STAFF REVIEW of WWE '13 (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012.
by Matt Paligaru

WWE '13 Box art For years now, one of the most anticipated sports titles every fall has been the WWE game. After it became a dated annual title back in 2005, THQ's WWE franchise has become one of the best selling sports games yearly. Some of it can be attributed to WWE's worldwide fan base, however, some of it is the sheer attention to detail and meticulous planning the crew at THQ coming into this game.

While Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 was a near-masterpiece of a wrestling game, THQ didn't sit content with their efforts, and ramped it up further in '12, adding ring rope physics, a simplified control structure, and a brand new submission system, among other things. The risk was just that, and reactions were divided in a whole. Some gamers went back to Smackdown vs. Raw 2011, and some moved forward. After another year of fastidious improvement, WWE 13 is ready to go, bringing with it a nod to the past.

Arguably the most anticipated wrestling game mode of all time, WWE Attitude mode was dominating a lot of the headlines coming into '13, and nods back to the days that the Monday Night Wars dominated not just the wrestling airwaves, but television airwaves period. In its prime, WCW Monday Nitro and WWF Monday Night Raw regularly did a combined 12+ market share, which, back then, was unheard for non-network television. This game chronicles things such as the rise of DX, Austin vs. McMahon, and the Brothers of Destruction wars. All of the Pay Per Views are represented, all of players are included, and THQ made sure to include original content too. While they have digitized the visuals themselves to correspond to the in-game graphics, they took all of the original audio from the old RAW episodes and Pay Per Views, and brought them into the video game. Unfortunately, they could not refer to the WWE by its former name, meaning that all references to the "F" in WWF, and the word "Federation" are blanked out (much like if you were to watch Vintage Collection today,) but the essence is still there. In fact, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler's original commentary from 1997-onward is incorporated into the gameplay too, giving it a neater feel than before. They've basically done what they can with the licensing limitations to turn this into as full of a mode as possible. Chyna, for example, won't appear in the game with D Generation X because of her bad relationship with the WWE, and chances are that if DLC continues into 2013, and more Attitude Era superstars are released, you won't see the Hardy Boyz or the Dudleys (who had one of the Attitude Era's great 3 way feuds with Edge and Christian) because of contractual obligations in TNA. Still, the rise of DX, Mick Foley and the Rock, and Austin vs. McMahon are on full showcase. They even digitized and included the Montreal Screwjob, which I never though I'd see showcased in anything, ever.

As always, THQ's attention to little details in this title again give this one of the best presentation styles in sports gaming. It's a constant flip-flop between this, and 2K's NBA titles, and again, it's hard to give one or other consideration for the best. Neither would be first and second. It feels almost like 1a and 1b. Both titles mean so much to their respective audiences, and are done so well that you can't help but smile. I may be showing my age here, but I was starting High School when Monday Nitro started to dominate airwaves, and the Monday Night Wars began. Attitude Mode brought back a lot of good memories of rushing home to finish my homework to be able to watch RAW Live and log into ICQ to chat about it with my friends. Having met the group that put this title together year in and year out, I know that they were just as big of fans back then as I was, and wouldn't think to rush into this type of gaming mode unless they could do it right, and they have.

One of the rather offputting things to me was that it appears that the controls and moveset diagnostics have been shuffled up a bit again. It's not as drastic as last year's 11 to 12 switchover, but I do wish they would pick a control schematic and stick with it. It's gotten to the point where it seems like something changes every year when it isn't really necessary. The 11 to 12 shuffle was sort of necessary to incorporate the wake up taunts and breaking point system, but the analog stick system was perhaps one of the best ideas that I felt would stabilize the whole thing for years to come. The more I think about it, however, the more I tend to think that it may have been a rash decision to keep up with some of the games (like Fight Night) that were trying to switch their controls over to analogs, and the decision to revert was after seeing that it didn't necessarily work with titles like that.

In addition to the 100+ unlocks available from the Attitude Mode, this year's DLC might be the best yet. Check back throughout the winter as we discuss the contents of future DLC packs, however, I can tell you that there will be at least 21 wrestlers, 20 movesets and 10 new championship belts added over the course of the next few months. Picking up a season pass for 1600 MSP may be the way to go here, as many of the community creations getting uploaded on a daily basis are dependent on movesets of some of these DLC characters, and you are restricted from downloading them unless you have purchased access to the character whose moves the wrestler uses. If it's multiple wrestlers' movesets, it could tread into complicated ground since Community Creations does not specify whose moves you specifically need to get access to. The WWE DLC characters themselves are always well done, and it's worth the money here since you will get access to all the 2012 DLC at a slight discount. The Season Pass will save you the time and effort, and bolster your gaming experience in a whole.

