Taking A Look Back Has Me Looking Forward To More.
Almost every generation of video game consoles has had one definitive wrestling title. WWF No Mercy released on the Nintendo 64 is still widely regarded as the best wrestling game ever made. WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain on Playstation 2 brought the most complete package to that date of TV style presentation as well as an expanded control scheme that made almost anything possible and now on THQ’s seventh WWE game of the current generation they have made the definitive “must play” wrestling game.
Last year’s WWE 12 saw THQ completely scrap all the move animations that they had been collecting and using since 2007 and installed a new physics engine that they coined “Predator Technology”. Not only that but the team completely re-mapped the controls so that long time fans had a LOT to unlearn. It was a giant step in the right direction because you can tell that everything the developers learned last year has been brought over to this year’s game. The aptly named “Predator Technology 2.0” feels more smooth this year and with a host of new animations added to everything that was in last year’s version, makes WWE 13 feel as close to natural as you can probably get.
That is not to say there aren’t hiccups. Clipping and phasing through opponents and objects is still there but not near as rampant as it has been in past years. Honestly with everything the engine has to take into account including the different heights and weights of the wrestlers you can forgive a little bit of this. You will still have moments in matches where opponents won’t read steps being around them or how the top of the announce table doesn’t hit your grounded opponent but phase through them. It is a wrestling game. Belief should be suspended for some things.
Bringing Attitude Back
The biggest (and best) change this year is that the long running Road to Wrestlemania has been completely scrapped and in its place is the all new Attitude Era. What this does is takes you on a lengthy journey that celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Monday Night Wars and the beginnings of WWE’s Attitude Era.
I can not express enough how fun this is to play. Each section of Attitude Era is broken up into sections that involve the formation of DX, Stone Cold’s rise to the top of WWE, The Rock’s time as the Corporate Champ, Mick Foley’s championship dreams coming true and the road to Wrestlemania XV. Inside each section are between 7-12 matches and events that helped shaped the WWE’s win over WCW. For a lifelong wrestling fan I had so much fun playing through every bit of this. It brought me back and had me remembering specific nights when I could recall where I was and who I was with when I was watching the certain episode of RAW that the game had me playing. Even when you complete Wrestlemania XV you have an entirely new section available that includes random matches including Edge and Christian and the memorable Lita vs. Trish Stratus RAW main event. The nostalgia that was brought up is almost worth the price of the game.
Every match inside Attitude Era has a set criteria for completing the match. To get every unlockable open you will have to 100% not only just the match but the hidden objectives that pop up during the match. Don’t worry they are not overly difficult and for wrestling fans like myself you will be able to guess most of the hidden objectives just by your memory of the matches.
To help the Attitude Era seem like you are re-living those moments THQ has actually put in video packages that run in between sections and also has included the actual commentary from the WWE archives during matches. Not all of it is from the actual broadcast but the mix should not be recognizable to a lot of gamers. But if you are an old bum like me and remember things very vividly you will be able to spot the differences in the actual and newly recorded easily. One thing that is a bit annoying is that everytime during videos or commentary taken from the archives that someone says WWF the “F” is clipped out of the sound bite. I understand all the legal mumbo jumbo that goes into the WWE not being able to use it but it is a little distracting. This is not THQ’s fault and I really appreciate them putting the effort forward to include it.
Creating A Virtual Smackdown
User creation has always been one of the biggest part of any WWE game and this year’s does not disappoint. Create a wrestler is back and believe it or not it is even larger. A big plus is that a good majority of the moves added this year are very well done and makes you actually want to use them in the game. They didn’t just go through the sets and add in four different armbars and a new powerslam. Beyond the pre-set moves, create a finisher is just as fun as it was last year and now you have the ability to create your own signature maneuver as well.
Create an arena has been rebuilt this year to give you greater flexibility in crafting your vision. You can change every aspect of the ring as you could last year down to the design on the mats and rope color but the biggest change comes in how in depth you can get when you make your stages. Different arena sizes are available from high school gym all the way to Wrestlemania sized stadium shows. Alter your stages any way you want right down to what you want the runway ramp to say.
The championship editor is a good addition but it is not near as good as the belt creator was a few years ago. You can take any of the titles that appear in the game (which is quite sizable) and can alter the belt color and metal sheen of the championship and rename all the titles with a pre-set announcer name much like in create a superstar mode. It is good for a quick distraction but you won’t lose yourself in a wealth of options.
Chairs With Friends
Online is a mixed bag again this year. During last year’s game I had numerous problems even getting in the community server to upload and download wrestlers. I can not tell you how many times I would get on and it would tell me that the community services were down and to try back later. This year, getting into the community servers is normally a quick affair with download times being pretty decent. Downloading created storylines remains a fun affair because there are just so many insane ones out there to see. Some are almost as weird as Edge and Booker T feuding over a shampoo commercial. The big minus comes in online matches. I don’t do these a lot but to get the complete game experience I have tried to wrestle a few matches and each time I am kicked out into the lobby or can not connect at all. This is with my signal being near perfect by the way. Hopefully it is just minor hiccup that will be fixed with a patch.
The roster in WWE 13 is MASSIVE. This year offers 84 superstars after you unlock everyone and that is before the three DLC packs that will be released by January. There are some omissions from last year that I miss and wish would stay in the games on a yearly basis (like Macho Man) but this is still easily the largest roster THQ has ever offered. In place of most of the legends that have been appearing in various iterations, we are given a host of Attitude Era stars that have not been seen in a video game since the Nintendo 64 days. The Godfather, Ken Shamrock, New Age Outlaws, Big Bossman, APA and even the three faces of Foley will have you reliving all your favorite moments from over a decade ago.
THQ really has done a wonderful service for wrestling fans this year. For lifelong fans that long for better days (especially when you watch Monday nights now) this is the year to finally pick up a WWE game. Don’t mistake this for just another yearly update of a tired game. WWE 13 has improved on all the good steps taken last year in term of control and match options. By letting fans relive the major moments of the Attitude Era, WWE 13 reminds us of the best days that the world of sports entertainment ever saw, when the Monday night wars were raging and WWE was appointment television. It is easily the most fun and complete wrestling game of this generation.