Gamescom 2010: WWE All Stars & Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 Hands-On Preview - In With The Testosterone
Written Wednesday, August 25, 2010 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
A visit to THQ’s booth at Gamescom this year allowed us to go hands-on with two upcoming grapplers, both under the auspices of the WWE brand. One is the yearly update of the amazingly successful Smackdown vs Raw series, while the other offers something a little more simplistic, with the emphasis on arcade style fun.
First of all we have Smackdown, which is a prime example of something with changes by degrees. Obviously the title is never going to receive a major overhaul, but the team have tried to introduce a range of subtle alterations that will keep even the most rabid fans happy. As usual there is the graphical facelift, and it is safe to say that all of the wrestlers on show look just like their real life counterparts, right down to the re-imagined ring entrances. There is also room for some behind-the-scenes work via the Havok physics engine, which ensures that all of the objects in the game react and break as they would in real life.
The creation mode in Smackdown vs Raw 2011 has also been given a boost, with even more options than ever before. With over 10 million pieces of user generated content being uploaded from last year’s title alone, it was a major concern for everyone at THQ to ensure players had more to tinker with than ever before. Throw in an expanded roster, better cell matches, an increased range of moves and you pretty much have a well rounded package of minor updates.
Obviously most of these enhancements are purely cosmetic, so what exactly has been added to make this year’s upgrade worthwhile?
The main event here is Universe mode, which basically replaces the regular career and offers a far more in-depth experience. This time around every match, interview and backstage brawl that you take part in will influence the overall make up of the WWE. Rivalries can be formed, friendships made and championships tussled for all over the span of your career. It means that, theoretically, every match that takes place has an impact on the overriding development of your own little WWE universe – hence the name. It sounds like a lofty goal, but we will have to wait and see how things pan out, although if they can succeed in providing a more realistic experience overall, then we are all for it.
Playing the game is going to be very much the same experience though and aside from the new Road to Wrestlemania and Universe modes there may well be little to differentiate this from last year’s offering. It is also worth noting that, as with recent EA games and their own UFC title, THQ will be shipping the game with a code to allow access online – if you do not buy the game new, then you do not get to grapple with your rivals over LIVE unless you buy a code, simple as that. So the pressure is on for THQ to make those unique features as excellent as possible.
Jumping from one side of the scale to the other, next up we had an all too brief hands-on with WWE All Stars, which is as far from the “realism” of the regular WWE games as it is possible to get. Considering it’s being made by the man behind the greatness that is NBA Jam, then you pretty much know what you are letting yourself in for: a game where literally nothing can be considered too over the top.
The wrestlers are stylised caricatures of their real life counterparts and in most instances are so bulked up that the WWE ‘wellness policy’ would have a hard time explaining their roster of Hulk look-alikes. It is all in good fun though and you can expect a roster of familiar names, both new and old, to line up against one another. All the wrestlers will pull from a standard list of moves, but will also fall into one of four categories to determine their key attributes; so will you prefer to be an acrobat, technician, brawler or big man?
It handles like a simplified version of Smackdown, with light and heavy attacks plus a whole bunch of grapple moves. The real difference here is the pace; gone are the steady build up and tactical battles of previous WWE games, in comes the high octane combat. WWE All Stars simply tasks you with pummelling your opponent as quickly as possible, before throwing in some outrageous moves and whirlwind finishers.
The NBA Jam pedigree really comes to the fore in the ring with various grapples, meaning you can leap ten feet in the air with your opponent before slamming them into the canvas in gratuitous slow motion, replete with enormous shockwave. The finishing moves are even more ridiculous and thankfully nice and easy to pull off too. My only quibble comes from the button bashing mini games that accompany pins or submissions, and the fact that players seemed to be able to regenerate health at random intervals – though with such an early build that may not make it into the final game... We hope.
It is fair to say though that the action is fast and frenetic, and no small amount of fun. This title seems to have built on Legends of Wrestlemania from last year perfectly and made it that much more entertaining. Hopefully they can add in enough modes and general silliness to expand the longevity and keep the game fresh, but first impressions are very good indeed.
WWE Smackdown vs. Raw has been scheduled for a November release, while WWE All Stars is on track for a spring 2011 release.