WWE ’13 Xbox 360
The most efficient way to tug anyone’s heartstrings is through evoking that feeling of nostalgia. In the case of a video game and wrestling fan, the best way to endear yourself is to take arguably the best era in WWE history and turn it into an episodic story mode. That is exactly what THQ did with this year’s iteration of the WWE franchise. They take all of the most shocking and (arguably) most controversial moments and present them to the gamer in the form of objective-based gameplay through the era, playing the role of multiple characters and scenarios.
The game takes place from the beginning of the Monday Night Wars – a ratings battle with the more popular WCW at the beginning of the ‘Attitude’ era in 1996 – to the end of the Monday Night Wars in 2001, when WWE (formerly the WWF) acquired WCW and brought the era to an end. For me, a former follower of the WWE around the late nineties and early noughties in my teen years, reliving the moments I remembered watching with great excitement and the chance to play through all the scenarios that made the WWE great was an opportunity I did not want to miss. I have to admit, I’ve not really followed the sport nor many of the games pretty much since the Stone Cold/McMahon feud fizzled out and finally when The Rock moved into movies. The only look back at the sport was in the guise of the first Smackdown game on the Xbox 360 being something I had a little dabble with; underneath the fancy HD graphics, things hadn’t moved on from the PS2 era of Smackdown games and I was no longer interested in the series nor the sport. But I was actually glad I had the chance to see what has changed since then, or rather, in many cases, what hadn’t.
WWE ’13 returns bringing with it a smorgasbord of gameplay modes and choice. All your standard wrestling fare is here, from One-on-One, Tag-Team match-ups and Royal Rumbles. In fact, there are around four or five dozen game types to play your way through and that is before you get to the Attitude mode. WWE Universe allows you to create your own wrestler and take them through the ranks, where your actions and reactions shape the way your wrestler progresses. I’ll be honest here: THQ and Yukes could have made the game with just the familiar game types and the Attitude storyline and it would have been more than enough to sate the average gamer; but content is king when it comes to this franchise.
Getting to grips with the game’s mechanics for newcomers is simple with regards to grasping the basics, but the learning curve can be quite a steep one. WWE ’13 is not like your archetypal fighting game where you are required to learn complex movesets in order to get one over on your opponent; nor does it try to be. WWE ’13 is like the sport itself, a performance routine with both opponents attacking and attempting to outwit each other, with a reversal accessed by the tapping of a sole button at the right moment. This is all in theory. You will find yourself frantically tapping the reversal button (RB on the Xbox 360), which often triggers a red, flashing “Too Soon” or “Too Late” until you hit the right moment and gain the upper hand. This can all sound rather clumsy, and to be frank, it often is. Instead I would advise you get familiar with a couple of wrestlers and the moves they have and work out how long it takes for them to go through the motion-capture routine to enable a reversal and subsequently a successful attack. That’s what I do, anyway.
This can make WWE ’13 sound baseless and soulless. It’s not – well, not totally. There is some depth to the game and those who put the time into it can really create some epic match-ups and it will always be good for a gathering of buddies around a TV set. If you wish to tinker in the menus and settings you can also change the parameters on how a match will shape up, whether duels will be timely and tactical endeavours, or whether some can be over in the blink of an eye. Although this is a nice touch, I would have liked to have been able to capitalise on the early mistake of an opponent and finish a match in seconds, rather than minutes. If only for that ‘fear of the unknown’ element sneaking into matches which would be far more suspenseful.
Yukes do admittedly mix it up with various attempts to tinker with the old formula and submissions, and at other times incorporates analogue grapples, which attempt to add depth to the course of a match. I’ll admit I have never attempted this, instead preferring to hammer the A Button until the opponent lets up, then close-lining them to the ground immediately. QTE’s (quick-time events) are used to get out of pin holds, which admittedly the game does admirably. You have to hold the A Button to stop the marker in the green box which changes in size dependent on how beat up your wrestler is, requiring a timing and precision that creates a tension and panic in the heat of the moment. QTE’s are also used sparingly in various instances such as Attitude Moments. These are the storyline-triggered scenarios, whereby pressing a certain button when prompted will cause your wrestler to smash a chair over another wrestler, or accidentally take out the referee.
