By Steve Wright
Like our favourite sports games, a new year brings a new iteration of Yuke's WWE franchise… and again, like most yearly sports titles, we're treated to roster updates and some gameplay tweaks. So, how did Yuke's change-up WWE 13? A lot in some ways, and not at all in others.
Character models remain unchanged: slightly dated and plasticy, and the same can be said for character's movements. When watching your character walk to the ring during his or her entrance sequence, you will definitely wince at some of the very poor animations. These carry over into general combat – grapples look slow and unrealistic, and there's no way of telling by movement when you can counter a move – instead, you've got to be eagle-eyed for the "RT" prompt that appears on-screen.
Rather than fix those issues – I swear, characters look the same as they did on the PS2 -- Yuke's have improved upon the stuff that really makes die-hard WWE game fans happy – you can edit arenas, characters, championship belts and the like, but you can also share your accomplishments as you win titles and hit other milestones. OMG! Moments -- despite a horrible name -- are also very fun and rewarding as well. If you're a heavy character, you can perform a suplex and break the ring. Awesome. I also enjoy how characters like Rey Mysterio can't suplex big guys like Big Show this year. Let's have a big hurrah for realism!
"Road to Wrestlemania" isn't in this iteration, as it's been replaced by the "Attitude Era" mode, which really speaks to the 90s WWF (yes, boys and girls… WWF) fan in me. You play this new story mode in several chapters, starting with DX and moving onto sequences with Steve Austin, The Rock, The Brothers of Destruction and Mankind. All the stories culminate at Wrestlemania XV… so really, if you liked "Road to Wrestlemania," you'll still be a happy gamer.
Highlights in the "Attitude Era" – sequences like "the Montreal Screwjob" – are incredibly detailed. You play matches with mandatory obligations (ie, win) and optional ones (like winning in a certain way, true to the historical event), and in-game actual gameplay is intercut with video footage should the game's engine not be able to pull off certain historical sequences. When you cut to video footage, it's seamless and exhilarating; you can certainly tell that WWE's in-house video guys made put those sequences together.
Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler are back to provide commentary (did I mention I love the "Attitude Era" yet?), and their words work quite well when mixed in with the way Yuke's has made the crowd cheer super-loud when momentum is on your side. That being said, the crowd can go from eerily silent to ridiculously loud way too quickly. Yuke's has also thrown in real commentary from certain historical events in "Attitude Era," and it makes it that much sweeter.
In short, "Attitude Era" is where this game shines. As you play through the current roster – with people such as CM Punk, John Cera and Cody Rhodes – you'll get bored quite quickly. Let's face it – these current guys don't have personality like Steve Austin, The Rock and Mankind used to. In fact, "Attitude Era" is so good, I wish THQ and Yuke's would have just made that feature into its own title rather than shoe-horning it into this game.
Combat-wise, the game's controls are simple. By holding down "RB," you're able to target a specific part of your opponent's body. It's perfect if you're playing as a heel and really want to play the part, picking on the dodgy knee of some face character. Otherwise, one button is to hit, one's to grapple, one's to tie-up, one's to run… and together, I couldn't string a combo between them. For having simplistic controls, WWE 13 sure can be infuriating. Reversing a move is something I really struggled with, in terms of timing, yet the AI is able to do it perfectly every single time.
In WWE – and SmackDown! vs RAW before it – Yuke's constantly changes up control schemes. Some years, you get out of grapples by mashing joysticks, and other years, it's via button presses. This year, it's button presses. Getting out of a pin is different this year as well, and it's a much-improved process. To escape a one-two-three count, you hold down your "A" button and release when you're at the green section of an ever-moving meter. The more damage you've taken, the less green you have to hit. It makes sense.
When all is said and done, WWE is still an enjoyable, almost guilty pleasure-esque experience – I giggled when I popped the disc in for the first time and heard the opening music at the menus. If you're thinking of picking up this game, you're probably a WWE fan already, and as such, you'll love it.
Yuke's, to get a 10/10 from me, just pick a control scheme and stick it for next year, refining rather than re-doing. Then work on new models. Then, make an entire "Attitude Era" game. I'll love you forever.