February 6, 2007 - Sometimes games just get into a rut. That's how I feel about a lot of what I see in games with a year attached to the title. Developers feel they need to include every feature the game had last year, add a few top-line items they can sell on the back of the box, update rosters, and boom, the game sells a million no matter what the ultimate product plays like. But when is enough enough? When is it time to scrap what you've got and head in a new direction? It's a tough decision to justify, I'm sure, especially when the cash register keeps ringing like it does with the WWE Smackdown series.
And don't get me wrong, I have fun with WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007, but there is so much that needs to be fixed, so many areas that need to be addressed, I think when we look to the future, I would actually like to see a less is more approach. If by less features, less match types that means the ones that are in the game are done right, I say hell yeah.
Here are 10 ideas I've come up that I think would help the direction of the series...
1. Online Royal Rumble
With so many pay-per-views and brands, why do we only get one WWE game a year? I would actually rather see games based around the pay-per-views than one all encompassing WWE title. Here is my idea: WWE Royal Rumble. Career mode is about creating your character and winning the Rumble. They add all kinds of additions to the Rumble gameplay with players skinning the cat ala Shawn Michaels, more double and triple team moves, and more focus paid to the various ways people are eliminated from the match. To top it off, you can play 30-man Royal Rumbles online where gamers draw a number then wait for their music to hit before walking that aisle and jumping into the fray. If done right, this would be one of the most popular games online, especially if you can bring created characters into the mix. You can have a lobby with WWE Superstars only, one with created characters, one where anything goes. I think by trying to add every match type known to man in the Smackdown series, THQ is actually limiting the excitement of the main features people want to play. By coming out with multiple games throughout the year, you can focus on events like the Rumble, like the Survivor Series, or even games based around matches like the Elimination Chamber and Hell in a Cell, and finally give fans the full blown versions of these matches they deserve.
2. Downloadable Content
Speaking of giving fans what they want, one of the main complaints people have about Smackdown 07 is the terribly out of date roster. The thing is, the designers of the game spend countless hours trying to get everything as detailed as possible for each and every character in the game, so when a wrestler quits or gets fired it's not like they have extra character models already done to swap into place. Next thing you know, someone like Kenny is a breakout star from the Spirit Squad or Jeff Hardy is the IC champ, but it's already too late to throw them into the game because all that's left to do is bug testing. This is where THQ should learn from EA and 2K Sports. Downloadable rosters. Even if they're only adding one character a month, that's one character to look forward to. That's one new wrestler to freshen up story mode or battles with your roommate. Top it off with downloadable outfits for wrestlers already in the game, and gimmick changes can happen with the click of a button just like adding throwback jerseys in Madden. I think THQ needs to look more and more at sports games for inspiration.
3. Chairs Don't Disappear
Maybe it's just me, but nothing bugs me more than smacking someone in the head with a chair, then watching that chair disappear in the ring. I know, I know, wrestling is choreographed violence so I'm already suspending reality to some degree, but if you want to make me feel like what I'm playing is real, have the chair get bent to crap, have the ref kick it out of the ring, have my opponent throw it into the crowd…anything but having the weapon just disappear. One of the stupidest things in all of gaming.
4. Old Timers Retired for a Reason
I love legends, but why add random old guys into the mix just for the sake of adding them. If it makes sense, I'm all for it. Say for the Royal Rumble game I mentioned earlier, they signed a bunch of old-timers who have won or made an impact in the past, then randomly stuck two or three of them in every Rumble just to keep you on your toes and maintain the element of surprise. Or how about if THQ finally straightens out the AI in tag matches, then all of the legends are famous tag teams you need to defeat to get your team to that same Hall of Fame status. My ultimate dream, though, is a WWE Legends game. I say, let the young guys have their game, let the legends have theirs. The idea Acclaim had with the old Legends of Wrestling was great, and it would only be better with a real wrestling engine and the backing of WWE. More on the link below!