Yuke’s and THQ could a big step forward with the WWE license last year when they scrapped the RAW vs. Smackdown name and gutted the engine to give the series its first true overhaul in years. WWE ’12 ended up being the best playing wrestling game of the generation thanks to the all the big improvements made. This year, Yuke’s is back with WWE ’13 and it’s largely the same gameplay wise. That’s not a bad thing.
Annual titles get a lot of hate if they don’t reinvent the wheel every year, but WWE ’12 was such a big improvement that I don’t know why anyone would have wanted them to drastically start changing things up a year late. WWE ’13 is a better playing WWE ’12 with a better roster. The AI is smarter and harder, and small refinements have greatly improved the already fun experience. In short WWE ’13 has done exactly what it should have done: replace WWE ’12 as the best wrestling game of the current gen.
STORY MODE: Relive the Attitude Era
Last year’s Road to WrestleMania was an improvement over the previous versions of the mode, but it’s great storyline was hampered by poor cutscenes in the middle of matches and the dreaded two or three on one backstage handicap brawls. Basically, while fun, it was a chore to get through and certainly not anything you’d want to go back and experience again. Thankfully, the developers have thrown Road to WrestleMania away and substituted a fantastic historical story mode in its place.
Attitude Era mode is packed with great video packages that set the tone for the matches and stories you’re going to relive. The WWE guys have come through once again for THQ by putting together some top notch videos that serve to bring back some fond memories while also providing the historical context for what you’re about to do (or just did in some cases). The mode features several chapters focusing on top stars of the period: Degeneration X, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Brothers of Destruction, The Rock, and Mankind. The mode culminates with WrestleMania XV.
Each chapter is made up of several historical matches, and occasionally some bonus matches provided you complete every objective. The actual match objectives aren’t hard to do; they’re simple things like “win the match,” “get your opponent to moderate damage,” etc. The main objectives are supported by historical bonus objectives. Completing these bonus objectives are how you unlock the content hidden away in the mode, and some of these can be challenging (but not often). These objectives include stuff that really happened; hit a stunner on Billy Gunn and then pin Road Dogg in under two minutes. Another calls on you to break the barricade, put your opponent through a table, and hit the superstar with a trash can three times.
The historical bonus objectives are just that: bonus. You don’t have to complete these, they’re there for the people who want to have the match be as close to how it actually went down as possible. To complete some of these objectives, you’ll have to succeed at what’s called the “Attitude Moment.” This is a quick time event where you’ll be given a brief warning, and then you’ll have to press the button that lights up on the screen. This is usually a cutscene where you’ll knock out the referee if you succeed. Succeeding at this will uncover a hidden objective, something like “hit your opponent with a chair before the referee gets up.” It’s a cool addition.
I was a tad disappointed with the WrestleMania XV chapter. There were six matches in the chapter, but only two from WrestleMania XV. They included RAW matches with Mankind taking on Steve Austin, and Austin taking on Paul Wight, and all this had to do with who would be special referee in the Austin/Rock match at WrestleMania XV. And yet they couldn’t be bothered to have Mankind vs. Paul Wight match from WrestleMania XV in the chapter.
WrestleMania XV should have included as much of the actual card as was possible. The chapter features Shane McMahon versus X-Pac and Steve Austin versus The Rock. Why not include Triple H versus Kane? Mankind versus Paul Wight? Undertaker versus Big Boss Man inside of Hell in a Cell? Goldust is DLC for Fan Axxess purchases, but they could have just included Road Dogg versus Ken Shamrock versus Val Venis. Basically, I was expecting the mode to actually culminate with WrestleManix XV, not with four matches before the PPV and then two from the actual event.
After you beat Attitude Mode, you unlock 10 additional matches called “Off Script” that features superstars like Vader, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Edge & Christian, Lita, Trish Stratus, and others. Again, you unlock stuff playing these matches too, so they’re worth completing as well.
It’s going to be hard to go back to something like Road to WrestleMania after this awesome story mode, so THQ and Yuke’s better have something similar up their sleeve for next year’s game. Attitude Era mode is a wonderful trip down memory lane for us longtime fans, and a great educational tool for younger fans who have grown up with the Cena era.
UNIVERSE MODE: Finally, WWE Universe is Your’s to Control
Universe Mode has finally undergone significant changes to the point where almost all of my complaints against the mode since it was released in Smackdown vs. RAW 2011 have been addressed. You can now freely create shows, either major or minor. No longer are your forced into having a major Monday and Friday show and a minor Thursday show. Instead, you can run six major shows (Monday through Saturday), or run minor shows provided you have two major show brands to put on it. Share titles between shows to have a unified roster. And you can also now run a PPV every Sunday if you so choose.
