Wrestling has been on the upswing in the last two years. For those who are not hardcore wrestling fans, a minor history lesson is in order before diving into WWE 13
. The 2000s were not very kind to wrestling as a whole, ratings-wise, and that can be blamed on a number of factors: The end of the Monday Night Wars, the PG-era being uninteresting, loss of the biggest stars in the business, etc. Last year, that changed on June 27, 2011, when CM Punk, the cover athlete for WWE 13
, went on live television and aired his grievances. That promo kick-started new life into the WWE
and, therefore, kept CM Punk from leaving the biggest company in the industry as he was on his way out the door on July 17. Now, eighteen months removed from that night in Las Vegas, wrestling is experiencing excellent buy-rates for its Pay-Per-View events and improving numbers for their weekly shows. On top of that, after the reboot of their long-running video game last year, I can happily say that the franchise is headed in the right direction with WWE 13
Last year, THQ
went back to the drawing board with the franchise and started from scratch. The game was raw around the edges, but had plenty of promise for the next chapter in the franchise. The result is a gameplay system that has improved and is much easier to utilize. WWE 13
utilizes its Predator 2.0
system by taking all of the moves and simplifying them so that any wrestling fan can pick up and play the game with relative ease. Getting used to the grappling and move system can be tricky at first, but the combinations don’t require multiple button presses if one doesn’t want them to, especially with the ability to create a move list straight from scratch. The moves that are performed by the wrestlers are very smooth in most cases, though camera switches can hide some of the random pauses in between move reversals or moves requiring a player to dash at another one, such as the running neckbreaker that my created character utilizes.
The gameplay system is based around each wrestler having a set amount of damage and hit points that can be taken throughout the match, though the trick to this is that there is no life bar or hit point gauge to look at. It simply has to be judged by how slowly a wrestler moves and what portion of his/her body is being favored. If a character takes substantial attacks to the midsection, the wrestler will show it by holding his/her ribcage when not attempting any kind of move. Sprinting also slows down throughout the matches as hit points dwindle, making running attacks much harder to pull off in the latter stages of matches, which adds a nice challenge to determining just how long one can wait before actually attempting a pinfall that won’t be kicked out of, or a submission that will result in a victory. I’m also a big fan of how the special matches are done, such as Falls Count Anywhere matches that can go into the dressing room area and finding random objects along the way to throw opponents into.
There are some downsides, as it is to be expected with games that are still freshly rebooted, even if it is the second generation. Characters still move somewhat awkwardly around each other, especially if it’s a match involving more than just two characters. Royal Rumble matches are a war of attrition if a high number of wrestlers end up in the ring. Throwing characters into the corners or off the ropes result in one of two things: The running character literally running in place for a few seconds before the AI realizes that it isn’t going to happen, or a completely random glitch takes over and the character ends up either quickly running around the obstacles or other characters to get where he or she is supposed to go. Camera angles are also a big gripe of mine as a lot of the switches make very little sense. Using the Royal Rumble, once again, everything starts out well with a fixed camera angle to see the entire ring. At the end of the match, however, the angle zooms in far too much, basically making it impossible to see how far from the ropes the characters are, which is important in elimination matches such as the rumble. The camera angle switches in other matches I can deal with, but the unnecessary zooming in and out gets frustrating and annoying.
Re-live the Attitude Era
I am always grateful that my high school years were spent during the peak of the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars. I have been a fan of wrestling since I was about eight years old when I watched Macho Man Randy Savage (R.I.P.) win the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania IV in the tournament and I was hooked from that day on. In high school, I latched on to a group of friends that shared my love of wrestling and Monday night became “wrestling night” at my house. Anyone and everyone was invited, and I can recall having a dozen people at my house just to flip back and forth between “Raw is War” and “Monday Nitro” for three hours. Because of the immense popularity of that era of wrestling, WWE 13
includes the Attitude Era
mode, which is essentially a history lesson in the WWF vs. WCW war in the mid to late 90s.
The Attitude Era
mode is a series of events throughout the Monday Night Wars, allowing a player to cover all of the major happenings as possible that start with the formation of D-Generation X and all the way until the demise of WCW. One of the biggest parts that I love about this mode is the historical achievements that can be met in order to unlock the enormous list of items and characters that are available as a player progresses through the mode. For example, one of the matches that a player relives is the infamous Hell in a Cell
match between Mankind and Undertaker. As most any wrestling fan can recall, the match started on top of the cell with Undertaker tossing Mankind off of the cell and through the announcer’s table. Everyone watching thought the match was over just a minute or two into it, but Mankind came off of a stretcher and the match continued. In order to progress through this match, the player has to follow the historical accuracy perfectly. It isn’t just about winning a match. It’s about making sure that a player relives history.
