After sweeping changes to their annual WWE series last year with WWE ‘12, Yukes and THQ have taken the opportunity to revolutionize the single player content in this year’s version. With WWE ‘13, you’ll take a stroll right down Know Your Role Boulevard, straight past Jabroni Lane, and directly into the Smackdown! Hotel with the brand new Attitude Era mode. With a wealth of single player content on display surrounding the most popular era in all of sports entertainment, there is a lot here to love. Unfortunately some nagging legacy problems hold this game back from being a true contender for the Best Wrestling game title.
The Attitude era in professional wrestling was without question the pinnacle of the “sport’s” popularity and success. Almost everyone seemed like a big deal. Almost everyone was a legitimate superstar (not just by WWE’s definition) and a potentially believable world champion. THQ and Yukes have managed to squeeze the essence of this incredible period of time into a single player mode that takes you through the era in multiple stages, each focused on a specific superstar or set of superstars. You’ll careen through the mid to late nineties by playing out matches, cutscenes and other in-ring action starting with the Rise of DX and continuing on into chapters focused around Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kane and the Undertaker, The Rock and Mankind. Each of these chapters features not only the biggest matches of the era, but the storylines that they revolved around.
The presentation here is second to none, as the events of this time period play out through in-ring action, in-engine cutscenes and video montages that lay out events incredibly well. The nostalgia here is lifted to an all time high, and anyone who was a fan during the Attitude Era will instantly remember the moments. All the heavy hitters are here, from the infamous Montreal Screwjob to the Hell in a Cell match between Undertaker and Mankind that has been replayed hundreds of times over the years. In between matches, you’ll see an awesome loading screen that displays a graph of the WWE and WCW’s ratings as the Monday Night Wars raged. There was some incredible attention to detail put into this mode, and it really jumps off as incredibly authentic.
Lending to this authenticity is the audio, which varies between new commentary and some excellent voice over ripped straight from the original broadcast. Most of the time this works flawlessly and genuinely enhances the experience. Occasionally however, the quality takes a dip and it becomes very muffled or difficult to hear. They’ve also added some authentic crowd noise, but the volume level and intensity here also varies quite wildly.
One of the keys to the success of the Attitude Era mode is the way matches are set up. Each has Match Objectives that must be met in order to progress to the next available piece of the timeline. However, there are also historical bonus objectives that match up with things that actually happened in the real match. For example, one of the historical bonus objectives for the incredible Rock vs Mankind I Quit match is to hit Mankind 13 times with a steel chair (just as the Rock famously did to a defenseless Mick Foley). Performing these bonus objectives allows you to unlock bonus matches for the mode that flesh out a little more of the surrounding drama, as well as unlocking additional Attitude Era superstars for use in any available mode. Not only do these bonus objectives add a lot to the gameplay, but I found myself wanting to do them just to make sure that the matches were recreated as close to the originals as possible. The set up for this entire mode was near perfect, and I would love to see them tackle not just additional eras in the future, but additional promotions as well. I’d love to see a Rise of ECW version, or another version which views the Monday Night Wars from the WCW side.
Outside of the Attitude Era mode, most of the other features that you’ve come to expect from the series are also present. You’ve got the standard array of one-off match types and multiplayer action. Also making its triumphant return is the WWE Universe mode which allows you to book and create your own rivalries, shows, brands and PPV’s. You’ll book bouts between rising contenders and manage momentum to leverage Superstars into title shots. This mode continues to be great and will probably soak up most of your time once you’ve completed the Attitude Era stuff.
Creation has always been an important theme in these games, and WWE 13 adds a ton of depth and complexity to the formula. All the options you could want are here: Create a Superstar, Create an Arena, Create a Logo, Create an Entrance and Create a Move. All of these feature a consistent amount of depth and complexity, which allows both novices and experts of the CAW scene to create believable replicas of anyone left off the roster.
That may be tougher than it sounds, because WWE 13 features the largest roster of playable Superstars the series has ever seen. A ton of current and past grapplers fill up the select screen and present a plethora of options for your booking pleasure. The roster is padded a bit with multiple versions of some of the major superstars: three of Mankind (each of the “Faces of Foley” are represented as their own character here), three of HHH, two of the Rock, two of John Cena and two each of Undertaker and Kane for example. Still, the roster is exactly what fans hope for, and the promise of DLC for both current and Attitude Era superstars should keep it up to date.
Between the ropes, WWE 13 plays almost exactly like last year’s game, for better and for worse. The game features the signature Yukes fast paced action heavily dependent on the reversal button. Unfortunately, it also suffers from a lot of the same legacy problems. Clipping issues, disappearing hair, hit detection problems, crazy behavior by the ring ropes and other minor annoyances all still spill out from match to match. You’ll also have to deal with the inconsistent amount of time that Superstars stay down after moves, which can be particularly harrowing during specialty bouts like Ladder matches or Cage matches that require your wrestler to climb before the opponent stops you. While weapon and finisher damage is adjustable through an in-game slider, I found that neither was as effective as falling off of a cage or ladder, both of which seemed to completely incapacitate the player character for a much longer period of time.
The computer AI continues to be slightly disappointing. While you won’t run into the psychic countering AI that past games in the series have featured, the trade off is a consistent amount of activities by the computer that range from dumb to irritating. Often these AI issues can get in the way of accomplishing objectives during the Attitude Era segments, for example refusing to tag in the required partner despite ample opportunity and reason to. This is when the AI moves from simply disappointing to maddening. Despite these issues there is a very competent system in place for fans of the faster paced Smackdown style, it just needs some polish.
Visually, the game is a mixed bag at best. Some of the character models, particularly for the Attitude Era stars are fantastic representations of the real thing. Others look like they put a vaguely Vince McMahon shaped clay figure in a bag and swung it against the wall for an hour. When the models are bad, they are very bad. Crowd renderings are about what you would expect, no more and no less. The exceptional presentation during the Attitude Era stuff really helps keep the needle in the positive though.
If you were a fan of the WWE from 1997 through 1999, you owe it to yourself to check out WWE 13 out for the Attitude era mode and Superstars. It’s an incredibly nostalgic trip through an awesome period in the industry’s history. Current fans of the WWE will also find a lot to like here, from the huge roster to the cavernous depths of the creation system. If you are willing to look past the issues, you’ll find a lot of fun to be had with WWE ‘13. Regardless of the future of the WWE license, there is some great single player content here to build on.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.