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The lights dim. The audience quietens to an excited hush. In stomps the first combatant, 90 percent macho posturing and 10 percent dewy perspiration. He looks to the crowd and waves the patented John Cena taunt - a hand fluttering in front of his face signifying that “you can’t see me.” Only this isn’t John Cena, the 280lb current holder of the WWE Championship. It’s a 100lb game developer from Japan. Welcome to WWE on Wii.
For many gamers the announcement of the SmackDown! franchise’s arrival on a Nintendo console couldn’t come soon enough. Developer Yuke’s’ GameCube outings, while solid enough, always felt like a lower-tier, pre-show, warm-up act, as opposed to the real-deal WWE Superstars. So the decision to unleash their A-list content on a Nintendo console is to be applauded. However, the Wii is no ordinary Nintendo console, perhaps explaining why we found ourselves watching two Yuke’s employees pulling all manner of hammy theatrics to help demonstrate the game.
Although carrying the SmackDown! vs Raw 2008 name, the Wii version is a very different beast from its next-gen siblings. The magic words of the franchise as a whole this year are “putting control back into the player’s hands.” On consoles not blessed with motion sensor witchcraft, this means limiting the HUD and tightening up wrestler animation to better match control input. Snore. Isn’t this meant to be wrestling, the ADD-addled child of the sporting world? Glistening macho behemoths don’t care about HUDs and animation response times; they care about bellowing and unleashing punches to your face.
It’s a sport based on mugging, and the Wii does nothing better. Precise controls aren’t set in stone, but the choice to pursue a full-blooded fist-flinging scheme, as opposed to anal analog stick tweakings, has been made. In the early version we saw, you direct your mobile muscular mound with the analog stick and command attacks with remote flails. A simple punch is simply a case of pushing the remote out in front of you à la Wii Sports Boxing.