“Live the revolution” screams the WWE 13 marketing, a message you won’t have been able to avoid if you’re a regular viewer of WWE’s TV shows. But is WWE 13 a revolution in wrestling games, or does it simply repeat what we’ve seen year-on-year before.
The marquee feature for this year’s WWE game is the Attitude Era Mode, replacing last year’s poorly received Road to Wrestlemania. The Attitude Era was a period in wrestling between 1995 and 2001 when the WWE introduced edgier characters (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock and D-Generation X) and stories as it went to ‘war’ with rival promotion WCW.
The Attitude Era mode is a retrospective of this time, charting the TV ratings rivalry and taking the player on a journey through defining matches. Accompanying the matches is masses of video content that serves as an entertaining history of late 90’s wrestling.
The mode’s chapters focus on key matches but go beyond simply asking you to win your match. Each match comes with objectives to entice you to replicate what occurred during the real bouts over a decade ago. It works really well and should appeal to those who lived through this era and those who have only read about it.
Thanks to the Attitude Era the WWE 13
roster is huge! 85 at my last count, spread across current stars, Attitude Era wrestlers, and Divas, with more to come through DLC. The kicker is that they’re not available from the start, less than half are. Most have to be unlocked through the Attitude Era Mode and more are coming through DLC.
But here lies a problem. WWE 13
is released the week following the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view event, but if you want to team Damien Sandow with Cody Rhodes, you’ll have to wait for his DLC in January. How about recreating CM Punk’s match with man-of-the-moment Ryback? Well Ryback isn’t available as DLC until December. It’s like EA making FIFA fans wait a month before they can have Arsenal, and then asking them to pay 59p.
There is an option to unlock all existing content by purchasing the Accelerator DLC. It only costs £1.59, which is a bargain, but by doing so you remove all the incentives from Attitude Era. I’m sure there could have been some middle ground.
The familiar Universe Mode keeps its place in the menu system and little has changed. You’re in charge an on-going TV schedule, which allows you to play or simulate the matches you’re presented with, or tweak them to your heart’s content. It’s an adequate feature but during my play through the minimal narrative hardly made me feel inspired to plough on.
The degree of customisation available in WWE 13
, as with previous titles, is huge! In some cases it’s too huge. I doubt even the keenest fans will both with the drawn out story creator. Building your own arena is fun, as is creating a wrestler. However, the system used to do this feels very dated. Fortunately, being able to share wrestlers online should provide a wealth of content and increase longevity.
Controls in wrestling games are often a contentious issue. Personally, I liked the stick-based attack system in the final SVR games. The current button-based system just doesn’t seem to present as many attacking options, although the ability to target specific limbs is useful. Likewise, the move to a reaction-based system to escape from pins is great and relies more on skill than button mashing.
Unfortunately the awful counter system is the system’s Achilles heel. To counter a move you have to pull the right trigger at a moment designated by an on-screen prompt. The prompts are fleeting and seem to be random, but after some practice it does get easier.
Much like real wrestlers, WWE 13
is a mixed bag in the looks department. Entrances and broadcast like production values are top-notch. What lets it down are the character models that feel terribly outdated and plastic. Compare them to FIFA 13, NBA 2K13 or Fight Night and you can tell the engine needs a serious update.
Collision detection is another area in need of an update, with it being hard to tell if you’re connecting with attacks and feeling like you’re just bumbling around the ring. Even the AI seems to suffer with one of my matches seeing Zack Ryder deciding to walk into a steel cage for 60 seconds.
Sound is also an issue. The commentary is monotonous and crowd noise seems random. The Attitude Era, which features a different team of match callers (Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler), is better thanks to the pair having a set story to narrate rather than just naming moves.
There’s a lot of fun to be had with WWE 13
, especially in Attitude Era, and the finished roster is immense, but it’s clear that many elements need bringing up to date. The flaws don’t make it a poor game, just a frustrating one.
Disclaimer: The game came with an embargo of Wednesday with it coming out in America the same day. Not a good sign. What’s worse is that across Twitter WWE fans were posting pictures of WWE 13 parties they were hosting, with THQ sending out 500 copies of the game to fans as part of their social media marketing. I only received my review copy this Monday.
Attitude Era Mode is awesome!
A massive roster that brings back the old days
A wealth of customisation options
Outdated graphics and sound
Missing stars (for now)
Countering system makes me want to open a can of whoop-ass!
SPOnG Score: 7/10