Much like other sports games, the WWE games have been hit or miss over the years. However, it had been a long time since THQ had overhauled the engine that ran the SmackDown vs. RAW games before WWE 12 came along. So, with the name change came the “Predator Engine” that brought “back to basics” gameplay and a graphical overhaul that better represented the current generation of consoles. The problem is it still had the glitches and bugs that have plagued wrestling games for years, not to mention probably the worst story mode we´ve seen in a long time in a THQ wrestling game. THQ and WWE wanted to rectify that in WWE 13 by re-introducing the “Attitude Era” to a new and old set of wrestling fans. The question becomes does basing your story mode around events that happened over 15 years ago equal sales and fun. Well, let’s say I had tons of fun with it and I can only hope it equals big sales numbers for THQ. The issue is what do you do with WWE 13 when “Attitude Era Mode” is over. Well, come read on to find out if there is enough to justify a purchase.
WWE 13´s use of the Predator engine has been improved a tad, even though they are still hit and miss on the facial models of the wrestlers. It´s weird to see The Rock look really good and then when you play as Shawn Michaels or Stone Cold their faces just don´t seem realistic. It is something that´s rather noticeable and off-putting considering it seems Yukes picked and chose which wrestlers would be more detailed. Yukes also decided to continue the airbrush technique on the wrestlers to give them a pseudo realistic look, it looks really nice on the loading screens but at times the wrestlers still do not look like they´ve progressed that much since the PS2 generation of WWE games. Gamers complaining about this do probably need to realize that we are about to get new consoles from Sony and Microsoft in a year or two, and they probably want to wait until then to change anything with the graphics. That being said, I felt things ran a little smoother than in WWE 12 with some of the collision problems fixed. There are still floating problems that occur when wrestlers are on tables or even hit with other weapons. They don´t seem to happen as much as last year but they are still there. Even though Yukes did fix some of the collision issues now there is a lot more awkward pauses in gameplay and sometimes wrestlers will warp to different parts of the ring while performing reversals. Again, this is not something that is game breaking but it does occur often enough that it can cause the action to slow down. There is also the annoying thing that happens when trying to get weapons out from under the ring. Since it is the same button as going in and out of the ring it can be a pain at times to get a weapon you need.
Speaking of slowing down, there are a couple of things I would suggest turning off to help make WWE 13 a smoother experience. First, go turn off the multi-cam cutaways because there were a number of times where the cutaway got the camera stuck behind an invisible black wall for a few seconds. I ended up having my finisher wasted because the five seconds it took the camera to adjust helped the A.I. get a kick out. The fact that the game actually suggests you turn them off made me laugh. It´s almost as if THQ added this in for authenticity reasons only, but knew it did not work as well as intended. The other thing I suggest turning off before each match is the post match replays. This seemed to happen more often when using a created character but quite a few times the game practically froze because it was trying so hard to run the replays. I had to wait for almost a minute or longer while watching a black screen until the game finished the “replays” so it would finally get to the post match celebration and I could exit the match. There were a few times where this made the game freeze completely and I had to reset my Xbox 360 as well. At least the load times to begin entrances and begin matches have been lessened by a wide margin over WWE 12.
The commentary in the game has not really changed much, as you have to listen to Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler repeat the same lines over and over at times. It isn´t as mute inducing as WWE 12´s but it’s really not that much better either. The sound effects do seem to be pretty responsive and the introduction of WWE Live does make the crowd sound more into the matches. However, it does create awkward times where the match goes from unrelenting noise to a sudden death silence. Usually you either get a dead crowd, a buzzing crowd, or a very active crowd. It usually never goes from totally awesome to dead in a second. But for a first year effort the WWE Live technology certainly makes the game more enjoyable to play because the crowd gets into matches and seems more responsive than in previous WWE Titles. On a sidenote, I really love that “Live the Revolution” song used in a good portion of the game.
