Game: WWE ’13
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
FIFA, NHL, Madden and so many others can tend to be lacking on occasion because of their yearly iterations. Some years there are major changes and other years will contain a few tweaks here and there. Although pro-wrestling is more “sports entertainment” than sports, THQ had made the action of the squared circle an annual occasion where wrestling fans can suit up and open a can of whoop-ass.
However, where last year’s WWE ’12 made some innovations, WWE ’13 sticks to a similar formula. Not necessarily a bad thing, just more of a disappointment. Expect many glitches, jarring audio spikes and some historically inaccurate facts while you grapple with the best of them – but, with the amount of content on offer here, players will be donning spandex for months to come.
STORY: The golden age for fan excitement and drawing money was the Attitude Era. The story mode in WWE ’13 takes the player back to a time when things were a bit more extreme than the modern day PG product. The campaign takes a look at this period through 8 of its biggest stars, with plenty of cameos along the way. Each Superstar has their own story that lasts for a number of bouts, before players move on to the next grappler, all the while following a timeline that shows WWF’s (at the time) resurgence to win the Monday Night Wars against Ted Turner’s WCW.
Crafted with care and relative precision, Yuke’s has done a very good job recreating this era. With extensive video packages and detailed descriptions prior to each match, along with commentary, this proves to be a decent history lesson for newer fans of the organisation, whilst being a fun trip for older fans.
Like me, you may take umbrage with some of the details in particular storylines. Little things like Kane winning the WWF Championship against Austin in a Last Man Standing match (as opposed to in a First Blood match, as it actually happened) are annoying for the purist. Things like this are littered throughout the campaign and take away from it a bit.
However, Attitude Era still shines for the most part. Specifically, the way in which the player can unlock extra content is superbly done. Every match has particular requirements, and most of the time your primary objective is to simply win the match by pinfall or submission, but winning isn’t always a necessity as you attempt to truly recreate the bygone era. Historical objectives are included in matches – sometimes compulsory and sometimes optional – so the player can relive throwing Mankind off The Cell at King of the Ring, or put Bret Hart in the Sharpshooter as Vince McMahon calls for the bell in the infamous “Montreal Screwjob”. When the player completes all objectives in a match, an arena, a wrestler or a bonus match is unlocked; adding to the already teeming Attitude Era campaign.
GRAPHICS: Let’s face it, wrestling games have never been known for their ground-breaking aesthetics and this year’s effort is no different. Some of the play-fighters look disturbingly grotesque, whilst in contrast, some are close enough to real life. It’s rare to see a Superstar in WWE ’13 that looks spot on with their living and breathing counterpart.
Since the early days of the SmackDown series on the original PlayStation, THQ published games have always had an issue with hair and WWE ’13 keeps up that tradition, as you’ll see barnets that appear to have soaked up countless cans of hairspray. As a performer will leap from the top turnbuckle or run the ropes, every single strand will remain rigid. It’s a simple issue, but one that has never been addressed.
Arenas look good and the ring is receptive to two grown men galloping within its four sides. Although, the spectators leave a lot to be desired. The crowd is well populated, but the level of detail in these louts is miniscule and it’s easy to spot two models that look the same within a couple of rows of each other. Funnily enough, it looks like this boisterous lot are slam dancing at a silent disco they haven’t told the in-ring athletes about.
SOUND: Commentary is another problem within the realm of “sports entertainment” video games. In WWE ’13 it’s difficult to not come across occasions where recorded lines will cut across other audio because a quick move is performed and the announcing team need to react accordingly. Totally understandable, but still rather immersion breaking.
In the Attitude Era themed match-ups, the classic team of J.R and Jerry “The King” Lawler splurt and spit their way through encounters, whilst “The King” returns to the table, alongside Michael Cole, for the 2012 edition of pro-wrestling. Michael Cole, in particular, sounds like he’s phoning in his performance, which makes listening to J.R’s Oklahoma drawl all the better. But, that’s not to say that Attitude Era commentary is without its problems, because they are plentiful.
