The superb arcade action cartoon that was this year’s WWE Allstars almost certainly had something to do with it, but THQ’s decision to completely overhaul their popular WWE Smackdown Vs Raw series seems like a very shrewd move indeed. Despite the fact that the most recent iteration was as solid as all of the others (and probably even more so) the formula was undoubtedly beginning to become a little stale, and WWE 12 – due for release later this year – is looking like just the ticket.
The build of the game that we saw in action was only an early bit of pre-Alpha code, but the changes are already blindingly obvious. Characters move faster, movesets are much more varied, physics for both the canvas and the ropes now directly affect the gameplay, and the visuals are genuinely terrific; the most striking aspect being the new addition of a TV-like depth-of-field, which makes the crowd in the background appear in the same hazy hue that they do when you see them on live TV.
One thing that we could gather from our brief bit of hands-on time was that one new gameplay mechanic – the ability to target limbs within the grapple system – is an extremely cool one. When you’re in a grapple, and then hit one of the shoulder buttons in conjunction with one of the four face buttons, you’ll execute a move (specific to each weight class) that will target one of four body parts; and if you know your favourite fighter’s special moves and finishers, you’ll want to use this in conjunction with them.
Other details were a little bit scarce – it’s still in its pre-alpha stages, after all – but it’s looking like a real step in the right direction. A brief chat with one of the producers of the game revealed that the development team still regard the WWE games that were released on the Nintendo 64 as something of a high water mark for wrestling games, and anyone who played those back in the day will probably agree with him. It’s a very good indication of where they’re going with it.
WWE 12 is currently due for release on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii on 25th November 2011.
Watch the WWE 12 trailer here: