Three superstars are at the heart of the new story mode, each with their own theme. Starting things off will be “The Villain,” played by former WWE Champion Sheamus. A fiery Irishman with a penchant for violence and backstabbing, Sheamus is quite the heel patriot in Road To Wrestlemania, forming a stable with fellow European superstars Wade Barrett, William Regal, and Drew McIntyre. Like most successful stables, they will dominate the WWE and win championships along the way, and like most successful stables, things will inevitably go off the rails. As the story of Sheamus concludes, that’s when our “Outsider” comes in.
Triple H is no stranger to the Road To Wrestlemania, both in real life (13-time world champion) and in the Smackdown Vs. Raw games (he’s been featured in the mode several times). For WWE ’12, Triple H tries to go for immortality by trying to break Ric Flair’s record of 16 world championships reigns. Quite a few superstars will be standing in his way, but his main feud will be with The Miz. During our hands-on time with the game, the story took the rivalry to some interesting places and match types that should amuse a lot of fans. Hopefully we’ll actually see some this materialize in actual WWE programming.
Speaking of hope, it’s time for the “Hero” to conclude the storyline. As Jacob Cass (there’s an in-joke there), your career begins by winning the WWE’s version of American Idol, NXT, and working your way up to becoming a headline talent. Much like how you can determine what your Commander Shepard looks like in Mass Effect, your Cass will look entirely different from anybody else’s. The one thing that won’t change will be the voice, since that will belong to independent wrestler Austin Aries. As is the case with most trilogies, there is a sense that THQ just decided to go all out and think of the wildest scenarios possible to make the ending as unbelievable as possible. It’s booking that would make Kevin Nash proud. Speaking of Nash….
(It’s interesting to note that the three main voices in Road To Wrestlemania are playing totally different roles right now in the company. Sheamus is a babyface that fights honorably, Triple H just recently wrapped his role as a very un-outsider corporate suit, and Aries is actually now employed by rival – if you can call it that – promotion TNA.)
With the focus more towards moving the storyline forward, matches will not always necessarily end with a pinfall. Before every encounter, an objective will pop up on the screen telling you what you need to do in order to get to the next storyline beat. For example, Sheamus begins his storyline by interrupting a John Cena match. Your goal is not to beat Cena in the ring, but rather take him up to the ramp and onto the main stage. Once Cena has been taken enough punishment, you get him ready to take a Razor’s Edg… I mean, a Celtic Cross through a table by hitting a button prompt at the right moment, much like a quick-time event. Several objectives can take place within matches themselves, especially during tag team matches where you might have to focus on one particular superstar that you are currently feuding with.
In order to tell an intricate storyline, Road To Wrestlemania is a very linear experience with very little to no branching paths. Losing or failing an objective will force you to try again, and that can be frustrating if you’ve been trying for the fifth time to drop The Miz. It’s a concession THQ had to make so that they could get as much voice work into the game. WWE ’12 also features improvements in that department as well. It’s easy to tell somebody like Sheamus is really into the game judging by the sound of his voice in the game, and those that mailed it in (*cough* Michael Cole *cough*) with redundant dialogue that can easily kill the flow of a match.