Developer: Yukes Yokohama
Release Date: 10/30/2012
The years have not been kind to Yukes, THQ or World Wrestling
Enter WWE ’13. This game features an “Attitude Mode” which is a throwback to the era when wrestling was at its peak financially and perhaps creatively. It was more mainstream than when Geraldine Ferraro was telling Roddy Piper that he was going down at the hands of Hulkamania. WWE ’13 promised to push the nostalgia factor into the stratosphere while still giving the modern WWE fan some of the current roster to fiddle around with. There was only one problem. The game’s predecessor, WWE ’12 was a pretty crappy game. Everyone from Game Informer to myself panned the game’s massive collection of bugs, terrible story mode and “Universe Mode” which was mostly the same as the year before. It was not a good game. Of course, if you ask the staff here at Diehard GameFAN, there hasn’t been a WWE game that we’ve universally liked since Smackdown Vs. Raw 2006. That’s a long time since the WWE had a quality video game. Still, THQ and Yukes did seem to listen to the dump truck load of criticism WWE ’12 received and it WAS a new-ish engine, so horrible bugs were to be expected. God knows all three companies needed a big win here – THQ most of all. So do we have the first WWE video game that I can enthusiastically recommend in seven years (SvR 2006 actually came out in 2005), or do we learn that the only good Attitude era releases require going back to an older system and/or a video game company that currently makes like Pretty Rhythm Mini Skirt and Style Savvy: Trendsetters?
There are a lot of different modes in WWE ’13. Universe is a never ending simulation of a federation. It doesn’t have to be WWE specifically. You can change the cards to WCW, AWA, ECW or even something you design yourself. With fifty Create-A-Wrestler spots, you can even eschew all the pre-made wrestlers if you really want to. Universe is the same as it’s been since inception however, with very little new content added. There are a few new cinematics (with OPTIONS!!!) and the ability to add new shows (one for each night of the week), so you can have Main Event and Saturday Morning Slam if you desire to play through those as well. Otherwise though, there’s nothing really new here and the mode itself is a throwback to the old PSX game Smackdown 2: Know Your Role, complete with the insanely long loading times of each. One thing still missing is the ability to have title matches outside of PPVs, but there is the ability to manage the titles on the fly so you can always have a match, say in your head it is for a title and switch things after the fact. It’s pretty terrible that the ability o make your own title matches in Universe Mode is STILL missing after three attempts, but it’s obvious neither Yukes nor THQ is going to listen to the fan outpouring on this issue, so it is what it is. I will say that this is the best version of Universe Mode yet as it’s nearly bug free. It does still randomly delete CAW movesets, created tag teams and adjusted roster stats without warning though, so be warned.
Exhibition Mode is just where you make your own matches outside of Universe. You can craft your own title matches here and the sky’s the limit. So if you want to play a few matches but not deal with Universe mode storylines, you can do it here. A nice new addition is King of the Ring. You can have any where up to sixteen competitors and you can play each match. Win a KotR and you unlock Booker T as a playable character too. Again, Exhibition Mode is pretty much a free for all and like Universe, it’s extremely bug free which is a pleasant surprise. The bugs that plague Universe don’t come up in Exhibition as all are tied specifically to Universe. So if you’re worried about having to remake your CAW’s moveset four times (like my poor Hiroshi Tanahashi…), stick to Exhibition.
Attitude Mode is the replacement for the Story Mode or “Road to Wrestlemania” this year. Honestly, it’s a very mixed bag. The entire mode is basically the same game as Legends of Wrestlemania, but with more realistic character models and more content. You start off with The Rise of D-X where you’ll play through twelve matches that are meant to mimic historical events from that time period. From there you’ll move on to playing as Steve Austin on the way to his first world title at Wrestlemania XIV and from there to characters like The Rock and Mankind. With each match you’ll unlock new content ranging from playable characters and new arenas to video montages of a very pro WWF and very anti WCW slant. If you liked Legends of Wrestlemania, you’ll probably like this mode and if you didn’t, nothing here will change your mind.
