WWE 12 may have a new shorter, snappier title, but there’s certainly no shortage of content. The latest game features more than 60 wrestlers, both past and present, 80 match types, new modes and a whole new animation system. With only a week to go before its release, we chat to lead gameplay designer Bryan Williams about the upcoming game, rebranding an established franchise, The Rock, Survivor Series and what it’s like to work with the WWE.


Why did you decide to change the name from Smackdown vs. Raw to WWE 12?
“It was a name that was a mouthful to say ‘WWE: Smackdown vs. Raw 2000‘ and whatever. And not only that, it just wasn’t really synonymous with what we were producing. Every year we produce a game that encapsulates the entire WWE in one year. We don’t focus so much on brands, as opposed to the whole of the company.

“And with the new ‘Predator Technology’ that we have powering the game and the improvements we’ve made with the new animation system, everything fell into place where it was just the perfect time for us to start fresh, get rid of the old and in with new, which is WWE 12, a name that better encapsulates what we offer. We have Smackdown superstars, Raw superstars, some NXT guys and legends. We are that yearly WWE snapshot.”

WWE 12 screenshotHow does this differ from a Smackdown vs. Raw game?
“We definitely have a lot of cool gameplay additions this year. Probably the biggest difference between this and the Smackdown vs. Raw series is that we’ve gone back to using the face buttons. Grappling used to be handled with the right analogue stick, so we’ve gone back to using the face buttons for your grappling and striking, just to make the game more accessible to new players and those who aren’t used to playing.

“Seeing as how that’s the first thing that everybody tries when they play the game anyway, it was a little off-putting having it on the right analogue stick. In addition to the control change, we’ve added new wake-up taunts, which is brand new to the game. These are special taunts you can use if you have a stored finisher icon. You can use it to summon an opponent off the ground and basically have them feed directly into the performance of a finishing move.

“It’s something that you see a lot on WWE television where Randy Orton, for example, will drop to the ground, start hitting the mat with his forearms and summon an opponent up, and when they’re up you can perform a finishing move. It’s a small thing, but one that really has the potential to change the way you play. We also have new comeback abilities, which occur once a superstar receives a certain amount of damage. If you’re a fan of wrestling, you know that when one superstar is getting beat down, there’s that one moment when they say “no more”, which is followed by a momentum shift.

“So we have superstar specific comeback sequences, one for John Cena, one for Randy Orton who does his clothesline, clothesline, powerslam combination – these comebacks are quick time events, and if you do it successfully, you get the opportunity to perform your signature move followed by your finisher. So you can go from near defeat to staging one of these dramatic comebacks and get a victory, but only if you’re quick enough.”WWE 12 screenshot

Which new feature are you most excited about?
“The one that I really like, and it isn’t the sexiest or most glamorous new feature, is the limb targeting. It allows you to pinpoint your grapple attacks to an opponent’s body part. We’ve always had a limb damage system, but never a way to specifically target them. You used to have to remember a superstar’s moveset and which moves damaged which body part, but now you can hold the bumper button and attack the leg, attack the arm, attack the head, and doing so will produce a gameplay-altering side-effect.

“So if you target the head, your opponent will transition into a groggy state a lot easier. If you damage their legs, you take away their speed and their running will become impaired. This gives it a strategical element, so you can take away someone like Rey Mysterio’s legs and aerial ability.”

How closely do you work with the WWE and its superstars when you make each game?
“We work very closely with the WWE in different aspects of production. Guys like Randy Orton, The Miz and Sheamus have been out at press events spreading the good word of WWE 12. We also have the superstars who have lent their voices to ‘The Road To Wrestlemania’ mode. They’ve been nice enough to work before they work, because we would actually travel with the WWE and pick up wrestler voiceovers while they’re at the arena. So before they go on for an episode of Raw or Smackdown, they’ll step into our trailer and record their lines. This year has been the best ever for voiceover work in the game.

“Then there’s the motion capture. We usually use our own set of motion capture guys, but every now and then there are things that our group of guys just can’t do. Evan Bourne, for example, does a really unique shooting star splash. We actually had Evan come in and motion capture that for us. The WWE want the game to be as authentic as possible, and nobody performs a shooting star quite like Evan Bourne. They’re great partners.”

Do you get to meet many of the WWE superstars?
“I meet a lot through mocap. Tyson Kidd is a good friend of mine and Natalya, who’s awesome.”

How about Vince McMahon?
“I have been in the room with Vince McMahon. We were backstage at a Raw event once, promoting one of the previous Smackdown vs. Rawgames, and in walks Vince McMahon. He definitely has a presence and there’s a real air about him. To be honest, it was somewhat intimidating – you know, there’s the man himself. I didn’t speak to him, but he was there reviewing what we’ve done. He’s that hands-on with everything, the WWE is his baby and you can tell, he cares about everything that goes on with his show.”

WWE 12 screenshotWho’s your favourite new superstar in the game?
“That’s easy, my favourite is Daniel Bryan. I’ve been a big fan of his since he was back wrestling in the independents as Bryan Danielson, and I’ve seen him wrestle at a lot of WWE events. He’s an awesome performer.”

Does he have the Money in the Bank suitcase in the game?
“Unfortunately he doesn’t, no, but he doesn’t really use it as part of his gimmick in the same way that The Miz used to.”

Which non-WWE wrestler would you like to see appear in the game?
“Hm, that’s a good one. Definitely AJ Styles who wrestles in TNA. He has such a dynamic moveset and is such a flashy superstar, but he’s fundamentally-sound as well. He has a fantastic look to him, I’d love to have an AJ Styles in the game or even a Samoa Joe. One day, who knows, fingers crossed.”

Who’s your favourite legend in WWE 12?
“It sounds like a clichéd answer, but I’m going to have to say The Rock. I got into wrestling in about 1996, my friend told me I had to see this guy, The Rock, and the first time I heard him cut a promo my jaw just dropped and I was hooked. I’ve been hooked ever since. The Rock is my Hogan, he’s the one who got me into wrestling.”

Do you think he’ll do a good job at Survivor Series?
“I think so, yes. I’m really rooting for him.”

Speaking of Survivor Series, out of all of the WWE superstars past and present, whether they’re in the game or not, who would you include in your ultimate five-man Survivor Series team?
“Okay, here we go: Daniel Bryan, The Rock, Dynamite Kid, Booker T – ha, I love Booker T, he makes me pop. How many is that?”

That’s four, we need one more.
“Hm, it’s between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. I’m gonna say Bret Hart, I’m on Team Hart. I think that would be an amazing assemblage of talent right there.”

WWE 12 will be released on November 22 in North America and November 25 in Europe.