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WWE '12 Hands-On Preview

WWE '12 Hands-On Preview

Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Wrestling

Earlier this month I got a chance to head down and check out the final build of THQ’s upcoming WWE 12. This year marks a big year for the yearly wrestling franchise as the series has been “completely rebooted” so to speak. WWE 12 contains a new animation and renderer engine, the presentation and visual look as been enhanced, and the focus is on the core gameplay. Since E3, THQ has released snippets of what was to come, includling creating your own arena, new gameplay strategies, roster reveals, customization options, and many other gameplay elements. We were there to see the unveiling the two of the bigger modes for single player play: Universe 2.0 and Road to Wrestlemania. After learning what was new and what is being offered in these areas, I think I can say that this game is definitely an improved experience all around.

Universe 2.0 can be best described at WWE 12’s franchise mode and this year the amount of creativity, freedom, and options is mind numbing. You basically create your own show and ‘season’ so to speak. Seeing a virtual WWE episode of Raw or Smackdown in the game was pretty cool, given that you are in total control of so many things. Being able to control title matches, fight types, and even being able to hold the event an arena you designed, is not only amazing, but it gives you that whole “I am in control” feeling.

The role of the AI in Universe 2.0 is pretty amazing. First off, you can actually watch the AI matches during the show, and should you feel the need you can interfere with them causing new events in the story to happen down the line. Of course the AI will also be able to interfere with your own matches as well, as all is fair play in love and war. Prior to being let lose for some gameplay, we treated to a on of the match that the dev-team were playing in this mode. All of a sudden a virtual Brock Lesner came out and interfered at the end on the match on screen. This was one of the big surprises in store for us, as he had yet to be formally announced. Once Brock came out and did his thing, he was then unlocked in the Universe 2.0 Mode and he became part of the overall story.

New to the Universe 2.0 world is what is known as “momentum”. As you make your way through the events and year, you will win (and lose) matches throughout. As you do so this momentum meter fills up and actually influences your record. Of course the more momentum you have, the more it will help you win; however, start to lose, your momentum goes down and it can have quite a negative effect on your wrestler and it will take quite a magical match to start to get you out of the doldrums. After thinking about it, this makes so much sense as anyone knows that in real life athletes do indeed benefit from momentum as they perform better when things are going good, and they have slumps when things seem to be going bad.

Along the lines of personal customization in Universe 2.0, you can bring in your personal created arenas for events. This is kind of cool given that it is yet another personal feature that gives the game particular touches that you are in control of. Not to rest on their laurels, you can populate the whole universe with your own custom created characters. There are up to 50 slots to fill, so if you have the time, and creativity, you can have all your own custom wrestlers fill the world in front of you.

Universe 2.0 is not the only mode to get some improvements this year, as the Road to Wrestlemania also has received an overhaul. The theme to this year’s Road to Wrestlemania mode is Hero, Villain, Outsider. The biggest change is that rather than a bunch of small storylines, the dev-team wanted to provide BIG experience, so this year there are three (3) storylines combined into one continuous story that lasts for 18 months (virtually speaking). You will play one character, and as you play out this story it will eventually lead into the next. Each character’s story is 6 months (virtually speaking).

As we got the chance to watch various key moments in the Hero, Villain, and Outsider moments, it was clear that the Road to Wrestlemania modes wants you to experience the whole path and story of each wrestler, and not just play the game. Although it is a somewhat linear experience, as you have to complete specific objectives, there is enough variety in the gameplay with challenges and surprises to keep it somewhat fresh and not as linear feeling as it really is.

Diehard WWE fans will notice that some liberties have been taken with the storylines and matches in Road to Wrestlemania. This decision was made in order to make some of the storylines even more monumental and to provide a bit of fantasy in the world of WWE. For example, and a bit of a spoiler here, in Road to Wrestlemania Triple H is a 15-time champion, vying for his 16th championship, which would be a WWE record. In reality he is a 13-time champion. Being able to try to control destiny in order to establish a new WWE record adds to the intensity and reward in this area. Some purists may have issue with this type of liberty, but in the end I think that this makes WWE 12’s Road to Wrestlemania an even more story like experience.

After our introduction to the Universe 2.0 and Road to Wrestlemania modes, we were let lose to play the game.

Visually, the game seems to be vastly improved. One of the biggest things that I noticed was the stadium/arena crowd. They are more animated this time around and they seem to be part of the experience so to speak. They are fully polygonal too, which adds to the realism of those in the seats around the ring. They really do manage to bring the stadium/arenas alive during the match.

In regards to the in-ring action, I again noticed some very key improvements. Most notable for me was that breaking out of animations is much normal this year. It seems that when the wrestlers are going from move to move, the transition to each move is smooth and they seem less “canned”, meaning it does not feel like a set animation and they seem to take place more on the fly. If anything the wrestlers seemed to move more natural and it keeps you in the match so to speak as is must seems like you are in the game rather then watching it. Individual WWE stars look better than ever too with rippling muscles, bulging chests, and all the style and pizazz that usually comes along with them (e.g. tattoos, costumes, etc).

Controls have been revamped this year. Although the control feels scaled back somewhat, allowing for more casual fans or newbies to the virtual WWE experience to have some success playing, there is still quite a bit of depth for those wishing to master the really fancy moves of wrestling. Reversals, which play a key role in the past WWE games, are different this year too. No more just going from reversal to reversal, and repeat, which could happen more often than not. This year there is more variety with reversals given the types that will occur, as some will end up in spectacular moves, while others may give you (or your opponent) a chance to counter. This was something that I appreciated given I was able to pull of a few more then usual, but they did not end up in a reversal ‘jousting’ match so to speak.

Although we were given a few hours with the game, I only just scratched the surface of WWE 12. Given what we were shown, and what I had the chance to actually play, this year is definitely a year that WWE fans should sit up and take notice, as the next iteration in THQ’s wrestling game is really looking to take the virtual WWE experience to the next level.


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