Note: A retail copy of the Playstation 3 version was provided for review. It should be largely identical to the X-Box 360 version. Anything there was a question about was checked against the X-Box 360 version in discussions with another reviewer. The online portion of the game could not sufficiently be reviewed yet due to most players being on the other side of the world in Saudi Arabia, where the game was released early. Any lag was likely due to distance, not THQ's servers.
The latest game in the series that started as WWF Smackdown, WWE '13, feels like the most hotly anticipated installment in years, based on what THQ has pushed as the game's big selling point—the Attitude Era Mode.
WWE's "Attitude Era" was part of the last big "boom" period for the pro wrestling business (with WCW's combination of the New World Order, Sting and Bill Goldberg being the other part of the equation in 1997-'98). It can best be defined as the time when the WWE embraced edgier content and moved away from family-friendly programming.
THQ first got the WWE license in the middle of this period, after a pair of lackluster games ("Warzone" & "Attitude") from previous licensee Acclaim. While they proceeded to release a few very good to excellent games during the Attitude Era (including Smackdown, the first game in what is now the WWE 'XX series), that was two to three console generations ago, so they didn't have all of the bells and whistles we get now.
Enter WWE '13's Attitude Era Mode. Replacing the traditional "Road to WrestleMania" story mode that features current wrestlers, this mode brings you through major events in WWE history.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin & Mike Tyson in Attitude Era Mode (Screenshot courtesy of THQ)
While most matches in Attitude Era Mode can be completed by winning, they all have additional historical conditions that can be satisfied to unlock more wrestlers, arenas, etc, so you will want to try your best to hit those marks.
Sometimes the conditions are required, like using a chair if the real life match ended with a wrestler being disqualified for doing so. It's a fun journey and captures the spirit of the period very well.
As for the actual gameplay, with last year's WWE '12 being a major change to the series, this year's installment is more incremental. Still, there are a few key changes:
- You can set whether a match is "quick," "normal," or "epic," which affects how damaging moves are.
- On a related note, you can allow wrestlers to start matches with as many stored finishers as you want, so an "epic" could easily see you trading big moves over and over.
- Wrestlers with certain finishers (most notably the Tombstone, Attitude Adjustment, RKO and Sweet Chin Music) can now "catch" flying wrestlers with them.
- They've added "OMG! Moments," which use a finisher or multiple stored finishers for a environmental attacks, namely finishers through the announcers' table, ring-breaking superplexes (superheavyweights only), superplexes to the floor and spears thought the security barricade.
Combine these with some minor tweaks and the changes from last year and you have a pretty fun wrestling game. It's not perfect, but enough has changed over the years that it's worth a try.
There are still some annoyances, especially with frustratingly uninterruptible actions. For example, once you've begun a taunt, you are unable to stop it in the middle as your opponent is getting up.
The creation and customization options add a lot of replay value, along with additions like Create an Arena. While Create a Storyline is an understandably tedious process, the results can be hilarious—anyone in the game can be run over by a car, placed in a casket, made to dive off the TitanTron onto a foe and more.
Unfortunately, created storylines can not be used in WWE Universe mode, which lets you play matchmaker for your own imaginary version of WWE.
It's not really clear what Paul Heyman's much hyped involvement in the game was. The Attitude Era storylines are all real stories with minor tweaks if a wrestler's likeness wasn't licensed (like Rick Rude and Chyna in the DX section).
The Universe doesn't really have continuing storylines in any substantive way, and most of the cut scenes it borrows from Create a Storyline were in previous games.
The overall presentation is nice, but the series' graphical engine is showing its age at this point, especially compared to the UFC Undisputed games that were, like WWE '13, also developed by Yukes for THQ. At the right camera angles, the wrestlers look good, but the textures don't have much realism to them in close-ups.
The sound is mostly good within reasonable expectations. Crowd noise is much more realistic this year and the surround sound mixing is good, but commentary is repetitive and the studio reverb from the ring announcer doesn't reflect a real arena before live events.
There are also a few glitches and other odd problems. The created storyline matches are missing in-ring sounds and the commentary in Attitude Era cut scenes is a mess—incredibly loud with very noticeable distortion. It contrasts jarringly with the well-mixed, well-recorded regular commentary in other parts of the game.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy WWE '13, especially since there's literally no other wrestling game series in town at this point. I expect to get plenty of replay value out of it, especially playing it online and downloading community created content, but it's still flawed enough to be frustrating.
If you get it every year, you will absolutely love it.
If you're a cautiously optimistic player returning to the series like me, you'll likely have a lot of fun but get annoyed at times. It's very good, but not great. I'm crossing my fingers in hopes that the annoyances get patched.
- Attitude Era mode is a blast.
- Detailed, varied creation modes.
- Load times are pretty short by the standards of the genre.
- Matches feel more true to life than previous years and can now be set to be "Quick," "Normal," or "Epic."
- The additions to the actual wrestling gameplay are welcome and quick time events are better integrated into the gameplay than before.
- Enough has changed that it's worth trying even if you haven't been a fan of the series in the past.
- Community creations provide lots of replay value.
- The traditional "Road to WrestleMania" story mode has been cut to make room for the Attitude Era story mode and Universe doesn't fill the gap—so there's no "current" story mode,
- Universe mode storylines are limited to random cutscenes and user-created storylines can't be used in Universe mode.
- Outdated graphics.
- Too many glitches—some expected (the same collision detection issues that have plagued every 3D wrestling game, camera switching issues in the TV style presentation) and some surprising (missing in-ring sound effects in created stories, loud and distorted commentary in Attitude Era cutscenes).
Numerical score that everyone is waiting for: 7.0 out of 10