For those new to LoW, each match has one set goal and several optional historically accurate goals. You don’t have to do the optional but if you want all the unlockables, you need to go for them. If you miss a goal, you fail the mission and have to replay the match. This is fine except that Attitude mode is exceptionally buggy. Horribly so in fact. It’s like all the bugs from ’12 are all in this mode and ONLY this mode. Let’s give you an example. The last “Rise of D-X” match is a recreation of the Tag Team Title bout where the New Age Outlaws won their first championship from the Road Warriors. There are three buggy optional goals in this match alone. The first is winning a QTE event once Hawk has taken “moderate” damage. The problem is that the QTE randomly occurs. In one match I got it the second Hawk went to yellow damage on his chest. The next it took twenty minutes and both Road Warriors had critical damage all over their body. FINALLY it triggered. The second is where you have to hit Hawk with a title belt while the ref is out cold. The first time I did this, I was disqualified even though the ref was still out. So there seems to be an issue where the ref is out but is still “detecting” illegal shenanigans. The third is that you have to pin Animal with Billy Gunn. Well in every match Hawk is the legal man after the previous two goals, but then he refuses to tag out. I did this match FIVE TIMES. Each time Hawk steadfastly refused to tag. I had every part of his body injured and he was wearing a crimson mask. He STILL refused to tag out! I can’t win the match unless he does so this was a massive instance of frustration. I was doing everything possible to get him into his corner and tag, but he never did. He would just come crawling towards me as if he thought he was in a handicap match. Just terrible and an example of the horrid A.I. that has plagued WWE games for several years.
Finally, I love that the Attitude Mode has you creating pivotal moments from that era of wrestling, but there are a lot of problems with the story telling. First, you are getting a heavily sanitized version of the events due to the current PG audience. When you’re re-creating a famous match between HHH and Bret Hart, gone are all of Shawn’s hijinx outside the ringlike sticking the Canadian flag in his nose and dancing like a fool. Even in the video footage the game shows, you never get any of the4 more risqué content that made these moments (and this time period) so memorable. As such, true fans of this era are going to be elated and let down at the same time. It’s even weirder when the game does re-create some events pretty accurately, like the Three Faces of Foley incident on Raw where Cactus Jack finally showed up. They use actual audio commentary from the time period, but not the video footage. Why would you waste the developer’s time and resources to re-create the scene with video game graphics, when you could just have the actual footage in the game and have it as an extra unlockable. It would look better, take up less space on the disc, COST LESS, save developer time to work on bugs, and would be what more fans would want anyway. I mean, if you’re already doing video packages and having them as unlockables, why not do that for the bits people would actually want. This seems like an idea that sounded good to someone on paper but just fell flat when actually done.
So all in all, Attitude Mode, which is the selling point of this game, is actually the weakest part of the game. It’s exceptionally buggy compared to the other modes, the A.I. is noticeably stupider and glitchiand while it tries to recapture some truly awesome moments from wrestling history, it does so in a very sanitized and underwhelming way. Had they been allowed to actually ignore the current PG rating the WWE enforces, this could have been a lot better. There’s nothing wrong with the PG rating mind you; it’s just that it doesn’t jibe with Attitude Era as it was for a more adult audience. As such, the bugs and toned down version of events is a bit of as letdown. Still, it’s a lot of fun recreating matches like Halftime Heat or the Montreal Screwjob. So don’t think Attitude Mode is a total loss. It’s not. It’s just that it could have been SO MUCH MORE, you know? Maybe next year, Yukes will take the GM mode from 2k6 (which was awesome) modify it slightly and give us a full “Monday Night Wars” mode where you play as either WCW or the WWF and try to get the best ratings you can via quality matches, stealing away talent and the like. Not that would be awesome.
So all things considered, Exhibition and Universe are better than they’ve ever been bug-wise, but it’s almost all content you’ve seen before countless times. Attitude Era Mode is basically Legends of Wrestlemania. So you’re getting a lot of enjoyable content, but all of which you KNOW could have been better in many ways – several of which are fixes people have been asking for years. Always room for improvement I guess.
