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WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2011: A return to form?

And here's us fresh out of 'men in pants' jokes...

For a while, Smackdown Vs Raw on Wii was a promising young thing. Gesture-controlled crotch chops, ladder matches where you had to physically 'tug' the briefcase from the hook... Yuke's 'got' Wii.

But just when the series was starting to develop into something a bit special, higher-ups at THQ drop-kicked all the exclusivity out of it.

Last year's Smackdown was basically a lo-res port of the Xbox version, and it seems that's how things are going to continue this year.

"Poor sales" is the official reason given for the decision. Pah! Slaves to capitalism, they are!

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At least we're not getting shortchanged; most of the features from the Xbox version are here, to the point where it's easier to list the things that haven't made the journey Wii-wards.

The biggest loss is the online functionality. On Xbox, there's a content-sharing system that lets you create a lifelike model of, say, Miranda Hart and upload her in all her man-sized glory to a database where other users can download and rate it. But this is a bit much for the Wii to handle.

Other features stripped include the new Havok physics engine, used to allow the player to stack ladders and tables in elaborate ways in TLC matches, and the new patented MuscleFlex technology, which means we're now more familiar with Randy Orton's chest than his wife is.

RAW DEAL
Everything else has made it in, which is great, but the only drawback is that these omitted features make up most of the new additions over last year's game.

It's a tame year-on-year update even by Smackdown standards, but at least on Xbox it's a purposeful one. On Wii, there are far fewer reasons to upgrade.

Far fewer, but there are at least some. The updated roster's already shaping up nicely, with Hall of Famer Bret 'Hitman' Hart returning after a lengthy absence, while at the other end of the experience scale, milky-white1 Irishman Sheamus - WWE champ at the time of writing - makes his videogame debut.

In other news, they've streamlined the notoriously complex controls by ditching the 'strong grapple modifier'.

It now decides whether your button press translates into a headlock or something a bit more impactful based on the physical condition of the opponent at the time of asking.

It's also a lot less particular about your set-up stance for a finisher or signature move, meaning that if you've got a special move in reserve, you can strike at any time.

If you're embroiled in certain gimmick matches, you'll find there are also more opportunities to hit your signature move.

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Each Superstar can hit their finisher off the top of the ladder during a TLC match, for example, while in a Hell In A Cell match they can trade it in for the opportunity to suplex their rival straight through the steel of the cage.

But if there's one new feature that's going to sell us on Smackdown 2011 it's the chance to run around backstage like a big kid.

The Road To WrestleMania mode has replaced its boring-as-Bob-Backlund menu system with a full re-enactment of a WWE backstage area, meaning you're free to roam around between matches causing chaos as you see fit.

All the WWE landmarks are included, such as the GM's office, the interview area and the Divas' make-up room - and they're all densely populated with men in underpants with whom you can interact.

ACCESS ALL AREAS
Stroll into the locker room, for instance, and you might find Randy Orton on the phone to the GM, moaning about the state of his digs.

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