I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoy watching the dubya dubya ee. It’s on three times a week, has good versus evil and it’s never a repeat. In other words, it’s a soapie for men. Manly men. Men with brawn who enjoy watching oiled up guys in tights grapple and twist each other into pretzels. Ahem, moving on, there’s a pretty good chance that Vince McMahon has just slammed a former THQ representative through the conference table right about now. Without someone to publish a new wrasslin’ game, WWE needs to find a new home for their brand. And hopefully, they can get some new ideas into the franchise as well. Here’s six such ideas which they might want to consider.
Sometimes, you need to take a risk, and start afresh. Yukes has been developing WWE games for longer than a CM Punk title reign, and it’s become stale as a result. Maybe it’s the annual roll-out or the fact that they were comfortable in their position, but lately, WWE games are just plain boring and about as exciting as Jim Ross talking about hot sauces. WWE is in desperate need of some new blood, and there are plenty of talented studios out there who could step up to the plate. Take EA with their sports division, who made the criminally underrated MMA game that combined fluid controls with great looking character models.
Hell, the remnants of Vigil Games are now in a Crytek camp, why not give them a shot at the title? There are plenty of options out there, if WWE ever feels the need to cash in that franchise with someone that wants to handle it. Hell, give it back to Aki, now known as Syn Sophia games. Remember them? They’re the chaps who created the template for modern day wrestling games for WWE and WCW. Without them, we wouldn’t even have decent memories of digital Smackdowns.
Time to bring them back.
Less simulation, more over the top
When you tune in to watch RAW or Smackdown, you’re not doing it so that you can watch good competition and sportsmanship. You’re there to see the larger than life personas of these guys fight it out, to take an aluminium drum over the head and kendo stick to the nads. You want to see Stone Cold Steve Austin crack a beer on the head of whoever is unfortunate enough to be in the ring with him, before he lays them out with a stone cold stunner. And the gameplay in recent WWE games, is anything but that.
It’s become too complex, too convoluted and tiring. Just the fact that you need to perform a Konami code in order to land a suplex, should speak volumes. Take a look at the combat from other games lately. Take for example, Sleeping Dogs or Darksiders. Look how many moves are dealt from those systems, with the minimum amount of buttons needed to do so. And it’s done, in a way that doesn’t disconnect the player from the experience.
I’m not saying that Triple H needs some sort of Helmsley-sense that warns him about an incoming choke-slam, but just take a look at the flow of those combat scenarios. They’re fluid, dynamic and gloriously executed, much like a WWE match between top-level sports entertainers. A gaming extension of that brand should be able to achive the same results, without having to move like a stuttering jerk that has the IQ of Eugene.
If WWE could pull that kind of kinetic fast-paced action with their ludicrous performers, they’d have brand new fans overnight.
A more faithful AI
If the last two WWE games are any indicator, then video game AI has already reached a Skynet level of inflicting pain on gamers. WWE 12 and 13 are infamous for their godlike AI systems, programs which can read your mind and counter any move that you throw at them. And that’s just on the easy setting. Hell, the game won’t even let you past the main menu sometimes, because it knows that it’s going to beat you anyway.
That needs to change. But not in a way that makes the experience simpler. No, what WWE games need are AI patterns that are modelled after the personas of various wrestlers and such. A Ryback wrestler should be a steamroller that requires cunning and guile to defeat. Fighting Ric Flair should have players constantly guarding their little Hornswoggles.
Taking on the Undertaker at Wrestlemania should be an epic event where the character continues to absorb punishment and never gives up. That’s the kind of challenge that WWE games need, not some sort of light version of the heel and baby-face techniques commonly used.
Make winning a championship mean something
Ok, lets see. A couple of fights here, lasting about an hour, and I’m the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world once again this year. It’s the dream of every single sports entertainer. To wear one of the two main event WWE belts that the company has. But in the WWE games, it just feels like a “going through the motions” ordeal to grab that belt.
That’s not the way it’s meant to be. Creating a wrestler, or starting from scratch, should be result in a journey that deserves a DVD special. Fighting through matches, earning a number one contender spot or losing it due to backstage shenanigans, this should all be part of the core experience, not some tick-off the checklist gameplay scenario. It’s something that needs to be won after hours and hours of gameplay, so that the appreciation for that belt can sink in.
And keeping it should actually be even harder. There needs to be better interference, better odds and better challenges ahead. Once you have that title, you should be holding onto it for dear life. Not treating it like dirty laundry.
More up to date storylines
Watching WWE for a story is like watching TV hospital dramas in order learn medicine. A horrible idea, but somehow still fun. So why are we, in a connected age of internet and social media, forced to replay stories from a year ago? Why can’t we just get a quick download of the latest angle that emerged from backstage at RAW? It’d be a joy to actually take part in events that are for more recent. Hell, putting your own stamp on the match of the week would be worth the experience alone, but actually having an impact on storylines and events? Now that’s a WWE Universe that I want to join.
Give the fans a voice
Here’s something that I want to see, and would make owning a Kinect worthwhile. Imagine creating a wrestler, and then setting up certain gestures using the Kinect or a game menu system. Flex those muscles, throw a cool pose and talk some smack before a match with an online foe. In all honesty, none of us will ever have the time and resources to train ourselves into peak physical condition, let alone possess the fortitude and skill necessary, to be a WWE superstar.
But that’s why we play the games. That’s why we relive those moments in history, from the epic hardcore belt championship from Wrestlemania 18, through to the epic build up the confrontation that the Rock and John Cena had last year. It’s those moments that fans love and cherish. And WWE games are content to just piss them away for stock-standard gameplay instead. There’s a universe of WWE fans out there.
Maybe it’s time to actually make them feel worthwhile again.