All shows have more matches than they have in the past, and you can now finally freely edit the entire card before starting the event. That was actually the main thing I had been wanting since last year when they added match flow. I hated having to exit back to the menu after every match just to edit the next match. Now we don’t have to, we can take care of all of that and then jump in to the show and go to the next match with no problem. It’s a simple improvement, but it makes a world of difference. Now if they add the ability to set a Universe default attire next year, we’ll be in serious business.
There’s several other notable and big changes made to the Universe system. You can now edit the title rankings, mark superstars and divas you don’t want to appear in your Universe as inactive, and turn off storyline’s like tag team formations and break ups and injury angles. Furthermore, you finally have the ability to reset Universe mode, which is a feature fans have been asking for since SvR 2011. Add in branching storyline’s (occasionally) that give you more control of your Universe and it’s easy to see why Universe 3.0 is a huge step forward for the mode. It’s not quite where I’d like for it to be (and I don’t we’ll ever see something like what I want in a wrestling game), but it is a lot better than previous versions.
NEW MODES, MATCHES, & CREATION: The Near Complete WWE Experience
Everything you’ve come to expect from the WWE games is in WWE ’13. They haven’t removed any matches or features, but they have had some. Chief among them is the return of Special Guest Referee and I Quit matches. I’m not a huge fan of the I Quit match in this game personally, but I absolutely love Special Guest Referee. Fans have been demanding this match type to return for years, and now that we finally have it I couldn’t be happier. The first thing I did before jumping into Universe Mode, was have CM Punk screw Sheamus out of the World Championship in a match against Alberto Del Rio. To make things even better, Special Guest Referee is available online, so you can help (or screw) your friends.
Another new (returning) match type/mode is King of the Ring. You can set this up as a four-man tournament all the way up to a full 16-man tournament. After you plug in (or randomize) your superstars, you can either play every match or simulate everything. I like to pick one guy and play his matches and simulate everything else. This mode contains some new commentary lines that talk about the tournament, as well as final cutscene animation for whoever wins the tournament. Unfortunately, you can’t use the King of the Ring tournament within Universe mode, but now that the ground work has been laid that is hopefully something they can make work in next year’s game.
The famed creation suite is back this year and it’s familiar for everyone who has used it previously. There hasn’t been a lot added to it. You can still create fantastic CAWs, your own storylines, arenas, move-sets, special moves, and entrances. Likewise, you can still edit Superstars attires in the Superstar’s Threads section. The big improvement has been to Create-an-Arena. Instead of just being able to customize the ring, ropes, barricade, mat, and apron, you can now edit pretty much the entire arena. You start by selecting a stage type (and there’s a good many to choose from), then a venue size, and finally the crowd (either Attitude era or current WWE). From there you can customize the stage, ramp, lighting, add or remove a titantron, and so forth. It has allowed for some really great looking arenas to be created.
Another new creation option that fans have been clamoring for that has been added to WWE ’13 is Create-a-Championship. This is a barebones offering, but it has laid the groundwork and will hopefully be expanded upon in the future. Basically, you can edit the strap and plate colors of any championship in the game and give it a new name. You can string several call names together, so it’s possible to have someone introduced as the Impact World Heavyweight Champion.
GAMEPLAY & PRESENTATION: The WWE LIVE Experience
WWE ’13 matches play out like WWE ’12 matches. Predator Technology 2.0 hasn’t changed much, but that’s okay because WWE ’12 played really well. That’s not to say there hasn’t been improvements made though, because there certainly have been. The AI is harder on all difficulty settings, but especially on Legend. You can also further customize the match experience now by designating a match style: Quick, Normal, and Epic. A quick match is the standard squash match you see on TV. It doesn’t take a lot of damage, and the opponent isn’t likely to kick out of your finisher. Normal has good AI, but it depends on the quality of the superstar. Some guys will have an easier time kicking out while other guys be pinned easier. Epic creates some lengthy PPV-like matches. Everyone has more stamina, it takes longer to wear down an opponent, and they’ll kick out of finishers. This match can easily go 15 to 20 minutes, you’re not going to win it in two minutes.
They’ve added new camera cuts to try and further simulate WWE programming, but these don’t always pan out. Sometimes the camera will get to close to the action, and if you’re outside the ring when it does this odds are you’ll be staring at a close up shop of the apron or the steps and not even able to see the wrestlers. That’s a rare thing, but it does happen. For the most part, the camera and angles are really good. It’s definitely not the top notch WWE quality presentation they tried to advertise it as, but it’s as good as any WWE game has ever been in this department.
The audio has also been greatly improved. The crowd actually sounds alive for once, which is a great thing. The flip side is the commentary, which is as dull and boring as ever. Playing Attitude Era mode will absolutely spoil you to the point where anything outside of that is a huge downgrade. In Attitude Era mode, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handle commentary. Some of it is the generic commentary lines, but a lot of the commentary features Ross and Lawler making the actual calls they did on television at the time. The mode also features superstar voice overs for promos, interviews, and special guest commentary. Some of the voice over work are the stars saying things they actually said, but in a lot of cases it is exactly what they said dubbed in, which is awesome (although many times the audio can get quite loud during these moments). Expect to here many dropped moments of audio whenever an Attitude star says Federation or WWF, which sucks but was out of THQ’s hands.