Roughly, things are pretty much the same in this area from WWE 12. Not that it is a bad thing because this is one area where WWE 12 excelled. Players still use the face buttons to perform all the main actions in a match, which to me is a much welcome change from having to use triggers and joysticks to perform grapples, whips, finishers, and counters. The reversal system is a bit slower at responding this year making it a much simpler task to do reversals, than the absolute chore it was last year. I know not everyone likes the one trigger for reversals, but I think it makes things easier from a control perspective without the hassle of figuring out if something is considered a grapple, a strike, or a finisher. The developers even added a nice aid, (which can be turned off) that tells players whether they were too early or too late at pressing the reversal trigger. True to the nature of any wrestling game reversing can still be a guessing game at times. The A.I. is very adept at countering you and can turn many matches into “Reversal Fests” where most of the match consists of performing moves because of a reversal. The developers did do a better job this year of attempting to add flow to the matches where many reversals have a correct ending and especially in “Attitude Era” mode it seems the A.I. difficulty is naturally harder. Yukes even takes a page directly from the much ballyhooed “WWE No Mercy” and has the A.I. take breaks outside the ring to avoid your signature move or finisher. Even though it may seem cheap, it is something heel wrestlers do and does make players think about when to use a finisher. Also, the flying moves still have issues with connecting against prone fallen opponents. At least they added bots to online play so that you have a better chance of actually getting to play multi-man matches online. The whole online setup this year runs a lot better than in WWE 12 as a whole.
THQ also made two very useful additions to WWE 13, one of them grants players the ability to store a finisher and then perform an OMG Moment on the outside of the ring. You can drive someone through a barricade, through an announce table, or even destroy the ring ala Brock Lesnar and Big Show. I just wish you could have more places to do the OMG moments. I really loved being able to pull these off and I would welcome more things like this in WWE 14. The other addition allows players to choose what kind of match they want to have at the match-up screen. Going along with the three match types usually seen on WWE television, Quick, (or squash match) Normal (3 star matches,) and Epic (4 to 5 star matches.) This not only affects the A.I’s fatigue and awareness, it also means players will have to wear down opponents a whole lot more than normal. This was put in to combat the rapid nature of which matches ended in WWE 12. This new feature is cool, especially in Universe Mode, but because it is used in every other part of the game it does create one problematic issue mainly due to the fact that in Attitude Era Mode almost every match feels like it’s on the epic setting. There are several confrontations, even in matches that are supposed to have ended quickly, where the A.I. kicks out at 1 no matter how many times you’ve done your finisher, or how much you have worn down the opponent for that matter. THQ has acknowledged this as a “glitch” in the gameplay and though they issued a patch a few days ago, I still cannot tell if the issue has been fixed or not. Needless to say this caused me to have to repeat matches in Attitude Era quite a few times because I could not obtain certain historical objectives fast enough before losing or running out of time. However, this probably wasn’t the biggest reason I lost matches in WWE 13.
My biggest pet peeve I’ve had with the overhaul in gameplay is THQ’s insistence in having this kick out mini-game. While I like the idea of it, I would prefer the holding down of A not be so willy nilly to where sometimes it is no problem at all to kick out of a finishing move and in other instances I can’t even kick out of a Suplex. It makes the game feel clunky when this happens and it still seems like I am rolling the dice just as much as I was with button mashing in previous games. I do like the button mashing for the breaking point submissions though, because you still have control over tapping out, while also having fun inflicting pain on your opponent. The terrific limb targeting system also helps make those Breaking Point Submissions even more fun to lock into an opponent. Putting glitches and the kick out mechanic aside, I still found the gameplay very enjoyable and of course it is a blast to play with other humans even more than it is against the CPU.
Attitude Era Mode:
After last year’s idiotic and much maligned “Road to Wrestlemania” mode failed to capture the attention of fans. THQ and Yukes decided to go back to the WWE’s most popular period, “The Attitude Era” to use as the setting for the story mode in WWE 13. First of all, THQ and Yukes should be commended for their attention to detail here. They didn’t just give you the authentic superstars of the era (TNA contracted wrestlers excluded) and call it quits. The arenas, the setting, the commentators, and the storylines are all ripped straight from the era. The best part is getting to watch some of the more memorable moments recreated using the in-game engine such as Mick Foley’s “Three Faces of Foley” promo that leads to the Cactus Jack vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley match on the September 22, 1997 episode of RAW. I laughed pretty hard seeing a digital version of a younger Vince McMahon ask for the bell to “screw over” Bret Hart at Survivor Series 97 and there are even more classic moments like this. There are also special promo videos put together by WWE’s fantastic video team that get you hyped for certain matches like the 1998 Royal Rumble Match and the first ever Hell in a Cell match between HBK and Undertaker. Not to mention, they do a wonderful job of setting up the Attitude Era Mode with a video that does a nice job of explaining the “Monday Night Wars” to the un-initiated and throws you right into the “Rise of DX.” Then players venture into Stone Cold Steve Austin’s historic run, The Rock’s rise to prominence, The Brothers of Destruction, Mick Foley, and they all lead up to Wrestlemania XV (too bad that is still one of the worst Wrestlemania’s ever.)
