THQ is trying to breathe fresh life into its decade-old WWE SmackDown vs. RAW franchise, making significant changes to animations and gameplay in an attempt to freshen up the series. We managed to get some time playing as The Miz and Randy Orton at E3 2011 today, and from our brief bouts, it feels that this wrestling mainstay is playing the smoothest it has in years.
On the surface, the most visible signs of change can be seen in wrestler animations. WWE superstars in WWE '12 move from animation to animation in a more realistic way and can now also be interrupted mid-move in a more convincing fashion. These brawlers also seem to move more quickly--non-fatigued wrestlers didn't seem to stay down on the mat for as long, rolling over and popping up quickly to get the action flowing. It certainly wasn't at the same pace as the arcade title WWE All Stars, but it still moved quite well for a simulation game.
Controls have also been tweaked and are more streamlined than in last year's offering. Whereas grapples were mapped to the right analog stick in the last major game release, for example, they've been placed back on the face buttons again, allowing for quicker input. Pressing a direction on the left stick determines what type of grapple your superstar will perform. The timing for reversals, too, seems a little more forgiving, and we were able to pull off impressive-looking counters by pressing the right trigger just as an opponent's strike was about to land.
Breaking-point submissions in the game occur when your character has been put in some sort of submission hold. To escape, we needed to quickly mash all the face buttons. Another interesting new addition is the comeback moment. Essentially, comeback moments are triggered when one wrestler has been dominated and is almost out of stamina. As in real wrestling, superstars in this situation (particularly faces) undergo a miraculous recovery, fighting back strong against seemingly overwhelming odds. In WWE '12, comeback moments result in a temporary stamina boost, giving you a way back into the match (unless your opponent can strike you out of the boost, that is). We're not quite sure exactly how comeback moments will be "earned" in WWE '12, but we're keen to find out more. Check back with GameSpot soon for more information on WWE '12.