There isn’t much of a downside to this mode, other than perhaps it takes away from the roster of today by bringing back the old wrestlers in a mode that could have been used on other parts of the game. Otherwise, the Attitude Era mode is enjoyable, albeit perhaps a bit short as it is limited in simply being stuck with what is handed to a player instead of making the old matches from history, though that’s what the next mode is all about.
This is the mode that contains the true meat of the title. The WWE Universe
mode is basically the player’s chance to have free reign over running the WWE today. Customization is at a new level as a player can decide what wrestlers are on what brands, what the brands are called, and how each and every card goes night after night. Last year, one of my gripes was that the Universe
mode started off in January instead of after Wrestlemania
when the brands go through a full draft and storylines basically start from scratch. This year, it was addressed and the Universe
mode does indeed start in April right after the biggest show in wrestling. This gives a player the true chance to adjust the roster as he or she deems fit, create new wrestlers, stables, tag teams, and shows. It really is impressive just how deep the Universe
mode truly goes, especially after unlocking new titles and wrestlers to use throughout the entire mode itself, but it isn’t all good news.
While I applaud THQ and Yuke’s for their attention to detail in the Universe
mode this time around, there have been some changes that I’m not too fond of, such as the difficulty of creating title matches unless the CPU seems to deem it worthy. There is a ranking system for each title, and the CPU tends to pick the matches for Pay-Per-Views based on those rankings. Attempting to change a title match and replacing one character with another results in the match being turned to just a regular matchup that doesn’t involve the title, which is quite irritating as it takes some of the customization out of the version. Another problem is an issue that carried over from last year to this year: Switching out of titles. I know I’m not alone when I say the current WWE Championship Belt is one of the ugliest things in the existence of wrestling, so I was hoping that I would be able to swap it out for one of the old school titles, whether it was the old “Winged Eagle” from the 1990s or the Undisputed Championship Belt from the 2000s before WWE allowed John Cena to turn it into a belt with “bling” on it. The primary titles cannot be swapped out for a different one, even if it meets the criteria of it being a World, Major, or Minor title, and that is unacceptable in a game mode that is touted as having complete control.
Creating just about anything.
Creating a wrestler really took on a new level of enjoyment with last year’s version, and on my list of items I wanted to see improved, it was the list of names, nicknames, and titles that could be used with created wrestlers. The list of names has expanded from about 15 pages to 100 pages of various names and gimmicks that can be used. While some are pretty cheesy and generic, there are plenty of combinations of names for anyone to use. This is a great addition to the game, but what I still do not understand is how there can be 100 pages of names, why is the list of “announced” names only 15 pages? There are two different lists for this: The name that the ring announcer gives to the crowd, which can be pretty awful with the way the tone of the voice changes, especially if using the full four slots to give a name such as “The Punisher” Matt Michaels, just as an example. After the announcer list, there is the list that is used by Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler, which is just as short of a list. For next year’s title, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a list that is the same on all fronts.
Besides the creation of wrestlers, move lists, and entrances, an addition that I am enjoying is the ability to create storylines. Pro wrestling fans know it isn’t just about the matches. It’s about the extra things, such as run-ins, interference, outside fighting, etc. There has to be a reason for a face or heel turn, and the creation of a storyline gives the satisfaction of being able to do this. The tutorial that comes with the first setup of the storyline honestly isn’t enough to really help a player and they may need to go through the tutorial several times before it becomes easier to setup the entire scenario. I can see someone getting a bit burnt out on this since it takes quite a bit of effort to just set up one storyline, but the satisfaction is worth it in the end when it all comes together.
There is no question in my mind that WWE 13
is an improved product over last year’s edition. The player models are sharper, the moves are crisper, and the depth of creation and storylines certainly gives players what they want and need out of these modes. The Attitude Era
mode is a great flashback in history that any fan of the Monday Night Wars is sure to enjoy, but I wonder if the young gamers of today that aren’t old enough to remember this will truly appreciate what that mode gives them, given that it’s been over 15 years now since the start of the battle between WWE and WCW. Still, THQ and Yuke’s are headed in the right direction, and I can say that this wrestling fan has enjoy his time with the game, and will continue to do so for quite some time.