The WWE knocks the snot out of the world with an all-new multi-platform wrestling smackfest. New additions this year include a brand new analog control grappling system, new high-impact movesets, user-controlled environmental hotspots and an interactive fighting area within the crowd. In addition, the game includes updated rosters for Raw and SmackDown, an expanded General Manager Mode and online multiplayer game play with voice chat support.
A few months after the successful launch of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2006, THQ officially announced the update to the top-selling series, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 today in Chicago, on the weekend of Wrestlemania 22. In a turn away from the individualized branding found on each current-gen console, the SmackDown brand will now become the multiplatform standard starting this year. SvR 07 will release on Xbox 360 and PS3. PS2 and PSP were also announced, although no screens or details were revealed as to what will be trimmed down from the next-gen games. Also, the status of the franchise on Nintendo systems isn’t clear at this point, as the title was not announced for GameCube or Revolution. During the twenty-minute conference, which included a five-minute demo of the game in progress, a few details were fleshed out for what gamers can expect.
Visually, the title has been revamped heavily for next-gen. Each character will boast twenty-thousand polygons, which is a dramatic improvement over the current models. Yukes has incorporated bump mapping into the graphics engine to give extra detail to musculature, as well as veins and tattoos. They also seem to have gone the extra mile to recreate facial expressions in superstars’ faces. Based on the stills we saw, wrestlers’ faces will tighten up in pain, or their eyes will widen in fear or shock. It’s another element that will add to the depth and realism that the SmackDown series is so well-known for having.
Also, in the vein of another chart-topping next-gen title that takes place in a squared circle (Fight Night Round 3 for the unaware), it looks like SvR 07 will implement cumulative sweat effects into play. However, during the demo, it seemed as though wrestlers would sweat just a little too fast, a la NBA Live 06. On the other hand, this is the first unveiling of the game, so it’s undoubtedly something that could be tweaked well ahead of release.
Also, while the animations looked fluid, certain lighting effects made characters look a bit shiny, as was shown during John Cena’s ring entrance, in which his back muscles resembled a Cena action figure more than the genuine article. It seems to be a problem that has plagued other next-gen games, and hopefully, Yukes will find a way to tweak the effects to reduce the excessive gleam. One small element that gamers have desired for so long has been 3D crowds. Finally, in next-gen, the crowds look less like cardboard cutouts and more like real people. And that improvement also becomes an important gameplay element that we’ll get to later.
THQ demonstrated a match between Kurt Angle and John Cena to show off more of the game’s features. The ring entrances looked fantastic. It’s the small touches that really will satisfy long-time wrestling game fans. Angle’s pyrotechnics fired off with the realism of a SmackDown episode, with the smoke effects lingering nicely as he made his way to the ring. His facial expressions were fairly identical to those as he enters the ring for any TV show or pay-per-view. The most telling detail, though, was the way that the ropes bounced when he entered the ring. They look a little more loose than in the past; they seem to sway just right when compared to past wrestling titles. Cena’s intro, which can be seen in our video files, also looks rather realistic, although again, the lighting on the musculature looks almost plastic in nature.
In action, the game manages to render next-gen visuals with high polygon models, alongside realistic ring physics, and fully 3D crowds…all at a blistering 60 frames per second. However, at this stage, some of the animations are unfortunately still the same as before. That is, upon inputting an Irish whip near the ropes, it seems awkward and stilted, the way it has since the first SmackDown title on PlayStation. The collision detection could use a little work as well. However, as stated before, we witnessed a very early build of the game, and the team’s got lots of time to smooth out those wrinkles prior to the Fall release date. Besides, in the pluses department, the load times that have plagued the franchise since WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role seem to have finally been minimized, a godsend to gamers everywhere.
Since the build is in such early stages, there was no hands-on time for any of the writers covering the title. However, the team delineated the changes that gamers can expect to see with SvR 07. Their new motto, “Don’t Just Watch It…Live It!” seems to be a departure from the past two SmackDown titles with a return to analog control grappling, although with a stronger emphasis than what long-time gamers experienced with 2003’s Here Comes the Pain. Grapples will use the analog stick, although the way that players hold the stick will determine strong versus weak and the degree of damage. Using stills from the new game, Cena appeared to pick up Kurt Angle for a suplex. As with other wrestling titles, at that point, players can decide how to execute their grapple move, be it a suplex, body slam, or airplane. They can also hold a suplex to maximize both damage and taunting to get over with the crowd.
SvR 07 also looks to incorporate more interactivity with the environment. Want to ram Triple H’s head into the outside ringpost over and over? No one’s going to stop you. Want to put someone on a table, climb up into the rafters and go for a high spot on them? With multi-tiered interactivity, it’s now possible to re-create some of the great high-flying moments from WWE’s storied past. Most importantly, though, Yukes has listened intently to input from the fans, and are finally able to incorporate the crowd into the action. Along side the 3D fans now comes the ability to chuck your opponent into them, and have fans react much like they would on TV. That means patting the wrestler on the back, flying popcorn, and handing superstars bottles and weapons to use on vulnerable opponents.
As for modes, it appears that Season Mode is back, although the details regarding any brand new elements outside of the now-normal branching storylines were unclear. Also, the General Manager Mode, introduced in SvR 06, will be returning with more promised depth. Most importantly, in regard to online play, SvR 07 will support voice chat, although it’s unclear whether or not that extends to current-gen versions or just the next-gen installments. It will also feature over 50 online game modes. Hopefully, with the myriad of problems that Yukes has experienced in years past with online incorporation, it will be tweaked properly for this year’s installment. It’s also unclear at this point whether content downloads will be available for Xbox Live or PS3 online.
All in all, THQ’s next WWE game is looking positively stellar for the point in production that it’s at. There are some small visual things that should hopefully get cleaned up, like spotty collision detection, overly shiny characters, and awkward animations. Everything else, however, looks exactly how one would conceive the next-gen to appear. The new gameplay elements look to finally fulfill the wishes of hardcore wrestling game fans who’ve always wanted things like the ability to fight in the crowd to be implemented. While we weren’t able to play it, it sounds like the analog controls are a step in the right direction, as the analog stick went a long way in making Here Comes the Pain the best title in the series before SvR 06. We’ll keep you posted as progress on WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 continues throughout the following months.
Yes, its going to have play-by-play. Nobody is sure exactly what new wrestlers will be in it but expect people like bobby lashley and finlay and MNM, and kid kash and super crazy and so on. Also it should be interesting to see how they incorporate ECW as its been stated that there will be ECW talent in the game.