more realistically. Yet, there are still noticeable problems, especially when multiple characters are in the ring and you still have to endure your fair share of moves gone awry because of interrupted timing or awkward positioning. Though the mechanics have been refined, they haven't received a significant overhaul. Thus, the action has been improved, but it still relies on the same underlying system from previous years and suffers from the same inherent flaws.
Smackdown vs. RAW's presentation continues to impress, with accurate character models and bustling crowds. The heads-up display is minimal, giving the game a more realistic feel. The crowds still don't look great upon close inspection and superstars do some strange things with their mouths, but on the whole, the game looks very good. The announcers are on point most of the time and inject the proceedings with some much-needed drama and flair. But even lively announcing can't mask the still-disappointing sound effects. A title match in the ring still manages to sound exciting, but if you're fighting in the parking lot or the locker room, all you're left with are limp smacking sounds and dull, muted thuds. Though these effects may be more realistic, they sound weak and out of place in a game that's all about loud, exaggerated action.
Fortunately, the game knows its strengths and once again delivers a lot of content. From Superstar Careers to the Road to Wrestlemania, there are many hours of fights and melodrama to enjoy. Of the six Road to Wrestlemania paths, perhaps the most entertaining is the one you take with your created wrestler, which contains a good amount of humor and some clever gimmicks, as well as a lot of interesting match situations. Unfortunately, some of your matches have goals that are poorly stated, and it can sometimes be tough to know what you need to do to progress. In one early match, you can beat on your opponents all you want, but unless you destroy Vince McMahon's office in the process, you'll never progress. Though this lack of clarity can be frustrating, it's still a lot of fun to guide your superstar to WWE prominence.
The stellar creation tools are back and as robust as ever, with expanded options and clothing customization. The ability to customize your own logos and tattoos adds a whole new dimension, and you can even compose your own entrance movie. But the addition that folks will get the most mileage out of is definitely the story designer. This mode lets you script shows over weeks, months, and years. You also get to choose which matchups happen when, who interferes, and who runs their mouth on the microphone. It's easy to create short sequences, and those who put a lot of time into longer arcs will be able to create some epic stuff. Fortunately, even if you aren't the time-investment type, you can download stories that other folks have uploaded and reap the benefits. It's easy to sign on and grab user-created content, but online matches are still a bit problematic. Matches often have a low level of lag that is just enough to disrupt your timing. And the single-player action does a poor job of preparing you for the online arena where opponents are fast and merciless. Though there are generally a fair number of games available to join, many of them don't have great connection speeds and players will often abandon lobbies while the host waits for the match to fill up. Still, if you are looking for some serious competition, you can definitely find it online.
Smackdown vs. RAW 2010 offers a lot of subtle improvements over last year's game and includes a lot of new, diverse content. The story designer allows anyone to script their own road to Wrestlemania and could conceivably provide new storylines for as long as players embrace it. The game is still plagued by some lingering problems, however, and one has to wonder how much mileage this series can continue to get out of its current model before there isn't enough new stuff to entice players to make another purchase. Whether or not next year brings a significant overhaul remains to be seen, but until then, wrestling fans are sure to enjoy this well-rounded and entertaining product.