With a new game in the SmackDown! series piledriving its way onto shelves every November, the perpetual quandary facing the developer is what can be added each year that hasn't been done already. The answer for SmackDown! vs Raw 2007, it seems, comes in the shape of a new interface, far greater control over grappling maneuvers... and a realistic new sweat system.
And as these brand new shots demonstrate, there's now also far more scope for scrapping outside the ring, thanks to a new 'fighting in the crowd' area, while members of the audience hand you weapons such as crutches and umbrellas. But it's not all about aesthetic upgrades. For Bryan Williams, the series' associate creative manager, one of the key improvements in this year's game is going to be in your opponents' intelligence.
"A huge complaint about previous games is that the [artificial intelligence] has been one-dimensional," he admits. "With next-gen, we have so much more horsepower that we can really strive to create AI that is comparable to playing against a real person. And that's one thing that I'm really looking forward to implementing this year."
With the game still five months from release, only four characters have been confirmed so far: Triple H, John Cena, Rey Mysterio and Kurt Angle. But the roster actually had to be finalized in April - meaning that Williams has to do a lot of educated guesswork with regards to which characters will still be relevant by the time the game hits shelves in November.