WWE wrestling games have been a staple of games consoles since the days of the NES. The evolution of these games has seemingly matched the growth and popularity of Vince McMahon's 'Sports Entertainment' Empire, with both peaking at about the same time - No Mercy for the N64 and the fabled 'Attitude Era' that replaced all-American heroes with foul-mouthed anti-heroes.
Of course, there have been technical improvements on both sides since then, but with WWE '13 it looks like we have a new contender for "best wrestling game ever!™". And that's partly due to it harkening back to the golden age of the Attitude Era with an exciting new storyline mode that revolutionises wrestling games in the same way the Attitude Era revolutionised the real thing.
Are! You! Ready?!
The storyline mode is split into several chapters, each marking the story of the key WWE Superstars of the period, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, The Undertaker and D-Generation X. But rather than just be a series of matches to be won, the Attitude Era asks you to recreate the real outcomes of the matches as they happened (well, as real as wrestling is...). This means you get the chance to re-enact Mankind's legendary Hell in the Cell matches and the infamous Montreal Screwjob, although there are a fair few filler matches between these bigger moments.
From a gameplay perspective, however, this means it's no longer enough to simply beat your opponent - you have win the match the way the match was won. Not only that, each match will throw some extra objectives that you have to complete to succeed. Hitting your opponent with a chair or trash can crops up a lot (as it did on TV at the time), but it's not always straightforward. In some cases you need to time this objective right, such as waiting for someone else to introduce said foreign object or risk disqualification. More advanced matches will require more intricate instructions, like pinning your opponent within 10 seconds of performing your finisher. It can get a little frustrating at times, especially as you learn which objectives you need to wait for and which you can just carry out straight away, but it adds a new, challenging element that freshens up the genre for the first time in a long time.
The other great thing about the Attitude Era is the amount of detail that's gone into it. Working in conjunction with WWE themselves, all-new video packages have been created to bring the historical context to life, providing a fun trip down memory lane (just off Know-Your-Role Boulevard!) for those who lived through this Era, and a great history lesson for those who didn't. This attention to detail is spread throughout the rest of the game, too, none more so than the entrances for the WWE Superstars and Legends, which are recreated in their entirety. So, yes, you can enjoy a full five minute dancing entrance for Brodus Clay and his Funkadactyls if you want.
Know Your Role
Which brings us to the roster - which is massive. There are over 50 current WWE Superstars and Divas to choose from, including CM Punk, John Cena, Daniel Bryan and Brock Lesnar. On top of this, there's a pool of nearly 30 Attitude Era stars (although, to be fair, at least 3 of those are Mick Foley!). You'll need to play through the game to unlock a lot of them, and some key stars are missing - TNA-signed the Hardy and Dudley Boyz are sorely missed, and would have made for an excellent additional chapter for the Attitude Era. But this does lay the groundwork for some WWE All-Stars style fantasy warfare, letting you set-up Punk versus Austin, Dude Love against Brodus Clay and even old-school Kane versus contemporary Kane. For long-time wrestling fans, this will be an absolute dream, and finally a chance to play as some of the stars of yesteryear without having to dust off your old copies of Wrestlemania 2000 or War Zone.
But it's not all about looking back - WWE '13 continues to push the series forward, too. One of the best things about WWE games in recent years has been the massive increase in what you can create and, in WWE '13, it's about the sheer variety of what you can now edit. By utilising and combining all of the tools at your disposal, WWE '13 truly allows you to create a WWE Universe that is your own. Of course, there's the usual opportunity to create Superstars and Divas, share them and download the latest Community efforts, as well as the story, move set and finisher creation tools. This entry into the series shines with the host of smaller but worthy additions. Such an example is the facility to create Championship Belts, which makes a long-awaited return to the series.
Here Comes The Pain
Universe Mode also makes a return. This is the career mode that lets you play as many or as few matches as any available Superstar, or as your created Superstar(s). Depending on what happens with in each match dictates your journey through WWE Universe. You can form a rivalry, a friendship and even injure an opponent, with each action having a reaction that influences how your career unravels.
But this is Universe version 3.0. Overhauls mean that you can now edit the types of storyline that go in. Tired of seeing your Superstars sidelined through injury? No need to worry - you can turn the injury storylines off. The same applies for other key parts of Universe - such as keeping tag teams together. You can specify what storylines you'd like to see, so the game knows how you want your Universe to run. But forcing things too much can take the fun out of it a bit, as the naturally formed alliances and rivalries seem to work the best usually culminating in great battles at the various WWE Pay Per Views.
In conjunction with the heavily improved Universe mechanics, the full customisation allows you to essentially build your own promotion. You build your roster, as before, but you can now delete shows and create shows, as well as editing existing shows and PPVs. You can pick the dates, create your own logos and, in conjunction with the massive amount of arenas, start creating your own era of WWE. For example, the Attitude PPVs and Arenas alongside fully edited Attitude rosters will finally allow you to use them to recreate your own Attitude era calendar, complete with a weekly retro 'Raw Is War' and/or SmackDown. You can choose what belts are contested on the show, who appears when and even if the show is a 'Major' or 'Minor' production (anyone up for some pre-PPV Heat?). You can even add and take themes away for PPVs, meaning certain types of match-ups are guaranteed. It works both ways, so if you really wanted, you could have the Royal Rumble every month of the year!
That's The Bottom Line
That said, Universe 3.0 is still far from perfect. In these days of Skyrim, Assassin's Creed and even Black Ops II featuring branching storylines, Universe mode is still very linear - if you could make choices during a promo or the match, be it simple yes or no answers or smacking your partner with a chair mid match to break an alliance, this would make you feel a bit more in control. And if you play as your created character, the diversity of Universe mode isn't really shown until you are a few months of game time in, as you start at the bottom of the pile without enemies or allies.
But niggles aside, WWE '13 is a fantastic package for grapple fans. Chock full of features that enhance almost every aspect of the gameplay from last year's version, and a brand new storyline mode that provides the biggest - and best - improvement to the genre since the inception of Universe mode, WWE '13 is more than just a beat 'em up in spandex and sequins - it's a wrestling game through and through, and one that leaves no Stone (Cold) unturned.
- Attitude Era story mode is fresh and challenging
- Improved customisation modes throughout
- Excellent roster of past and present stars
- Universe mode is still too linear
- Some objectives in Attitude Era are confusing and frustrating
- Missing some key Attitude Era stars