WWE 13 is an immensely fun look at wrestling history- though it’s not without flaws.
Back in the late 90s, WWE (then WWF), in an effort to steal ratings away from its main competition WCW, ushered in a new era of violence and brutality, referred to affectionately as the Attitude Era. An era that was responsible for the creation of the Inferno match, Hell in a Cell, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock is sure to be remembered fondly by wrestling fans- myself included. WWE 13 seeks to recreate the chaos and fun of this time period, eschewing the standard Road To WrestleMania mode in favor of Attitude Era mode, in which players relive these historic battles between WWE legends. So is THQ’s latest offering the “best in the world”?
The aforementioned Attitude Era mode is the meat of WWE 13’s offerings, so I’ll expound upon that first. With a lengthy campaign that took me roughly 4-5 hours to play through (excluding replaying stages for unlockables and trophies/ achievements), it’s a solid effort. Taking place between roughly 1997-late 1999, the campaign is split into different individual timelines. You’ll begin your journey with the ascension of the DX stable, beginning with Shawn Michaels and Triple H (well, Hunter Hearst Helmsley at first), then segue into the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind, The Undertaker, and more. There’s even a good amount of unlockable bonus missions in WWE 13, such as the first-ever Inferno Match between Kane and his brother The Undertaker. You’ll even get to experience the Montreal Screwjob and Mankind being thrown to near-death off of a steel cage. This mode serves as a well-executed and highly enjoyable highlight reel/ interactive history book for one of wrestling’s greatest eras, and at times it almost makes WWE 13 feel like a highly evolved, HD version of WWF War Zone.
During each match, a list of objectives are displayed in the right hand corner (these can be minimized with the select button). You’ll need to complete the main objectives to pass on to the next stage, but completing the Historical objectives (usually some form of quick time event) is not just fun, but also provides unlockables such as new arenas, superstars and costumes.
Sometimes these objectives can be quite frustrating, however. A good example- matches where you play as Stone Cold, and need to perform a Stunner and pin the opponent within 10 seconds. Doesn’t sound too hard, right? Well, in WWE 13, Austin’s Stunner is an extremely long animation- he’ll perform the maneuver, then get down on the ground and yell in the opponent’s face, give him a double middle-finger, etc. This is all well and good, and pretty funny the first time you see it. But it becomes infuriating when you complete every other objective in a match, yet need to replay it because you were one second late on the pin- I haven’t even mentioned that the ten second objective includes the three-count pin. The six second animation and three-count leave you with roughly one second to jump for the pin. This is just bad design. Also, sometimes the checklists are rather long, and so the matches become less about having fun and making the match your own, and more about the game dictating your actions and reading a script. Even so, WWE 13’s attention to detail is impressive. Attitude Era mode is littered with well put together video packages hyping up the matches and explaining the history behind them. The Superstars’ and Divas’ attires and entrance music are period-accurate, and in some cases even change over the years- good examples are HHH/ Triple H and Mankind, who each have at least four different attires and entrance themes.
There are still some odd audio and graphical bugs in WWE 13, as well. While I appreciate the effort THQ/ Yuke’s put into the new audio system featuring live crowd sounds, and in the case of Attitude Era, actual commentary bites from the old matches, a lot of these sounds aren’t mixed properly and stick out as either too quiet or overly loud. In fact, when matches are finished, the commentary banter between good ol’ JR and Jerry “The King” Lawler was so loud that I found myself keeping my remote nearby to offset the jarring volume changes. Overall, everything combines in Attitude Era mode to create a thrilling, engrossing experience, but I couldn’t help feeling like newer WWE fans would feel left out in the cold. Indeed, CM Punk is the WWE 13 cover star, yet there’s no story mode , aside from the manager-esque Universe mode, that makes use of him. I’m a huge CM Punk fan, but I feel as though maybe The Rock or Stone Cold would have been a better featured athlete so as to avoid confusion.
Still, all the modern roster boys and girls are present in WWE 13, from John Cena and Sin Cara to The Bella Twins and Eve. The vast creation suite and huge online community combine to form an unending roster, and essentially an endless stream of content, on top of the already huge roster of 80+ Superstars and DIvas, not including DLC. Universe Mode is back and still as fun as ever, with plenty of random story segments and possible feuds, alliances, injuries, and more. This mode essentially goes on forever, and you can play it in lieu of the Exhibition modes to actually keep track of the aforementioned feuds and alliances, as well as injuries, title holders, win-loss records, momentum, etc. You can even interfere in matches, create new shows and events, switch wrestlers’ stables and shows, and more. There are plenty of trophies/ achievements to unlock in this mode as well, and it does feel like a sort of secondary, less fleshed-out career mode, and I’m grateful that it wasn’t axed. Still, it’s a bit disappointing that the mode still doesn’t feature any real reason to play with friends, and it’s a bit of a missed opportunity that I would love to see expanded upon in WWE 14.
The creation suite is also back for more, and you can once again create a ridiculous amount of content from detailed Superstars, logos, tattoos, crowd signs, arenas, and even entrances and finishing moves. The online server in WWE 13 is much more functional than it was last year, and in our tests downloading and uploading content was exponentially faster and less chaotic than it was in WWE 12. The same can be said of the online matches; I had no problems finding matches and experienced no severe lag, whereas in WWE 12 I was constantly booted from lobbies and matches, even months after the game’s release. It must be mentioned, however, that the save data for WWE 13 is larger than ever. While last year’s 26 MB save file was nothing to scoff at, this year my save file was- no lie- 3 GB. I wondered why my save didn’t upload to the PlayStation Cloud, despite having more than 500 MB free space. Sure enough, 3 GB. I downloaded about 10 online created Superstars, as well as a few arenas and logos, but that’s it. I have no idea where the 3 GB figure comes in.
The game’s main fighting system is mostly unchanged from last year, utilizing Predator Technology 2.0. The reversal system feels more polished and responsive, though, and is once again integral to overcoming your opponents, especially on Legend difficulty. In WWE 13, the reversal system tells you whether your reversal came too early or too late, which is helpful for quickly learning the correct timing. I feel as though the flow of matches still needs work- luckily, the game allows you to change an option that attempts to modify the feeling of a match, from Quick to Epic. Still, WWE 13 still has a weird match flow where opponents never really seem to be badly injured- despite being thrown off cages, getting finishers or even becoming the victim of the game’s awesome new OMG! moments, like being thrown through a barricade, opponents just never stay down. It’s especially frustrating during ladder matches, where no matter what hell you put a wrestler through, they’ll be right back up to knock you off during your slow climb towards the title.
Despite its shortcomings, however, there’s still plenty to love about WWE 13, particularly if you’re a student of wrestling history. Although it feels very similar to WWE 12 on the surface, many subtle tweaks have been employed to make this a smoother experience than its predecessor, and the improvements made to the story mode and online should definitely be kept in next year’s iteration- which I’m already anticipating.