For anyone that was a fan of that era of wrestling it is certainly a trip down memory lane. It also serves as a great history lesson for any young fan wondering, “why does everyone keep talking about The Attitude Era.” This mode by itself is worth the asking price of WWE 13 because it encompasses everything a story mode in a wrestling video game should be. It is extremely fun, you get to learn about WWE, you use classic superstars, and THQ makes most of the historical objectives optional, not mandatory. Those historical objectives actually add an extra layer of nostalgia by themselves because it gives players a chance to recreate the events of a particular match down to the Pulling Piledriver by Cactus Jack of HHH through a table. Even though at times it can seem overwhelming to try to accomplish some of these historical tasks, THQ makes it well worth the effort with a plethora of unlockable matches, costumes, entrances, superstars, and more for anyone that completes everything in a given match.
As I mentioned, THQ and Yukes put a lot of love and effort into Attitude Era Mode, so it’s hard for me to want to criticize anything in it. In fact, I really don’t have any criticisms of the mode at all just a few preferences. Please THQ make this the permanent way you do story modes from now on! I really felt like I learned while enjoying the story mode and I don’t think I can say that has happened in quite a long time. I’d really like to see maybe this done with the 1980’s WWE era or even the Alliance Era WWE as well. It also would have been nice to be able to pick which stories we wanted to play instead of having to follow everything in a linear fashion. Not everyone likes DX over say The Undertaker, Stone Cold, and The Rock. For all the talk between CM Punk and Stone Cold it would have been nice to have the dream match mode from “WWE All-Stars” be included here. Imagine what it would have been like to see some epic confrontations between an Old Rock vs. CM Punk or old Shawn Michaels vs. Daniel Bryan. I think it could have added some much needed length to the game that would have been nice.
One last thing before I move on, why did THQ skip 1999-2000, as pretty much even WWE themselves acknowledges the “Attitude Era” ended at WM 17, which was in early 2001. I really hope THQ isn’t making us wait until WWE 14 to get “The End” cause that is a horrible cop out. I think I’m not the only one that would have been willing to pay 10 to 20 more dollars for the rest of 1999 to WM 17 as DLC. In a way, I don’t blame THQ if they did hold out on us for next year because they know they have a goldmine here and they should probably suck it as dry as they can considering how bad THQ’s finances are. I’d still like to see a story mode where you can take a created character through all of WWE’s big eras and it all leads to a WWE Championship match at the end against CM Punk or something.
WWE Universe Mode:
Pretty much this is THQ’s third attempt at a cross between the Create-A-Show of GM Mode and a Dynasty Mode people are used to seeing in annual sports games. As a Create-A-Show Yukes have certainly improved that part of Universe Mode, Players can now create a third major show and have a minor show everyday of the week if you choose. I’ll also give them credit for getting Paul Heyman to heIp out on the storylines and when I did play the matches it was interesting to see what would happen next. However, I still do not understand why you have to replace one of the major rosters in order to create a third major show. I should have been able to split the Attitude Era into two rosters if I wanted and have four major shows if I wanted to do this. Instead you are only able to use RAW, RAW IS WAR, and Smackdown (you can edit the names of the rosters and names of the shows as well to whatever you want.) It just amazes me how they seem to be unable to give you total control of everything. Sometimes I really think THQ and Yukes purposefully leave out certain things out of Universe Mode so that they can put them in next year. My one issue I’ve always had with this mode, is why do we not have an option to choose how many matches we want to have on a particular show. Especially with Yukes knowing RAW was going to switch to three hours we should be able to have anywhere from 4 to 8 matches on RAW, 4 to 6 on SmackDown, and anywhere from 8 to 10 on a PPV. The default number of 5 for a TV show and 7 for a PPV is better than last year’s mode, but I still believe my point is valid here.
