Tuesday, May 31, 2011

WWE '12 revealed

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw is dead. Finally. Not because I'm fundamentally opposed to the series or anything, I'm just tired of typing the absurdly long titles like "WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 Featuring ECW It's Your World Now While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood." If your game needs a semicolon on the box art, it's too long.

Along with long overdue rebranding, it looks like the game mechanics are getting some significant tweaks, but will they be enough to freshen up the stale gameplay? Perhaps more concerning, will they overreach and change way too much? IGN (unfortunately) has the full preview, I figured I'd offer my thoughts on the little we know so far:

There's a new animation system, new blending methods, something called "Predator Technology"

Translation: "Blast Processing." Marketing word salad at its finest.

When John Cena's suplexing an opponent, a third Superstar can punch Cena and break up the move. You can do that for any move -- even Finishers

If you thought winning a triple threat match was impossible before! This is going to get old really quick, especially if you're one of the misguided souls that plays WWE games online.

When you're slammed to the mat at the beginning of a bout, you're going to sell the move and get up at the same time so that the match keeps a fast-paced feel.

I hope this was just worded poorly and it doesn't mean you instantly get up from any move that's done to you. That's how Smackdown 1 played 12 years ago... and it was terrible.

Cena immediately started his 5-Knuckle Shuffle routine on the downed man, and as Cena was coming down, Randy Orton launched himself from the apron to land a splash.

You know how Randy Orton loves his slingshot splashes!

it looked like a spot from ECW of old.

This quote doesn't have anything to do with the game, I just wanted to make fun of IGN's laughably bad writing.

People don't warp to the center of the ring for a 5-Knuckle Shuffle and similar moves anymore; the move happens where it happens.

Good, as long as the animations are as improved as they say. The canned animations are ancient game design, but they did allow the player to see the move performed as intended. As they've stripped these out of recent games, it's given us awkward animations in return. The canned Lionsault always looked better than the springboard moonsault you could do yourself.

The game, according to THQ, has been taken apart and put back together

We're still dealing with a foundation that's almost 12 years old. Maybe instead of taking it apart and putting it back together, they should just build something new?

The days of analog stick grapples are over. Now, everything's going back to the face buttons of your favorite controller.

Doesn't bother me either way, I didn't mind analog grapples though.

There are no strong and weak grapples -- the moves you're pulling off are dependent on how worn down the opponent is.

This is either going to be really good or so bad it ruins the entire game. On one hand, it sounds kinda like Fire Pro, where your success of landing a strong grapple depended primarily on your opponent's damage and that's probably the best grapple system in any wrestling game to date. However, Fire Pro allows you to at least attempt strong grapple moves at any point, you can even try your finisher as the first move of the match. It also allows you to do weak moves when your opponent is fairly worn down, which doesn't sound like an option the way it's described here. I have a bad feeling your typical match could be: "bodyslam, bodyslam, bodyslam, suplex, suplex, suplex, powerbomb, powerbomb, powerbomb, finisher, pin, done."

there's limb targeting in WWE '12... If you're up against a lightning quick high flier, you can work the legs so the opponent can't get around as quickly and can't zip up the turnbuckles. Work the head, and the opponent is going to be a groggy mess.

Sounds good. Not exactly a new idea, but it's never really been properly implemented before. Hopefully they pull it off here.

All this plays into how easy it'll be to get an opponent to tap in the new "Breaking Point" submission system where players tap buttons in a tug of war mini-game.

Just because you slap a fancy name on it, it doesn't make it new. Again, perhaps IGN's poor writing is coming into play here, but this sounds like button mashing, which has been standard for submission holds in wrestling games for over a decade. Smackdown has moved away from it in recent games, but I'm pretty sure I was button mashing on submission holds on NES wrestling games.

As of now, WWE '12 features a big meter with a name on it at the bottom of the screen showing how close you are to building a Signature or Finisher

Ugh, hopefully this is just for an early build of the game. Health meters, stamina bars, even "halos" need to go. We're in the HD era and this isn't a fighting game, we don't need giant bars on the top of the screen. Damage should be conveyed by a slow-moving limp or a dangling, weakened arm. Even someone clutching their head, we had this stuff in WCW/nWo World Tour and that was what, fourteen years ago? With N64's ugly graphics? C'mon.

