WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW 2010 Preview

You Wanna Be The Man…

No matter how many words people sling, there will always be some gaming franchises that just don’t listen – those annual juggernauts that shove everything and everyone aside with their triple-A arms. And if you’re whacked close enough, you can actually see the words “you do not want to mess with me” tattooed in a tribal ring around their biceps as you are power-slammed to the floor like a rag doll with a press badge. So it comes as a surprise that WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2010 has been revamped with the one thing nearly every fan has been clamoring for: online user-created content.

[image1]As some of you may know, I’m the Create A Wrestler type, the kind of player who will plop my ass on the couch and stare at the screen for eight hours, eyes wide open and red, making sure that the line between a wrestler’s tilt of the ear and slant of his nose matches in proportion to his jawline. I will scan through each accessory, each tattoo design, each front grapple special before selecting the best, most appropriate option for the character I’ve envisioned in my mind. I will slug through career mode over and over again to max out the wrestler’s stats, even if that means missing a few showers or forgetting to eat.

So believe me when I say that the amount of content and features THQ intends for this upcoming installment  may just set the bar for online and user content for any game on the console. And just to preface all of this, anything you create can be uploaded to the game’s server and downloaded, previewed, sorted, commented, and rated by anyone else in the world. Theoretically, you should even be able to upload your created content for safekeeping, just in case your profile goes haywire. If the online interface and function is anything like Xbox Live’s Dashboard, which seems to be at least one of its inspirations, we’re in for something special.

The new Create A Wrestler mode goes beyond the standard affair of adding new parts (rooster head, anyone?): It gives the entire collection of over 1,000 parts a complete graphical overhaul, increasing their overall detail and polygon count to the point of nearly matching the crisp, well-defined look of the main wrestlers in the roster. To keep the frame-rate high, each extra part added costs a certain number of points, out of a maximum allotment of 48 points, but it hopefully shouldn’t be any more restrictive than the maximum number of layers you could apply in last year’s CAW mode.

[image2]Some accessories like necklaces have been tweaked, so that they don’t clip the model or the clothing, and you can now choose the pose of the character at the versus screen before a match begins. However, there were some clipping issues with some boots while paired with pants; hopefully, all of these graphical mishaps will be cleaned up by launch.

A robust paint tool, not too different from the ubiquitous Windows paint tool, has also been introduced as a way to layer your crafted designs anywhere on a created character’s model. It’s not certain how flexible this tool is, but there will be cause for concern if players are able to create likenesses of licensed characters. The last thing anyone needs is a dreaded, drawn-out copyright infringement lawsuit.

Bringing created wrestlers – which THQ stated are used by players three times as much as actual wrestlers – more to life are several enhanced modes. Taking a cue from their recent brawler UFC 2009 Unleashed, an interactive tutorial has been embedded in the main menu screen. This training facility allows you to practice the revamped controls, including a checklist of moves that will help ease the learning curve and several A.I. settings that should allow you to practice all of the maneuvers in a created wrestler’s moveset. Also, the Create A Finisher now includes diving attacks off the corner turnbuckle and the ability to end a finisher with a pin attempt.

But for those of you who wish they were the supreme GM for a faction, or who have written slash fiction between Orton and Cena (you know who you are), there will be one and only one mode that will make you giddy: WWE Story Designer. In an unprecedented move, the hyper-masculine drama of the WWE is now at your fingertips, with the developer now giving players the ability to write their own muscle-bound plots. Spanning anywhere from one day to two years, your story can incorporate almost all of the events that you would expect from a typical Road to Wrestlemania plot, with cut-scenes whose animations, text dialogue, setting, actors and actresses, camera angles, sound effects, and facial emotions you can control. You can even set handicaps for a certain wrestler if, say, someone ran him over with a limousine before the match. A jacked-up Steven Spielberg would be proud, indeed.

[image3]If you have no desire to be a director, you don’t have to worry. Two additions have been made to the Road to Wrestlemania mode: a Diva-centric storyline and one specially designed for created wrestlers which will hopefully be better than the extremely generic career mode from last year’s installment.

Of course, not everyone is a creation fanatic, and if that’s the case, you will be happy enough with the roster changes, improved controls, and the new Superstar Threads feature, which allows you to change and update the colors of any superstar’s clothes. (Because you never know which slice of the color wheel Rey Mysterio has chosen this week.) Reversals have thankfully been condensed to one button instead of two separate buttons for grapples and strikes, while most of the HUD elements like finisher momentum have been cleanly redesigned onto the targeting circle. It’s clear that THQ didn’t put all of its beans into one powerfully tempting basket.

The eleventh main installment in the WWE Smackdown! Vs. RAW franchise looks to live up to the promise made in one of its premiere trailers: “It’s Your World Now.” It’s boldly refreshing to see heavy-hitters THQ and Yuke’s place their success in the hands of its loyal fanbase and the prospect of its online community to create praiseworthy content. Expect to see WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW 2010 dropkick into stores in North America on October 20th.