As I mentioned before, there are two ways to play this mode. The Dynasty or Season Mode format of Universe Mode is still broken. You still cannot vacate a title that is being used on an actual show, which is really silly. I really shouldn’t have to have Santino or whoever as my US Champion while I wait for THQ to add Antonio Cesaro in as DLC later this year. You also still cannot have Tag Team Champions without them being in a made stable, which is also silly. It is still almost impossible to figure out how to make someone a No. 1 Contender. Seriously, folks, SmackDown 2 figured this out, why is it so hard to just make it to where if Randy Orton beats Sheamus once, who is ranked ahead of him, then Orton becomes No. 1 Contender. I don’t know how many times I had Sheamus beat Big Show (World Champion) and Orton, and Sheamus still did not move from the third spot. This really needs to be fixed, not to mention I should be able to make my own No. 1 Contender’s Match and have it say that on the title head.
My biggest issue with Universe Mode is that I wish they would have kept more things from GM Mode. With Ratings mattering just as much today, as they did during the Monday Night Wars, It’d be nice to see ratings again and have a friend whether online or off-line control one of the other shows and you can compete against them. However, I feel that they have sucked all the life out of Universe Mode by only having the stories show up if you play or watch the matches. Personally, and I know I am not the only one here that does not have the time to play or even wants to play every match on every show. I like letting the show play out through simulation and then adjust my booking decisions based on who wins and loses. The previous GM Mode allowed you to sustain rivalries and it reminded you every week, “hey remember you have Dolph Ziggler in a feud vs. John Cena, make sure you find a way to keep that going.” I didn’t have to watch or play the match to know how the feud continued. If they had that here, it would have added so much life to the mode.
Because of this, I really feel like unless you play a substantial amount of the matches Universe Mode is still out of your hands for the most part. I thought the point was to give you control of what happens? It makes the mode feel lifeless and all the problems make it more of a chore to tread through. Especially because the storyline the game may choose or it may want me to choose is nothing like what I wanted to actually happen. Then I have to go through and reset everything again. I guess you could say it does go with the unpredictable nature of Wrestling though. I still have fun when I am playing matches and trying to take my created character through the ranks, but I am starting to wonder if maybe they should go back to the old way and separate Universe Mode into GM Mode and Season Mode again.
The biggest change this year is that you have full creative control over an Arena. Players now can adjust the look of the tron, the video overlays on the sides, the ads on the banners above the seating areas, the ramp, the stage, the ring, and everything around it. It was really nice to have the ability to create a complete arena. I really felt like I accomplished something when I was done with it. I was happy to play a bunch of matches in it because I totally made that arena. Then you can easily upload it to the creative community and have people rate it and download it too. A very nice decision by THQ also to let you use anything created directly in an online match without having to upload it to the community servers. And just F.Y.I. WWE’s Fan Axxess (which costs 20 bucks) must be purchased in order to download or upload anything from the Community servers. This is also the only way you can unlock DDP and Goldust for use in the game as well.
The rest of the creation suite is as expansive as ever. It really is not just about creating your superstar anymore. It took me I think almost half a day to create my character between picking out his clothes, his entrance stuff, his signs and logos. Then you go to the create-a-entrance where you can select music from your system and figure out where you want the pyro, name plate, and camera switches in each section of your entrance. Then you can also choose to create your own titantron video and finally you get to the create a finisher and the moves. With all the new additions to the movesets in WWE 13 you could literally spend a few hours in here too. I do like that you don’t have to waste time deciding on Tag Team Finishers unless they are in an actual stabled tag team. If you love creating characters or just downloading other people’s creations and then switching them around there is plenty to toy around with here. The create-a-story is probably the most robust of all the creation modes and after taking the tutorial I still felt like there were so many things to learn about that mode. I could literally spend days creating a story and not touched half of the things you can do in there.
Overall: WWE 13 is a very enjoyable game with a fantastic story mode that everyone should try out. The gameplay has been made smoother with easier reversals and some slight additions that give it more depth. The creation modes are as robust as ever with the ability to create an entire arena a treat for longtime fans. However, the fact that Universe Mode still seems a bit hollow, there are some graphical and gameplay glitches that may anger some fans and combine that with the tug of war of the pinning mechanic can make ending a match a war of attrition. If you are a WWE fan of any kind you probably already have this and are enjoying the heck out of it. If you are a casual fan that may have invested money into these in the past, I’d suggest giving it a rental and see if you really think you will play this a lot before plopping down 60 bucks. The game does have several characters, titles, and moves coming via DLC as well to keep people invested in the game. As a wrestling fan, I’ve had a lot of fun reliving the past, creating the future, and watching them grow. As a gamer, the story mode is a hit for sure, but I am still unsure about how long I will play everything else.