First look: WWE Wrestlemania XIX

THQ takes the wraps off of its next GameCube wrestling game.

Today at an event in Seattle, WA, THQ unveiled its next WWE-licensed wrestling game, WWE Wrestlemania XIX. The game is currently under development by Yuke's, the Japanese team responsible for last year's GameCube game as well as the SmackDown! series on the PlayStation 2.

The focus of this year's game is to respond to much of the criticism users had about last year's game, overhauling much of the game's engine and feature set in the process. The game will feature a single-player story mode called the revenge mode, which opens with WWE owner Vince McMahon stripping your superstar of the championship belt and banning you from wrestling. SmackDown! general manager Stephanie McMahon gives you a helping hand and sets you on your quest to get back at Vince in 30 different missions designed to get your WWE superstar back to the limelight of Wrestlemania.

As you progress through the single-player game, you'll earn cash that can be spent at the WWE ShopZone, which will sell a variety of unlockables, including more superstars, arenas, extra skills and attributes, and new parts, clothing, and moves for the game's create-a-wrestler mode.

The gameplay has changed quite a bit over last year's game. In a nod to the popular wrestling engine that powered all of THQ's Nintendo 64 games, Wrestlemania XIX will have strong and weak grapples that are executed by holding down the grapple button for different lengths of time. The game has a nicely intuitive counter system that uses the R trigger to counter incoming strikes and the L trigger to counter incoming grapple attempts. Finishers are executed by taunting when your finisher meter is full, which taunts your opponent and activates your finisher ability for a short period of time. Finishers and taunts are done by pressing the A and B buttons simultaneously.

While only one arena and two superstars are being shown in the pre-alpha build that THQ is displaying, the game is set to contain all of the standard WWE match types that you've come to expect to see, including Hell in a Cell, cage matches, and the like. Wrestlemania XIX will contain blood, so the game will also feature the first blood match type, in which matches are ended when one player begins bleeding. The game will be playable by four players and will also contain a new tutorial mode to help players become familiar with the gameplay.

The game's various wrestlers will have their own set of unique attributes, meaning a wrestler like the Undertaker will be slower, but more powerful than a cruiserweight like Rey Mysterio. When asked about how these various differences could effect the game's overall balance, THQ representatives stated that expert players will be able to take the smaller, less-powerful guys to victory over the larger, stronger guys, but that it would, at times, be a struggle.

Visually, the game's animation will be able to convey location-specific damage, which will allow you to soften up an opponent's arm, leg, or head, making it easier to score a victory by submission. The damage will be shown via the wrestlers' idle animations. The game is also striving to look more fluid than its predecessor. From an audio perspective, the game is shooting for an "in the ring" point of view, with over-the-top sound effects designed to give players a feeling for the impact of the stronger moves. There will be no commentary in the game. The final product may have support for progressive scan televisions, but that decision has not been made yet.

While no final count has been set, and no roster has been released, WWE Wrestlemania XIX is currently scheduled to feature somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 45 superstars. The version we were shown only contained the Undertaker and Rey Mysterio, but the game will also feature the standard roster of currently active WWE superstars, such as The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Scott Steiner, and more. Additionally, interviews with relatively new superstars such as Jamie Noble and John Cena revealed that they had been photographed and talked to about upcoming video game products, so it's reasonably safe to assume that they'll make the roster, as well. Finally, there is still room to include new wrestlers that may or may not be debuting in the WWE in the coming weeks, though THQ representatives wouldn't elaborate on who they may or may not have been referring to.

We'll have lots of new screens and video of the game on Monday. WWE Wrestlemania XIX is scheduled to ship to stores in August.

Written By

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

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