WWE ‘13 has been released and it comes off the heels of WWE’12, a reboot of the long-running pro-wrestling series. Last year’s game not only marked a change in name for the franchise (previously known as Smackdown vs. Raw), but it also redefined a series that was known for being very similar iteration after iteration. The challenge for THQ this year was to make sure the now two-year old WWE brand of games didn’t fall into that same pattern.
Much like how the recent NBA 2K games have page homage to a golden era of basketball, WWE ‘13 is centered on the infamous Attitude Era, the raunchy and bold period of wrestling that moved away from a family-friendly approach to an edgier one. Unlike past past titles that feature a unique story mode created specifically for the game, WWE ‘13 showcases a historically accurate account of wrestling in the late 90’s.
Many of the compelling moments that took place during awesome time are found in the aptly named Attitude Era Mode. THQ’s attention to detail is quite impressive; the matches and the arenas they took place in are the same as they were more than 15 years ago, as well as the dates and events that took place.
Progressing in Attitude Era Mode isn’t a matter of simply pinning or submitting opponents, it’s about reliving the momentous matches the way they actually happened. Each match has a set of objectives to clear in order to finish the match. This includes anything from striking your opponent with a chair shot to “screwjobs,” where you attack referees to end matches abruptly for the sake of the storyline. There are also optional bonus objectives that add an extra challenge. Completing these objectives open up more storyline matches and unlockables. It is a satisfying and easy-to-follow system that is a step up from last year’s repetitive and disorienting Road to Wrestlemania Mode.
Attitude Era Mode also has subtle touches that fans will notice and appreciate. When a match is picked, the loading screen shows the ratings between WWE and WCW during the Monday Night Wars on that specific date. It’s also cool when the “F” in “WWF” is censored during cut-scenes (the ompany lost the WWF name in 2002). Rather than having the superstars just say “WWE”, THQ kept the promos and speeches made at that time period as pure as possible. These are only a couple of instances of THQ’s hefty amount of fan service.
Unfortunately, there’s little freshness outside of the Attitude Era Mode as the game remains largely the same as WWE ’12. The gameplay introduced in last year was great with depth, an accurate countering system and an addictive multiplayer. However, it was littered with collision issues and prone to glitching. A year later, the gameplay still suffers from the same exact issues. Why are wrestlers randomly dropping to the floor or how come items spontaneously fling across the ring?
Along with the already established match types, such as ladder, cage and Hell in a Cell, two new matches are reintroduced. The first is the King of the Ring Tournament, which has not been seen since 2000’s WWF No Mercy for Nintendo 64. In the King of the Ring, you get to create a tournament bracket of whatever kind of matches to crown a winner. Although the King of the Ring Tournament isn’t much of a “new thing” as it is more of a convenience, the I Quit match type is much more of a welcomed addition. An I Quit match includes a mix of submissions, timed button inputs and taunting until eventually one superstar is forced to say “I Quit.”
THQ did a great job in WWE ’12 in setting up an authentic atmosphere and presentation and, with WWE ‘13, they make small attempts to advance these elements forward. The crowd noise this time around is from an actual recording of a live crowd and sounds better than in previous games. Unfortunately, the crowd’s volume is a bit noisier than desired. There are also some recordings of commentary made back during the Attitude Era that are a nice change of pace from the lifeless chatter the normal commentary brings. Camera cuts and replays are also back and still interrupt the flow of a match, though it’d be best if they left it to WWE television next time around. Thankfully, you can still toggle everything mentioned to fit the player’s preference.
Also returning is Universe Mode, where players can customize and play through their own weekly and monthly programming. Premade matches can be simulated or played, but the most enjoyment occurs when you are creating your own matches and taking control of your own alternate WWE Universe. A more robust customization experience can be found in the intimidatingly deep Creations Mode. Here you can create new superstars, entrances, outfits, logos, etc.
WWE ‘13 online play is solid, but is hindered by connectivity issues. Under the duress of a slower connection, timed tasked such as countering opponents become serious problems. Even with slight lag present, the gamer’s precision is thrown off to the point where the match’s outcome can change. This one issue is hard to overlook and it’s a shame to see in what could have been a worthwhile online experience.
Going online also opens up access to an unlimited amount of user-uploaded content. The highlight is downloading from creators from around the world who have some of the best versions of your favorite wrestlers that didn’t make the cut into the game’s roster.
WWE ‘13 is a great game; there’s no doubt about it. However, gamers who played WWE ’12 extensively may be somewhat disappointed by the lack of changes THQ made to move the series forward and some of the recurring issues that drag the series down. If you’re coming in new or Attitude Era was your thing, then you may find more value in this game than anyone that played through last year’s title.