I’m not going to sugarcoat it. WWE ’12 was the most disappointing wrestling game that THQ have ever delivered in my opinion. Everything felt copied and pasted from the year before, and glitches ran a muck in a soulless wrestling sim that once was one of the greatest yearly franchises in the industry. “Bigger. Badder. Better” was the tagline of that title, and when I heard the next game was donning “Live the Revolution”, I shuddered to think how many more steps back my all time favorite series would take.
This entire industry is an odd beast though- and sometimes, things can be rectified with the passion that goes into development. WWE ’13 is the greatest example of this, as it’s the series best title in years – even with it’s obvious shortcomings. After every year of buying into THQ’s self-produced hype, this time I finally feel that hype is merited. Why, you ask? Here is my review for WWE ’13.
I cannot even begin this review without speaking of WWE ’13’s new Attitude Era mode. Replacing the mediocre Road to WrestleMania, Attitude Mode is a campaign made up of the the greatest moments from one of the most exciting arcs in WWE history. Back in 1997, DX were the edgiest duo on television, the Texas Rattlesnake was rising through the ranks, and The Rock was just about to hit his prime as The People’s Champion. Yes, I could go on and on about what made 1997-2000 the best time ever to be a wrestling fan, but that topic is a monster in itself. I have wanted to see the era properly implemented in a wrestling game for years, and it’s easy to say that this lone mode is the greatest tribute that has ever been offered to us kids that grew up rolling our eyes back in our heads and shouting “Just Bring It” to random strangers.
Starting out, players are placed in the boots of Shawn Michaels and begin rewriting history as they go throughout over 12 iconic match-ups that defined his own place within the era. That moment in Montreal, the feud with Davey Boy Smith over the European title, and of course, DX’s uprising have all made the cut, with the player swapping out between “Blue Blood” Hunter Hearst Helmsley and various other superstars to get a nostalgia driven history lesson. There are several of superstars that also have their own dedicated campaigns, but for spoilers sake, I won’t go into too much detail of that, but I assure you, if you remember it – it’s more than likely here.
Attitude mode may sound like a ho-hum campaign, and it very well could of been. Thankfully, the passion of the development team shines through brightly within this mode as there are so many finely tuned features that went into creating every story that it would be an absolute crime to miss out on all the festivities. Every major feud has been recreated through cutscenes, with audio taken right out of the original product. There are a few censors placed from time to time (mainly to beep out the “F” in WWF), but that really doesn’t matter due to how well the scenes play out. Original footage has also been edited in, detailing the history of the scenario the player is about to partake in with a video vignette – cause let’s face it, a lot of today’s fans were in diapers during this momentous era. Commentary by Good ‘Ol J.R. and King sweetens the deal even further, as they go out of their way to speak about the happenings of the night, detailing the history of the current scenario even further while still calling the match to near perfection.
It all makes for one of the most compelling season modes a wrestling game has seen to date, and that’s before we even get to how the matches play out. Most of the match-ups have one simple objective of winning, but to unlock a lot of the hidden content, bonus objectives can be executed to allow the player to relive the match in it’s true form. For instance, in the Bad Blood Hell in a Cell match with Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, the player must make a comeback, get Taker’s damage to “critical”, and then gain a pinfall to become victorious. Sometimes other requirements such as hitting an opponent with a chair or nailing a finisher a set amount of times will also be needed to gain a victory – allowing the player to relive every match as it actually played out. I will admit, some of the objectives can feel a bit tedious due to the AI’s stubborn ways, but for the most part – this mode is the closest one can get to the Attitude Era without re-watching those recorded VHS tapes.
If you have played any of the more recent WWE titles from THQ, you should know of what to expect when it comes to the core product. Players can move and run around the ring at free will, and use grapples and standard attacks from a hefty movepool to gain their finishing maneuver. The HUD is gone by default this time around (there are options to turn it back on), which really doesn’t make a difference due to the cues that appear when a finisher or signature move is earned. Reversals have also been revamped to a one-button scheme, making it easier to counter. This can lead to countless back and forth chain grapples, but for the most part – it gets the job done well enough. Yeah, not too much has changed, but things do feel a bit more polished this year due to the new “Predator 2.0″ system.
Last year, the Predator technology was used to display animations for counters and keep the action from halting. It was a great concept, but the bugs with it caused for complete model freezes at times, and made for some of the most unintentionally hilarious glitches I had seen in a wrestling game. The 2.0 version feels like the true form of that, as it works well in keeping the momentum of a match moving during lightening fast exchanges. Aerial counters feel a lot easier to execute this time around, allowing someone like the Undertaker to catch and opponent in mid air and deliver a slam at the tap of a button. When a finisher is stored, this can also be turned into a “OMG!” moment, letting Taker then tombstone his opponent from out of the air and into the mat. It looks as awesome as it sounds, and is just one of the benefits of the physics upgrade.