Modes Rating: Good
The graphics are a mixed bag as well. The arenas and the sheer number of difference ones are fantastic. I was a little creeped when I saw Over the Edge ’98 as an unlockable arena, but then I realized it was OtE ’99 where Owen Hart died. I would have a pretty big rant on including that PPV in this game if they had done it. I was also impressed by all the different titles you could unlock and the sheer number of costumes. You can also get some VERY accurate CAWS made, although right now the two best I’ve seen on the Community server are a Jeff Hardy (amongst loads of bad ones) and a decent Steve Blackman. The pre-made wrestlers however are hit or miss. Some, mostly the Attitude era guys, look horrific. Guys like old school Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Vince McMahon are some of the worst facial models I’ve seen in a wrestling game for this generation. They look nothing like the real thing and their facial expressions are laughably awful. Others look spot-on. My guess is that the Attitude era guys are harder to do simply because it’s fifteen years later and it’s not like you can travel back in time and get the wrestlers (NOT SUPERSTARS) to sit down and let them scan their faces. At the same time, if you can get paying customers to make high quality wrestlers that look better than several of the ones Yukes is providing…that’s not a good sign. Still, the majority of the game does look good although you will find your selves wincing or mocking several of the wrester’s faces in this game. Two steps forward; one step back.
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
Okay, this is a pit of a pet peeve of mine. Some of the commentary is going back to the PS2 era of gaming. The same exact phrases and lines by the same exact announcer (Michael Cole). You would think that someone in the development side of things would go, “You know, we’ve been recycling the same lines for almost a decade. Maybe we should get rid of those and record some more new stuff since we’re already having the announcers come in anyway.” This is a minor issue but damn, even yearly EA and 2K sports games recycle less commentary than WWE games. The new commentary in Universe and Exhibition is basically bits about the newly added wrestlers to the came like the Attitude guys or people that have never been in a video game before like Brodius Clay. I am happy to report DLC wrestlers like Gangrel and DDP have commentary recorded for them too. Although from the looks of the download size, they do appear to be on disc characters, Ick. I should also add that it’s great to hear Jim Ross on commentary in the Attitude Era portion of the game. I just wish you could select announcers in the other parts. Wouldn’t that be neat?
Much of Attitude era’s voice work recreates actual scenes and dialogue from that era. Some of which is word for word like it was then, so I’m not sure if they just used the old audio or had the guys like Foley and Triple H redo their lines. The latter seems a bit foolish and more expensive though. One amusing bit is that the game bleeps out the term WWE or the word “federation” out of World Wrestling Federation when wrestlers use them, but the subtitles change them to modern terms. So you can tell the wrestler is saying WWF or World Wrestling Federation but the subtitles will say WWE or World Wrestling Entertainment. It’s okay guys. World Wildlife is not going to sue you over that.
I’m pretty happy with the voice work in Attitude era actually. It’s one of the most fun things about the game. It’s the little things I never knew I missed like hearing a lot of Road Dogg’s old lines or banter between Bret and Shawn. No “sunny days” comments from Shawn or homosexual slurs from Bret though. This is Attitude run through the PG machine. I hate to keep harping on that, but it’s more to make sure people are prepared for that instead of expecting a M rated product like you would expect from an Attitude Era game and then being let down. The voice work is good, but I have to take points off for the sheer amount of reused content. The music and sound effects are enjoyable, but I would have liked some other old tracks. Why include the entrances, moves and mannerisms of certain wrestlers like say, Mr. Perfect, but then not have Exodus as a track in the game. Tons of generic useable music is here – why not have actual WWE content instead? Saves time and hard drive room with the whole custom soundtrack bit.
Sound Rating: Enjoyable
4. Control and Gameplay
This is one of the two weakest areas in the game, with the other being balance due to Yukes’ usually awful A.I. I’m just not a fan of the Predator Engine. It slows down the pace of the match, forces a lot of guys to use moves they never would in real life and has way too much emphasis on reversals and chain wrestling, which is hilarious if you’re using guys like the Great Khali or Dude Love. Technical masters they are not. The Predator engine works best with cruiserweights or scientific wrestlers, but there’s not a lot of that in the WWE these days and so the flow of the matches neither looks nor feels right. Again, I’d like to see a return to something like in an older Yukes or Aki made game, as sometimes change for the sake of change isn’t a good thing. Now that criticism aside, the engine is far superior to last year’s model with a lot of the visual and technical bugs having been cleaned up. It’s still a much slower paced match than you’d see in real life unless you have guys with maxed out speed, but at least Yukes has noticeably improved the engine big time and I’ll take what I can get there.
