WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2009 Preview
It has been one of the most popular video game franchises of the past decade, and as of now, there's just no stopping the freight train that is WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw. The 2009 edition is coming up later this year, and thanks to THQ's senior creative manager, Cory Ledesma, stepping to the podium at a recent event and showing off his project, we've got plenty of new info. Ledesma used his opportunity at the Swan Hotel in Orlando to display a brand new video for SVR 09 - loaded with examples of new features - and reinforced the development team's goal of offering gamers a completely new experience. Silly AI, long load times and iffy visuals have plagued previous entries in the series, but all that should change with this next installment (hopefully). If you're a longtime fan of SmackDown! vs. Raw and you've been waiting for a close look at the next title, get yourself settled and we'll help ya out.
One of the most appealing aspects of any wrestling game is the tag team matches. You love ‘em on TV and they're even more entertaining when you partake of a virtual dastardly duo on screen, so it makes sense that THQ is looking to revamp the entire process in SVR 09. Everything about this year's tag team mode is more dynamic; the second member of the team will walk around the ring, attempting to position himself for a quick tag, and he'll even turn to send the crowd into a frenzy. Furthermore, rather than holding a relatively fixed position during the match, the camera will often zoom out to capture the action, especially if you pull off a sweet double-team maneuver (with the referee looking the other way). The only concern we have with the multiple, roaming cameras should be obvious to the reader- camera angles can be a major detriment to the gameplay in any three-dimensional game, and the more movement there is, the more we can lose track of the action. We love the idea of the added cinema-style camera angles, but THQ needs to be careful...they go too crazy with the cameras, and the numerous, ever-changing angles might just drive us all nuts. But we have faith they know what they're doing.
To expand on the tag team revamp even more, you can all look forward to another interesting feature: Hot Tag. If you've watched wrestling before, you can probably recognize the following scenario: one guy is getting smacked around left and right, and when he hits bottom, he lifts a trembling hand from the mat to tag his teammate. The teammate, incensed that his buddy is beaten and bloody, storms into the ring and starts laying down the law with immense effectiveness. It's like an adrenaline rush, and that aspect of the "sport" (sorry fans, but if there's no real competition, it ain't a sport) will be recreated in SVR 09. This was also featured in the preview video during the presentation, but again, we do have questions: how exactly will this work? Will there be some kind of meter that must be filled in order to execute the Hot Tag? Actually, we have a theory. There is a meter, and the more your teammate suffers in the ring, the more it fills. When it's all full and glowing, you can make the Hot Tag and your partner will suddenly have super strength and super speed. If we were developers, that's what we'd do.
Now, the last part of the presentation - and also one of the most intriguing aspects of the game - is the Create-a-Finisher mode. If you want the visual, we've got a great video for you to check out, but we'll elaborate just a bit. This process seems to be by far the most in-depth portion of SVR 09, as the number of options and customizable features is most impressive. You will work through a 10-step procedure that has you selecting specific moves from a large list and stringing them together. However, you do have a limit to the elaborate finishing move you attempt to create; once the "move memory" hits 100%, that's the maximum and you can't add any more moves. By the way, those moves have a speed number attached to them, thereby allowing you to alter your selections in favor of fluidity and, of course, flashiness. Without any doubt, the Create-a-Finisher is going to be the haven for all you hardcore wrestling fans out there, and it'll be all about showing off your creation to a group of amazed friends. Talk about ramping up the fun factor for the die-hards!
The only other news of interest centers on the additional 300 motion-captured animations that will be present in the game, and the fact that you will move through three months of competition during the Road to Wrestlemania. Beyond that, all we're really hoping for is a tightening of the controls, some enhanced visuals, and camera stabilization that still allows for the ambitious viewing angles planned. WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2009 is scheduled to arrive some time during the third quarter of 2008, so it could be one hell of a big title for the holiday season. The more we see and hear about the upgrades and new features, the more encouraged we become...how's about you?
4/3/2008 Ben Dutka