WWE ready for the next generation

WWE.com recently had a chance to check in with THQ about SmackDown vs. RAW, the hottest wrestling video game franchise on the market. SvR '07 just made its debut this week at E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. E3 is the biggest event in the video gaming industry and WWE has definitely laid the smack down on it.

When asked about how the game has been received at E3, Tracy Muniz, THQ's marketing representative, said "the press and retailers have been very responsive to the game, with the two most notable being Microsoft and Sony." Microsoft will release the game on their next generation console, the Xbox 360, and Sony will be releasing the game on PS2, PSP and eventually PS3. With those two corporate giants being onboard and extremely impressed with the new product, WWE knows that this year's version will be another smashing success.

The positive feedback didn't come easily though, "SmackDown vs. RAW '06 was released last November and our teams started working on the '07 release in October, so before the current release goes out we're already working on the next one," commented Tracy.

The ‘07 release will feature several new and upgraded features that will catapult the game to a whole new level. Every year the game gets better and better, and after speaking with THQ, 2008's version is going to be hard pressed to best the ‘07 incarnation.

So what made this year's version the talk of E3?

"The game has four big new features," said Tracy "These are the interactive fighting areas where the Superstars can fight in the crowd and even receive help from them (fans can provide weapons, signs to tear up or flaunt, etc.) There are the environmental hot spots that the players can interact with, like the steel ring steps and scaffolds. There's also a new innovative analog control system that will completely change the player's experience. We've also added new high impact movesets."

Beyond that, the game includes updated rosters for RAW and SmackDown (60 some odd Superstars, including legends) an upgraded General Manager Mode, a more non-linear and unique season mode and online multiplayer game play with voice chat support and stat tracking features.

"The countering and reversals system has also been revamped in this new version. You will be able to chain reversals and counters together repeatedly until one Superstar manages to come out on top. Players will be able to reverse and chain both strikes and grapples, which will allow for more exciting and dynamic matches," Tracy mentioned also.

When asked about the new graphics Tracy said "The graphics in the game will be dramatically improved. In last year's version each Superstar consisted of 500 polygons. This year they will be comprised of a staggering 20,000."

The Superstars are laser scanned to accurately record their body and facial features for the game. They also participate in motion capture sessions for their entrances and their signature moves.

When asked about the process, World Champion Rey Mysterio said, "The body scanning is a really cool experience, the machine circles around your head and face, capturing every little detail. They took pictures of each of my tattoos from different views. They took pictures from the front, from the side, facing down and so on. It's funny, I felt like I was in prison. It's amazing how real it looks, I saw myself on the cover of a magazine the other day and I couldn't believe how realistic it looked, it was like I was looking at a picture of myself, the eyes and everything were perfect."

After all the physical aspects are accounted for, the Superstars have to tend to the audio side of the game, recording hours of voiceovers. WWE.com also got a chance to speak with Chris Argento, Director of Audio Engineering for WWE, about just how much depth this game will have just considering the voiceovers and whatnot. "Each Superstar in the game recorded approximately 2-4 hours of audio for the game, and spent even more time just in the studio. They recorded for situations within the season mode storylines and various other aspects of the game that require it."

In addition to the Superstars having to record hours of audio, the commentators also had some serious studio sessions. "We had Michael Cole and Tazz in here, Cole recorded some 1,200 plus lines for the game," said Argento. Even Lilian Garcia came into the studio and recorded the introductions for each and every one of the Superstars. Nothing has been overlooked in this game. When asked if there were any moments that stood out throughout the recording process, Argento recalled the Chairman's time in the studio, "Mr. McMahon came into the studio to record several hours of storyline related audio and at one point he had screamed ‘you're fired' about 20-30 times in different tones and mannerisms, it was very unsettling."

Mysterio also commented on the audio recording process, saying that "it was really cool doing it this time because I have a much larger part now. You have to beat different people to be able to face me, I liked the process because it was like being in the ring because I had to be in there and get aspects of my personality across."

With WWE Superstars being on the road all the time and having little time to rest up and heal in between matches, these types of efforts cut into what little downtime they have. While it takes a lot of time and effort, WWE is committed to making sure that the game is as engaging and realistic as possible.

Everyone's efforts have definitely paid off though. At E3, THQ had to have private showings and play-testings of the game due to the hordes of WWE fans that were itching to get their hands on it.

While not everyone was able to play the new game at E3, they were able to stop by and check out Rey's actual ring gear from WrestleMania 22, complete with mask, tights and Aztec warrior headdress.

SmackDown vs. RAW '07 will be the first version of the series to be released on multiple platforms at the same time. The first release will be for Xbox 360, PS2 and PSP in November, with the PS3 release following afterwards.

WWE.com will keep the fans as up to date as possible with insider information and exclusive content. Stay tuned for the coming updates.

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