by Martyn Licchelli (www.dropkickradio.com)
WWE 13 is THQs latest venture into the world of WWE, and for what seems like forever now, this game has been being hyped as a revolution for the series, at least that’s how it seemed to be as the advertising prominently featured CM Punk promising just that. As time would tell, it wasn’t as much a new revolution, but rather a look back at a previous revolution that took place in the ‘Attitude’ era of WWE/WWF. It seems only fair, that with THQ putting so much emphasis on that mode, that it should be saved for last and the rest of the game will be handled as a separate entity.
Outside of the Attitude era content, WWE 13 feels weak. I hate saying that, but it does. It feels like a very expensive update for WWE 12. The roster of current talent has little added from last year, and some are removed. The character models look aged, and some are comical. Cody Rhodes in particular has a mouth like a Ninja Turtle animatronic. The entrances stopped being impressive long ago, and the ones that should be Iconic like Alberto Del Rios look so last gen that it’s not funny. He arrives, magically on stage, in a box of a car that is poorly modelled and textured, Ricardo announces him the same way he did last year. Lifeless, and without any passion at all, and then ‘Berto does a very very odd walk and dance to the ring that just fails to look the part.
Some characters are spot on. But for every character like Kane, who they do very well, and CM Punk who now sports shoulder tattoos that look like his real ones instead of just circles of blank skin, there’s 3 or 4 like Sin Cara who is simply a palette swap from last year. Seriously, load up WWE 12 and you’ll find the same model with the same textures, same entrance video and same entrance moves. This would not be too bad, if it wasn’t for the fact that Sin Caras mask is much more detailed now in real life, than it was when this model was created. His entrance video is now red, not blue, and he’s not used the trampoline in his intro for over half a year. They also fail to put him in an entrance jacket, which he always wears. It really does feel like a they couldn’t be bothered in some parts when it came to character models and it’s something that really needs to be addressed for next year.
Outside of the character models, the CAW mode is something else that remains largely unchanged. Almost everything that was there last year is still there, and if it wasn’t… well it likely still isn’t. A couple of attitude related items show up, and it’s nice that boots and kick pads are two separate items allowing more customisation. Create a finisher is like last year, a couple of new moves pop up, but they’re very similar to moves already in the game, and still despite having the Canadian Destroyer taunt in the game they’ve not bothered to animate the move in, and we get the really poor Texas Destroyer sunset flip instead. There’s really no reason why this couldn’t have been added at some point in the last 5 years. Create an entrance also remains largely the same as last year.
So it sounds bad, right? 3 paragraphs in to the main review and not a positive word to be said. Well the good news is, the game gets better now. Sticking with the creation features, this years create an Arena mode is fantastic. Instead of just making simple changes to the lights and the barricades, and the rope colours you can really change everything. You can choose what you want for a stage, such as the Deadly Games super sized skull entrance, choose how many trons there are, what sort of lights and what colour they are. You can choose if you want an attitude crowd, or a modern crowd, change the fan barricades, and change the size of the arena from something intimate to a huge Wrestlemania sized stadium. With the ability to add your own custom logos everywhere, you can really make any arena you want, and it’s all incredibly easy. It’s not a massive change from last year, it’s 3 or 4 small things. But the sum of the parts is a great improvement and something I wish would happen with the rest of the creation suite.
Universe mode makes a return this year, with Universe 3.0 which features no less than 200 story-lines written by Paul Heyman. You can edit when you want these to happen now. Maybe you only want stories on PPV, or maybe you don’t want stories that will cause teams to break up? You can change it accordingly and turn off injuries if you wish to avoid anything ruining any stories you may enjoy. If you don’t like Heymans stories, fear not, create a story is back and seems to be more in depth this year. Story-lines can last longer, feature more talent, and feels easier to use. But that may just be me. Despite it feeling simpler this year though, it’s still a very daunting task to set up a storyline, with branching options going off for various answers to questions and different attacks. For those willing to put hours in to this mode, you can really create almost anything you want.
Along with the improved stories, Universe mode also has a few other nice changes. There’s a records page, which allows you to see records for characters to break. Such as longest title runs. It keeps track of who wins at each PPV most often too, and new to this year, you can delete shows from the schedule. Don’t like Superstars? Bin it off, and create a new show any day of the week. Last year you could edit the shows a little, but this year allows slightly more. You can only have 2 big shows though, due to only having 2 rosters. Otherwise you’re limited to lots of small shows that share the roster of both big shows. This is until you unlocked all the attitude stuff, when the Attitude roster then counts as it’s own entity, allowing you do have 3 big shows a week with one kind of being it’s own nostalgic look back, again, for those willing to invest time in the mode and adding their own stories, this mode could keep you good for a long time.