WWE '12 also adds Dynamic Comebacks... If you reach a certain amount of damage, you'll be able to have a shot to use this one-time combo. Pull it off, and you get two Finishers.

Not ecstatic about stored finishers coming back, I like the idea of making a big comeback and getting to pull off your finisher out of nowhere though. You shouldn't only be able to do your big move when you're firmly in control, so perhaps this is the happy medium.

The AI learns this time around. If you spam run attacks like I do (I'm infamous on the Internet for my floatover DDT), the computer opponent is supposed to recognize that and be ready to counter it.

IGN's Greg Miller: admitted fun-hating asshole. As for the AI, I'll believe it when I see some gameplay videos. Smackdown's AI has been embarrassing for two console generations now, I really hope they've made significant improvements. Though honestly, they need more than just "significant."

Unless your opponent is really hurting, expect to get just one ground grapple in.

Eases some concerns from earlier, but what about top rope moves? Those have always been tricky to pull off in previous games.

Animations change based on weight classes

Good... although hopefully that doesn't lead to ridiculousness like Rey Mysterio not being able to punch Matt Hardy in SvR 2006.

There are new "attach points" for moves so that hands and legs lock to certain points in certain moves and don't clip through bodies.

Good... although sad it's 2011 and that's considered a new feature.

King and Cole are confirmed

Hopefully with completely reworked commentary.

Some promising things in there and it's certainly early, but it sounds like there's a lot of work to do. The franchise has needed some serious changes for years now, I've never been particularly fond of it (with SD2, HCTP, SvR2006 and SvR2010 standing out as exceptions), but I'm not sure if they're actually addressing the problems. There's quite a difference between fixing something that's not working and just dumbing it down, and I'm seeing a lot of dumbing down here. Button mashing, the game automatically deciding what kind of grapple you do, and stamina bars, don't exactly sound like groundbreaking ideas. This is stuff Smackdown 1 did... in 2000.

Again, this is just one preview from one (bad) gaming website, so a lot of stuff could've been lost in translation. I'm sure a lot of clarifications and new information will pour out in the coming months that will get me more excited for the game. As always, I'm interested, but it remains to be seen if the game is going to be the revolution that this license desperately needs.

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  1. I much prefer the skill-based Fire Pro (and, to some extent, No Mercy) gameplay as opposed to the button-mashing SvR series. SvR is a broken mess, and while I hope THQ has realized this and is trying to fix the problems that have plagued the decade-old engine, I am not trusting to hope. I really think this is just THQ slapping a new coat of paint over a horrible pile of crap -- and you can paint crap to make it look like gold, but in the end, it's still crap.

    I'm with you in thinking that THQ needs to just build an entirely new engine. Well, that, or hire the company formerly known as AKI Games, Syn Sophia, to make a WWE game. Or, better yet, give the WWE license to Spike and let them make a WWE Fire Pro.

    Any one of those options would be better than another SvR/SmackDown rehash.

  2. Grrrr... IGN always makes me angry.

  3. The IWC's love of Fire Pro baffles me.

    I found the game frustrating and boring, even when playing with six people locally. "Deep"? I guess. Boring? Absolutely.

    No Mercy was far superior. No clue why THQ hasn't been able to replicate the grappling system (outside, arguably, HCTP).

  4. Different strokes and all, but Fire Pro has always been very exciting for me and I don't go as "deep" as many do with it. I've never had more fun with a wrestling game than 8-man elimination matches and seeing how many people I can "CRITICAL!" with Vader.

    It's one of the few wrestling games that's legitimately challenging without being cheap. There's a steep learning curve, but once you get there, it's a blast.

    Personally, I've always felt the wrestling game community (I don't think its the same community as the IWC) has overrated No Mercy. It was great at the time, but far from perfect and has aged poorly. I'd love to see it get an HD polish, roster update and released as an XBL Arcade game though.

    The gameplay was solid and it irritates me how other titles have ignored its vast customization options, but it's only as loved as it is because most wrestling games since have sucked.

  5. WCW/nWo Revenge > No Mercy.