WWE ’13 Review
WWE ’13, like ’12 before, makes a lot of big claims and falls short of them. Despite ’13 not being a revolution, it’s still better than last year’s game. Despite being the second year for both the interactive object detection and Universe modes, it managed to do them both much worse than SvR ’11, and messed up a lot of animations to such a degree that any impact from them was gone. Its campaign mode was also terrible, and is now gone this year – replaced by a video game representation of the Attitude era from the late ’90s into the early ’00s.
This is an interesting idea because having long story modes set then isn’t really new – it was of course done during the era itself, and with a variety of gameplay engines over the years. Some, like the Aki engine, were able to recreate everything well in both cutscenes and in the ring, while others did a better job with the former and not the latter – like the SD engine this game is derived from. Thankfully, while the idea of an Attitude-era story mode isn’t new, and may not excite long-time players, I think the execution of it makes it worth a play-through – especially if you haven’t yet played an older-era WWF/E game that included it. It goes from the rise of DX to Austin, to the Kane-Taker feud, which leads to the rise of Mankind and culminates at WM XV. After completing those, you unlock the “off-script” section of fairly random stuff. I’m not quite sure I would personally deem a Godfather/Mark Henry vs. LOD match as something that is deserving of being recreated in a game, but hey, it’s there if that match holds some kind of meaning to you.
I love the attention to detail to things like the sets and on-screen graphics for this mode. When everything clicks, it feels like what we all imagined a video game version of things being like – only slightly less playable since a lot of cool moments are limited to cutscenes that you don’t directly control. These blasts from the pasts are fun, but I could do without HAVING to do every little special objective in a match to have it count towards beating a chapter as a whole though, especially given how specific the timing has to be for some things. There are also some objectives that aren’t made very clear – like just where you can find the forklift in the Halftime Heat recreation. A lot of the fun in the AE mode is recreating stuff that hasn’t been done before, and that’s one of the highlights since it’s just focused on crazy brawling and throwing the Rock into stuff. That specific match is hurt by the changes made to the backstage brawls, which went from absolutely God-awful last year to better, but still nowhere near as fun as in No Mercy or the older SD games where you could dive off of or do moves onto anything, and there was a whole building structure to explore.
Unlike last year, your movesets aren’t crippled in backstage fights, but instead of Irish whipping people into things, you just heave them in such a way that they seem almost weightless. This issue also affects high-flying moves, which either feel perfect or way too floaty – like the shooting star press. Giving Brock one makes sense, but giving him one that sends him about 10 feet in the air and then has an abrupt landing doesn’t – and sadly, there are no other ones despite both a Kidman-specific one and a more general version that worked well for Brock many years ago being used in the series before.
Another issue that hurts the mode is unfortunately one that couldn’t really be worked around at the time the game was made – the censoring of all WWF mentions and logos. AE mode has a ton of footage in it, and an overwhelming percentage of it is covered in blurring. Now the blurry bars on the side to get it to widescreen without messing with the aspect ratio is fine, and having to change the logos from WWF to the F-less ones honestly works fine and has been done for so long in so many things that it doesn’t bother me, but footage being covered in blurs always hurts anything it appears in. It’s a really shame that the deal to allow unaltered WWF footage was struck when it was, because this mode would’ve been much more authentic-seeming without all the alterations. Some audio balancing for the vintage audio that was straight up reused would’ve also been nice because it’s much louder than the newly-recorded audio. There’s also some weirdness with the blurring used for Austin’s middle finger being rather distracting in matches, and yet it’s not blurred in the replays. Past games have changed the animation to not include the middle finger, and that might’ve been a better solution to the issue since it sticks out badly.
The universe mode is back and really feels like what WWE ’12’s should have been. That game’s version was hurt by making long, drawn-out show-starting pyro and theatrics mandatory and really slowed down the pace of things. That feeling was compounded by inconsistent button usage for the menus making it easy to accidentally move onto something you didn’t want to take part in, further adding to the time it took to do what you wanted to do. Now, those issues have been remedied and you can customize your universe more than ever before and even reset it if you’d like. Being able to select and disable certain kinds of storylines is great, and I like that now, reasons can be given for teams breaking up as opposed to last year, where your universe would be filled with teams breaking up for no apparent reason.
