The following article is based on several hours of experience playing WWE ’13 at a THQ event in London, England on October 1st. It should be noted that the version played will not be the finished game, and their may be differences in content and quality.
When’s the last time you loved a wrestling game? I mean really loved it. Loved it like you wanted to play the single player mode from beginning to end in one sitting until the length of time it’s taking forces you to stop (of course, the fact that, in this day and age, a single player campaign is that long, makes you love it even more). “Loved” like you loved No Mercy, like you loved Here Comes The Pain, like you loved WrestleMania 2000.
I love WWE ’13.
On the surface, it’s just another WWE game, any other WWE game. It looks and feels and plays like WWE ’13 in comparison to WWE ’12 in the same way that FIFA ’13 looks and feels and plays in comparison to FIFA ’12. Not that that’s a bad thing, the graphics are better, the move animations are less choppy, the character models are more realistic. The long hair is still awful looking, I saw an average of one bug every two hours of play, and, whilst certainly life-like as in “they look like humans”, the wrestlers aren’t particularly accurate representations of their real life counter-parts.
But, over-all, it’s an improvement. Things have been changed, things have been improved, the roster is huge. Thumbs up, I like it.
I like it.
So where’s the love coming from? My love of this game is coming from the same place as my love for this sport.
The Attitude Era.
The hot selling point of WWE ’13, as has been hammered home again and again and again, has been the Attitude Era and, sure, it’s fun. Old characters, old arenas, an excuse to have J.R. do commentary, fun times, nice gimmick.
But it isn’t a gimmick. It’s the single player mode. And it’s brilliant.
We all know the concept; the single player mode puts you in various roles in real-life key matches from mid-1997 to early-2000. For each match, you can just win, or you can try and complete a series of historically accurate objectives. For example, in the match between Dude Love and Stone Cold Steve Austin at Unforgiven ’98, where you play as Stone Cold, you can choose to play the game straight and simply win the match, or you can stick to the objectives like hitting an interfering Vince McMahon with a chair, or counting your own pin, or accidentally knocking out the referee during a quick-time event. Completing these objectives gives up unlockables, but, here’s the twist, they’re unlockables you give a shit about! You unlock alternative costumes, Attitude Era wrestlers, historic title belts, and historic arenas, all of which can be used in non-story single player or multi-player matches.
It sounds mundane, and at most “fun”, but love?
I should introduce myself and my sins.
I have a problem.
I LOVE the Attitude Era.
The problem isn’t you, it’s me, I promise. The problem here is that I can’t possibly pretend that I’m not bias. The Attitude Era made a wrestling fan. I turned ten in 1997, and I turned thirteen in 2000. There was no better time period or age to be a wrestling fan. Not my opinion, that’s actual provable fact. With that background, it’s IMPOSSIBLE not to smile when you lead a returning Cactus Jack, trash can in hand, down the ramp to savage Triple H. It’s IMPOSSIBLE not to smile when, as Shawn Michaels, you slap Bret Hart in the sharpshooter, and Vince McMahon calls for the bell, forcing you to flee the ring. It’s IMPOSSIBLE not to smile when, as the Undertaker, you hurl Mankind from the top of the cage and are rewarded with J.R.’s immortal, timeless words.
A word on the commentary. I’m not sure how they’ve done this, if it’s cut out audio, or re-recorded lines, but for a late 90’s wrestling nerd like me, the commentary is absolutely phenomenal. It’s almost word for word the commentary of the actual, real life matches, with HUGE amounts of colour-commentary being taken from real life to compliment the standard in-game play-by-play. Like commentary in real wrestling, it sounds like such a shallow extra, but it adds SO much to hear J.R. run through the story so far, whilst The King, fully back in Attitude Era mode, lauds over each matches heel in ludicrous, self-knowing ironic arrogance.
