Review: WWE '13 is back, but this time with some much-needed attitude
Wrestling is back with WWE '13, and this time with some attitude. As someone born in the late 80s, I was raised during the "Attitude Era" of wrestling. To me, this was the golden age of wrestling, a type of experience that I feel no longer exists in today's world of wrestling. Is it still entertaining? Sure, but it's just not the same - at least to me; I'm sure there are still plenty of people who find WWE just as thrilling as before.
Still, my general lack of interest in today's WWE has made me somewhat indifferent to THQ's WWE franchise. I've played them because they have been fun, but I've just never felt that emotional connection or bond to the characters in them. Enter WWE '13, THQ's newest installment of their long-standing series.
The most noticeable change - and the one that appealed most to me (as I'm sure it did with other old-timer fans) - in WWE '13 is the replacement of Road to the Show with the Attitude Era mode. In this new mode, you play as eight of the top WWE superstars during the Attitude Era, a period in World Wrestling Federation (now known as WWE) that was defined by a radical shift in programming content. In an effort to keep up with rival WCW during the Monday Night Wars (a television ratings conflict between the WWE and WCW), the WWE transformed into an edgier form of entertainment to appeal to a young-adult demographic.
In short, it was the hey day of WWE and, for me, it's a welcomed addition to WWE '13. Not only does it accurately retell the storylines of some of the most iconic wrestlers, whom I grew up watching on television - but it allows you to control them! Throughout this single-player "campaign"-like mode, you'll play as several of the Attitude Era icons like Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the Undertaker.
The mode is broken up into a six-chapter storyline that combines live footage from actual WWE Attitude Era moments with in-game cutscenes and text-based descriptions. It's the presentation package of this mode that truly makes WWE '13 a memorable experience. THQ's ability to accurately capture the essence, emotion, and theatrics of the Attitude Era is a blessing for wrestling fans. For newcomers, it'll serve as a history lesson, but for older fans it's a fun trip down memory lane.
During the matches in the Attitude Era mode, you'll be presented with a primary objective and several secondary bonus objectives. The primary objects is almost always to win the match. However, if you opt to play the match as it originally aired back in the day, you'll want to complete some of the secondary objectives. These objectives are usually a series of tasks that you must complete during the match, such as knocking out the ref and then smacking someone with a chair, performing certain signature moves, and things of that nature. In some cases, there will be hidden objectives which will be revealed after you make it to a certain point in the match.
Keep in mind, you don't necessarily have to complete these secondary objectives, but successfully adhering to the history of the match and recreating those classic moments will reward you with unlockable content (of which there is plenty!) such as additional wrestlers, new venues, and alternate costumes. It's a nice way to allow players to play the way they want to play.
Unfortunately, not everything in WWE '13 is as polished as the Attitude Era mode. Gameplay, while fun and in-depth, is still marred by glitches collision detection issues. The character models and animation, at times, seem sluggish and rigid. Awkward character animations coupled with collision detection issues and a few strange AI decisions can take away from an otherwise stellar wrestling simulation.
As I mentioned above, presentation during the Attitude Era mode is outstanding, but once in the match the presentation seems to take a turn for the worst. In an attempt to recreate WWE's multi-camera aesthetic, the camera angles can sometimes result in an awkward view.
WWE '13 has attempted to make strides in their commentating and audio presentation and while I admire the effort, the execution sometimes falls short. For the first time, audio in WWE '13 incorporates samples from live WWE events including audience noise and commentary. Balancing issues aside, when these live samples playback it sounds authentic and really heightens the emotion. However, after the moment plays out, you're ultimately left with repetitive, generic commentary. Still, it's nice to see THQ attempt to improve on a system that has suffered for years.
Outside of the Attitude Era mode, WWE '13 still has all the bells and whistles you'd come to expect with a wrestling game. It has all of the types matches you'd expect plus an in-depth customization system that lets you do everything from creating a new superstar to adjusting rosters and tag teams. An in-depth, never-ending Universe Mode lets you play "wrestling God" and basically change any existing programming schedule to your liking.
Customization even expands to the online realm which is no longer limited to just competing in ranked and unranked matches. Now you can play online with your custom creations. Have an interesting storyline? Now you can share it with the world. Create everything from the in-game cutscenes to the actual match and have players from around the world experience it. The opportunities to experience new, interesting storylines are limitless as long as the community continues to generate content.
WWE '13 isn't a perfect game, but it certainly offers the complete package for wrestling fans. Whether your new to wrestling or a long-time fan, there's something in WWE '13 that will appeal to everyone. For people like me, who were big fans of WWE in the 90s and may not relate to some of the newer generation of wrestlers, the Attitude Era mode is a fantastic addition. Regardless of when you started watching wrestling, the single-player mode is something everyone must experience.
Not all of THQ's experimentations, particularly with audio, work the way its probably envisioned, but it's nice to see them attempt to improve upon the overall presentation. While there are still improvements to be made, it's clear that THQ is on the right track when it comes to creating the perfect wrestling experience. WWE '13 truly is the start of a "revolution".
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]