SmackDown vs Raw 2011 - Hands-On and Impressions!
This past weekend, we were invited to Los Angeles for some hands-on time with THQ’s latest SmackDown vs Raw title. There was a lot to take in, and compared to last year’s title, this one is going to blow you away. There is a LOT to look forward to, including the new physics engine, WWE Universe, more CAS options, etc.
Given that, I might miss out on a few tidbits because of the quantity of new features, but it is my hope that I will, at least, hit on the more important, and biggest, changes to the title so fans of the games, and possibly newcomers, will get a taste of what to expect when the game releases on October 26th.
The Community Summit, as they called it, was a blast. Not only did we get a lot of hands-on time with SVR11, we also got to see both Raw and SummerSlam! Not only did THQ make this experience one to remember, but I also have to give a shout out to the rest of the Community members who attended, as they made it a lot of fun, too.
Oh, and another big thanks to Corey Clayton from WWE for making ‘Plan C’ possible ;). Now, for the meat and potatoes (and there’s a LOT of it), check out the tabs above!
To begin, the newest, and quite possibly the coolest, feature is going to be WWE Universe. The game will be tracking pretty much everything you do in exhibition mode. What exactly? Match types, which wrestlers you pit against each other, etc. Given that, the game starts to build match cards, rivalries, partnerships, etc. You can edit the matches for the events (including PPVs), the roster, pretty much everything (there was also talk that maybe future titles will showcase actual matches for the week/day that you can play out). It’s like a fantasy GM Mode, without being labeled as such. You can also opt to simply simulate the matches or even play them out yourself.
The mode builds lists of wrestlers aiming for the number one contender spots, changes in their rankings, who the current champion is (which you can also change at any time), etc. With that, and rivalries built up, if you play out the match cards the game builds for you, it can be a multiple-superstar career mode you can follow, with an unlimited number of seasons, and title changes, happening over time (unless you step in to change matches around, etc). Basically, you have control of the entire WWE at your fingertips.
One of the cooler changes you will noticed included with this mode is the 100 plus different ‘moments’ that can happen during the entrance, match and victory scenes. Of these, if you have two big rivalries built up, during the entrance, the rival of the superstar coming down the ramp can attack him from behind, which then goes directly to gameplay from the moment of attack, adding to the realism and engagement of the overall experience. All of this, in just one mode alone. Of course, you can also turn it off if you want just the standard exhibition mode, but why would you do that?
Now what about Road to WrestleMania? Of course, this mode will be more story-driven than, say, WWE Universe, but there are a few changes this year that completely revamp the whole experience. You can actually roam around backstage, in different areas, and speak with other superstars (and your GM), stand by and watch backstage interviews as they happen, perform sidequests, watch fights break out, or simply just head on to the next match/objective. Backstage areas were something that have been missing for some time, and seeing them make a return is awesome.
What’s more, the Road to WrestleMania also has branching storylines, and the outcomes will affect the progression of the story as it happens. There is also a time machine you can use to go back to major points and change your storyline to see how the story would progress if you have done something different (no joke, it looks like a phone booth currently. I was waiting for Bill and Ted to show up with a collection of historical figures). As you progress through the mode, you get points to ‘upgrade’ your superstar (for new attributes, etc) since the mode will get harder the further you get through the story.
Since the build we played was only for demonstration purposes, we didn’t have any hands-on time with RTWM or WWE Universe unfortunately, but at least we got a good idea of what to expect (and yeah, there’s a LOT).
With that out of the way, it’s time to talk about Create-a-Superstar. First and foremost, you will no longer have to grind your way through the game to increase your superstar’s overall. As soon as you create him/her, you have the ability to adjust the overall rating through the different attributes. That way, you can create a wrestler not available in the game, make a realistic overall, and upload it online (which I will get to in a bit).
As far as editing your attire goes, many of the clothing options now allow for changes in multiple colors (last year, there were a few items that you could edit two colors of, this one has up to four). This is something I had wanted for years, since it was pretty annoying when you go to change the color of your pants, and the design changes with it. Red pants with a lime green design as a result of your color change? Yeah, that’s a thing of the past now.
Create-a-Finisher also has a new finisher type. This time, it’s turnbuckle finishers. When you whip your opponent into the turnbuckle, you can now create finishers that utilize that position. That means you can get your opponent up on the turnbuckle, get into the hurricanrana position, and just circle around his head constantly before performing the hurricanrana itself. I did that, and adjusted the speed with hilarious results. You can create a total of 130 finishers.
Those are some of the new things with the creation portion, but what about sharing everything online? Last year, everything that was shared was also locked. This year? You can FINALLY edit everything you download. Entrance, music, moveset, etc for the Superstars, as well as changing some of the move choices in finisher creations and adjusting the superstars and designs themselves. This is a huge improvement in the way downloaded creations were utilized compared to last year.
