The SmackDown vs. Raw series has been going on for quite some time now, with the first title appearing in 2004. It managed to forged a successful place in the market, despite competing against many other yearly sports titles, with a solid gameplay model and plenty of additional features. But all good things have to come to an end, and with the arrival of WWE '12, that end has been signalled. The franchise is now simply dubbed WWE and THQ has taken this moment to spruce up the entire experience.
WWE '12 has been in development for approximately 2 years and it's the first game to be developed exclusively for current generation systems. This means there won't be any versions for either the PlayStation 2 or PlayStation Portable. It's only going to feature on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.
To highlight this change, this WWE experience will be quite different from those in recent years. The grapple system has been modified, so there's no longer the opportunity to do weak or strong grapples. Instead, the game is now more context sensitive. Your wrestler will perform different moves depending on the situation and your opponent's physical state. Some might see this as a step back, but it's been done to stop people from using the same move repeatedly.
The pinning system has also been changed making it much more difficult to kick out - it's now based more on skill, as opposed to just button mashing. In previous games, the more damaged you got, the slower the bar would move up during your button mashing. However, in WWE '12, it's more about timing. The more damaged your wrestler gets, the better your timing needs to be.
That's not all though, as Yuke's, the developer behind the series, has added some other more minor elements too. For example, the addition of a new taunt. Previously, if you wanted to land a finished, you had to wait for the right opportunity - now you can force the issue a bit. Downed opponents can now be taunted to their feet, a perfect set up for finishers such as Sweet Chin Music or the RKO. Conversely, downed players will also be able to perform a "Dynamic Comeback", which will allow them to come back from the brink
It just feels as though Yuke's has taken the extra time to refine the whole experience and make it more true to the TV. Case in point, there's now a new camera angle that mirrors the one used on the TV shows. And there are of course still the dramatic camera shifts when big moves are performed. But it's this kind of thing that fans appreciate.
Fans will also be pleased to hear that Yuke's are introducing a new animation system, which they've called "Predator Technology." It should hopefully see the end of some things like, warping around the ring when certain moves are performed. The game's collision detection has also been stepped up to make the experience more realistic.
When looking at WWE '12, it's great to see that THQ still takes this franchise very seriously and aren't content to just churn out a game every year. WWE '12 could well be the most visceral and engaging WWE experience we've seen so far, which can only be seen as a good thing.
It's due for release on the 25th of November, 2011 on PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii.