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E3 2011: WWE '12 – hands-on with the rebooted wrassler

“It's about goddamn time,” we thought while demoing WWE '12. Why are we so relieved? For starters, the biggest change to the WWE franchise – besides dropping the SmackDown vs Raw nonsense – is the new engine, a change fans have been craving, nay demanding for years. Fresh from THQ's ginormous booth at E3, we sampled a bit of the new changes that fans can expect this fall.

Well for starters, that new engine is the biggest deal of all for a series that started annual titles in the late nineties. You notice the little things at first; little to no morphing, smoother animation and the ability to interrupt moves. For example, when John Cena preps his Five Knuckle Shuffle, wrestlers no longer teleport to the center of the ring. And on top of that, the opponent can pop up and clothesline Cena's damn head off before he can connect with his lame-ass move.

Strikes feel less like strung together canned animations and now like a series of moves you pull off in a combo. Selecting Alberto del Rio and taking on Randy Orton, we immediately noticed how fluid and more lifelike del Rio's kicks were as they landed on Orton's body. We know there's no way del Rio can kick like that in real life, but it's a huge leap from previous years.

Recently, the grapple control was taken away from the right stick and now resigns on one button, which can then be modified with the Right Bumper. Press a face button and you can target limbs with armbars and various other submissions. We kept trying to wear down Orton with these moves to prepare for our armbar submission.

Perhaps our favorite new change to the core gameplay was the new Up taunt. When you have a downed opponent, you can flick up on the Taunt stick. This makes your wrestler taunt and showboat to the crowd as your opponent groggily gets to his feet. These are perfect setups to finishers, but aren't apart of the finisher animation, leaving time for you to reverse a finisher. We saw Orton drop to his stomach and pound the mat with his fists in trademark style as del Rio struggled to standup. Our energy was too low to reverse the move and he pounced with an RKO.

We were able to escape the pin and lock del Rio's armbar submission in. Submissions are now button-tap affairs. Just keep hitting those buttons to either make your opponent submit or escape the attempt. Orton got out of our move and we walked right into another RKO. Out of nowhere. Pin and that was it.

According to THQ, this year is their “best lineup yet.” We only saw del Rio, Orton, Cena and The Miz. We don't know who else is coming back or what legends will be available. We also weren't able to learn about Road to WrestleMania modes, or Create modes. We just know they left blood in, despite the TV-PG rating. So there's that.

WWE '12 will release fall this year. Check back for more coverage.

June 9, 2011