The trouble DLC has had with previous games, however, is that much of the interaction between on-disc content and DLC (and the ensuing community creations) is that the content has had trouble meshing, even if you download the game to your hard drive. It's almost like watching a tandem bicycle in action where one person is trying to pedal forward and the other backward. They all perform in the same housing, but just couldn't catch synchronicity. This was one of the glitchy problems with WWE 12, and even crashed my game a few times in '11. It's great to see this was all fixed up, and glitches were minimal, but forgivable. The only major glitch that seems to exist is that DLC characters sometimes bleed as the result of unrelated moves that don't target the head. The "First Blood" mode is really the only affected by this, as head damage doesn't appear to be relative to bleeding with this glitch. The only on-disc glitch I encountered the entire time I played was early in the Attitude Mode's "Brothers of Destruction" mode from the infamous Mankind-Undertaker Hell in a Cell match from King of the Ring 1998. If Mankind throws you off the top of the cell instead of vice versa, and you fail the objective, the game is prone to completely locking up if you try to restart or quit. This is the only instance I encountered of anything strange at all, which is a far cry from most sports games with so many interactive variables on screen at once. Bad things can happen, as you've witnessed with the collision troubles in Madden 13 and NHL 13.

Graphics: 9/10. Last year's graphics were a bit of an anomaly. The wrestlers were in full HD, while their interaction and set pieces weren't. The sets all appear to be re-designed this time around, and even if they aren't in the same HD aspect ratio (My eyesight only takes me so far and I can't tell the difference,) it doesn't show. That being said, the wrestlers themselves look great, and THQ's done the best they can with covering all of the strange angles they've had to cover with the announce tables and such. Some of the redesigned elements (like the Hell in a Cell cage) don't look as good as their predecessors, but it's a small price to pay for the great new visual style they introduced last year.

Sound 8/10. Last year's sound mechanics were great. There were almost no minor issues, and no major issues. For the most part, everything in WWE 13 in fine too. However, the game has a hard time getting "comfortable" with its sounds. Extra sounds pop up whenever they aren't necessary, some sounds just disappear (I was convinced for the first few ladder matches I played that they had forgotten to put collision sounds in altogether until I finally heard a few,) and the sound levels are inconsistent, especially when switching from cinematics to in-game play. As a big detail stickler, I'm really impressed with the fact that THQ took no liberties with matching up theme songs to correct eras, and got all the theme songs spot on.

Controls: 7/10. Starting with the negatives - It's gotten to the point where I don't feel I can invest myself in WWE's controls anymore because it seems like it changes every year, and drastically. Over the last 5 years, the control scheme has drastically changed so many times, and year over year that I honestly feel like I can't be bothered to care. This year's controls are fine, but so were WWE 12's, and so were Smackdown vs. RAW 11's (which I still believe were the best of all time.) As with last year, my only request is that perhaps instead of just a "Type A" and "Type B," they look into functionality that includes full past control sets so that gamers can transition into the new titles much easier. Outside of that, once you learn (or re-learn as it were) the controls, they're adequate and responsive enough, even if they just "feel" different than past years.

Gameplay: 8.5/10. One thing sets WWE 13 apart from the other titles, and that is simply re-living the Attitude Era. Unfortunately, you can't unsee what you've experienced, and it would be interesting to see what a wrestling fan from 2003-onward thinks about the inclusion, as everybody I know are fans of that era, and appreciate what THQ did. There's very little else to be shared about the Gameplay since much of it is unchanged from last year, short of cleaning up collision glitches and fixing some of the things that broke easily last year. The controls make it seem, however, like the movesets are much more limited, and as such, the CPU is far more prone to reversing moves than before, which can be annoying in timed challenges, where a character like Ken Shamrock, whose reversals mostly consist of lengthy suplexes, take a lot of ticks off the clock, and you may find yourself having to repeat them over and over again to get it right. Outside of that, this game is all sorts of fun, and even if you don't believe this is the best yet, abolishing the Road to Wrestlemania-style games in favor of reliving famous moments is one of my favorite moments. This was done a bit in Legends of Wrestlemania, however, just didn't carry the steam it could have simply due to the fact that the game had a lot of mechanical problems and the leveling system hurt more than helped. If you passed on WWE 12 for whatever reason, '13 is definitely a worthy pickup.

THQ always excels at making the little things count. Those little subtle mannerisms and things you never noticed other wrestlers do before: THQ got on their game film and noticed it, digitized it and put it out there for you. I have to admit, I marked and marked HARD for Rikishi's dancing animation after he wins. Only THQ, seriously. Only THQ. It's those little things that continue to bring extra charm to an already charmed title. While WWE begins to sink into relative comfort as a stellar sports title year in and year out, they continue to challenge themselves to do something new year-in and year-out. The Attitude Era opens a world of possibilities as to what we could see next. Will THQ have the resources to properly do the Invasion angle that WWF/WCW/ECW fans so desperately craved and didn't get paid off on in 2001? Will they come back with the WCW side of the Monday Night Wars? Will they re-evaluate the successes of the yesterday vs. today aspect of WWE All Stars, and create vintage roads to Wrestlemania?

We'll have to wait another year to see. In the meantime, it was a fun walk down memory lane the recapture those feelings of nostalgia.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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