Gameplay-wise, WWE ’13’s most notable improvement is increasing the amount of limb damage moves. Not only can you now have 16 move slots to fill for them just between front and back grapples instead of four, and a dramatic increase in ground positions where you can do them as well. The best part about the change to the limb damage is that you’ve now got far more moves at your disposal than before. Instead of maybe half a dozen positions and moves (that you couldn’t select last year), you’ve got over a dozen moves available for the standing positions, and it allows you to give characters far more robust movesets. The incredible amount of arm-damaging moves made me wish Arn Anderson was in – or that Brock’s kimura was in the game (without being DLC released at some point in the future). Thanks to all of the moveset slots this system adds, you don’t really need to pick and choose as much as before, although you still have to since a lot of moves in past games aren’t in – including a ton of Brock’s stuff from his first WWE run.
Other big changes include ‘catch’ finishers that allow you to do things like the RKO and Tombstone as counters to flying attacks. This allows you to create things like Randy Orton countering moves in mid-air into the RKO, or hitting the Sweet Chin Music in mid-air ala his match with Shelton Benjamin on Raw and SD match with Rey Mysterio, while the tombstone counter lets you recreate HBK-Taker’s WM 25 finish. These are spectacular, but in the case of the RKO, are slightly hurt by posing after the move, which means that the countering RKO works great for Randy, but not as well for DDP, who popularized doing the move out of nowhere.
OMG moments make their debut and essentially take the place of other games’ hit the Finisher button mini-cutscenes for mid-match craziness. With three finisher slots filled, you can do a ring-breaking superplex off the top with super heavyweights (although strangely enough, not with Brock Lesnar who first did that spot) or a superplex TO THE FLOOR onto whatever may be in your path if you aren’t a super heavyweight. With one slot filled, you can either do moves through announce tables (which you used to be able to do through them anyway, but at least now finishers can be done through them again), or better yet, SPEAR PEOPLE THROUGH THE BARRICADE ala Goldberg against one of 3 Minute Warning on Raw many years ago. It’s pretty spectacular, and allows you to brawl into the crowd, albeit with some wonkiness from time to time because you’re kind of not supposed to be able to.
I can understand glitches happening there, but there are some really annoying hiccups here like people teleporting out of the ring and hovering over the ringside area or just switching positions out of nowhere so you do different moves. The biggest and most annoying glitches came about during the Attitude era mode for me. Towards the end of it, in the Austin-Show match, Austin got stuck in a tie-up position unable to do anything, requiring a restart, and then during the restart, Mankind broke up my pin making it impossible to win. There’s also an issue with having a ten-second time limit after hitting finishers, going to cover, and then having the pin button lift your opponent up instead of pinning them – even when you press it when prompted. So yeah, there’s some bug testing that wasn’t quite completely finished when the game was shipped and the game is worse for it.
However, when things work as they should, the flow is largely improved in every area but one – it now takes FOREVER to lift opponents up from the mat. It feels weird and rather clunky. I can’t recall a game that made such a simple task so time-consuming. It isn’t difficult – you still just press up on the right stick, but instead of it lifting a foe up instantly like before, it takes a good second or two. That might not sound like a huge deal, but in elaborate multi-man matches like the Royal Rumble, championship scramble, or something even crazier like a 6-man ladder match or Elimination Chamber, it’s a huge issue since you need to be able to do exactly what you want to do when you want to do and you can’t do that now.
Aside from that, the core gameplay is better than it’s been before. The addition of using the right stick to initiate leverage grapples instead of only having them as timed counters aids in having really fast-paced technical wrestling exchanges during a pinfall. You can now recreate the Eddie Guerrero-Malenko pin sequences that have been created hundreds of times over the past 15 years, and I like having each of the dozen or so moves done in this way starting off their own unique chain of counters – it makes reversing one of the cradles more exciting, and makes winning with one more rewarding. This system is done very well, but there’s room for improvement. There’s only one move position to choose from, but numerous positions to do them from – so if you want to have a small package as one move and an O Conner roll as another, you can’t unless you swap them out after every match.
Last year’s game was hurt by running moves being switched around to quick taps and holding the button which never really worked as it should. You’d tap, and it would do the holding move, and you could never quite tell what to do to get a particular move done. Given that part of the strategy in these games involves planning moves in advance, that really sucked. Luckily, that system now works exactly as it should, so doing any running move when you want is a breeze. This might not seem like a big deal, but when you’re in the middle of a match and want to execute a particular thing, it’s imperative that things work as they should in order for the match to flow properly.
