For someone like me, whose love for professional wrestling blossomed in WWE’s Attitude Era, WWE ’13 is a dream come true. The Attitude Era gave birth to some of the most memorable wrestling personalities and moments of all time and is widely regarding as not only the most entertaining, but also the most important period in pro wrestling history. When rival company WCW challenged WWE (then the WWF) in the Monday night wars, WWE responded with characters like Degeneration X, Mankind, Stone Cold Steve Austin and yes, The Rock. These characters and their conflicts were so iconic, it’s surprising that THQ hasn’t dipped into this well before.
I should clarify that I haven’t played a WWE game since Smackdown vs Raw 2010, so certain things that are new to me, such as the “predator technology” animation system and new physics engine, have actually been around for a few iterations. That isn’t to say that they haven’t been improved – the game boasts “Predator Technology 2.0″ – just that any comparisons I make will be to 2010. That being said, I’ll only make comparisons where appropriate.
With WWE ’13, Yukes has done away with Road to Wrestlemania, which has been the cornerstone of the series for years. In its place are the third iteration of the WWE Universe mode and the much-ballyhooed Attitude Era. In WWE Universe mode, you can get your favorite superstar (or created superstar) to Wrestlemania, so don’t worry about that, but the attention rightfully belongs on the attitude era campaign.
Spanning six different story arcs and dozens of matches, the Attitude Era campaign covers a good five years worth of storylines. The game actually shows you a progressive ratings timeline as you make your way through the mode, so you can see just how the Monday night wars played out and what events put WWE back on top. Each match that you play is a recreation of an actual match from that era, so for wrestling fans, the nostalgia factor is at an all-time high. Being able to toss Mankind off of the Hell in a Cell and actually screw Bret Hart over during the infamous Montreal screw job brought me unspeakable amounts of joy.
Not only do you replay these famous matches, but you’re given objectives to ensure that they go the way they went when they originally happened. Your main task will almost always be to win the match. The victor has to remain the victor. Then there are bonus objectives on top of that, where you recreate key moments from the match. Fulfilling these gives you access to the game’s plethora of unlockable content. They’re also responsible for the most frustrating moments of the game, hands down.
These are my only real complaints about the game, but they’re fairly big ones. The engine still isn’t perfect. It’s great and does its job well, but it’s not without hangups. These flaws have always been there, but they’ve been easy to overlook because they’ve been easy to avoid. If you’re having trouble performing a certain move, you just work around that. Unfortunately, completing the bonus objectives in the Attitude Era mode, you’re frequently at the mercy of these little hiccups as you’re forced to pull off certain stunts. These can get incredibly frustrating, especially when you have a limited window to pull off a move and bugs as poor game design are getting in your way.
During one match, every time I pinned my opponent, his partner would distract the ref. In order to win, I had to take out his partner and then quickly pin my opponent before he could recover. I did just that, but the ref continued to be distracted by the now empty spot on the apron where the wrestler had been standing, as if he was still there. Another time I had to put my opponent through the announce table in a certain amount of time, but my own manager would follow me to the table and stand in my way in an attempt to battle my opponent.
The other issue that came up fairly often was the game’s failure to explain any of its many mechanics. One of the later matches, in which I was fighting Road Dogg as Chris Jericho, required that I put Road Dogg through a table with Jericho’s finisher. Unfortunately, at no point did the game explain how to do that, nor was it in the in-game manual or the three page pamphlet included in the game case. Thanks to the time limit, I had to play the match a good six or seven times, each time working my way up to a finisher, which would then give me one shot to experiment with. If I failed, I then had to do it all over again. Full disclosure: I threw my controller in frustration for the first time in years.
Fortunately, these moments don’t happen enough to do any serious damage to the game. I made it through Attitude Era mostly unscathed, and the issues aren’t as frequent in any of the other modes. When they do happen, however, be prepared for some serious frustration.
The above problems aside, the actual in-ring action has never felt better. The new limb-targeting system means that stomping the hell out of an opponent’s legs will make him limp, bashing his skull in will make him prone to bouts of dizziness, and weakening any appendage will make him more susceptible to tapping out. Being able to interrupt finishers, a feature that was added in WWE ’12, seems like such a simple addition but it goes a long way in improving the realism. Jumping off of the turnbuckle and having Kane catch you in a chokeslam feels like a real, honest-to-God WWE moment.