Yukes have gone and done it - reinvented the tired wrestling genre. WWE 12 harks back to what made the wrestling games of years gone by so special, chunky controls, satisfying slams and slightly awkward backstage brawls.

The game conjures similar emotions to those when you first played a Hell in the Cell match in Smackdown 2, or the first time you put someone through a table on WWE Raw on the Nintendo 64.

Although you are reminded of those great memories, enough changes have been made to make this an entirely new experience; it’s the concept of the action feeling fresh, that brings up the nostalgia impact, like that time you first put in Smackdown on the Playstation one, and your mind is blown by how quickly Jeff Hardy moves about the ring.

The old system of soft and hard grapples has been removed, instead replacing them with context sensitive holds and throws that depend on the condition of your opponent.

Initially this concept isn’t made very clear, but once you get your head around mixing up grapples with simple attacks, you can wear your opponent down and move on to the chokeslams and powerbombs.

One of the biggest changes is how the single-player progresses. Yukes have managed to create an experience that matches that of watching the wrestling on a Saturday night, something that gaming wrestling fans have been crying out for.

Matches are broken up by cinematic set pieces, abilities will be taken away and  you won’t be able to progress through the match until you achieve certain goals; what used to be a simple case of beating your opponent to a pulp, becomes beating your opponent to a pulp but with side-quests guiding you through.

This addition leads to some pretty interesting moments and twists in the story progression, meaning that what starts off as a simple pin-fall match can change in the blink of an eye (well, a loading screen anyway).

While this is quite innovative, the constant stop-start nature of matches can become irritating; that said, I did find myself pushing forward to get to the next stage, despite the desire to bang my head against the wall.

At the beginning of starting ‘Road to Wrestlemania’, you don’t get to pick the character you begin as, instead the game places you in the storyline of its choice, including villain and hero.

This goes against everything any wrestling fan wants, the ability to choose their favourite wrestling star. However, there is another game mode that allows you to pick your character and play through a simple career match structure, all of which adds to the robust package that Yukes have delivered.

One of the most impressive things about WWE 12 is the vast amount of content you have available, the create-a-superstar makes a return and acts as a perfect example; it’s even more complex than before, you can design everything from the facial hair to the contours in your cheeks.

For a hard-core fan it’s got everything you need, and for the casual gamer it’s got you covered too. The play now mode lets you jump right in, picking the arena, the wrestler, the manager that accompanies the wrestler and how many tables or chairs you have littering the arena floor.

Sit down with a few beers and a few friends, and this is a hilarious and addictive experience.

The visuals are pretty much what you’ve come to expect from a game from this end of the generation, except for some reason developers still haven’t managed to nail the look of the crowd. Although they do have individual sprites for the crowd members, they look like throwbacks to the N64; perhaps it’s to add to that feeling of Nostalgia. 

The wrestlers look shiny enough, the lights are bright enough, and the ring bounces around sufficiently, all adding up to a pretty good looking game.

The voice acting is passable, with a surprising amount of the actual wrestlers offering their vocal talent. Although good fun, the ring-side announcers can get on your nerves, but just like everything else in this game, they can be turned off too.

Sometimes the game can be frustrating, but hold back the urge to throw the controller at the wall and just take a break, on your return you’ll realise why you started playing in the first place. WWE 12 is the perfect return to form for wrestling games, with plenty of wrestlers to unlock, arenas to explore and a ridiculous amount of content to play with.

Female First Edward Lewis

Verdict: 8/10
Platform: Xbox/PS3
Genre: Sports
Developer/Publisher: Yukes/THQ
Release: 25/11/2011