The pre-release hoopla is done. WWE 13 was released at midnight all over the United States. WWE fanatics that pre-ordered the game have probably already played countless matches, created tons of custom content, and submerged themselves in all things WWE games over the last few hours.
Yes, the release of this game is that big of a deal.
For wrestling/gaming fans, this is equivalent to a Madden, FIFA or NBA 2K release. I've been playing the game for about four days. I've analyzed every nook and cranny in an attempt to craft an in-depth analysis of the game.
There are tons to explore here, and plenty to see. I really needed four days—and possibly more—to touch on everything in the game. What I offer you in the next five detailed slides doesn't equate to spoilers for in-game storylines, so no need to worry about that.
However, when you're done reading, watching the videos, and scanning over the exclusive screenshots included, you'll be equipped to make a decision on your feelings for this game.
That is, if you haven't already copped it.
Here's my take on WWE 13.
(All images and videos from WWE 13 by THQ)
Almost every player model looks really good. The glare of sweat and oil can be picked up easier on each Superstar, and I don't just mean David Otunga. Each Superstar is rendered accurately from a size and bulk standpoint.
There are only a few instances where the Superstars or Divas aren't as accurate as they could be. Shawn Michaels is one example.
HBK's face is off a bit, but it isn't as if he isn't recognizable. Still, if you removed his head from the body and the attire, there's a chance gamers wouldn't know who he was immediately.
Again, this is definitely not the norm, as most Superstars are rendered as accurate as the sparkling screenshots of Dolph Ziggler and Triple H below:
The Arenas and Crowd
The crowds look solid.
Obviously, they aren't fully rendered models to the extent of the Superstars and Divas, but at least they aren't 2-D cut outs. The arenas and lighting are outstanding. This was generally never an issue in the series, and the expansions to the Create An Arena options further display the quality in this aspect of the game.
Each of the match types are presented with notable distinction. Hell In A Cell matches, cage matches, Elimination Chamber, and Tables, Ladder and Chairs matches have all the right props and paraphernalia in and around the ring.
As still shots go, there isn't much to criticize.
Animations and Collision Detection
Most of the animations are good, and improved from WWE 12. However, there are a few weird animation glitches. It seems to occur most often in the corner areas of the cage, or near the ring steps.
You can see that the Predator 2.0 gameplay engine and the overall hit detection was tuned up to account for contact with every thing in the environment. Yet, in a few instances this causes some odd occurrences.
Superstars sometimes vibrate oddly and become skewed masses for a second, or even appear to transport from one spot to another without reason.
How often did I see this type of issue?
I'd say only once in every seven matches. These little glitches aren't match altering, so it's not a game ruiner in any way shape or form, but it certainly shows the animations and physics are still a work in progress.
One thing to keep in mind as well is that they could be cleaned up via post-release patch.
On the positive side, there aren't nearly as many instances where your wrestler misses strikes simply because he isn't perfectly aligned with his opponent. This was frustrating in past versions, but it has been cleaned up noticeably.
Bottom Line Here
This is a beautiful looking game with all your favorite Superstars accurately reproduced, but this category is dragged down by physics issues with some of the weapons and structures.
Graphics & Animation Score: 7.25 out of 10
One of the first things I noticed about the gameplay is that the reversal ideology is conveyed more clearly. By default, there is subtle on-screen feedback as you attempt to reverse your opponents' attacks.
You're simply "too late" or "too quick" or you'll successfully perform the reversal if possible. That's a small tweak, but I found it really handy. In WWE 12, I spent a lot of time yelling at the screen after failed reversal attempts.
Kicks and punches are easier to perform, but that doesn't mean the strikes are spammable. The reversal techniques work with strikes much like they do for grappling moves. If opponents time you, expect to see your attacks turned around—especially against the higher-rated Superstars.
Different Gameplay Experiences Per Match Type
All of the match types offer unique experiences. The gameplay engine allows for each of these game modes to offer a unique style of entertainment. Here's an example of a steel cage match with Cody Rhodes taking on Daniel Bryan. Just beneath that is a standard match featuring Kofi Kingston taking Zack Ryder:
OMG and Catching Finishers
The collision detection as it relates to one wrestlers interaction with another wrestler is very good. The gaming engine creates some truly exciting and authentic wrestling sequences. The catching finishers and OMG moments are new to the WWE games package, and they definitely add to the experience.
The first time you pull one of these moves off you'll undoubtedly be excited. To pull off a spectacular moment you have to store a finisher, and maneuver your opponent into the right situation. This ensures you don't see them as common occurrences, and it makes them more impacting.
The same can be said for the catching finishers. You have to be in the right situation, and you have to time it correctly. The gameplay is headed in the right direction with this series.
However, there is a down side to this aspect of the game.
The A.I. for CPU-controlled wrestlers isn't exactly sharp on the default difficulty. More experienced gamers may have to bump up the difficulty level to keep from running roughshod through the game.
There are instances where the CPU-controlled wrestler is a little slow to react, or act in situations that can cause them the match. Sometimes it can prevent the match from flowing at a fast and fun pace. This isn't an issue with head-to-head competition, but CPU play is a major aspect of the overall experience.
The Bottom Line:
The gameplay is improved from previous versions, but it still lacks the crispness to truly stand out amongst other fighting/sports games.
Gameplay/Fun Factor Score: 7.25 out of 10
Presenting the Attitude Era
There are aspects of the overall presentation that made me say "wow."
These "wow" moments are especially apparent in the Attitude Era mode. The development team went to great lengths to reproduce the era with authenticity. When I began the mode and was transported to an old episode of Raw, the atmosphere was unmistakable.
