Nov 13, 2007
Right now, WWE is all about fresh starts. The show has cleaned up its act by suspending 11 wrestlers - roughly 3,000 lbs of disgrace - for their use of body-enhancing pharmaceuticals, and the SmackDown! vs Raw franchise makes its debut on Wii.
An arcade-y experience at heart, the ethos behind WWE on Wii is the opening up of the full flamboyant wrestling experience to even the greenest of wrassling aficionados. With the moves mapped not onto replicated motions but directional flicks, even a beginner can see the entire move set within their first five minutes of play - a claim the more complicated multi-console version can't make. Controls are based largely on context-sensitive actions. If you're not within slapping-distance of your rival, a flick of the remote will see you run toward them for a clothesline. Close up, the same flick delivers a meaty chop with the back of your hand. Combine flicks with A, B or both and you'll instigate strong and light grapples or signature moves. Doing the same over a downed opponent will allow for the kinds of tweaks and squeezes that a resting wrestler could do without.
For the most part, the context-sensitive actions are subtly woven into the controls; they begin to unravel in the more ambitious, multi-tiered moves. Say, for example, you've seized your rival about the neck with your muscular hand-clamp. At this point you can heft him up in the air and follow with a choke slam or you could bring him down into a chiropractor-gone-wrong bit of spine stretching. A D-pad icon flashes in the corner indicating which directional flicks will progress the current move into its next stage, turning fluid wrestling into a series of bizarre logic gate exercises, throwbacks to when we learned rudimentary electronics at school: if wrestler is in grip THEN you can raise him OR slam him. If raised you can slam AND/OR parade him AND/OR swing him to the side. It almost enters interactive cutscene territory - not helped by a theatrical camera that sporadically shifts to 'record' close-ups of certain moves. But, and it's a but aimed at the wrestling-ignorant crowd, for the ease of control this is almost forgivable.
Banging someone over the head with a folded chair with a violent remote jerk is immensely satisfying - helped in no small part by a juddering light effect used to emphasise chair-on-skull shock. And picking up and slamming down a wrestler is terrific fun, especially after the hit-and-miss control recognition of Wii Sports boxing. It may be horridly simplified, but only to the extent that it works. Arcade-like controls are matched with an arcade-y mechanic that allows for health to be regained by pulling off silly signature taunts. Holding C and performing the taunt with your hands is great for a health respite, but it would have been nice for the game to have included precise gesture instructions for uninformed players. If you don't know how 'You Can't See Me' is performed, you can't see it.