WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2008 Preview
WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007 has shipped an astounding 3.6 million copies since its release last year, which means there are plenty of gamers out there eagerly awaiting the next installment of the high-impact franchise. And THQ is coming strong with more than 50 match types, create-a-whatever modes (seriously, multiple "create" modes just rule), three different commentary teams, and over 50 wrestling superstars to satisfy those fans. Given the amazing success of this franchise, the developers know they have to work to keep their target audience happy, so here's the good news: if all these new upgrades and enhancements can't deliver happiness for wrestling fans, nothing can. There are all kinds of things to look forward to with 2008, perhaps even for gamers who aren't necessarily wrestling fans.
THQ recently took the opportunity to unveil WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2008 to an anticipatory crowd of gaming journalists, and they showed off many of the new gameplay mechanics via a series of sweet-looking videos. During that time, THQ Creative Manager Cory Ledesma fielded a few questions and talked more about a variety of game topics, including the new Struggle Submission System, individual character fighting styles, and the entirely new WWE 24/7 mode, which combines the standard season and general manager modes. All in all, based on this information, it appears next-gen consoles are getting one heck of a wrestling game this October, and that's good news for fans. All we really want is some fluid gameplay, relative accessibility for even the most complex movies, and a faithful recreation of the WWE atmosphere.
The biggest addition to the series is the great addition of depth: each character in the game will have two of eight possible fighting styles at their disposal. The eight styles range widely in variety, and all appear to require a different approach to the matches, as well they should. We'll have submission artist, high flier, powerhouse, showman, dirty, brawler, hardcore, and technician. Now, we're not entirely sure if each wrestler comes pre-equipped with those two styles, or if they come with one and the player can select the second. But either way, it adds a whole new dimension to the game and makes us believe that whichever character we select will have a drastic impact on our success, and that's one of the biggest appeals of 2008. There's nothing worse than starting up a fighting game and realizing characters and styles make little difference.
But as Ledesma said during the presentation, that aforementioned impact will be quite significant. He said the theme is "How will you play," in that you should select your character based on the one that best suits your "persona." The 24/7 mode will increase the level of depth to maximum proportions, too, what with all the added Create-a-‘insert cool thing here' modes. In other words, it sounds like there will be plenty of factors to consider when you dive into the core of the customization, which means - believe it or not - a wrestling game might actually have role-playing elements. What else would you call intricate character customization? And to add to the depth, we'll get that Struggle Submission System, which will "play like a cat-and-mouse game," according to Ledesma.
If you're familiar with wrestling games in the past, you know how it usually goes- execute a particular maneuver, than both contestants watch while the skill goes off in a flashy animation. Well, this new system will allow both the victim and attacker to alter the movements of their character during the execution of the move. The attacker can use the analog stick to apply ever-increasing amounts of pressure for a grapple hold, while the defender attempts to wrench the analog to the side to slip out of the lock. It's a feature that offers seemingly limitless opportunities, and one that will likely force the player to really work on perfecting their style. Of course, something this fresh also presents its own set of obstacles for the developers, but we have faith they can make it work effectively.
Lastly, your ultimate goal has changed. Instead of simply trying to make it to Wrestlemania, you're gonna have to become a "legend." This process sounds similar to "The Road to the Show" mode in MLB 07: The Show, where you create a character, start out in the rookie leagues, and attempt to move up through the ranks to the majors. In WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2008, you'll try to take your character all the way to Legend status, which could be quite the endeavor. In order to climb the rungs of the WWE, you'll have to defeat opponent after opponent in front of ever-increasing crowds. Eventually, if you make it into the WWE Hall of Fame, your quest is complete, and you can sit pretty as one of the kings of the mountain. Along the way, you'll have to deal with potential injuries and maintaining your brand (PR is big, no matter what you do).
Without any doubt, the latest WWE title is looking good, and it should sell plenty of copies come fall. Can it top the huge success of the 2007 installment? Well, if all of this comes together nicely, we see no reason why it couldn't. Check out the latest fighting demonstration video for a closer look.
4/11/2007 Ben Dutka