Almost everything right down to the retro opening theme was captured. The size of the arenas were smaller, and the commentary was very era-specific.
Entrances, Signature Style and Arena Environments
This type of presentation is apparent throughout the game. Smaller arenas feel different, as do the outdoor arenas.
Check out Randy Orton's entrance in my created outdoor venue in the first video. The second video is the opening sequence to the Attitude Era mode and commentary from the first match in the Degeneration-X story line:
I love most every entrance, taunt and theatric movement before and after finishing maneuvers. I can look over a few inconsistencies, such as Kofi Kingston's problematic Trouble In Paradise.
Because more than 95 percent of the game's visual presentation is so good. No sports themed game is perfect in this aspect, and WWE wrestling has so many nuances, it's almost impossible to capture every detail.
Menus and Sound
If there's one gripe about the visual presentation, I'd point out the rather bland menus. This is really trivial, and possibly just a style preference.
They aren't difficult to navigate—which is most important—but they are just plain gray. That could be the look the designers were going for, but it's just not my favorite.
I may be too hard to please on this front. NBA 2K13's menus were too busy—in my opinion—and these are too plain.
As far as sound, you'll immediately notice the clarity with the crowd and with the entrance music. It's a nice touch-up, and it's part of the WWE Live enhancement that was touted throughout the pre-release hype.
The commentating is even improved—at least in the Attitude Era mode.
There's a nice mix of dialogue that relates to the story lines from the time in WWE history you're reenacting. It makes the presentation and experience seem fresh, and further differentiates that mode from exhibition matches.
However, the commentary in standard matches is still not very good. Many of the phrases are repeats from past WWE games. It would be nice to see the developers redo this aspect of the game altogether.
The Bottom Line:
This is one of the strong points of the game from a visual standpoint, but the sound achievement is curtailed by the commentating engine in exhibition matches.
Sound and Presentation Score: 8 out of 10
This is where WWE 13 shines the brightest. To say the options available are jam-packed would be an understatement.
Almost every match type is available in the game, and that includes the newly added special referee and I Quit match types. No previously included match stipulations were removed, so this aspect of the game just got bigger.
Gamers can even setup and play their own King of the Ring tournaments. That was very good news as I've always loved the KOTR. I wish the WWE would bring it back to their pay-per-view rotation, but that's a story for another day.
The Creation Suite
The creation suite is simply the most complete set of customizable options I've ever seen in a console sports game. From creating Superstars with oodles of layers and details, to creating signature entrances, names, move-sets, finishers and more.
Making your own Superstars or Divas isn't the only vehicle of creation gamers will have. There's a solid Create-An-Arena option as well. Even more textures, backgrounds and goodies have been opened up for you to customize the perfect wrestling environments.
This is video game customization at its best. Having the ability to customize so much adds limitless replay value to the game.
WWE Universe 3.0
Wrestling is a macho soap opera. It blends two of the things (violence and drama) that people love most about entertainment into one product. The source of violence in a wrestling game is easy to find, but the drama is a bit tricky.
The Universe mode is designed to bring the role-playing and stories into your experience. THQ has done a decent job at that in previous versions, but Universe 3.0 takes it up a notch.
Gamers have been able to create and share their own stories before, but now those stories can be even more in-depth. This year's version introduces branching story lines. This varies the outcomes of the angles even more, and gives each created story multiple outcomes.
Blending your created stories and other options into WWE Universe 3.0 mode makes it a perfect complement to the extensive customization options.
Not only can you pull all of your creations into your own alternate wrestling universe, but the mode opens up even more opportunities to make the experience unique to every gamer.
Fans can give birth to their own weekly shows and pay-per-view events. You can choose existing venues or use the ones you've created in the Create-An-Arena mode. You can choose what days of the week the shows or events will take place.
You can even rearrange the pre-existing WWE schedule to accommodate your new programs. With Universe 3.0 being the equivalent to a franchise mode in the sports video game genre, it ranks right near the top of the list in that respect.
I was all prepared to be blown away by Universe 3.0 and the creation suite, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Attitude Era mode.
To say I enjoyed it is understating the facts. I friggin love it.
The presentation is great. The matches feel retro, and the commentary from Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler is on point. The objectives of the match are fun, clear and easy to follow. The mode succeeds as a guide through WWE history, the execution of special moves and an alternate experience to the other modes.
In case you aren't committed to buying the Fan Axxess pass, the Attitude Era mode is where you'll gain access to extra content. Playable versions of locked wrestlers, alternate attires, venues and championship belts.
It's fun following the story lines, seeing the cut-scenes and taking part in the reenactments. I didn't think I'd like it, but I was wrong.
The Bottom Line
It's hard to imagine how THQ could have given gamers more in this aspect of the game. They really nailed it here, I have no complaints.
Game Modes and Options Score: 10 out of 10
WWE 13 is an example of a game that really excels in some areas, but still has some issues that prevent it from being a truly epic achievement.
There is no denying how amazing much of the game looks, and how fun it is to customize almost every aspect of the game. I can't discount the improvements I did see with gameplay, but some of the old issues are still apparent.
The glitches in collision detection as it relates to corner areas is hard to miss. Hopefully, a patch to correct this is in development.
Even with the flaws, this is still a good game. For hardcore WWE gamers, it is a must-have because of the history, the customization and gameplay which provides enough satisfaction to entertain.
However, more strict critics will likely pounce on the gameplay issues.
As a complete experience, there is a lot to like here. I'll be playing this game a ton, primarily because customization is my thing, and the physics issues aren't a game-killing impediment.
Though it isn't perfect, it is still a lot of fun.
Overall Score: 8 out of 10
(All images and videos from WWE 13 by THQ)
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