Also On: PS3
I love Professional Wrestling. I’ve been in love with it since I was kid, growing up watching Hogan, Andre, DiBiase, Macho Man, Ultimate Warrior, and then moving into WCW via my grandparents, and being entertained on a weekly basis by guys like Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Dusty Rhodes, Sting, and so on. And while the current state of the WWE might not be everyone’s favorite iteration, and let’s face it, there’s certainly reason to be disappointed in the current product, I still find myself tuning in week after week. There’s also some really great alternatives out there to what you’ll see on USA every Monday night, and if you’re a fan of what these talented guys and girls do, there’s definitely good stuff out there worth your attention.
So being a fan of both wrestling and video games, it’s pretty natural for me to get excited to lay hands on a new wrestling video game every year. WWE ’13, releasing this week for Xbox 360 and PS3, does have some content worth getting excited about. While I think we all burn a candle for wrestling games of yesteryear, like No Mercy and Wrestlemania 2000, WWE ’13 feels like a much needed improvement over last year’s WWE ’12. It’s not evident in the character models, which honestly look kind of awful, especially those faces, but the addition of a focus on the popular Attitude Era of the WWE this game offers up something WWE fans to look forward to.
While the game does feature returning modes, like Universe and Create a Storyline, along with your standard exhibition matches that range from simple one on one’s to Hell in a Cell, Inferno Matches, and more, the new Attitude Era mode is where you’ll most likely be spending most of your time with the game. It’s the place to go if you’re interested in unlocking most of the content, like additional wrestlers culled from the Attitude era, and specific arena or ring types, but it’s also the best story mode that wrestling games have offered in quite some time.
Part of that comes from the video packages that detail different scenarios related to the matches you’ll play in, and don’t shy away from controversial moments like the infamous Montreal Screwjob. These video packages are made exclusively for the game, pulled from actual footage of the matches you’ll replicate, and are pretty much on par with the excellent work done in WWE All-Stars from a couple years back. They really help set the stage for the matches you participate in, and follow a timeline of events that led up to McMahon taking over WCW, which feels like a pretty natural ending point, and hopefully leads to a future Invasion themed release next year.
The matches that you actually play are also really great representations from that particular era, with some stand outs like the epic Rock vs. Austin match from Wrestlemania XV. There’s a whole lot of content present, divided up into chapters that detail the rise of Degeneration-X, focus on superstars like Rock, Austin, and Mankind, and one chapter the revolves entirely around the aforementioned Wrestlemania. There’s even a final chapter that unlocks, which is composed of standalone matches featuring other popular superstars from that era, including Edge and Christian, Lita, Trish Stratus, The Godfather (complete with Ho Train), and more.
Most of the matches aren’t just straightforward pin and win style events either. There are both optional and required historical objectives to meet, which are meant to mimic the flow of the matches you’ll be recreating. Completing bonus historical objectives will unlock additional content for the game, including bonus Attitude Era matches, new characters and skins for existing characters, new match types, arenas, and so on. There’s really a whole slew of unlockable content present, and completing the historical objectives is typically worth it, and fun to pull off.
It’s a shame that the gameplay still isn’t up to par with the presentation though. It certainly feels reminiscent of WWE ’12, which featured some improved animations and less awkward grapple transitions, which carries over here. But wrestlers still feel kind of stiff and sluggish, and I honestly think the amount of time your wrestler stays dazed or stuck to the mat after a suplex or other blow takes a little too long. The gameplay feels really focused on using reversals, which wouldn’t be that bad if they seemed to make sense without the prompt button being active. And even when the prompt shows, the timing for reversals still feels off for half a second. This actually makes playing people online a bit of a nightmare if their connection is anything other than perfect, because introducing even a slight element of lag into the mix makes it really hard to shift momentum after taking a little bit of a beating. That’s not to say that the game is an unplayable mess, or anything that extreme, but there’s some unnecessary element of frustration that sets in because you feel like certain elements are out of your control, and the wrestlers ability to react and move is a little stilted.
There are also some hilarious collision issues that pop up here and there. I’ve had wrestlers literally stuck to objects, including the ropes, and on occasion needed to restart a match because I couldn’t get unstuck. There was some momentary fun in watching the wrestler controlled by the CPU walk around the ring bewildered with nothing to do, but having to restart a match because of it certainly isn’t a plus. I’ve also seen objects react is strange ways, like having chairs fly off into the air after getting knocked from my hands, which definitely breaks any element of realism here.
And character models look pretty awful, which I imagine some internet folks are already aware of. I’ve seen some .jpgs and .gifs passed around message boards showcasing some of the poor work done in bringing these real world figures to life, and I’d say that those shots are pretty representative of the final product. You won’t have any trouble figuring out who is who, after all there are a lot more defining characteristics to most wrestlers than just their faces, but the work does look poor compared to some previous efforts. One area of improvement, for me at least, is that the crowd actually looks lively and varied. I don’t know why that stood out to me so much this year, maybe it’s from the poor work done in a few other sports games this year, but I think the crowd, and arenas even, look pretty great in WWE ’13.
Commentary is another area that I have some issues with. When playing the Attitude Era, commentary is appropriately done by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, guys who made the Attitude Era what it was as much as any wrestler did. And while they sound pretty good, if a little stilted in that typical voice-over commentary style, what they say repeats far too often. It follows the action well enough, but you’ll hear the same lines repeat alot. When playing through exhibition and Universe modes, commentary is provided by Michael Cole and Lawler, which again sounds alright, but still repeats quite a bit. There’s also some awful sound mixing at play, with commentary dropping in and out, oftentimes being overpowered by crowd noise, and you’ll find that wrestler’s intro music suffers from the same treatment.
So I think fans will find WWE ’13 to be sort of a mixed bag. It absolutely benefits from the inclusion of the Attitude Era material, as I’m sure it’ll evoke feelings of nostalgia for most wrestling fans, and I found that material to be handled pretty well. The video packages for a lot of the matches are really well done and the matches selected stand out as the one’s most people will remember as highlights. The gameplay isn’t quite up to snuff, and while certainly playable, doesn’t capture the vitality and athleticism of the matches as well as it should. There are also some issues with the audio, and the character models feel like a step-backwards for this generation. Online works well enough, but I certainly didn’t spend enough time with it prior to this review to give any definitive opinion on it, other than the counter based system becomes a mess when lag is introduced. The customization options, including Create a Story, Create a Wrestler, and more, are about as fully featured as they’ve been previously. There’s really a lot of content here, both user created and on disc that’ll keep you busy for quite a while, provided you care enough or are creative enough to sample it.
Overall, I think it’s worth checking out, whether that’s a rental or purchase is up to you. There’s enough content on disc to justify the purchase, but don’t expect any massive gameplay improvements over what WWE ’12 had to offer. But from a presentation or story mode angle, this is a huge step up from the previous game, despite the graphical and audio issues. I’m hoping that this style is adopted for whatever the next yearly iteration ends up being, as it adds a cohesive level to that package that has been lacking in WWE games this generation.