WWE 13 Review
Heath Slater. Jinder Mahal. Justin Gabriel. Hunico. Who are these people? Weren’t they on The X Factor this year? Sadly, they’re WWE Superstars, the kind of faces that fill out the space between the CM Punks and the Randy Ortons on the roster.
They show the kind of problem WWE games have faced in recent times – there are two sets of fans to appeal to. There are the fans who stopped watching around the time The Rock first bounced off to Hollywood while keeping a distant eye on affairs, and there are the fans who have stuck with WWE through thick and thin.
There are those who know who know Hunico is and those who don’t even know how to pronounce it. What’s a development studio to do?
So standing applause to Yuke’s for solving that problem in the best way possible with Attitude Era. Effectively the career mode equivalent that replaces the ubiquitous Road To WrestleMania, Attitude Era challenges you to re-create the past rather than looking to the future.
It focuses on the rise of future stars like Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin, a throwback to the time when Vince McMahon became a pantomime villain for everyone to boo and grown men pretended to chop their own crotch.
Mankind, Mr Ass, Road Dogg, Bret Hart, Legion of Doom, almost everyone is here.
Road Dogg has his annoying series of punches as his signature move. You’ll remember when you see them.
It’s not just the idea that’s good but the execution. Rather than having you run through matches from days gone by, there are historical objectives that see you having to re-create exactly what happened – ending matches with chairshot disqualifications where necessary rather than going for outright wins, for example.
This along makes Attitude Era far more interesting than a cut and dry win-every-match mode, and it’s helped by the far-reaching attention to detail.
The commentary fills you in on the context of each match as though you’re back in 1997, while the Titantron videos and entrance music have been plucked directly from that era. Remember what Triple H’s music was like pre-Motörhead? You will do. He even has his old bow.
It would be nothing if the actual grappling itself wasn’t any good, but that has improved significantly on previous years. The WWE series has long been building up the complexity involved, but WWE ’13 is the first one we can remember that feels streamlined.
You can target individual limbs, steal finishers, wake-up taunt and indulge in all sorts of peripheral trickery, but you can play this just using the strike and grapple buttons without feeling too overwhelmed.
There are minor additions and tweaks that make a lot of sense. For example, submissions are the usual button-bashing tug-of-war, as both players battle to fill or deplete the Breaking Point meter.
There are promos during Attitude Era playing on the mystery and fear of Mankind.
Yet the difference now is that if the player trapped in the submission manages to break out, it’s a reversal rather than the attacker meekly letting go of the hold.
It was one of those weird logical inconsistencies that never made sense in previous games – why would the guy applying the submission hold just let go? – and now the onus is on the wrestler applying the submission hold to let go before he gets hit with a reversal.
Another nice addition is that you can hit opponents into the ropes or turnbuckles for extra grapple moves without having to throw them there, likewise for other areas around the ring like commentary tables.
It’s a smart idea because now you feel as though you’re getting a lot out of the game without having to get too tangled up with the buttons.
Discovering the context sensitive moves is a big part of the appeal of the WWE games, so making it easier to do so is big plus. The grappling is still marred by awkward animation transitions and the odd collision detection glitch, but overall, this is a huge step in the right direction.
The only major problem that WWE ’13 has is one that runs through every game mode – countering. When your opponent gets on top of you, the constant knockdowns and lengthy animations mean your only way to fight back and break momentum is to get the right timing for counters.
Remember when piledrivers were allowed in WWE? Mankind does.
In theory, this is quite easy; you just need to press the right trigger at the right time, with messages telling you if your timing is too early or late.
In practice, while the timing is consistent with the animation, there’s no way of telling when your opponent will actually go for moves, so attempting counters is actually a fairly depressing and will-sapping exercise in clunking the right trigger until you get lucky.
On harder difficulties, any move you go for then tends to end up being reversed right away, leaving you fishing for a lucky counter again. It’s incredibly frustrating.
WWE ’13 gets away with that problem because of the nostalgia-infused Attitude Era mode and the significant progress shown elsewhere. It’s a little frustrating and annoying at times, but overall, the series is finally back to being fun to play.
And that’s the bottom line because Hunico said so! That’s his catchphrase, right? It’s not? Sigh.