Create-a-belt makes a return in some form here, although unlike past games, it doesn’t let you make original titles using a variety of parts. Instead, you’re limited to creating belts based on the dozens of real-life designs. That might not sound bad, but if you want to make an original belt, you’re kind of out of luck, and recreating any real-life belt that isn’t in the game is a fruitless endeavor. It’s a real shame too since that feature made creating the TNA X division title and giving it to Khali possible, and now, while you can have titles called a surprisingly high amount of non-WWE things including National Wrestling Alliance, Ring of Honor, Total Nonstop Action/Impact Wrestling, there isn’t much of a point to it since those title belt designs aren’t in the game, although there is something reasonably close to the current ROH title as well as the silver and red one since Edge’s Rated R belt is in, and can be modified for a silver and red color scheme. Still, before you could add limited text to some designs, and that idea being expanded upon here would’ve helped a lot. I hope this feature is brought back to its former glory and beyond in next year’s game, because this year’s version, even considering the legendary titles already in and those set to be included as DLC, falls short of what it could be.
Create-a-move returns and now allows you to make signature moves as well as finishers – greatly expanding the overall usefulness of the mode and correcting an issue I had with it last year. Create-an-arena is also back, and far better than it was in ’12 since you can edit just about anything you’d want about it. Great-looking classic arenas can be found, as well as modern ones like ROH, which are aided by the newfound ability to make smaller-scale buildings instead of having to create arenas in large spaces. The community creations area online has a ton of wonderful downloadable options, and the server is far more stable than it was last year. Unfortunately, the gameplay is still as easy to exploit online as ever before, so it’s advised that you play with friends unless you feel like having a ton of matches where you just get running grappled to death. This issue is made more annoying by last year’s delayed pin meter problem being present and thus, if you get lag when this issue comes up, you can expect to lose quite easily.
Visually, WWE ’13 seems about the same as last year’s game, which itself wasn’t exactly cutting edge for its time. Comparing the character models of folks here and in other franchises, like Brock’s model to his UFC Undisputed 3 one makes this game look about a generation behind. His also looks incredibly generic since all of the sponsorship logos have been removed and not replaced with anything. They didn’t even keep the sweet white-skull logos on them to at least give them SOME color. He just gets basic black and red shorts that look like something you’d give a starting created fighter in a UFC game. All of the models have a plastic-y look to them, and like always, there’s a huge difference between created characters and in-game models that sticks out badly. There also aren’t many ring attires offered for characters you’d expect to have them.
When it comes to simple color changes, that’s no big deal since you can change MOST things about the color scheme for some characters, but CM Punk’s Chicago flag colors can’t be completely changed, and his alternate outfit is DLC, and isn’t available yet despite him being the game’s cover boy. There simply aren’t many designs available for outfits, although I do like that some characters are in more than once since that helps remedy this issue. I could do without there being three versions of HHH though, that just seems a bit excessive since the movesets aren’t exactly accurate for each incarnation. Not going with multiple designs really sticks out it AE mode since pre-match graphics show the real attire, and then the game has the attire just color-changed at best – which really sucks for Billy Gunn who has the most generic possible version of his shorts and the practice as a whole seems half-assed.
There are also quite a few animation transitions that look weird, and more issues with move animations being sped up to such a degree that they lack all impact – like the silver spoon DDT, flip piledriver and the aforementioned shooting star press. There’s some weirdness with things like throwing people over the ring steps, and having them teleport slightly above where they should be, but with no transition animation there to explain it. Just like last year’s game, doing moves onto objects is worse than it was in SvR ’11. It simply feels like the proper time wasn’t put in to making things as good as they could be visually, or in a variety of other areas as well.
I am glad to say that the menu music is back to being theme songs instead of generic rock like in ’12. The commentary, at least for the Attitude era, is better thanks to the addition of Jim Ross, whose work has some passion in it that is lacking from the current-era team of Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. The sound effects are about the same as they ever were, although the crowd is now much louder than before – including when you theoretically don’t want them to be. You’ll hear the crowd go crazy during a highlight reel-worthy moment even if you have the audio sliders turned down, which just seems sloppy since it’s never been a problem in past games.
While WWE ’13 has a lot of problems, I think it’s a far better overall game than WWE ’12, but still lacks the polish that SvR ’11 and past series entries have had. The Attitude Era story mode is incredibly fun and something that anyone who lived through it will enjoy, although I’m not quite sure how a newer fan will like it given how drastically different it is compared to today’s product. The core gameplay being so radically enhanced in a lot of little ways means it’s the best technical wrestling game in the series yet…when things work properly. When that happens, you can have some outstanding back and forth matches, as well as some crazy hardcore brawls too. There’s a lot of fun to be had, but with all the caveats on it, I’d recommend this as a purchase only when the price drops to $40 or below, which shouldn’t take long given that Black Friday is just around the corner.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of WWE ’13 provided by THQ.