WWE ’13 is a game based on detail – all of the arenas and stadia are accurately replicated down to the colours of the ropes on the rings and the fonts used for the pay-per-view matches. This is also carried on to the wrestlers – all of the featured 100+ wrestlers from the Attitude Era, Diva’s, and those that feature in the current day roster, have been faithfully recreated. Clearly a lot of effort has gone into recreating not just the facial detail, physique and movesets, but also their mannerisms, and as a result, the way they move is fantastic. The Rock has a swagger that immediately sets him apart from the others – my mother recognised him straight away when she popped by whilst I was in the process of dishing out “The People’s Elbow” like it was going out of fashion.
Visually this is a wonderful game. The wrestlers’ entrances are pretty much spot-on imitations of what you will see should you switch over to WWE nowadays, or if you used to watch it in the late 90s. There is also a wonderful, in-depth and fantastically creative Create-a-Wrestler mode where you can create your own muscle-bound behemoth for use in WWE Universe or the game’s other modes. Anti-aliasing is used to great effect here and the whole game looks smooth and sharp on my HD with no jaggies present at all. Visually the game is polished to the nth degree, with the only negatives being aimed at the crowd in the background, looking like a smooth but ultimately low-poly representation. But that would be being picky over something that is simply quite superfluous and not at all a bearing on the game overall.
WWE ’13 uses a refined version of its apparently acclaimed Predator 2.0 engine. This delivers the most fluid and fun WWE action to date – I got that lovely tidbit from the blurb on the game box. Personally this game takes everything that was fun about the previous Smackdown games and jazzes everything up, applying a wonderful graphical finesse (read: HD veneer) and gratuitous use of the HAVOK engine. It implements this to varying degrees of success, such as when a special move or attack connects, it looks like it really hurts. There are, however, a plethora of glitches and errors that stand out. What is irritating is these are things that have been in the game for years now and clearly have been ignored – the teleporting wrestler is something I remember seeing back in the PS2 variant of the game and it is still here, resplendent in all its awkward laughter-inducing glory.
Collision detection is something that irks me greatly about WWE ’13, such as when an aerial manoeuvre occurs. Many a time a wrestler seems to make the perfect impact landing on another wrestler, and nothing happens; the opposing wrestler will just stand up as if nothing happened, as if the move never existed. This can be overlooked in multiplayer with a friend or online, but when you are working your way through WWE Universe or the Attitude Era, such moments can ruin the match for you, resulting in teeth-grinding replays of a section you have just wasted your time on. Hopefully this will be sorted for next year, but it has been a mainstay in the game since the PS2 era, so I doubt it.
As with all sports games (notably, FIFA and Madden), WWE ’13 brings its own take on the audio experience. WWE Live creates the experience of a live WWE event in your home, and in parts I have to agree that at times it does this magnificently and succeeds in bringing a smug grin to your face as an anecdotal reference to your wrestler and his abilities is brought to life in front of your eyes. There are, however, many moments when what the announcers and commentators are discussing what isn’t happening on-screen. Many a time the commentator was talking about the pain The Rock is suffering, whilst at that moment, he is kicking someone’s “Candy Ass,” to put it lightly. For the most part, the audio is pretty well integrated into the game and does add an air of grandiose to the pheromone-soaked occasion.
WWE ’13 takes everything from the previous games and simply repackages them with a new adventure, giving you a plethora of game modes and wrestlers with which to keep you occupied. The game is fun, but sadly it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and if you happened to have bought WWE ’12, there is no great evolutionary leap nor distinction between the two, making this essentially an unnecessary purchase. However, if you fancy a wrestling game after a hiatus from the sport and may have been a particular fan of the Attitude era, or you’re simply a massive fan of the WWE series of games, then this is recommended for you. More of a dilapidated Heartbreak Kid than a Stone Cold Stunner, hopefully more time will be put into developing and honing what has the potential to be the People’s Choice in future efforts.