Like the majority of sports games on the market, THQ has been releasing a new WWE title on a yearly basis with each release only seeing slight improvements or changes. This all changed with last years release of WWE ’12 that focused on changing the stale formula in favor of a more accessible product and matches that tend to flow naturally. With WWE ’13, THQ talks about bringing a revolution with new gameplay elements, an improved engine and the nostalgic Attitude Era mode, while leaving the core wrestling gameplay the same – which isn’t a bad thing.
Pulling off weak and strong grapple moves or simply punching your opponent into a daze is straightforward enough to allow anyone to jump into the game and feel like they have a chance at winning a match. Reversals require less precision to pull off this time around – and you never know when someone will reverse a key move to turn the tide of a match in their favor. If you end up miss timing the on-screen prompt, you will be informed on whether you were too early or too late with your button press – a much appreciated addition.
Providing context sensitive areas around the ring, “OMG” moments will have you jumping off your couch in amazement. Barriers at the corners of the arena can be busted through, Pedigrees can send opponents face first through tables, superplexes can be performed to the outside of the ring and finishers can be pulled off to mid-air opponents – Oh My God! indeed. As cool as it is to pull these moves off, the frame rates tends to take a nose dive during these moments – especially on the PS3 version of the game.
The Breaking Point submission system that was introduced last year – turning submissions into a battle of button mashing – now allows players to try and reach the ropes; instead of being immobilized during the struggle. Using the newly included “Match Experience” option, the pace of the match can vary, depending on if you want to simulate a main event at Wrestlemania with insane kick outs after finishers and chair shots or if you want a steal a victory on Raw with a roll-up.
The Attitude Era replaces the beloved Road to WrestleMania mode this year – hoping to entice fans from the late 90’s to pick up the game (like me). Taking you through some of the best moments from 1997-1999, WWE was in a heated struggle for supremacy against the ill-fated WCW. Playing as the legendary Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind The Undertaker and more, I was ecstatic to see match highlights leading up to matches, dialogue and even commentary ripped straight from the WWE archive. Matches have secondary “historical” objectives that reenact key moments during those matches. As glad as I was to take a trip down memory lane, I couldn’t help but notice each and every little inconsistency. For example, Mankind doesn’t lose the I Quit match against The Rock in the ring, but outside the ring on the entrance ramp. Why change it?
If you are more interested in being the person behind the WWE programming, WWE Universe makes a return with more customizations than ever before. With the help of Paul Heyman, there are well over 200 storylines to experience through countless years. Current wrestling fans may only know Paul Heyman as the annoying man behind Brock Lesnar or CM Punk, but hardcore fans will know him as the brilliant mind behind the original ECW. The creation mode is still as robust as ever, allowing you to create an limitless amount of new wrestlers and arenas – all of much can be brought into the WWE Universe mode.
Although the audio for the crowd in WWE ’13 is based samples taken straight from WWE events, it doesn’t impress overall. At times, the immersion is truly palpable, but most of the times they are completely silent or remain on the other side of the spectrum with an overly powerful generic crowd rumbling noise. The commentating has always been the weakest piece of the audio presentation and this year is no different. During the Attitude Era matches, audio clips are pulled straight from the live events providing flowing commentary and great back and forth before and during matches. Outside of this mode, we are stuck with the stale color commentary and repetitive jokes that you will hear hundreds of times. THQ should be looking at what 2K Sports was able to produce in this years NBA 2K13.
Whether you are an old-school wrestling fan or a newcomer to the sports entertainment industry watching the likes of John Cena and CM Punk, WWE ’13 is the best wrestling product on the market. With the Attitude Era mode giving players a largely improved single-player experience with mid-match objectives, I have high hopes for the future of the series. The occasional audio/visual bug and choppy frame rate will dampen your enjoyment, the online experience can still be clunky at times and load times are still ridiculously long, but THQ is moving the series in the right direction.Note: WWE '13 was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A physical copy of the game provided by the publisher.