Last weekend, GameSpot descended three stories under downtown Los Angeles to get a glimpse of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011. As we sat and listened to the presentation by THQ, a Rey Mysterio mask complete with cross and double tears, presumably for all the foes he submitted, sat propped in front of us just begging to be given away on Today on the Spot.
The presentation started with the reveal of the full title of the game, SmackDown vs. Raw 2011: "This is your moment." The 2011 version of SmackDown will focus more on the notorious life of a wrestler, including a free roaming backstage area in which to train, form alliances, and pick fights.
In the ring itself, SmackDown features a more extensive object interaction system and a more robust physics engine. During the demonstration, we saw superstars pick up various ladders, mallets, chairs, and even the ringside steps to throw, bash, or toss at one another. When a superstar or object collided, they appropriately transferred their momentum; in other words, tables smashed into bits and chairs skidded across the ring. In one clip, a wrestler leapt off a ladder and slammed another wrestler through a set of stacked tables all the way to the ring floor. The most creative use of object interaction we witnessed was the ability to lay ladders down on the ropes and use them as launching pads for aerial attacks. The game features the ability to flick one of the analog sticks toward an object while grappling an opponent for easy object interaction. We had the opportunity to get in a couple of rounds with the X360, PS3 and Wii versions. We found the Wii controls to be the most responsive and were slamming wrestlers through tables in no time.
The next addition to SmackDown is the expansion of the Hell in a Cell cage to encompass a much larger area. The expansion allows for weapons to be used outside the ring, as well as cage-specific slams and finishing moves in which superstars are thrown through the sides or top of the cage.
For new modes, there is the addition of WWE Universe in which the game automatically generates an events calendar for players and dynamically adjusts the fight ticket and venue based on in-game performance and story decisions. The Universe main menu includes a ticker displaying upcoming matches and rankings with red down arrows and green up arrows denoting a players current standing. The ultimate goal of Universe is to win enough matches to set up pay-per-view title fights and increase a wrestler's standing.
All of Universe is customizable and allows players to change matches on their calendar and set up teams manually. It also allows players to choose villains and heroes or allies and enemies. Allies will help during gameplay by interceding in matches on your behalf, while villains will do the opposite. In Universe, player actions also affect end match cutscenes, which are generated in engine based on alliances and enemies. Ultimately, Universe is essentially exhibition and career mode tied together.
The new story mode in 2011 is called Road to WrestleMania. This new mode involves an extensive free-roaming backstage area that affects the narrative as much as events in the ring. Players can visit a variety of locations including locker rooms, the manager's office, and a training room that can be used to boost stats. While walking around, players will encounter a living wrestling world; in the demonstration, a player wandered into a room where Randy Orton was cutting a promo and another room where The Miz was getting shaken down for sushi coupons by Hornswaggle. While backstage, players can navigate using a cell phone, which is also used to receive calls to make allies and enemies. Speaking of enemies, while backstage fights can break out at any time, we witnessed a number of brawls, including some car crashes. There was one in which a superstar smashed the front window of a car with a sledge hammer and pulled a wrestler through the broken window. A player's decision to fight or not to fight backstage affects alliances and enemies in the ring. Special features in Road to WrestleMania include an unlockable Bill and Ted-style time machine that can be used to go back in the story and relive or change a narrative's history.
After the story features were shown, the demonstration moved into a new character creator. The design process has been streamlined with more prebuilt options. Outfits can be saved as templates, so a character can change out of his or her space helmet, Dracula cape, shower towel, or monster feet and into a suit before heading backstage for the post-match interview. We saw a wide variety of options, such as gorilla suits, death metal red beards, and sombreros. Each item had customizable textures and colors. Characters generated in the creation tool can be imported into all modes.
The presentation came to a close with Create a Finisher mode. Up until 2010, SmackDown added front and top rope finishers; this year, the game includes strings of up to 10 animations for finishing moves from the corner position. There are 500-plus combos; for example, we witnessed a punch midsection-code breaker-moonsault slam. For each move, players can control a number of parameters, including speed, rotation, and range. Some move favorites included the huevos rancheros and the Manhattan project. Last year, there were 30 moves; this year, there are 130.
SmackDown vs. Raw will be released on October 26, and purchased copies will come with downloadable content that includes WWE Chris Masters, a Rey Mysterio day of the dead costume, and a smokin' outfit for Kelly Kelly.