The attention to detail in terms of authenticity goes beyond just the commentary. Whilst each match is broken up with text detailing the progression of the story, charts showing RAW’s ratings in competition with WCW Nitro, and video packages using real footage, several matches begin or end with in-game recreations of cut scenes.The one that really stuck in my head was the aforementioned return of Cactus Jack. Whilst Triple H waits in the ring, first Dude Love, then Mankind, and, finally, Cactus Jack, appear on screen to discuss who should wrestle that night. If I’m a fanboy of the Attitude Era, then I’m a borderline stalker of Mick Foley, and this is a moment I know movement for movement and word for word, and so do THQ. The movement, the words, the moment are PERFECT. Either the audio has been lifted straight from the original, or Mick Foley has a very good memory, because, the night I first played through that moment, I instantly watched the original moment back and could barely tell the difference.
Unfortunately, that same moment, does bring up one inaccuracy. God bless THQ for their faithfulness to the late-90’s. God knows what horrific demands from Vince McMahon they had to refuse, but it’s clear that, in come places, Stalin McMahon has got his historical eraser in full effect.
The most obvious incidence is the amount of people who no longer exist.
Remember how I said that, whilst Foley was decided which personality to send out, Triple H stood in the ring? Some of the more pedantic amongst you may be thinking, “Wait, wasn’t Chyna there too?”. Not according to WWE ’13 she wasn’t.
And then, of course, there’s Triple H, the king of the historical edit.
It’s a relatively well known fact that, in previous years, journalists have been banned from showing video game footage of Trips on the receiving end of moves, but this game takes it to a new level.
Remember how big Triple H was in 1998? Now you don’t, he was huge, HUGE IS TELLS YA, HE WAS THE BIGGEST WRESTLER THERE EVER WAS.
Remember how, at the end of Survivor Series ’97, Bret Hart grabbed hold of Shawn Michaels (yeah, I’m blaming Trips for this one too), and wouldn’t let him go and, when he did, Michaels ran away like something similar to a bitch? Didn’t happen. Michaels stayed in that ring because he felt wronged, WRONGED I TELLS YA, AND WHEN HE GOT OUT OF THE RING, HE TOLD VINCE HOW DISAPPOINTED HE WAS, AND HE WALKED LIKE A MAN. A STRONG MANLY MANNY MAN.
So, yeah, rant over, but there’s that like nugget of annoyance. Thinking about it, even the Chyna thing sounds like it’s probably something do with Triple H too.
He must have a huge penis.
Wait, we were talking about a game weren’t we.
Right, WWE ’13.
Again, I have to make this clear that this isn’t coming from a video game journalist. This isn’t even particularly coming from a video game fan in the modern sense of the word, This is coming from a wrestling fan, or should that be ex-wrestling fan, and it’s from that place that the love comes from. It’s from the place that finally, FINALLY, I can relive my childhood. I can be in every match I loved, in every moment I marked out far. I can wrestle as ever superstar who’s poster was on my wall, I can hit every finishing move that I irresponsibly tested out on my best friend.
You can screw Bret Hart, you can stun Mr. McMahon, you can break Mankind in half, you can set Kane on fire, you can fall through cells, you can break through cages, you can raise (blurred) middle fingers.
It’s not a video game, it’s a toy box. It’s MY toy box. It’s my toy box from when I was eleven, and it’s impossible for me to not see it like that because it just is, and, if you’re my age, if you’re my sort of wrestling fan, it’ll be your toy box too.
Gameplay? Graphics? Animation? Online play? Universe Mode? Create modes? They’re there. Want to know what they’re like? They’re like last year, but better. Much better maybe. Perfect? No, but better. THQ has heard every criticism. They’ve solved some completely, they’ve improved others.
I’m not the person to ask, because I wasn’t playing a video game. I reviewed WWE ’12 last year. It was okay, I played it, I reviewed it. I didn’t play WWE ’13. I was Stone Cold Steve Austin, I was The Rock, I was Mankind, I was Shawn Michaels, I was Bret Hart, I was Kane, I was the Undertaker, I was Ken Shamrock, I was the New Age Outlaws.
I was eleven years old.
The last wrestling video game I bought was Smackdown vs. RAW 2007. The last wrestling game I loved was Here Comes The Pain.
I will buy WWE ’13.
I love WWE ’13.
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