Let’s face it, the WWE is a ghost of its former self lacking the genuinely interesting characters, fun story lines and overall sense of impact it once had. This coming from a fan of the company who was at one point in his life glued to his television set watching Shane McMahon leap from the top of the TitanTron onto Big Show, Kane eliminate eleven men in a single Royal Rumble match and three tag teams put everything on the line in multiple TLC matches. I adored wrestling, but like many I’ve drifted away from it all. Even the wrestling games show their lack of ambition, tweaking small features here and there some for the better some for worse but never really stepping it up. Now it seems like THQ are going back to where it all kicked off, the Attitude Era in a hope to reinvigorate the series and appeal to long term fans of the sport itself. Do they succeed?
I’ve missed the last couple of WWE titles and things have certainly changed with 13. The usual run, punch, interact with weapons is all handled via simple button presses, while grappling has moved away from analogue control and instead been placed onto the A button. Not only does this make things easier, but the added ability to focus on certain areas of your opponent such as head, left arm and so on, means you have a greater element of control over what your wrestler does. Pinning has also seen a great change that has you timing a button press in order to kick out. The more damage you have done to you, the smaller and more difficult the window becomes to nail correctly. It’s a small change but one that works so much better than hammering all the buttons. Reversals have also been simplified to timing the right trigger as a grapple or attack comes your way. Certain situations I did find myself getting frustrated as I was constantly told my button press was too fast or too slow no matter what I did and the on screen indicators attempting to aid me with the timing, felt useless with such a small window to respond to. You do adjust though and anticipate from experience when to hit the trigger correctly. At first it may all seem rather daunting to learn, but after a few matches practice (and plenty of looking at the tutorial section) you’ll be pulling off cage leaps, double team moves and submissions with ease.
If there’s one thing you can’t fault WWE 13 for, it’s content. The game is packed full of modes, customisation and unlockables and that’s even before you start considering the creation tools and community created content. All the usual match types make a return; from standard one on ones and tag teams to epic ladder matches, Royal Rumbles and six man elimination chambers. There are one or two types that don’t make the cut such as triple threat tag team, but overall what’s there is more than enough. The roster too features a fantastic mix of current day superstars and attitude era wrestlers – their move sets and entrances all looking great. If there’s one thing I could have easily done without however, it’s multiple versions of certain wrestlers. Do we really need three versions of Lita or Triple H? Really?
WWE universe offers you the chance to create your own match cards, PPVs and storylines even down to its branching paths. Creation extends further allowing you to also generate your own wrestlers, finishing moves, entrances, arenas and belts. The options are vast and with the ability to upload and download everything over the internet there’s plenty reason to experiment. Already users are creating their own Hulk Hogans, Jeff Hardys and other wrestlers who didn’t make the cut in the final roster. It’s impressive.
Attitude Era Mode has been the much talked about feature for this year’s game and offers the main single player experience. Rather than taking a created wrestler through the ranks instead you’ll relive classic moments involving certain superstars of the era, starting with D-Generation X and working your way through Stone Cold Steve Austin, Undertake and Kane, The Rock and Mankind before finishing off at Wrestlemania XV.
Spread over sixty events, each one involves completing a primary objective (which usually involves simply winning) as well as a number of optional ‘historical’ ones that reflect events that occurred in the real life match itself. For example wrestling as the Undertaker against Mankind in the unforgettable Hell in a Cell match at King of the Ring, you have the option to throw your opponent off the cage onto the announcers table just like it happened in real life. Die-hard WWE fans are sure to get a kick out of these often exciting moments. Brilliantly done promo videos littered throughout the mode also help feed you the story between matches informing you of all you need to know about the events unfolding. While you could argue all you’re doing is a series of similar matches one after the other much like previous single player modes in wrestling titles, the Attitude moments help keep things a little more interesting.
As always multiplayer is a strong point for WWE 13 offering the kind of four player mayhem you’ve come to expect from the series. Online is also memorable, but sadly for the wrong reasons, lag being the worst offender. Of all the matches I joined online only a small handful were playable, and even then I had to adjust to the small delay in my actions. Disappointing. But hey it’s all about playing the game with people in the room and rubbing it in their face as you count along with a pinfall.
There are moments when the presentation of game can feel spot on bringing with it the excitement of the real thing, but these are also sadly let down by odd occurrences that take you right out of the atmosphere. Brief moments of commentary during the Attitude Era mode for example are lifted straight from the original broadcast itself making it feel far more natural and entertaining. However when it switches back to the standard commentary, it all suddenly feels a lot more robotic and stale. Expect plenty of “Oh did you see that knee?” or “The reversal!” The crowd reactions too (also recorded from actual events) erupt when you expect them to and boo at the right moments, but again are let down with awkward silences that make it seem like they’re asleep. Even the Royal Rumble doesn’t have the audience counting down when a new entrant appears. Visually the wrestlers seem to lack real detail. Surely so many games down the line we’d have much better looking models than this. While they’re not awful, they don’t exactly impress.
A number of buggy moments also occur too often. One such situation saw the A.I. walking on the spot for a good twenty seconds outside the ring before finally getting back in. You’ll also get the odd clipping here and there and some mistimed audio cues. It seems like the kind of things that should be sorted out by now. While it’s an improvement over previous games, it doesn’t feel like a big enough one.
WWE 13 is a decent wrestler that delivers plenty of laughs in the form of its new Attitude Era mode and of course its extensive multiplayer options. The customisation is fantastic and getting the chance to download other gamers’ work is also a bonus, it’s just a shame it’s all held back by dodgy online play and a general lack of polish in what feels like an aged engine. Still good but maybe THQ would benefit from a year break or at least the power of a next gen console.