Having spent many hours sitting down with the THQ folks, listening to what they have to say about Smackdown vs. RAW 2010, the latest entry in their high powered series, only one thing can be said - Wow. Many times when you have game series with yearly releases no innovation occurs. You get updated rosters, minor changes to controls or whatnot but overall it's just you plunking down a fair chunk of change for the same game year in and year out. It seems the guys working on this title aren't willing to let SvR 2010 fall into that same rut.

From the very get go the new game sets itself apart from the other games due to all the work put into the base game. The Road to Wrestlemania mode returns with six new stories to play through as well as containing a Diva storyline. In addition to boosting the amount of stories available they have also added interactive cutscenes to give the ability to make choices as you go through the game. There are also branching storyline paths to help heighten the replay value, something that was lacking a bit in the last version.

In addition to this the game contains sixty Superstars and Divas with an optional download of Stone Cold Steve Austin available for those who purchase the game. In addition you can now customize these stars by changing the colors of their clothing, changing how they look for the first time in the series. You can have up to three custom skins per wrestler giving you the ability to represent how the wrestlers change up their costumes between shows.

What will allow this game to pull ahead of its other entries in the series are the innovations that are being brought to the fore. The focus for this title is the custom characters and the various creation tools. It's a mixed bag but it definitely sounds like it's ready to bring the game to a higher point compared to other wrestling games with a robust bevy of creation modes, customization tools.

The basic thing that's been added to the game is nothing we haven't seen in other games recently at its core - that of a paint tool. You can use this to create custom labels to be used as clothing logos or tattoos using a freeform painting tool or presets. Think Windows Paint and you're on the right track. While it sounds cool on paper I'm sure that some fools will think it's clever to cover their characters in male genitalia or poorly drawn breasts but the rest of us will be able to enjoy creating custom looks for our characters.

Another major improvement to the title is the heavy focus on the Create a Fighter mode. This thing has been entirely renovated as has the quality of the 3D art being used for the fighters. It seems that this was done for the express purpose of bringing up the quality of the character animations on par with the WWE Superstars. Going along with this is how renovated the new art and pieces are in this mode. Paired up with the severely reduced loading times this mode is looking all the more appealing.

The fan favorite Create a Finisher mode has been incredibly expanded. There are over thirty percent more moves for the front grapple starting position than before. This says nothing of the new starting position, that of Diving Finishers. All of the custom abilities from the previous CAF mode have been expanded upon for the diving option. Your move can have all sorts of spins, splashes and flips added to it while you can change your arc of the jump or even its speed. The options are literally insane to watch at times. The best part of all of this is that you can change the dive so that it works against standing foes, downed foes or even acts as a pin move after hammering the opponent. There isn't much that you can't do in this mode to be honest.

But perhaps the highest point of the title is that of the Story Designer mode similar to the GM Mode from previous titles. When this mode is started up you can see a calendar that you will use to plot events that will occur at the shows or Pay-Per-Views. This can be either a single cutscene or match that occurs on RAW or a full years worth of content.

The scenes you can create include typed out dialogue, emotions, locations and a whole bunch of other tools to customize each scene. Using the tools is quite simple but what can be created if you spend the time on it is very impressive. Some of the premade ones were on par with the stuff that the devs themselves might make giving the player the feeling of being a director for the show. It's a great idea especially when paired up with the other aspect of this; that of creating matches. You can pick even the most minor of details for the fight; how it will be won, who will participate, if their managers are there or if there will be run-ins. This is pretty top tier stuff we've got on our hands here.

Then again most of this would be entirely meaningless if you could only show it to yourself. But in this modern day of video game content sharing on PCs, and select console titles, Smackdown vs. RAW 2010 is looking to bring itself into the modern era with force. Using a Community Creations option the game is showing its major focus on community involvement. From this menu option you will be able to peruse all of the various uploaded content that fellow gamers have created. From their stories, characters and finishers it's all there for you. Things can be previewed, rated and searched for using keywords, giving the mode a high quality interface. Not only does this make it look good it makes the whole thing very easy to use.

Another new thing that's cool and not related to the creation modes is the Training Facility mode. This is basically a tutorial (another first time for the series) where a very context sensitive trainer mode that advises you to explore your characters capabilities. Containing a very in-depth list of commands, both simple and advanced, to help newcomers pick up the game. It can also help longtime players with learning new techniques that they might never know.

This year the Wii and Nintendo DS games are being given the same treatment as the other versions of the title. The Wii game will have much improved controls, supporting not only the basic Wii remote controls but also the Classic and GameCube Controllers. Create a fighter and other key features to the series are being brought to the game as well which instantly improves the title. You DS gamers will be very happy to know that their being improved in much the same way, most important being the fact that it uses the buttons instead of the stylus. This automatically bumps up the games quality quite a bit.

Smackdown vs. RAW is one of the top fighting game series in America and it's easy to see why. SvR 2010 will launch on October 20th with the hopes to please longtime fans of the series. From the looks of the series their passion will be rewarded as will their dedication to their fans.