Outside of Attitude Era mode, it’s Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler providing commentary and it is boring. It’s the same tired lines we’ve been listening too for years, a few new lines, but it comes across as two guys reading from a script in a non-excited manner. It doesn’t help that commentary statements can be dropped mid-statement just because you did a new move. Sometimes, the commentary is delayed or even wrong, which is still baffling to me how they can’t get this right after so many years of doing it (and it can be done; NBA 2K13 has fantastic commentary).
There’s of course numerous glitches to be had as the video above demonstrates. For the most part, the game plays great and the animations are fluid and look good, but occasionally you’ll see guys warping around or moves being connected with the person not even being grabbed. Weapons still react in absurd manners; you can still send a ladder flying into the audience by simply bumping into it at the wrong angle. By now, I think any WWE game fan has come to accept that these glitches aren’t going away (at least not on the current gen consoles). They’re not game breakers by any means.
A great addition for both gameplay and presentation is the new OMG moments. When you have a finisher available, you ram your opponent through the barricade. You can also choose to hit your finisher on the announce table, do a suplex off the top rope to the flood outside the ring, and if you have two big men and three finishers stored, you can actually break the ring ala Brock Lesnar and Big Show. Breaking the ring does require three finishers, but it results in an instant win via knockout, so if you can hit it it’s definitely worthwhile. In addition, select wrestlers (i.e. those where it makes sense) now have the ability to catch a jumping opponent in mid-air to hit a finishing move. If you want to see something awesome, catch a jumping opponent with an RKO out of nowhere. All of these moments are great additions to the game, they’re fun to do, and they’re flat out fun to watch happen. It may not seem like much, but it’s a fresh feature that adds a lot to matches.
ONLINE MULTIPLAYER: Layeth the Smackdown on Your Friends
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times in the future for sure, I’m just not a big fan of playing games like this or sports games online against random people. Too many people quit, or it can take to long to get a game going, so it usually just isn’t worth it. In the past, WWE games have been downright unplayable online due to horrific lag. That was mostly fixed last year, although Community Creations became an un-accessible broken mess. I’m happy to report that that isn’t the case with WWE ’13.
I’ve been having a ton of fun playing online against and with News Editor Eric W. We’ve had matches against one another, and we’ve had six man matches with bots joining us. It’s been pretty awesome for the most part. There were some issues a couple of days ago where one of us would win the match on our end, but the match would keep going on the other player’s end again an AI controlled opponent. Whoever won first would then suffer from a frozen screen for a few seconds. That has seemingly been fixed since the big patch that came out yesterday. We haven’t experienced any issues since, and hopefully it stays that way. So online is working at the moment, and it’s mostly lag free (there is some occasional lag and drop in the framerate though.)
Last year, Community Creations angered practically every fan of the game who tried to use the service to download CAWs, arenas, movesets, etc. It took forever to do anything, and if you finally got to a point where it looked like you might actually be able to download something, you’d get a message pop up that said the servers were not available. This year THQ has promised that they’ve fixed these issues, and so far that seems to be the case. The times I have used Community Creations to download and upload items the service has been fast and I haven’t encountered a single issue. THQ will be doing weekly maintenance on the servers every Tuesday morning, so hopefully the service remains in the condition it currently is in (fantastic).
FINAL VERDICT: You Should Definitely Live the Revolution
WWE ’13 features the best roster possibly ever assembled in a WWE video game, and that combined with the hype surrounding Attitude Era mode and the improvements to Universe mode had me pumped for the game. And for the most part, WWE ’13 has definitely lived up to that hype and excitement. WWE ’12 may have been the giant leap forwards for the series, but even-though WWE ’13 is only a small step forward for the series it’s still a better game than last year’s outing and really that’s the only thing you can hope for from a yearly title.
There’s more than enough new and improved stuff here to warrant a $60 purchase, so wrestling fans who have not yet done so should definitely pick this one up even if they’re still WWE ’12. Attitude Era mode is absolutely must experience, especially for the younger fans who missed out on the era when it happened well over a decade ago. The game certainly isn’t perfect, there are glitches that Yuke’s will apparently never be able to iron out, but fun gameplay wins out over a few glitches any day of the week.
Last year, I said WWE ’12 is “the most fun wrestling simulation game in a decade,” and “is the new undisputed champion of wrestling games.” Considering WWE ’13 is an improved upon WWE ’12, it’s only fair to say that WWE ’13 is the most fun wrestling simulation game since WWE ’12 and it’s also the new undisputed champion of wrestling games. You can purchase the game from Amazon for $58, and I highly recommend it.
WWE ’13 gets a four out of five: GREAT.
* A copy of this game was provided by THQ for review.