When CM Punk shocked the world over a year ago at WWE’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view, many thought it to be the coming of a revolution that would bring about a second “Attitude Era.” While WWE ’12 was too far into production back then to capitalize on this, THQ has made sure to do so this time around with WWE ’13 by including the original “Attitude Era” of the late 1990s. This tribute to the latest and greatest “golden age” of sports entertainment creates a title that is rife with history, featuring arguably the best campaign mode in any wrestling title to date, despite some noticeable flaws.
As a fan who first got into wrestling at the height of the “Attitude Era,” I look at today’s product and feel it just isn’t as exciting. A fair number of today’s fans don’t know how good wrestling was back in those days because they were too young to experience it. Luckily, WWE ‘13’s campaign mode takes the greatest moments from the first two-and-a-half years of that famous wrestling age and creates a narrative that acts as both a history lesson and conduit for nostalgia.
Developer Yuke’s Media Creations clearly took care and put great effort into making this new take on an old and oftentimes weak aspect of its franchise into something special. Complete with video packages that put solid backstory into every major moment of the campaign, documentary-style, “Attitude Era” also includes promos, commentary, and action that’s perfectly recreated within the game’s engine. The developer pulls this off not only through cutscenes, but with its new objective system.
Each match will feature normal and historical objectives. The latter aren’t always mandatory, but allow the player to act out these matches with as much archival authenticity as possible. I’m the one putting the sharpshooter on Bret Hart as he gets screwed over in Montreal; I’m beating Mick Foley into unconsciousness with a steel chair at the Royal Rumble; I’m delivering a stunner to Vince McMahon within the confines of a steel cage on Valentine’s Day. This gives an even deeper sense of connectivity to these classic moments that was never before thought possible. Plus, performing these historical tasks also bestows unlockables.
Despite these accomplishments, some subpar audio work puts a slight damper on this new campaign. At the very beginning of my run through, the post-match commentary spiked up in volume so much that I thought I was going to have ear drum damage. Later on, a few of the on-the-mic lines delivered by characters were incredibly soft and difficult to hear over the crowd. This sort of inconsistency was irritating.
While the “Attitude Era” has brought new life into the campaign mode with its radical new approach, the core mechanics here in WWE ’13 haven’t seen much of a change at all. New OMG! Moments now serve as an interesting means for players to perform shocking feats like crashing through a barricade or breaking the ring, but that’s the only major change or addition to the current formula, for both good and bad. Matches still flow in a manner reminiscent of what’s seen on TV, which provide intense, nerve-wracking competitions. It’s unfortunate, though, that those annoying, immersion-nuking glitches like bodies contorting in unnatural ways and tables breaking at the slightest impact from a maneuver remain.
Any slacking on the improvement of the game engine did not transfer over to the game’s various creation options. In addition to the standard expanded moves list and increased customization for created superstars, WWE ’13 has seen a significant improvements to its create-a-finisher and arena builder. Finishers are now more than that, as players can use these user-generated moves as their signatures, as well.
Whereas in WWE ’12 players had the ability to change the ring and certain elements around it, this time the arena’s actual size, stage, and more can be customized. These new arenas can be as small as an indie show or as massive as a WrestleMania, and entrances have numerous options for lighting, video screens (a.k.a. “trons”), and more. Add in that players can now share and use these arenas online, and they have themselves yet another rewarding advancement to this overall feature for the creative mind.
It seems that THQ has finally upgraded the servers that contain all user-generated content and play host to its customers’ brawls. Searches no longer take forever and crap out, which had previously left me feeling about as frustrated and neglected as Ted DiBiase Jr. Players will be able to find what they want in no time and match up fairly easily with people who have a solid connection to the Internet. That said, online matches aren’t completely free of lag. Any one-on-one match is fine, but get into a tag match or larger and expect things to slow down, which is never good when properly timing reversals is so crucial to success.
For those who are looking for a level playing field and just want their rankings to be determined by skill alone, WWE ’13 has included a “Fair Fight” option when searching for matches. These are one-on-one contests fought among superstars and without any created content or stat boosters allowed. This prevents players from using created superstars with maxed-out abilities or regular superstars whose attributes have been tweaked. It’s a nice way of allowing players to have options for online competition instead of forcing them to play by one specific set of rules.
Universe mode has been given a bit a tweaking from last year’s version. Instead of having to replace a current show with one that you’ve created, players can finally insert a new weekly program into one of the three open days on the calendar week – something that should have been in WWE ‘12. There’s also the choice of making these shows major or minor; the former allows for only one roster of superstars to perform, while the latter makes all rosters capable of joining in. The setback to this second option is these minor shows will not have their own titles to hold and defend.
Each show can have its own pay-per-view as well, as every Sunday of the month is a dedicated slot for these special events. What makes them interesting in their creation – aside from the typical customization found with the other shows – is that players can choose a theme for the show. While I personally have never been much of a fan for constant stipulation-themed pay-per-views, the idea of having a last man standing or inferno match as the main event for one of these big shows is certainly intriguing.
It may not be that ultimate, perfect gaming experience for wrestling fans, but WWE ’13 has made enough strides this year to keep wrestling fans happy. The inclusion of the “Attitude Era” has made for not just an amazing roster and improved campaign, but has become the best way for older fans to relive the glory days from over a decade ago while showing the younger crowd just what all the fuss was about back then. Here’s hoping that next year THQ and Yuke’s decide to continue where they left off and give us a chance to play the memorable moments from the three-and-a-half years of this time period they left out.
Review based on Xbox 360 release.