Now that’s not to say the game doesn’t have a plethora or bugs. It’s just that they seem completely contained to Attitude Era mode aside from the randomly occurring erasing of your created or edited content. Of course said CAW erasing issues are probably the worst and most inexcusable bug in the game. People spend hours on the perfect CAW and to have that data just go POOF without warning is the sign of truly sloppy programming and a l lack of quality control. For the majority of people that pick up wrestling games, the CAW aspect is the most important and to lose hours of work because Yukes couldn’t bother to make some sort of fix means the company is going to get a lot of ire from gamers this time around and it will be well deserved.
Now let’s talk about those Attitude Era issues. Mostly it seems to have a lot of detection issues. You might be in the middle of a move, say clotheslining an opponent when a reversal will occur and suddenly the opponent will do a move to you. Now reversals can and will happen, but not like this and certainly not on the tail end of a move animation. As well some reversals are just plain weird. Several times I had an opponent in a tree of woe and as I ran at them to do a move, a frame later the opponent would be standing up doing a move to me. Just a complete ignoring of the position both characters will in. This happens regularly. Opponent lying on the ground and you’re going to do a flying move. A frame or two later he’s power slamming you even though he never got off the canvas. So either it’s a severe issue with the reversal system or huge chunks of the game are missing frames of animation. Either way this is not good. Again, these issues have only ever occurred in Attitude Era but then I’ve also noticed the computer gets about ten times more reversals in Attitude Era on Normal difficulty than I encounter playing in the other modes on Legendary (which is what I usually play on). Why this is, I’m not sure save to say the coding in Attitude and the way the game plays is noticeably different. I’m wondering if they did just take chunks of code from Legends of Wrestlemania, slapped it into this game and didn’t bother to check for bugs or inconsistencies. I don’t know. All I do know is Attitude Era has a lot of technical, detection, reversal and animation issues that just aren’t present in the other modes and you deserve to know this.
Now outside of these issues the game plays…okay. It definitely doesn’t feel like US style wrestling, but that makes sense. Have you ever heard of different styles. Like how someone will go to Japan to learn Strong style or down to Mexico to learn to work Lucha Libre style? Well the predator engine feels like it’s a puroresu game trying to force American style wrestling into its mold. The end result is something that is similar to both but feels like neither. It’s not a bad game to play, in fact, it’s kind of fun, but it never feels quite like a wrestling game should -especially compared to a lot of older more accurate games. I had fun with WWE ’13 and I’ll continue to play it to clear more stuff, but Yukes needs to get a patch out for both the CAW and Attitude Era bugs ASAP.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Mediocre
Well, WWE Universe is technically never-ending, so you could keep playing this forever if you really loved the game. However, the A.I. is especially stupid and easy to beat and there are only so many cinematics before you start seeing the few in here over and over again, so more than likely you’ll get bored of this before your first Wrestlemania. If not though, more power to you. Attitude Era is only worth going through once as you have to always do the same stuff in the same order. The only reason to go back to any of this content is if you missed an unlockable or a goal and you want to 100% things. Even then though you can unlock everything in the game, for free, with the click of a button so this is pretty much a one and done here. If you really like the game, there is always online but as usual, the servers are exceptionally slow and eventually THQ will shut them down so there’s replay potential here, but it’s greatly marred.
Basically if you love WWE games and you don’t have a lot of disposable income, you’ll get your money’s worth out of this. However, the key selling point of WWE ’13 has no replay value, which is a shame, but at least you’ll get a lot of unlockables out of it. Really you’ll spend most of your time making, testing and trading CAWS.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
I’ve said this a couple times in this review, but man is the A.I. in Yukes’ games terrible. It’s exceptionally easy to beat and slightly less so to dominate. My first match was using my CAW to fight Undertaker on Legend difficulty at Wrestlemania and it took me under three minutes. I didn’t get the trophy for some reason, so I guess it’s in WWE Universe rather than exhibition, but still! It’s always been this way since the first Smackdown! video game for the PSX. It only seems to be the WWE games Yukes make exceptionally easy. I can go play Toukon Retusden 4 for my Dreamcast (made circa 1999) or Wrestle Kingdom 2 and still get a decent challenge or a match that goes into double digits without me forcing it along. Not so with any Yukes made WWE game I can think of. Ever.
