After last year’s revelatory WWE ’12, which essentially sought to redefine the wrestling game experience – and did so rather well – WWE ’13 again seeks to toy with the established formula, bringing about a few welcome changes even if it doesn’t feel like the game-changer that its predecessor was. Inevitably, it feels like a bit of a come-down after the excellence of last year’s entry, but some minor tinkering with that excellent blueprint makes for a hugely satisfying wrestling sim that is more likely to appeal to older fans than those who have only been watching post-Attitude Era.
What’s clear is that THQ aren’t simply content to got the FIFA route despite the annualised title; they want to innovate and keep giving fans plenty of bang for their buck, even with some of its minor technical niggles. What really works this time around is the Attitude Era mode, a six-part trek through what is generally regarded as the best and most important period of the WWE, allowing players to re-create some of the organisation’s most memorable moments, both in the ring and outside it. Combining immaculately-rendered cut-scenes with nostalgic video packages of the time, like no wrestling game prior, this really evokes the time and place of the Era, which will make it hugely rewarding for long-time fans.
What’s great about this mode is how much freedom it provides players; if you want to simply win matches as occurred in real life, then that’s fine, but if you want to recreate specific points of each bout – say, a famous spot – then you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of unlockables. It becomes addictive throughout, and lends the game a fair degree of replay value, certainly more than the previous games in the series. Unquestionably, this is the best addition to the series, and hopefully something THQ find a way to build upon either in the next game, or with DLC – we’re thinking a downloadable chapter, perhaps?
Those wanting more creativity in their game will be pleased by the sheer number of options available to them here; whether you want to create a wrestler, micro-manage the intricacies of the roster, or actually run the show itself in the popular Universe mode, there’s plenty to keep players coming back, and the kicker, of course, is when you take this custom content online to show the world. The appeal for many, as ever, will be taking their impressive created wrestlers online, and this process has been streamlined considerably when compared to previous games. However, the general online interface could do with some general fixing up, as it has a fairly bland look that doesn’t exactly make it the most enticing of options.
It is worth noting, though, that the presentational and technical issues that have plagued the previous games are wholly apparent once again. As has been a regular complaint with the series, the graphics are still sub-par for this generation, rendering decent likenesses of the various wrestlers, but not really dazzling us overall. This is a problem with annual sporting games generally speaking, and WWE ’13 is no exception.
The camera system, which of course attempts to replicate the WWE’s own dynamic camera set-up, is also problematic, quite often fleeting between several shots within a mere second or two. It’s just incredible that this wasn’t more adequately bug-tested, given how apparently bad it is. Also, some buggy commentary proves frustrating; lines of dialogue are often repeated several times throughout a match, and though THQ have strained to authentically re-create famous wrestling moments by pulling commentary from them, it isn’t particularly well-implemented.
Thankfully, these technical foibles do little to derail what is, in terms of gameplay, still a mostly strong effort, even if the decade-long complaints of poor collision detection still persist. What it does best is convey the pacing and storytelling of a wrestling match, the excitement and the intensity, which makes for an addictive player experience, with plenty of tweaks allowing for gamers to proceed in the style that they best prefer. There are a few new issues worth mentioning, however; some animations feel particularly spotty this time around, and sometimes the gimmick matches seem to ask more of the engine than it is capable, as things don’t always “connect” as they should.
It’ll inevitably feel like a bit of a comedown to those who loved the last game and were again hoping for another overhaul, but WWE ’13 is a well-greased tune-up of the fine formula. The sheer wealth of single-player options will satisfy long-time fans of the product especially, milking the nostalgia for the older, better product, while still putting paid to the newer talents. Technical issues unfortunately do continue to persist, but they fail to put a dent in what is for the most part a riotously entertaining wrestling sim.
WWE ’13 is out November 2nd on Xbox 360 and PS3.
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