WWE ’12 was most certainly a reinvention of the series that certainly divided opinion. While our review gave it the thumbs up, there were many blemishes that didn’t resonate as well with some. This is the wonderful thing about opinions for annual releases: they differ in priorities. For years World Wrestling Entertainment has been faithfully represented in a digital form by THQ’s licenced game and WWE ’13 is no exception. In order to evolve, the series needs to cater towards improving the foundations the last one built up while improving the things that weren’t successful and this is what the focus of this review will be on. WWE ’13 does bring a few changes, including a long overdue injection of some attitude. But should WWE ‘13 shut up and know its role?
Instead of the made up and generally woeful Road to Wrestlemania campaigns from previous titles, WWE ’13 goes back to the Attitude Era for its main campaign. Taking on the roles of eight influential players in shaping that direction for the WWE, including the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and whichever persona Mick Foley wishes to use, you will venture through the history of the ‘Monday Night War” with WCW from the perspective of the WWE. You will experience events such as the Montreal Screw-Job where Bret “The Hitman” Hart controversially lost the title and his job, the feud between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon, and the equally scandalous rise of the People’s Champion. Archive clips from the show itself are a particularly nice touch. This is perhaps a little too linear for my liking, but it is nice to see that the game remembers what made wrestling great. If only the same could be said for the current ‘kid-friendly’ roster.
WWE Universe from last year is almost unchanged. You can get the AI to simulate matches for you, edit match rosters at will, and even invade matches to do whatever you want. The biggest change is that you are no longer restricted to a set schedule because you can now create major or minor shows for any day of the week. This means you can use your own custom arenas, create pay-per-view events, and edit themes, logos, match lengths, and title belts; making the WWE universe truly your own. It’s good fun for those who have the attention to detail, but for those with less time on their hands you can always start exhibition matches of all kinds of line-ups instead. Each of the creator modes is heavily detailed, with the only issue being finding the time to show your artistic side.
Whatever your feelings on the controls from last year, that probably won’t change. Moves are executed through a series of button presses and combinations and, while the core controls are simple enough, the game doesn’t explain some of the more advanced mechanics well enough. These include targeting certain body parts when grappling or being able to use each character’s special abilities. Instead you need to read reams of text to decipher the method of execution, which is about as engaging as reading a dull text-book at school.
It doesn’t help that sometimes the execution doesn’t work. On repeated occasions there were instances of trying to pull off a specific move, only for my character to do something else. Reversals are probably the worst offenders, as pressing the button at the right time doesn’t register sometimes. You do have an indicator if you are too early or late pressing the button, but this rarely helps. One match ended prematurely when my character lunged for the other combatant and then glitched into the ropes. Then there is the AI, whose only real tactic is to be uncannily good at reversals. If the AI didn’t pose any problems last year, it won’t this year; but that doesn’t excuse the horrible controls.
Spectacle is what makes the WWE successful in presenting its big arena-filled shows. Each Superstar has their own entrance, likeness and move sets that do try to mimic their real-life counterparts. The trouble is that the models are as plastic looking as a Barbie doll, the movements aren’t as fluid as one could hope for, and the likeness is patchy in places. That said, it is rather amazing to see arenas from over a decade ago being reconstructed with a high attention to detail. The audience is still on par with N64 style graphics though, with the diversity between signs and crowd members being ironic at times. True story: I had one topless fat man in the audience hold up a sign saying “Free the Puppies”.
While WWE ’13 certainly attempts to mimic that with spectacularly detailed entrances, surprisingly detailed Superstars and dynamic arenas, the same can’t be said for the camera. There is a wider diversity of angles that the camera will take, but like the physics themselves it is prone to glitch out. One instance came where I put an opponent through the barriers in one of the “OMG! Moments”, only to find afterwards that the camera fixed on the other two AI controlled fighters punching it out outside of the ring. This is but the most extreme of bugs with the camera, as it is more prone to just cut out half the screen at random. Sounds are as authentic as ever however, with commentary from Jim Ross, Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and Michael Cole doing a better job at conveying the action, even if they’re prone to constant repetition.
One of the main focuses in playing WWE ’13 is unlocking new content. The majority of the unlockables are obtained by achieving the optional Historic Moments in matches during the Attitude Era. Most are simple to execute, but it does highlight the lack of a proper tutorial for where characters need to stand in order to execute certain attacks. If you’re The Undertaker for example, to execute the Tombstone Piledriver requires you to face your opponent standing up and press the Special button. The Chokeslam on the other hand requires you to face your opponent standing up, hold the stick as if you’re moving, and press the same button. To make things worse, his brother Kane requires you to do the opposite for each move. While the menus in the character select screen do this to a certain extent, the majority of the time you’ll not have access to this necessary information. More advanced conditions, such as pulling off a Finisher and pinning your opponent within ten seconds of each other round-up a list of objectives that require a lot of patience to execute, especially if your opponent’s manager constantly distracts the referee when you’re doing this.
WWE ’13 does fare a lot better than last year’s iteration with a consistent if linear Attitude Era mode, plus a huge diverse range of options for matches and creation tools. Having said that though, the execution of the mechanics and presentation emulate last year’s game to a tee; for better or worse. It’s very difficult to see why this year’s one is much of an improvement; but when the game lets you loose on your own to create your own WWE Universe, that is when it becomes a liberating and riveting experience unlike anything else. While this is a huge chunk of the game, it is but one mode composed of the same action in other modes. WWE ’13 is certainly not the best there was, the best there is or the best there ever will be.