Pins are not nearly as polished. The Predator tech allows players to kick out of pins by utilizing a small meter and releasing the “A” button at the correct time. While I do respect the timed approach, this can still be a headache. Imagine you are going back and forth with Rey Mysterio and he does a quick roll-up. You then have to immediately go into the mini-game to kick out of a pin, and a good portion of the time the shock of the event can lead to a feeling of unpreparedness, with that one missed timing costing the match entirely. If you happen to have a laggy opponent online, it can be impossible to get this timing down. I know, the button tapping is archaic and had to go, but I still feel as if this pinning method could have been handled in an alternative manner. Submission moves are quite the opposite, and rely on quick tapping or maneuvering to the bottom rope to break the hold – making for the first time I have preferred to end in a submission victory over the standard pinfall route.
Now that we have spoken about the gameplay mechanics, it’s time to focus on what one can expect to see in terms of content. Firstly, this title features more Superstars than any other WWE wrestling game…ever. Players can choose from the more modern stars such as Cena and Sheamus, or go a classic route and select Mankind and The Nation of Domination’s Mark Henry. Divas are also in, but prove nearly useless as their ability to fight male superstars is completely a thing of the past, which boggles the mind due to how large of a role Lita, Trish, and other female competitors had when it came to cross-gender bouts of the past.
As far match types, the basics have all been covered – with TLC, Table, Hell in a Cell, and others balancing out the standard amount of exhibition bouts within the game. Players can even edit their match before starting, changing the type of cage, weapons, and rules to their liking. Due to the Attitude era’s inclusion, there are also more arenas than ever before, giving the player nothing but choice as they make their selection. Create a Wrestler has also returned and is as detailed as ever, letting one create any Superstar or figment of their imagination to take on the already plentiful and varied roster. Yes, customization still runs strong, and with the Create a Finisher, Match Type, Arena, Superstar modes being so broad, it is almost impossible to run out of things to do.
Speaking of customization, WWE Universe mode is back, and has been finely tuned to allow modern era and created Superstars alike to get their moment. I could best explain this to fans of Smackdown 2, as in theory, it isn’t too far off from that season mode. Each week, matches are lined up and can be participated in by both real superstars and created performers. Belts can switch hands, storylines can take place, and rivalries can begin within this mode, which is a nice go-to feature after one finishes up the already astounding Attitude season. Online features such as downloading Superstars and participating in match-ups work well enough, and it has never been easier to share content. Those who shudder at the previous title’s Online misfits can now do a “fair” option as well, turning off all edits so that someone like Sin Cara will not be pulling off the chokeslam unexpectedly. These sound like minor changes, but they are a big deal to those of us who spent hours trying to save a created star or got nothing but headbutting horror in previous versions of the game, so it’s nice to see that THQ have had their ears open to complaints and have begun to address issues of the past.
Visuals and Audio
Well, I have been praising quite a bit in this review so far, but I would be lying if I said the graphics in WWE ’13 were phenomenal. Yeah – some models look fantastic and are heavily detailed, but others, like poor Billy Gunn and Shawn Michaels look like they were produced out of an old CAW mode from the Playstation 2. The arenas are more consistent in quality however, each bearing an exact resemblance of the original counterpart, which makes simming dream match-ups a large part of what makes WWE ’13 so enjoyable. There are a few graphical glitches from time to time, as I have seen a few moments of floating tag team partners and insane rope movement, but after last year, these come off as light moments of humor and do nothing to effect the actual gameplay.
The audio is one of the finest things within WWE ’13. The two commentary teams do a spectacular job at calling every match, and there is no doubt in my mind that this is the best work done in the genre to date when it comes the area that fans have complained about for years. Each team spend their time speaking about your selected superstar’s personality while still staying on topic with the moves that are being used, making it feel as if you are watching the real thing live on television. Of course the music from entrances and standard sound effects such as chair and ladder shots sound good as well, but I cannot stress enough how much of an improvement the fixed commentary actually is. It isn’t perfect by any means as there will be moments where Cole shouts out “MANKIND!” for no reason (as an example), but this is the year you do not need to drown out the sound with some other form of audio.
Every single year, it’s two steps back, one step forward with the WWE Games franchise. Well, at least for the past five years or so, anyway. For the first time in a long time, I find myself with more to praise than to complain about as WWE ’13 is the game we have been waiting to come around since Here Comes the Pain. Sure, the lack of Diva interaction, bugs, and the pinning system still need attention, but the overall product here is nothing short of revolutionary compared to the somewhat lackluster games in recent years. That may sound like a negative reflection, but I am someone who has stuck with this franchise through the good, the bad, and the downright terrible, and nothing makes me happier than to see WWE ’13 rise above it’s potential. Just one trek through Attitude mode will show any fan how much attention that was put into the final product, and each match is just as enjoyable as the next due to the heavy amount of customization we have come to expect from the namesake. While not perfect, WWE ’13 is the best wrestling game of this generation, setting a firm bar in place of what we should expect for all future installments.