The good news is Yukes seems to have realized it can’t make a quality A.I. anymore but they’ve tried to make things harder. There’s an option with each match to have a Quick, Normal, or Epic match in addition to the difficulty setting. This increases how long a match it. Epic matches will be a lot longer as opponents kick out easier and take less damage. Of course, the same is true for human controlled characters, so it just increases the length of the squash, but it’s a step in the right direction and I applaud that. With matches like Money in the Bank, you can get a pretty long affair going, which is nice.
The only time you’ll EVER have trouble in this game is if you a) fail a strange objective in Attitude mode, b) if the game’s bugs in Attitude mode does something to make you lose ala the DQ situation I mentioned earlier in this review or c) you’re futzing around and get yourself DQ’d or counted out trying to be too clever or cute for your own good. After well over 100 matches, I’ve only lost six, four by objective related issues and two by DQ. This is an easy game, but remember, normal on Attitude seems to be higher than Legend on Universe or Exhibition, so expect more reversals or a higher degree of challenge there.
Balance Rating: Mediocre
Well, if there is one thing I can safely say about WWE ’13 it’s that the game is completely and utterly bereft of originality. This thing has the same issues detractors of yearly releases sports games complain out and then some. WWE Universe is almost the exact same as it has been for the past two years which in and of itself was just bringing back an old mode from 2001’s Smackdown 2 for the PSX. Attitude is just Legends of Wrestlemania with a different graphics scheme and a ton of unlockables. The roster is different, but we still can’t have full on Survivor Series matches, the Royal Rumble is exceptionally limited as always (less guys in the ring than in the old Dreamcast game by the same name), and the roster is actually smaller than previous WWE title releases if you don’t called the DLC characters. It’s as if this year, they just decided to clean up the bugs over at Yukes, which is fine. I respect that. However, the game doesn’t get any points for innovation or originality as everything here is something Yukes and otyher wrestling video game developers have done repeatedly and better. It’s still a fun game, but don’t look for something that it’s going to redefine the genre with this one.
Originality Rating: Worthless
So I’ve been pretty open about both my problems with WWE ’13 and the things I’ve enjoyed about it. The important thing to remember is this is still the most fun I’ve had with a WWE game since Smackdown Vs. Raw 2006. It’s NOWHERE as good mind you, but it’s still better than the past several years of releases. Yukes really tried to clean up the bugs in the Predator engine as well as create a mode that will hopefully bring back the long list of wrestling fans that have deserted the industry since the end of the Monday Night Wars and/or the beginning of the PG era. As buggy and sanitized as the Attitude Era mode can be, it’s still a lot of fun to recreate some of these moments. My wife, who is the actual WWE fan in our household actually clapped and squealed at certain moments (like Badd Blood ’97). I’ll admit I loved unlocking characters, watching the video packages and comparing what was changed in the video game from the real events. It’s a lot of fun. However, it IS a one and done situation, but you’ll certainly enjoy your time with it as long…at least until the bugs hit and a guy on the floor is somehow back in the middle of the ring two frames later doing a hip toss do your guy. Honestly, there were times when I was swearing a blue streak about the move detection issues (I did a punch, not a crotch chop with Billy Gunn. The two commands aren’t even remotely close), frame rate issues, weird reversals and other bugs and yet I still kept playing. In spite of all that’s wrong with Attitude, the good outweighs the bad and anyone that lived through that time period will have a lot of fun with it.
WWE Universe is a lot more fun than last year’s. The bugs are mostly gone and it’s always neat to make your own federation, especially as it’s not hard to come up with better angles than the real WWE Creative and it’s always great to see your CAWs climb the ladder (until you have to redo their moveset once again. Ugh).
Yes, you’ll eventually get bored of WWE ’13, but not after you’ve plowed through Attitude, spent quite a bit of time in WWE Universe and poured through a lot of CAWS online. There’s a lot to see and do here and it’s nice to see Yukes back on the right track if not to the standard they used to be held to.
