I don’t know how many other wrestling fans feel the same way as I do, but right around 2006, the WWE product started to lose its luster for me. I don’t know if it was the fact that all my favorite superstars from the Attitude Era were pretty much gone, or the fact that I was just ready to move on, but the WWE just didn’t seem as appealing to me as it did just a few years prior.
Between then and now, I would still catch the odd Raw or Smackdown every so often, but eventually, nearly the entire WWE roster was filled with wrestlers that I was unfamiliar with. This wasn’t the WWE that I grew up with, and I felt that I might as well have been watching any old developmental territory.
To satisfy that wrestling itch, I instead turned to my collection of old WWE tapes and DVDs. Older Wrestlemanias, character documentaries, The Best of Raw, an old tape of DX…THESE were the wrestlers that I grew up with and loved. This is what the WWE was to me, and if I couldn’t relive this kind of magic on TV on a week to week basis, then at least I had these old videos to go back to.
Apparently the folks at Yukes had a similar yearning for the days of yore, since WWE 13 has a heavy emphasis on the Attitude Era. In fact, it even goes so far as to replace the entire story mode with the Attitude Era Mode, which is pretty much what any fan of wrestling dreams about. Through this “career mode,” players will play through eight different storylines, all linked together in one cohesive narrative, mind you, that relives the WWE’s famed Attitude Era. You’ll start with the formation of DX all the way to Wrestlemania XV.
The Attitude Era Mode is not some simple rehash of the Road to Wrestlemania mode. In fact, it’s clear that the WWE and Yukes are very proud of this iconic time period in the WWE’s history, as everything about the Attitude Era Mode screams AAA production quality. There are over 20 video packages culled from the actual video archives of the WWE. Talk about a trip down memory lane as I sat there and watched old clips of Stone Cold flipping off Mike Tyson, or the McMahons and The Rock getting a beer bath in the middle of the ring.
In addition to the video packages, over 60 select moments from that era are recreated as in-game cutscenes following certain matches. These cutscenes are extremely faithful to the original footage, and even comes with the actual commentary that accompanied the events. It’s pretty awesome to watch a cutscene of the Undertaker throwing Mankind off the top of the cell through the announce table below and hearing the actual broadcast of JR screaming, “With God as my witness, he is broken in half!!!”
The matches themselves are nothing out of the ordinary. They’re pretty straightforward with a few “Historical Objectives” thrown in to unlock a variety of goodies. With each match, you can usually win simply via a pinfall or submission…standard stuff. However, almost every match comes with some bonus objectives. For example, Rock VS Big Boss Man; you can win the match however you like, but can you meet the bonus objective of defeating BBM in under a minute to emulate how it went down in real life? What about Kane VS Mankind; can you win by hitting three chokeslams? Meeting these additional objectives will unlock a wealth of treasures; everything from additional wrestlers and arenas to hundreds of photos and videos.
I would like to see the Attitude Era Mode expanded in one of two ways (or both): 1) a longer mode in WWE 14, or 2) some additional “episodes” as DLC. I would love to have some episodes that focused on something like the explosion of popularity of the Hardys, Dudley Boys, and Edge and Christian, Kurt Angle’s rise to prominence, the McMahon family wars, HHH’s epic battle with Cactus Jack at the 2000 Royal Rumble, etc. There’s a lot of potential for this mode in the archives of the WWE, and I hope they don’t just stop here. Hell, they could even go back even further in time and expand on this mode with some Hulk Hogan/Andre the Giant material. How awesome would it be to play through an episode that focused on the fallout between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannety, for instance?
The rest of the game focuses not so much on new things, but rather an evolution of what was presented last year in this franchise’s “re-hash.” I liked WWE 12 a lot last year, and in WWE 13, Yukes continues to build on the solid product. Predator 2.0 takes last year’s game engine and polishes it up a bit. It’s not groundbreaking, but moves transition a bit smoother and look less robotic. Yes, there are still some odd collision issues here and there; but honestly, after having played nearly every wrestling game out there for the past few decades, I’m beginning to think that there will ALWAYS be collision glitches. I guess only time will tell.
The presentation has also received an overhaul, as new audio and commentary make the in-ring atmosphere much more authentic. The crowd noises were taken from actual live WWE audiences, and it sounds wonderful. The cheering and booing don’t always kick in at the right time (or at all sometimes), but when it works, it WORKS. The commentary is about the same as it always is, but in the Attitude Era Mode, you get the added treat of having the actual commentary for the events scattered throughout. And trust me, you will know when the authentic commentary clips kick in because they are a heck of a lot louder than the typical in-game commentary track.
For those who are suffering from control freak issues and OCD to the highest degree, you have the insane creation suite and WWE Universe 3.0. What is there to say about the creation suite? It’s always been one of the strong points of the WWE games even back as far as the PS2 days. Pretty much anything you want to create is there, from entrances to finishers to wrestlers. As usual, I always create myself and a few of my favorite wrestlers who are no longer represented in the game (such as a certain Olympic gold medalist).
WWE Universe 3.0 is as nitpicky as it always is, with a few new improvements thrown in for good measure. You now have the power to create your own shows, controlling details down to the logos, arenas, championships, etc. This mode will also dynamically generate content such as feuds, alliances, rivalries, and matches. Basically, the entire WWE world is open for you to play in, and just like every year, this is where I spent, and will be spending, the bulk of my time. Every single little storyline that I played out in my head when I was younger, every fantasy I had of me as a professional wrestler joining the New DX can come true in WWE Universe.
Graphically the game looks fantastic. Other than some wrestlers looking a bit too shiny and a few animation issues that I mentioned earlier, this is the best looking WWE game out there. I do have one gripe, however. As a game art and design graduate that focused on animation, I always held to the belief that creating realistic water was the hardest thing to model and animate convincingly. Now I believe it’s human hair, because to quote Farooq: “…..Damn!” The hair on the wrestlers look like that ice cream topping hard shell stuff that was simply dripped over a head model. Maybe by next-gen we might actually be able to see some convincing looking hair. Maybe.
It’s hard to really be objective with WWE 13 because it’s not like you’re really getting much variety and choice when it comes to selecting a WWE video game. Other than some ultra arcadey options like WWE All-Stars, you’re pretty much stuck with the WWE series. However, that’s not a bad thing as WWE 13 is an extremely solid wrestling game, perhaps one of the best I have played in years.
The Attitude Era Mode is a wrestling fan’s dream come true. This time period in professional wrestling was so important for so many reasons and produced so many iconic stars that it’s nice to see a tribute such as this play a huge part in WWE 13. The wealth of unlockables is Yukes’ way of acknowledging our love for what is arguably the most memorable time period in wrestling history.
Last year I described WWE 12 as “one of the stronger wrestling offerings to come out of the squared circle in quite some time.” That extends into WWE 13, except here it’s even better. The changes are small and you may not even notice them most of them, but man, do they play out gloriously in the end product.
Next year in WWE 14, let’s get some of that WCW material out of the vault. I want to see an Attitude Era-like career mode where you can play both sides of the Monday Night Wars. Let’s get an Invasion storyline the way it should have gone. Let’s take things up a notch! Because if anything, WWE 13 has shown us that the past still burns brightly, perhaps more brightly than the wrestling product of today.