In the Story Mode of WWE ’13, some promos and soundbites from commentary have been plucked straight out of their original broadcast. In theory, that’s great. When practised and mixed with re-recorded dialogue, the audio peaks are monstrous and the valleys are deafening in their silence. Disastrous audio issues aren’t unique to the men tearing it up in the ring or on the headset, though. Crowd reaction has been tinkered with to give a more authentic WWE event feel, when all it does is have spectators go from sitting on their hands, to spontaneously combusting. There’s no middle ground. The attempt is admirable and I think this could be improved on in future titles, but the WWE crowd can go from ice-cold to red-hot in the blink of an unrealistic eye.
GAMEPLAY: Don’t expect the wheel to be reinvented. WWE ’12 featured a massive change in direction for the series and this year’s follow-up contains the same core mechanics, but improves on them. Firstly, counters were atrocious in some of the recent WWE games. They were nigh-on impossible, leading to frustration for the player. WWE ’13 has fixed this with a brilliant implementation of teaching the player when to hit the trigger. The same button prompt is given when your opponent is about to attack, but if you fail to hit the button on time, a little message will appear that tells you if you were too late, or too early. This is excellent training on when to attempt a counter. In many ways, they’re a bit too frequent now and can lead to every match featuring tons of chain wrestling, but that’s a small complaint.
Another improvement is the way in which players can target a certain limb of a downed opponent. When your competitor is on the canvas, a simple button press brings up an outline of a body that indicates the damage of your rival. By taking a stroll to a specific part of their body, you can deal some damage to whatever part of their anatomy you so wish. With wrestlers that have submission finishers that focus on the legs of their adversary, this new addition is a godsend. Honestly, in every conceivable way, this is a brilliant update to the in-ring action.
With Yuke’s and THQ attempting to recreate the TV production of Vinnie Mac’s guys and gals, the camera cuts on every possible occasion to give that authentic feel. However, the problem here is that you’re playing the game, not watching it. These quick cuts can easily disorientate and have the player lose their positioning. Thankfully, the erratic camera can be turned off; which I would strongly suggest you do.
OMG! Moments are another notch on this year’s belt that add to the spectacle. With a finisher in your arsenal, you can spear your opponent through the crowd barricade, or collapsing the ring under the weight of two heavier wrestlers with a superplex is another option. This really fits in with the Attitude Era motif of the game and allows for some diversity in matches.
Also, where would we be without comical glitches? Bodies moulding into one another, chairs randomly getting the power of flight and Ken Shamrock applying an ankle-lock to a Superstar’s invisible joint. When a wrestler punches another, you’ll see contact an awful lot of the time, but it isn’t rare that you’ll see a muscle-bound man put his fist through an opponent’s skull. It’s definitely better than some previous efforts, but they’re still very much present.
LONGEVITY: Even the most jaded of wrestling fans would find delight in the amount of things to do here. Along with all of the unlockables from Attitude Era that lead to the biggest ever roster, all of the Create-A-Blah modes are back, and they’re as robust as they ever were. Wrestlers, belts, arenas, moves, entrances, stories – you name it and it’s probably in WWE ’13. The suite of creation tools to tinker with don’t include many new additions, but on the whole you’ll probably spend hours trying to make sure the nose on your Samoa Joe CAW is just right.
Universe Mode is also back, and although the changes are minimal from last year’s game, it’s still decent. Players can assume the role of booker as randomly generated angles appear on the weekly TV shows. On top of that, the online multiplayer is plentiful and judging on previous games, will be more than enough for fans until WWE ’14 is released.
VERDICT: As the dust settles on the re-telling of WWF’s strongest ratings period, the average gamer will be left wondering whether it was really worth it. Some of the things that have plagued this series since day one are still knocking about and the sound issues are unforgivable. However, the gameplay has been notably improved and the Attitude Era is a nice trip down memory lane. WWE ’13 isn’t the best wrestling game there’s ever been, but fans of the men and women that pretend to fight, will knock a kick out it.