Speaking of downloads, THQ promises that Downloadable Content will be handled much better this year than it has been in the past, but no word on what that DLC would be (roster updates? more legends?). One thing is for sure, Bret Hart will be a downloadable superstar, but will be exclusive to GameStop pre-orders (at least, for a couple months or so). There are also going to be a handful of other pre-order stipulations for other retailers as well, so be on the lookout for that later this week.
Now for the more hands-on stuff. First of all, Hell in a Cell? Completely redone. The cell is larger (large enough to encompass the steps) and there is no longer a door to walk through. It’s gigantic now. Not only that, in order to get out, you have to perform ‘Cell Finishers’ in the corners of the cell that cause damage to your opponent, as well as busting open a panel that allows you to explore outside. You can also grab weapons from under the ring, making for even more exciting matches.
After you bust through (which is a HUGE improvement since the first HIAC from SmackDown 2, which was hilarious), you can perform new finishers off the top of the cell, and have your opponent fall through the announcers table in cinematic fashion. I do still kind of miss from a few years ago where you could simply just push or whip opponents to the sides and they just fall off. This was great with the Undertaker, performing a Tombstone, but when he got to close to the edge, the animation ended and it looked like Undertaker just dropped him on his head from the top, but we haven’t been able to do that for a long time (but that was hysterical).
We all got into a Hell in a Cell tournament for a replica belt (which is very heavy I might add). I didn’t win, but it showed off the strong network code of the game. Everything ran really smooth and there wasn’t any noticeable lag, so it should, in that sense, be a huge improvement over last year. And this was with 6-man matches. It was a lot of fun, probably more so since we were all in the same room. My only complaint would be that it was on the 360. Not to sound biased or anything, but the SmackDown games are a LOT more comfortable to play on the DualShock 3/Sixaxis. Not to mention, Tom (from PlayStationLifeStyle.net) and I got to play on a 50 inch plasma, as that’s what the PS3 was connected to.
Money in the Bank is among the craziest matches still, as we played a match, with 4 CPU-controlled opponents, and the match still lasted about 30-40 minutes. It was insane. Everyone was getting beat up pretty good. Taking down the case is a little different, though. Instead of holding the analog sticks up, you hold it up for a few seconds, and then pull down on the stick when the prompt tells you to. It takes a few pulls, but it definitely differs from past versions.
That’s not the only change in controls either. Pin is now the circle button. Right stick down is now just a ground-based grapple. So now, you have to press the right stick up to lift up your opponent (the grappling system as a whole has been redone). R1 flips/turns your opponent around, and holding L2 allows you to drag your opponents (it’s more-or-less the action button this year). It took me a little while to get used to (I kept pinning Tom instead of lifting him up), but after probably 30 minutes of play, you’re used to it.
Strike combos make a return, too. You can smack your opponent around pretty good just by doing successive presses of the square button for a combo, and then perform a grapple move for effect (strong grapples are gone now, so you can’t really do a more advanced grapple until you worn down your opponent pretty well).
Finishers can now be performed easily, too. You can make them more unpredictable, as you don’t necessarily need to toe-kick an opponent to ready him/her for a front grapple finisher. They can almost come out of nowhere (even while running), which really keeps your opponents on their toes. I love how you can do that now.
With some moves, including finishers, you can adjust the momentum of your wrestler to cause your opponent to fall in another direction, which is really helpful when putting them through tables/weapons. Tables are awesome this year, since everything is physics-based. You can more easily suplex an opponent through one simply by having it set up in a corner, leaning against the ropes, or set up in the middle of the ring (sometimes, you only kick out one of the legs). You don’t have to grapple on the table anymore (hell, you can even do this off of ladders as well).
Ladders can also be damaged as well, if they’re positioned in a way that they aren’t laying flat on the ground. These get in the way quite often, so you’re going to see a lot of wrestlers getting hurt because you bulldogged them through a table or a ladder. It’s funny AND effective! Oh, and chairs work the same way!
During matches, the game records big moments in a match for replays afterward, which is cool, but on our build, they took some less-than-cool moments and added them to the replays, missing out on some bigger moments (like me bulldogging Tom through the table), but THQ promised us that issue has already been fixed, so the replays should show the biggest moments of your match. You can also skip the replays if you’d like as well. It’s a cool feature that adds to the overall presentation (which is excellent in this game).
Personally, I had a blast with this game and can’t wait to get my hands on the game upon release (it’s going to be stiff competition for Here Comes the Pain). I’m sure I might have missed something, and if I did, I apologize for that :P. I would like to thank THQ, and Tosh, for giving me the opportunity to do this. I’ll talk to Tosh about a possible giveaway, though, so keep your eyes peeled! Other than that, I’d still like some questions to send to THQ if you have any!
[tab:Gameplay Clips and Trailer]