Addictiveness Rating: Good
9. Appeal Factor
WWE games are the most successful THQ has. It’s not a stretch to say that these yearly releases keep THQ alive, which is why both they and WWE push Yukes to churn out a game every year instead of resting up and working on new ideas instead of retreading old ones. From a business perspective it makes sense even though as a fan I’d love to see things like a round robin tournament, survivor series matches (five on five) a realistic Royal Rumble or some more gimmick matches like War Games, Thunderdome, and even a World War Three three ring battle royal. It makes even more sense once you remember that WWE is the only wrestling game around. They have a monopoly so they CAN retread all they want and you’re stuck buying it. It sucks in situations like some past WWE games that are downright terrible, but at least this year you can see the attempts to improve the engine and remove the bugs.
After all, Yukes stopped making games for their own wrestling federation and eventually sold it. TNA had a truly awful game released several years ago and we haven’t seen a second one because of that. Konami published a Lucha Libre gameback in 2010 that had a great roster but wasn’t very good. It was the second ever game by the developers though, so in that respect, it was actually impressive in some ways. We won’t even talk about the Fire Pro abomination for the Xbox 360.
So WWE is the only game in town. At least for the first time in several years, we have a game that is fun in spite of its flaws instead of a bug filed uninspired crapfest. If you’re a younger gamer or can’t remember wrestling games from say, 1996 to 2005, WWE ’13 will seem like a dream come true. For older gamers or those that consider themselves connoisseurs of the genre, WWE ’13 won’t measure up to those classics, but you will find it to be a step in the right direction and a lot more fun than some releases from recent years. All in all, most people that pick this up will find something to have fun with, but a more discerning gamer will still find the glass half empty due to bugs and the vast amount of missed potential in the various modes.
Appeal Factor Rating: Good
At the end of the day, I’m very conflicted about WWE ’13. I enjoyed Attitude era, but it is especially buggy, is a watered down tribute to the actual time period and it could have been so much more. Still, it’s fun and I’ll take having fun with what’s actually here over the missed potential any day. Maybe next year you’ll be able to rewrite history with an alternate Attitude Era mode. What if Shawn refused to screw Bret? What if Hall and Nash didn’t jump ship? What if the Undertaker did? What if the Rock stayed Flex Kavana? Things like that. There is still so much more that can be done with the Attitude Era and I’d love to see Yukes do more with this than yet another Story Mode or “Road to Wrestlemania.” Let those rest for a while. Of course my dream is that Monday Night Wars sim that combines Smackdown Vs. Raw 2k6 with EWR, but who knows the likelihood of that every happening.
WWE Universe and Exhibition are the least buggy a THQ game has been in years, thank Cthulhu for that. I’m bothered by the online pass thing for used copies of the game, but this is sadly a trend that gamers have shown they are willing to screwed over by, so it’s here to say. I do like the Axxess pass and I love all the downloadable characters so far. Still, without DLC characters, the roster is pretty bare-bones compared to previous years. And no, I’m not going to count Triple H and Hunter Hearst Helmsley, the two different Rocks, the three Mick Foleys and the two Kanes as multiple wrestlers. That’s just stupid.
When all is said and done, WWE ’13 is the first WWE title in years where I can stay I legitimately had fun with the game and that the good outweighed the bad. I’m holding off on fixing my CAWs though until THQ and Yukes put out a patch for the game because I’m sick of remaking my moveset. If you’re a fan of wrestling and/or the WWE, you might want to pick this up, especially if you have stayed away from the genre for some time or you really miss wrestling from the late 1990s. While this isn’t the best game Yukes has ever put out, it’s significantly better than last year’s and it’s fun. Cross your fingers that WWE ’14 (Maybe with a New Japan crossover? How could this have never happened during the time Yukes owned New Japan Pro Wrestling? That would have made scads of money!) is even better.
Miscellaneous Rating: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: Decent Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
While WWE ’13 is neither the greatest wrestling game ever produced or even the best game Yukes has ever made, it is much better than last year’s offering. Exhibition and Universe have far less bugs and detection issues, but expect to have your Create-a-Wrestler’s moveset and entrance magically reset to default settings more than once until a patch is released. The game looks and sounds great save for some reused audio that goes back almost a decade and some new character models (like poor 90’s Vinnie Mac) that look downright laughable. Attitude Era Mode is a lot of fun, but it is where the vast majority of the bugs in the game lie and unfortunately it lacks any real replay value along with being a watered down version of the real events due to the current PG era that the WWE is in. All in all though, this is the best a WWE game has been in almost a decade and that’s what matters most.
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