The writing's been on the wall for THQ's WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW series of wrestling games for some time now, especially after last year's WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2011. Over the years, the gameplay had become stale, the features set got too top-heavy with interesting, but only sometimes enjoyable new modes, and the graphics engine felt stitched together out of too many disparate parts. This issue became even more incandescent after the release of WWE All Stars, an admittedly far more arcade-inspired game that nonetheless brought wrestling games back to their risible roots.
Perhaps sensing a sea change in the wrestling audience's tolerance for the usual rejiggerings of year-to-year releases, THQ made the audacious decision for its 2011 title to change... the title. Now re-monikered WWE '12, the series is also making some other adjustments in the realm of gameplay and design, according to a posted Q&A with longtime series Creative Director, Cory Ledesma.
Echoing the sentiments of most developers tasked with releasing a new product in a series every single year, Ledesma stated he was "pleased" with the overall reception to last year's title, but made it abundantly clear that there were a number of problems with the game. Specifically, the execution of the Road to Wrestlemania mode, and some other bugs and online issues that he felt held the title back.
Among the features and fixes he lists as new to this year's title:
- An all new animation system that allows players to dynamically break up other players' moves mid-animation. He specifically cited John Cena's "Five Knuckle Shuffle" move, which can be interrupted mid-taunt.
- A new submission system, titled "Breaking Point," where players enter into a new minigame to break up submissions, and also can now climb to the ropes to break out of holds.
- Wake-up taunts, a la Randy Orton's fist-slamming taunt, where he dares a laid-out opponent to stand up, and then hits the groggy fellow with his finisher.
- A new version of Road to Wrestlemania, which Ledesma says they "went back to the drawing board a bit" for.
Ledesma cites WWE '12 as a "true series reboot," though didn't offer up too many more details on what that actually entails beyond the info above, and a number of broad statements about "...adding new gameplay systems, completely overhauling gameplay systems and improving current gameplay systems." We do know that both longtime series developer Yuke's and THQ's San Diego studio are co-developing the title, and that Yuke's has been working behind the scenes on this new animation technology for a couple of years now.
We'll be sure to try and check out WWE '12 and its new gameplay systems, overhauled gameplay systems, and improved current gameplay systems at E3 next week, where a build of the game featuring four playable wrestlers will be shown. Based on the screenshots below, we're guessing Randy Orton and The Miz will be among the four.