This review has been written by Ian Hamilton.
Let me take you back to earlier this year… remember when all of those promos were airing on Raw and SmackDown, promising a revolution? The internet was abuzz with rumors of what the promos were for – the most believed one was the return of Matt Morgan (how did that work out for you?) – as the internet salivated over what was coming up. Then, we found out that it was a trailer for the new video game. Disappointing? That seems to be the perfect analogy for what ended up being WWE 13.
If you’ve read almost any other review of the game, you’ll have doubtless seen plenty of praise for THQ’s latest release, labeling it as the best wrestling game since the holy grail that is No Mercy. On the surface, they’re right, but once you’ve spent any time playing it, you’ll quickly start wishing for an HD update of No Mercy.
Having played every WWE game since the dawn of time (well, not quite), WWE 13 has the usual updates you’d expect. The graphics are a little shinier, the sets updated (although the new Raw and SmackDown sets didn’t make it this year), and the centerpiece of this year’s game is the Attitude Era Mode. Replacing the Road to WrestleMania feature, the Attitude Era Mode is WWE 13’s core feature, as you re-enact different scenarios from throughout the late 90s. Want to relive the reformation and the rise of the original D-Generation X? How about the genesis of Austin 3;16? Or perhaps you want to relive WrestleMania XV?
Lurking into the Attitude Era mode, you get to replay a variety of matches, with the key being that you meet several objectives to relive history. For instance, an early match between Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog needs you to have HBK beat the Bulldog, but you get extra bonus points depending on what you do during the match, so as to accurately represent what really happened.
The core gameplay remains the same – left thumbstick moves your wrestler, whilst the face control pad’s face buttons allow you to strike, grapple, hit a finisher or whip your opponent. If you’ve played any WWE games in the last five years, you’ll be in familiar territory, and whilst it is a case of “if it ain’t broke”, the control pattern is starting to feel dated by now.
If you don’t want to follow the usual career mode, then you’re in luck as WWE Universe mode returns for another year, allowing you to create an alternate universe (ahem) where you can control what happens on Raw, SmackDown, and any show you want to create. Among the improvements this year is the ability to add a show on every day of the week – so if you want to create Saturday Morning Slam, have at it. Want to have WWE Main Event on Wednesday? Be our guest… Tuesday Night Titans? Go on then. Heck, if you want to ditch Raw and replace it with Nitro, you can do that too, however, you’ll have to create your own Nitro arena, as the WCW-inspired arenas that graced WWE 12 did not make the trek into this year’s game.
Of course, modern day wrestling games would fall flat on their face without a good create a wrestler mode. No matter how many guys you have on the roster, there’s always someone that will be missing. With the inclusion of the Attitude era wrestlers, WWE 13 boasts the biggest roster in history (bulked out with three HHH’s, two Undertakers, two Kanes, three Mick Foleys, and so on), but still manages to omit several fringe wrestlers, with Drew McIntyre, Ryback and Damien Sandow relegated to downloadable character status, whilst Tyson Kidd fails to make the cut entirely.
Thankfully, the godawful servers that ruined WWE 12’s online experience appear to be fixed, so downloading new characters and wrestlers is not the thankless chore that it was. Unfortunately, as one bug is fixed, several more seem to have reared their ugly heads. To make things clear, I’m playing the PlayStation 3 version of this game – most reviews seem to have been based off of the Xbox 360 edition. Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue, especially as these games are usually copies of one another (WWE 13 is initially written for the Xbox, before being ported down to the PS3 and other platforms), however this year, THQ seem to have only done quality testing on the Xbox version.
Case in point: on launch day (and as of time of writing) although you can create your own arena, you cannot use it in Universe mode on the PS3, whilst some PS3 owners have reported not being able to use a custom arena anywhere in the game. Which really makes the expanded create-an-arena mode pointless – what’s the point in being able to use the classic SmackDown fist as a base for an arena if it’s just going to crash your game?
Other annoying glitches include the computer getting stuck in animations that are unbreakable – whether it’s Sin Cara freezing when trying to somersault out of the ring, or the CPU taking forever trying to eliminate a wrestler in the Royal Rumble. They’re random, they’re annoying, and they really should have been caught in beta testing. Speaking of the Royal Rumble, I stumbled onto a classic Rumble PPV in my Universe mode where I had no choice but have a 20 man Rumble, in the old Rumble PPV arena, with a silent crowd and minimal commentary. It was nice, at least, until the CPU got stuck in an animation loop and I had to skip the match entirely.
In summary, WWE 13 is a game that just isn’t quite finished. It has all of the hallmarks of a game that would easily be the best wrestling game of this console generation, but if you own a PS3, I cannot honestly recommend this game until it has been patched. Xbox 360 owners, by all means, grab this game – you’ll enjoy it – but you too will wish that THQ had spent more time ironing out those annoying glitches.