The latest grappler from Yuke’s and THQ is here, but does this installment live up to the high standards of the series?
The first thing to say is that the animation system has been overhauled and moves now connect more solidly than ever before in a WWE game. Though there are still the (very) occasional slip ups, the Predator Technology 2.0 gives a mostly fluid, realistic and responsive match experience. Particularly impressive are the reversals. These can now be performed in almost any situation (a special mention must go to the ability to catch an opponent diving off the top turnbuckle and slam them to the ground) and require split second timing to achieve. Helpfully the game tells you if your timing is either too late or too early so you know exactly where you’re going wrong.
Another fix that Yuke’s has made is that matches now feel much more like they are building towards the climactic finisher moment thanks to the technical countering system. This stops people from spamming you by repeating the most powerful normal moves over and over again. Most welcome that, especially when battling online.
Starting with a straight-forward One on One match the first thing that strikes you is the dynamic camera angles. These come in at certain points to show off wrestlers move sets and also to give the look and feel of TV shows. While these can be slightly off-putting there is no denying that they add to the atmosphere. Instant replays of finisher moves are an ace addition, especially when it’s a finisher you’ve created yourself.
Online-wise you’ve got a pretty standard options but there’s more efficient sharing of created content than before and the matchmaking is functional if a little uninspired in it’s interface.
Customisation is a big deal for WWE games. WWE ’13 is no different, boasting an excellent array of options. Starting with the basic Play Now options you can adjust how quickly you want the match to go, what arena you’re in and what rules you compete under. Creating your own superstar remains as addictive as ever with a strong choice of clothing and tattoo options. Create an entrance is it’s usual in-depth self, you can even use your own music to accompany your wrestlers entrance.
Creating your moves set is also an exhaustive process which covers everything, even down to what finishers you can use from the top of a ladder. While the Create a Finisher option allows you to let your imagination run riot. In addition to front grapple and top rope moves we now get corner finishers. A nice touch.
WWE ’13 has current star CM Punk on the cover but don’t think that this installment is all about the current crop of stars. You can now take part in matches from the era of Attitude, covering the rise of DX and Stone Cold Steve Austin among others. This was a period of forced reinvention, the game tells us. Loosing out to WCW in the viewing stakes, the WWE was forced to approach its stars in a new way. It was brilliant to play this period again as I loved the series in the early SmackDown! days, so it’s wonderful to play as the older wrestlers again but with modern day control schemes and presentation.
What this means in practical terms for the player is a series of chapters in which video and text bring to life a classic era from WWE’s history. During each chapter you get a match to play with specific conditions (win by chairshot, do a certain amount of damage etc). Meeting these challenges gives you unlockable bonuses, ranging from alternative clothing to playable superstars. This mode works well both as a gameplay experience and a kind of history lesson for those unfamiliar with the Attitude era. A special mention must go to the commentary in this mode, sections of which are taken straight from the real life matches themselves. It’s immersive as heck and often very funny with The King wisecracking and JR responding.
Having said that, the commentary in the rest of the game can feel a little stilted. If the Attitude era approach to commentary could be adopted by all game modes in the next installment then it could be something very special indeed.
The WWE universe mode returns with loads of rosters available (Legends, Smackdown Attitude, RAW etc) and the ability to edit story options. These are random events that occur within the show, such as crowd reaction changing stories or Tag teams forming or breaking up. You can change any individual match in the schedules down to the match type and participants. That includes inserting your custom character into a match. It is gratifying to launch your custom character on a quest for a title and see the story options that can develop around that. You can also change the schedule around and decide what type of show you want to put on during the week.
To sum up
WWE ’13 delivers the razzmatazz we come to expect from the WWE. The superstars are all accurately modeled and someone like Attitude era The Rock’s whole posture and swagger will be instantly recognisable to those in the know. Post match highlights return and again can be used to make a custom entrance video for your superstar. The breaking point submissions return us to button bashing but add the ability to stretch for the ropes, bringing a new dimension.
Overall this is as refined and playable as a wrestling game can get. Add a few friends and an Elimination Chamber match and it’s a fun, often inspired multiplayer experience. Sure things can get hectic and control is noticeable harder in multiplayer, but the auto targeting works fine (and can still be set to manual) and really that’s all part of the fun. It will be interesting to see where the series goes from here.
Version review: Xbox 360