During E3 we were able to get some hands-on time with THQ’s upcoming wrestling franchise series reboot, WWE ’12 – and were also able to get some questions answered during our time playing the game.
A simulation sports entertainment game based around a “sport” that is scripted is no easy task. How can a developer bring an event to life and allow the players to feel like they are in control when the actual wrestlers themselves are not necessarily in control of the outcome of the match during actual WWE wresting events? More importantly, how can they make the experience feel authentic for fans and be fun enough for both wrestling fans and gamers alike?
It felt like answering these questions played a large role in THQ rebooting their WWE wresting games. They wanted to make a game that felt more like the matches seen on TV – and also a game that was simply more fun to play. During our hands-on time with the game, we were told how gamers would complain about the sluggish feel and animation of wrestling games of the past. According to THQ, gamers wanted more fluid and dynamic action and animation.
Nothing was safe from last year’s wrestling iteration when it came to designing WWE ’12. Grappling has been moved to the face buttons, there is an entirely new engine that allows smoother animation and adds the ability to interrupt moves. Players can now spin their opponent around so that they are facing each other, or they can spin them around the other way in order to do a specific move (or moves). No longer does a player need to awkwardly circle around the ring in order to face their opponent to set-up a move against a dazed opponent. Additionally, we were shown the new “comeback attack” that would allow players to act out those dynamic and exciting moments in WWE matches where one wrestler that seems down-and-out musters up enough strength for an amazing move or sequence of moves.
Players can also focus on certain body parts of their opponent. There is no health bar either, as players will see what part of the wrestler is hurt by how he moves and acts in the ring. All this is meant to make the experience more engrossing and more engaging – and it worked. It has been years since a wresting game felt this fluid and dynamic. While only four wresters were playable in the E3 demo, the new engine seemed impressive and the animations and moves looked fluid and felt like they had real impact behind them.
Comeback attacks also felt good. They did not feel cheap or overpowered either but rather, like in many fighting games, they gave the player that was taking a lot of damage a way to swing the match some. In wrestling, perhaps more so than in other games, this type of move makes total sense.
While button mashing could certainly get a player through some of the game’s mechanics, during our hands-on time it became clear that technique would not work against a more experienced player. One area, however, where button mashing seemed to work best was in reversals. To execute a reversal the player had to hit a button at the right time. While this should be a matter of precision timing and skill, it often came down to tapping the button as soon as it became clear the reversal opportunity was going to present itself. Here, mashing the reversal button worked. The good news, however, is this was something the developers were aware of — what they weren’t exactly aware of, however, was how to fix the issue.
To be clear, this is not an issue limited to WWE ’12 but rather one felt in many fighting and sports games alike. What might be unique to WWE ’12 or perhaps future games in the series, is the developers awareness of the issue – and their willingness to address it head on. While it is unclear whether any changes will be made to WWE ’12, they are certainly open to the idea and exploring ways to make the game as fun as possible. One example given as a possible “fix” for the problem was adding a penalty for spamming the button prompt before it was the correct time to press it for the reversal, that is, the button would be “dead” for a brief period of time after an early press. That way the player would miss the opportunity to register a proper reversal. It is certainly an interesting idea and one that would make players think twice about mashing for a reversal.
WWE ’12 is set to feature a robust player creation suite, along with one of the largest rosters of WWE Superstars, WWE Divas and WWE Legends in franchise history. Multiplayer will of course return (specific details were not provided during E3) and single player will feature the Road to Wrestlemania.
Wrestling fans, fighting game fans, and sports fans should keep an eye on WWE ’12. Moreover, fans who might have been turned off by previous entries might want give this new game a chance too.
WWE ’12 is set to launch November 22, 2011 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii.