Hands-On With THQ's E3 WWE Games

We check out WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011 and the brand-new WWE All Stars in this exclusive look at THQ's wrestling lineup for E3 2010!

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THQ is shaking up its wrestling plans at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year. The publisher will be unveiling not one but two WWE games at the show: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 (due later this fall) and the brand-new WWE All Stars, which is due for release in early 2011. While debuting two WWE games at the event might seem like a strange strategy, the two games are distinct enough--visually and otherwise--that there's little doubt you'd confuse one for the other. Last week, THQ representatives came by the GameSpot office to give us an exclusive look at both games ahead of E3 2010, and here's our hands-on report for both.

WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011

This year in SVR 2011, every chair shot you take, every table you crash through, and every ladder you leap from will be more like a real physical object than ever before. That's thanks to a new physics system that looks to affect objects in all match types across the game but will have the most powerful impact in the TLC (Tables, Ladders, and Chairs) matches. If you've ever seen one, you know it's one of the most exciting match types the WWE has to offer, where both Superstars in the ring have an arsenal of--you guessed it--tables, ladders, and steel chairs at their disposal. How the wrestlers use those objects is up to them--from the direct approach of bashing one another with whatever is at hand, to more complex architectural violence, such as leaning one ladder against another for use as a launching ramp, or stacking tables on top of one another…for no other reason than it looks cool when a body crashes through it.

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If you've seen it happen in a TLC match in WWE programming, chances are you'll be able to replicate it, or something very close to it, in SVR 2011. Let's talk tables first. In previous games, sending a body flying through a table was typically an all-or-nothing affair: you either hit the table and it collapsed, or you grazed it and nothing happened at all. In SVR 2011, where you hit the table will matter, and tables will break in different ways--one side might collapse after a leg folds in, for example, or you can break a table completely and it will shatter into pieces (with those fragments remaining as real objects in the ring for a limited time before disappearing).

Ladders, too, will bend and break depending on where they are impacted. As with any object in TLC matches, you pick up a ladder by pressing the A button (on the Xbox 360 controller), and you can then move it around the ring to line it up as you see fit. This is especially important when using ladders and tables for more complex stunts--such as leaning a ladder against another ladder. During our demo, we watched as Randy Orton (fighting against the Undertaker) leaned one ladder against another and then used it as a ramp, which he ran up before leaping out of the ring altogether and landing on top of Taker. You'll also be able to lean ladders against the ring apron, in the corners, and so on. Finally, chairs are still effective for a quick attitude adjustment on your opponent, and, new for this year, you'll be able to do things like toss a chair at an opponent for some added long-distance damage.

Producers said that while you'll have access to unlimited amount of tables during a match, you'll only be able to have a maximum of four tables in play at any given time. As mentioned previously, destroyed objects will eventually disappear, in order to preserve memory, but while fragments exist in the ring, they are considered solid objects and will move around if they are jostled by wrestlers. From a control standpoint, the developers at THQ and Yuke's are aiming to give you more control over how you position your opponent in the ring to take advantage of all this destruction. For example, when you pick up an opponent and are preparing to slam him into a ladder or table, you'll be able to move your controller Superstar in any direction before finishing off the move.

Tables, ladders, and chairs will be more impactful than ever in SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011.
Tables, ladders, and chairs will be more impactful than ever in SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011.

All objects in SVR 2011 will benefit from this new physics implementation in the game, from sledgehammers to kendo sticks. We're hoping the new physics will also apply to cars (dynamic vehicular hit-and-runs, please!), but there's no confirmation on that just yet. One other bit about the E3 2010 demo of the game is the roster lineup: In addition to Undertaker and Randy Orton, attendees will be able to choose Chris Jericho or The Miz. Naturally, this is just the start of what THQ has to say about SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011, and we'll be following the game throughout the rest of the year.

WWE All Stars

John Cena is a big dude, but you've never seen him like this. He enters the top of the ramp leading down to the ring, gives his trademark salute, and you find yourself wondering where Cena's neck ends and the rest of his torso begins. His jaw is proportionate for placement on Mount Rushmore, and his trademark jean-shorts (I call them "jorts") cover legs that could double as tree trunks. Cena is followed by The Rock, who is decked out in black trunks and chin-length sideburns--and the Brahma Bull is looking just as rocked out as Cena.

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Welcome to WWE All Stars, where over-the-top is just the beginning. The brand-new wrestling game is being developed by THQ San Diego, and the game is being led by veteran video game designer Sal DiVita. The team is no stranger to wrestling games; many of them worked on 2008's TNA Impact. Though the team has carried that experience and passion for wrestling forward with All Stars, there will be no confusing one game for the other--All Stars is pure, fast-paced wrestling from the get-go, and the difference is seen in every aspect of the game.

If you think of the SmackDown! vs. Raw series as the "sim" WWE game, then All Stars is pure arcade action top to bottom. From a combat standpoint, DiVita says that All Stars has as much in common with a fighting game as it does with a traditional wrestling game. Part of that similarity comes in the overall speed of the game. Punches and kicks fly quickly in the game, and the recovery time of struck wrestlers is quicker than you might expect. As a result, the action in the ring is a good clip quicker than what SVR veterans may be used to.

Another aspect of that fighting game mentality comes in the controls themselves. The face buttons are used for strong and light grapples and strikes, and you'll be able to charge your strikes by moving and holding the right stick away from your opponent. Combos will play a large role in wearing your opponent down. We watched as Cena laid out The Rock with multiple lefts and rights to the jaw--during one more-complicated sequence, Cena was able to throw a quick one-two punch, then do a scissor take-down on The People's Champ.

Combos aren't just for standing, however, thanks to a juggle system that will let you string together multiple midair slams and throws in a row. The timing is delicate, but with a bit of practice, you can get a two- or three-hit chained slam full of huge leaps in the air and devastating slams on the mat. The early build of the game we played used slo-mo frequently, especially during juggle combos, perhaps as a way to make stringing moves together easier, as well as to illustrate the destructive power of the moves. As for defense, you'll have a small window in which you can reverse both grapples and strikes using the respective shoulder buttons (and you'll be notified of that window thanks to icons that will briefly appear onscreen).

Juggles, combos, and big-air moves: All Stars has as much in common with fighting games as it does wrestling.
Juggles, combos, and big-air moves: All Stars has as much in common with fighting games as it does wrestling.

You'll get access to your signature moves and finishers in All Stars by building up an onscreen energy meter. In the case of The Rock, we got to see amped-up versions of signature moves like The People's Elbow, which had The Rock jumping high into the air to deliver his patented elbow finisher, as well as a Rock Bottom move that looked like a cross between the aerial maneuvers found in a Cirque du Soleil performance and the Incredible Hulk slamming to earth, complete with the requisite shock waves emanating from the bodies crashing to the mat.

Only Rock and Cena are being shown at E3, but if those two are anything to go by, the lineup for WWE All Stars looks to be a mix of current WWE Superstars and famous faces from the WWE's past. According to DiVita, the various characters in the game will handle differently from one another, not just in terms of the moves available to them, but also in the timing required to successfully pull off juggles and combos.

So, one part WWE wrestling game, one part fighting game, featuring a compelling mixture of old and new talent--that seems to be the formula for WWE All Stars. As with SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011, there's much more to be revealed about All Stars in the months leading up to its 2011 release, so stay tuned. If you've got questions about either game, you won't want to miss our live stage show from E3 2010 in Los Angeles. Both SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011 and WWE All Stars will be shown onstage along with the game's producers, and we'll be taking your questions live.

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