I’ve had limited chance to play online, thanks to the servers being a bit empty as I wrote the review. Sadly, whilst it is definitely improved from last year, there is still lag and it can be a real game breaker. It seems that the server tries to level it out, instead of sporadic movements of the wrestlers, it moves in almost a slow motion kind of way throughout the whole match, it can be incredibly off putting when your defence relies on well timed presses of the R2 button. Even more frustrating, when you press R2 a millisecond before the icon shows up, yet you get told you were too slow. It leads to a game of predicting the future, for those who play often t must become easy to adjust as I fought multiple opponents who were able to counter every single punch and grapple I did. Literally every one. But when you first start out, it can be enough to make you want to tune out. However if you get a steady connection, online battles can be a lot of fun and an online Rumble that mixes humans and AI opponents is really engaging.
So that covers everything, except Attitude mode. Attitude mode makes this game worth the purchase for anyone who was worried after the first 3 paragraphs of this review. It’s great, and will eventually lead to you getting 32 extra characters, as well as extra title belts, arenas and much more. Although some of those 32 characters are old versions of current roster members, like Kane, Jericho, Undertaker and the Rock. Even Cena has an ‘Attitude’ version. They d bulk up the entire roster nicely, and feel different to their current generation counterparts.
With these 32 new models, you can kind of forgive them being lazy with the character models they borrowed from last year. I say kind of, because a good chunk of these extra stars have appeared in a WWE game in the last few years, and their models are merely slightly updated. But still, some are new, and regardless of that they bring the main roster up to over 70 characters. So that’s what we can unlock, but how do we do it? We do it with this years version of Road To Wrestlemania, simply entitled Attitude Era. Over the course of many matches, you will be put into various scenarios and matches that accurate recreate great moments from the Attitude Era as you relive the parts of RAW that helped WWE overtake WCW and eventually become the only Sports Entertainment company that matters.
The game mode is split into 6 sections, which you must do in order. Starting with Degeneration X, you will play as HHH and HBK in various important moments from 1996 and 1997, you will then get to go through important moments for Kane and The Undertaker, including their inferno match and the debut of Kane is also here. Following this, we have Stone Cold, Mankind, The Rock and last we have Wrestlemania 15 in 1999, which brings all the story lines that we’ve played and been part of to a nice climax. For completing this, we are also then rewarded with an ‘off the script’ section which features roughly 10 extra matches to compete in from various moments in history since the Attitude Era began, which allow you to unlock lots of extra stuff.
The way this mode works is fantastic. Using video footage, and sound bytes from old matches you get to relive lots of infamous moments. Ever wanted to be part of the Montreal Screwjob (WHY???) well now you can. Wanted to throw Mankind off the Cell through a table? Now you have to. There’s so much to do, and for anyone who grew up in the Attitude Era, a chance to relive these moments yourself is a great joy.
One of my complaints with last years Road to Wrestlemania was the scripted nature of it. If they wanted you to lose, no matter what was going on, you would lose. Sometimes it just felt really harsh and ruined the fun. This year, it’s not nearly as bad. Obviously recreating history requires events to be scripted to make it accurate. But you don’t HAVE to do it. In each match you will be given an objective, and some bonus objectives. The main objective may just be “win the match”, but your bonuses will want you to put the opponent through a barricade, and win by submission. You’re not punished for not doing the bonuses, but doing them unlocks rewards, like the characters and arenas I mentioned earlier, as well as extra matches to unlock even more.
Some matches you have your hand forced, you must complete all the bonuses to advance. But the way the bonus objectives are set up for you like goals, you feel like you have achieved something to complete them, and when the cut scene plays and your Stunnering Vinnie Mac, you don’ feel screwed that the match ending was taken away from you.
Road to Wrestlemania was a good mode, I enjoyed it. Last year it was broken, however, and needed fixing. Attitude Era was the exact fix it needed, and whilst it would be hard to do this mode again next year… that’s a problem for THQ next year. For this year? It’s made a game that would otherwise be the EA Sports equivalent of a new sports game update, and made it in to something that feels fresher and newer than it has in years, and made a wrestling fans who watched these moments happen, genuinely excited to be given the chance to relive them. Personally, I couldn’t ask for more than that.
WWE 13 may not be perfect, it has it’s fair share of small faults and the game engine is already feeling dated. But I’m comfortable in saying this is THQ’s best release this generation, and probably since they peaked with Here Comes The Pain on PS2.