Previews

Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 gameplay preview

THQ invents new ways to create the pain

"This is your moment". That's the mantra for Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 and, judging by this year's offering, when the Smackdown team say 'moments', they're talking about those "Holy sh*t!" moments specifically.

The in-ring mechanics of Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 aren't too different to anything seen previously. Grappling moves are still executed using the right analogue stick and enough of them will build up your ability to perform a signature move - and, ultimately, a finishing move.

What the guys at Yukes have spent a lot of time on, however, is the in-ring physics engine. In a simple, respectful one-on-one exhibition match you won't notice a scrap of difference - but start playing around with foreign objects such as tables, ladders and chairs and it all becomes clear.

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Basically, it comes down to interaction and how the wrestlers respond when they are thrown into a set of ring-side steps, for example, thanks to a much larger set of animations and more specific impact zones.

Let's set up a particularly sadistic scenario: We're Randy Orton and we want to inflict a bit of pain on The Miz because, frankly, we don't think he is that awesome. (The Miz, for those that don't know, thinks he is more than a little awesome).

Putting The Miz through a table this year is all the more satisfying and accessible because not only do the tables break differently every time - but they can be broken with any impact move like a slam, suplex or throw. Take that, non-awesome Miz.

To make sure dishing out the pain is even easier still, you can direct your slam mid-move to target the table perfectly - much like you might add curve to a shot in PES once the ball has left your boot.

We didn't quite hit the table plum the first time - it's not an exact science - and the left leg collapsed without any real crowd popping damage. So, leaving The Miz writhing on the mat, we had to set-up the table again and go for another suplex. In the real world this would be inconvenient - we don't have The Undertaker down as much of a makeshift carpenter - but in the game it feels like the real world. Geddit? Smiles all round.

But what if The Miz - or any other awesome-adverse fool - is really getting on your nerves? Well this year, ladders lying on the ground actually register as being 'in existence' when your opponent lands on them. Again, the appropriate reaction is present and nicely exaggerated.

If you feel a bit more inventive, you can prop the ladder against the ropes and drop your opponent (read: The Miz... we really don't like The Miz) on it from a great height. More high-flying superstars can even use it as a ramp to do a running dive from the ring.

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The bottom line is that everything is more reactive and unpredictable this year. Weapons won't slide out of the way as wrestlers fall on to them. If you drop onto the ropes from a great height, the reaction is realistic; you could land on your arm, your neck, your balls and the animation fits.

Take it up a notch with Hell In A Cell and the avenues for pain are similarly increased. The SvR team told CVG that last year's HIAC wasn't all that fun to play - so this time the cell is much bigger with room to run around outside the ring and play with weapons.

There are also more cell-specific animations for battering, grating and slamming your opponent against the walls - and even finishers tailor-made to break through the cage to the outside.

BACKSTAGE ANTICS
There are two main additions to life outside the ring in SvR 2011. First up is what's called 'WWE Universe', which rolls career mode and exhibition mode into one.

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