WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007 Feature Spotlight: Analog Controls

We climb in the ring for a nuts-and-bolts look at the new analog grappling system in SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007.

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The SmackDown! series has come a long way over the course of its development. Remember, it wasn't that long ago when wrestling fans were over the moon about the integrated storylines in the original WWF SmackDown for the PlayStation. By contrast, last year's WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 had season mode (complete with real WWE voice talent), a newly introduced general manager feature, and online play to boot, in addition to the standard wrestling modes. The evolution of the series continues in WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007, specifically in terms of player control. Here, we'll take a look at how the analog controls will play a big role in exactly how you deal the pain to your opponent in the ring.

Analog grapple controls should make the game more accessible to those new to the game, without sacrificing depth.
Analog grapple controls should make the game more accessible to those new to the game, without sacrificing depth.

If you've played a wrestling game in the past, you're used to the standard method of pulling off grappling holds--you hold a face button or two, usually in tandem with a directional button, to get your opponent wrapped up and then pull off a suplex or a slam with another button combo. The producers behind SVR 2007 realize that this system--though certainly familiar to veteran wrestling game fans--isn't necessarily intuitive. What's more, it can be downright perplexing for players who pick up the game for the first time. The obvious solution, then, was to remap grapple controls from face buttons to the right analog stick. Now, instead of needing to memorize combinations of face buttons (or worse yet, just hitting a button and hoping for the best), a simple flick of the stick is all that's needed to pull off a devastating move on your foe.

SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007 producers are quick to point out that this new control scheme does not come at the cost of depth--players will still be able to pull off the same moves they're used to with their favorite superstars. Only now, those moves will be much more accessible. In terms of the moves themselves, the game organizes its grapples into two categories: quick and strong grapples. As the name implies, quick grapples are fast, low-damage attacks--think of Rey Mysterio's arm-drag takedown or Kurt Angle's leg trip--which are used to work over an opponent and get him or her ready for the more-powerful, strong grapples moves. To execute a quick grapple, you simply move the stick up, down, left, or right within the vicinity of your opponent.

After you've softened up your foe with some quick grapples, you'll want to dish out some serious punishment using the strong grapple types. These moves are the ones that get the crowd out of their seat and put the welts on your opponent's body--power bombs, suplexes, as well as submission moves are all examples of devastating strong grapple moves. Unlike quick grapples, strong grapple moves can only be executed when in a grappled state. To lock your opponent up in a grappled state, you simply hold down the R1 button (on the PlayStation 2 controller) and move the right analog stick either up, down, left, or right.

The direction you choose determines which set of strong grapple moves you can execute. Pressing R1 and moving the stick up, for example, will put your opponent in a submission grapple hold. From here, you'll have access to four different submission moves by pressing either up, down, right, or left on the analog stick. But it doesn't stop at submission moves. You'll also have access to clean and dirty grapple moves by locking up your opponent in the clean/dirty hold (by pressing R1 and up on the stick), as well as two additional categories of moves which you can either leave as default or assign in the game's create-a-move-set option. There are seven categories to choose from: power, technical, brawler, martial arts, diva, luchadore, and old school. One move set is accessed by pressing the R1 button and left on the analog stick; the other by pressing R1 and moving right with the stick.

OK, this one's going to sting.
OK, this one's going to sting.

As with submission moves, once you've locked your opponent into a specific grapple hold (such as power or brawler grapple), you'll have access to four moves within that set, which you can access by once again moving the right analog stick. For example, after you've locked your foe in a clean/dirty hold, you'll have four different clean or dirty moves available to you depending on the direction you move the right analog stick. Also, interactive grapple moves--such as holding an opponent at the apex of a suplex and then walking him around the ring before slamming him back on the canvas--can only be executed with strong grapple moves. The default additional move sets for the superstars have been set by the Yuke's development team based on his or her personality type (Angle's move sets default to power and technical, for example) but you will be able to customize move sets as you see fit both for WWE superstars and your created wrestlers.

With all of these moves available to you with just a flick of the analog stick, it seems that SVR 2007 is making a significant step toward bringing the game's sometimes-complex controls into a scheme that is approachable for beginners, without sacrificing the depth that longtime veterans of the series have become accustomed to over the years. We're looking forward to getting some hands-on time with the game in the near future to put these control changes to the test for ourselves, as well as to report on the other new features found in the game. You can expect to see much more on SVR 2007 in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

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