Wrestling, it?s just a bunch of big men in pants brushing and touching each other isn?t it? Er, and slamming each other into tables. Well, however hardcore and manly it is, it still commands a lot of respect worldwide ? the WWE Smackdown series has seen great success since its debut on the PlayStation all those years ago, and although we?re no longer treated to the likes of Kurt Angle and The Rock, many love to sit and watch the drama unfold on the canvas and play the latest games.
It makes sense then that THQ has rolled out the latest in the series of WWE ?rasslin? titles across as many formats as possible. This is, apparently, more than just shovelling the same game on multiple formats though we?re told ? each platform?s release will have something different about it that will take advantage of the specific features of that console (more on this later).
So far so good, as SPOnG is getting rather tired of having to play watered down versions of console games on the DS when the handheld could clearly be using its features to better effect. This year?s Smackdown vs RAW edition doesn?t stop at more imaginative uses of its target platforms though; according to THQ everything is better this time around.
There are closer ties with the WWE corporation itself, with writers for the TV shows creating various scripts for the game and wrestling stars getting involved with motion capture and representation of their personalities on screen. There is the introduction of ?fighting styles? too ? a list of eight personalities and attributes, one of which is given to each wrestler to feel different from each other. Before there wasn?t much call between playing as Rey Mysterio or Big Show ? now the two feel like worlds apart.
We were given a sneak peek at some of the different fighting styles on offer. Wrestlers designated as ?High Flyers? have a lot of speed and agility, allowing for your character to roll out of tight situations, use the ropes more effectively and to set a ?pin trap? which will reverse any pin made by your opponent. On the other hand, a ?Powerhouse? style will always rely on strength ? if a wrestler?s arms aren?t damaged, they can always break out of a pin, allowing for some strategic play against different fighting styles. ?Powerhouses? also have a Rampage meter, which allows the fighter to become invincible and deal extra damage when full.
Our favourite has to be ?Fighting Dirty? though ? call it the rotten cheat in us. In this style, wrestlers can hide behind referees and even use them as weapons. They can argue with the ref on a certain call, and because of their ability to be cheeky gits, they can hold submissions longer, even during a rope break.
A lot of attention has also been paid to the fanbase of the Smackdown series as well it seems, with the developers actively going onto Internet Message Boards and focus testing many prospective gamers for their suggestions. It?s what?s helped bring new additions like the ?Struggle Submission System?, where the right thumbstick is used when in a lock to apply more pressure or to break free, but too much pressure makes the grappler mess up and lose grip. Using this analogue system it makes the whole gaming experience seem less like you?re watching a TV show and more like you?re controlling a TV show.
As if that wasn?t enough, alongside all the classic Ladder, Cage and other matches you know and love, the addition of ECW to the WWE family has allowed THQ to create a whole new play option in an ?Extreme Rules? mode. This is an anything goes match, where rules practically mean nothing ? aside from the absence of a ref, there is a lot of emphasis on weapons to make this mode stand out from the rest.