More replayability value than Here Comes the Pain? Woo Woo Woo…You KNOW it!

Replayability value, what exactly what does that mean? And what does it entail to the core gaming community behind the Smackdown vs RAW series? You could probably ask twenty different people and get twenty different answers. What one person considers to be the key thing that will keep them playing a game for months on end after a release isn’t exactly the same for the next person, so on and so forth.

Despite what the people wish to believe, THQ understands that. They sympathize with you and they want nothing more than to produce the best game they can on a yearly basis. Ask any fan of the EA Sports or 2K franchises and they will tell you that making a yearly sports title isn’t easy. Deadlines are in order, things have to be met and as much as you want everything to be in the game each and every year…It frankly just isn’t possible.

WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2010 packed more into that game from 2009 to 2010 than they ever have before. It kept me entertained, but the lack of single player experience mixed with a unplayable online system left me feeling empty and ready to move on. Ready to look at the foundation of the things such as Storyline Designer and paint tool creation and just imagine what 2011 would bring to the table.

Well this weekend I got some substantial hands on time with SVR 2011, and let me tell you this. Everything that I saw got me excited. From the newly done WWE Universe to enhance your exhibition experience. To the Road to Wrestlemania with roaming backstage areas, branching paths, and side quests. To the online which I was able to play inside a 6 person hell in a cell and experience this years servers…I was impressed. I was blown away, and the wait to October 26th which only seemed like a mere two months away now feels like an eternity.

I’m trying to think of where to begin, we saw and learned so much in such a short period of time it was a lot to take in, to be honest I’m still reeling from the whole experience as I type these impressions. I guess we shall start with the top and work our way down…

First of all, you have the WWE Universe. A living WWE inside of your game. With rankings, champions, rivalries, friendships…the works! Its all there and available for you to experience and customize anyway you’d like!
When you boot up the game and are taken to the main menu on the bottom of the screen you’ll see a banner in yellow lights, almost as if you were looking at one of those scroll screens outside of your local arena. Announcing the next show (Whether its RAW, Superstars, Smackdown, or a PPV) and going down the card.

You can then go and play the show if you’d like or you can just sim it or change the matches to things of your liking. The best part is the game will adapt and understand the directions you wish to take things and seems to work around you. Not to mention this just isn’t some over the top exhibition match as WWE Universe comes complete with over 100 cutscenes or “moments” as I think THQ would like them to be called. Just watching some of the things that could be done in WWE Universe had me speechless, in reality this is what GM Mode should have been all those years ago. Now we have WWE Universe and people clamoring for a return of GM Mode will never even think about that mode again.

While you aren’t taking control of your own WWE Universe you can hop into the revamped Road to Wrestlemania, no longer is it the lather, rinse, repeat formula of match, cutscene, hud, match. You again find yourself immersed in the WWE Universe. When you arrive at the arena for the next show you start off in the parking lot and then are left to venture throughout the arena observing and talking to other wrestlers. Witnessing other storylines unfold around you that really have nothing to do with the current storyline you are playing but really sucks you in to believe you’re actually apart of the WWE. That you are the character of which you selected on your Road to Wrestlemania. Apparently there are alot of branching paths this year as well, keeping you coming back for more to find more unlockables and items on your quest.

As you play through this mode the matches will become increasingly more difficult as you get towards the end of the superstars story and that is where the superstar points that you earn from doing things in this mode will come into play, allowing you to upgrade your superstar in terms of endurance, durability, technical prowess, and more. With each story lasting around eight hours a piece if you complete everything in them I guarantee you this is one mode you are going to be playing for a good long while to get through everyones story and get everything unlocked.

If you’re looking for match improvements, well you’re in luck there too as the long awaited restructuring of the Hell in a Cell has occurred for SVR 2011. With a much bigger area to brawl around the ring as well as the introduction of weapons, this will make fans of this match giddy when they play the redone cell for the first time.

If you’re a fan of the Divas, which I am you’ll be happy to know that although they still can’t wrestle against the guys they can compete in all match types this year. (Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber, Extreme Rules, etc.) We were basically told when it came to diva on diva action, nothing was off limits…and really, that’s the way it should be.

Create a Superstar is back and better than ever with the return of patterns, tons of new 3D items, more realistic models, and…wait for it…wait for it! No more attribute grinding! That’s right! Did it ever annoy you when you would make your favorite WWE Legend or TNA wrestler and they would start with like a 40 overall? Well you don’t have to worry about that ever again. You set their stats right from the get go and take them right to the squared circle exactly how you wished them to be when you were done grinding in the first place.

Speaking of create features, storyline designer is back. Although they aren’t ready to talk about it yet they said they have added some pretty cool stuff to it. And I can’t wait to see what that could be. I for one want more cutscenes. You also see the return of Superstar Threads which allows you to customize the color of the superstars and divas outfits more than ever before. And if that doesn’t get you excited, I can tell you that create a finisher has returned with a new position against the turnbuckle. You want to give CM Punk the Pepsi Plunge? You can! You want to do a 720 degrees spinning razors edge off the top rope? You can! Some of the stuff I saw you can do from the corner is insane! You’re going to love it!

One of the things I didn’t love last year and was one of my biggest issues like many of you were the online features, whether it be the lag that made online matches unplayable or the Community Creations where whatever you downloaded could not be touched or edited. Well enough of that! THQ heard you and they agreed with you. This year anything you download in community creations can be edited to your liking. Be it look, moveset, entrance, whatever. You want it? You got it! And as far as the online play goes…playing inside a six man hell in a cell on the online servers and experiencing nothing more than some slight frame rate issues when weapons got involved got me pumped up about how great online is going to be this year. Thus playing on an early build with two months away from the release I’m fairly certain that those little frame rate issues will be taken care of in time for launch.

I walked away from this game blown away with once again how much THQ did in a year, I’m sure I’m forgetting more tidbits and details about my experiences with the game this weekend but fear not. Mike will be on hand with his impressions as well. We also recorded a podcast that should be up now featuring the two of us talking about the game, as well as an interview with the man, the myth, the legend…Bryan Williams!

So I hope you enjoyed this hands-on preview of Smackdown vs RAW 2011, be sure to check out the rest of the coverage on the site and be sure to hit me up in the forums and on twitter with your questions, If I know the answer, I’ll do my best to answer it for you guys. But for now…the long wait to October 26th begins. 

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