For me, the WWE’s Attitude Era is something to be looked upon fondly. Where once the superstars of the wrestling world encouraged kids to drink their milk and take their vitamins, the ‘Attitude’ breed of snarling, spitting, beer-swilling brawler provided much more entertainment. Degeneration X, “Cos Stone Cold said so”, Kane vs The Undertaker – it’s memories such as these that THQ are bringing back with their brand new “Attitude Era” mode in the latest game, WWE ’13. Can it do the source material justice though?
If you’re anything like me, the Attitude Era mode is the first thing you’ll load up upon starting the game – and it’s a brilliant idea. The player is presented with a number of classic scenarios to play through, such as the infamous Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart match, or the first time Kane enters the ring and Tombstones The Undertaker.[drop]As well as simply winning the match, there are also a number of historical objectives to complete that actually happened in real life (such as putting Bret into his own Sharpshooter hold so Vince can call for the bell) which will earn you bonuses such as unlocking Attitude Era wrestlers to play as in other modes. After each match you are shown a ratings timeline, showing how both the WWE and WCW were doing at the time, and how the Attitude Era really saved the WWE at a time where ratings had hit rock bottom (pun intended). There is a wealth of content in this mode, spanning several years, and old school fans will relish it.
Fear not though, because those who love the current WWE roster are also well catered for in the WWE Universe mode. What this boils down to is a week-by-week Raw and Smackdown schedule, which you can play as much or as little as you want by simulating the matches that don’t interest, and taking part in the ones that do. You can even choose to interfere in AI matches.
Those who like to tinker will be pleased to hear these show cards can be altered to your liking, as well as changing the Raw and Smackdown rosters. In all fairness it’s not a patch on the Attitude Era mode, but adds to the longevity. Then there are the bog-standard verses modes, although that in itself features a vast array of matches from 1 vs 1 to Hell in a Cell.
Of course, every wrestling game in the last decade has had a create-a-wrestler mode, and WWE ’13 doesn’t disappoint. There are a huge number of options to choose from when starting your creation, from appearance and apparel right down to move-sets and finishers. Even after that mammoth task is complete you still have to create a ring entrance, which can be quickly done by cutting together a load of existing wrestler videos/music or, if you’re brave enough, you can enter the advanced mode and mess with the little details such as lighting and pyrotechnic timing. Speaking of entrances, they are absolutely spot-on In terms of visual and audio, and even the animated crowd look decent.
Unfortunately, despite an opening video that really will give WWE fans goosebumps, there are a number of issue that have quite an impact on the game. For starters, some of the character models look absolutely dreadful. The first wrestler you take control of is Shawn Michaels, but you wouldn’t know it to look at him. The same goes for Triple H.[drop2]The actual bodies and mannerisms are fine, but it’s the hair and facial features that look way off. It’s an odd one, because whilst some wrestlers look like they are from a secret PS2 version of the game, others (such as The Rock) look spot on, right down to the fed-up look on his face as he dreams of being in a new movie with Vin Diesel.
The commentary is also very hit-and-miss. The Attitude Era stuff is generally pretty good, as it has been taken from the actual event, but in other modes it is abysmal – some of the worst I’ve ever come across in terms of delivery and plain accuracy, as it sometimes screws up and describes something that isn’t happening.
The game also isn’t particularly friendly to new players. When you start your first ever match a little box appears at the bottom telling you a couple of the controls, but a lot of the important stuff is buried in the menu and needs rooting out. It makes for an annoying first few matches for those, such as myself, who haven’t properly touched a wrestling game since Wrestlemania 2000 on the N64.
Then there are the glitches. I’ve spoken to several gamers, and experiences have varied, but it’s safe to say that on occasions the game feels broken. “It’s like a beta”, was one of the opinions I received, and I agree. This is just of handful of glitches that spring to mind:
- The crowd sound cutting out.
- AI wrestlers getting caught on objects outside to ring and just standing there, juddering on the spot.
- Floating wrestlers.
- Commentary sound doubling in volume when match ends.
- Failure to recognise tag prompts.
- Failure to recognise your completion of historical events.
- Lag in the pin meter.
- Disappearing weapons.
- Warping wrestlers.
- Match breaking bugs that cause pins/submissions not to work.
The collision detection also seems to have a mind of its own, where strikes won’t make contact despite the fact they clearly should, and two wrestlers running towards each other just pass straight through, with no moves making contact. This just isn’t acceptable in a wrestling game. Good collision detection is a major part of the experience, and WWE ’13 screws this up badly.[videoyoutube]It’s a shame because when things are working, a lot of the animations are smooth, particularly the transitions going from, for example, a headlock to an armlock. The moves in general are easy enough to pull off, and some are context sensitive depending on where in the ring you are. Reversals also play a large part in matches, and whilst they initially seem impenetrable, you soon learn the timing.
There are some interesting touches such as the Comeback which, when activated, allows you to start a little quick-time event where every successful button press results in a flashy move being pulled off. Unfortunately even this gets ruined sometimes by slowdown.
In even more negative news, the loading is also on the long side, with every action requiring a loading screen. A good example would be a championship bout. There’s the initial loading screen for player 1’s entrance, then one for player 2’s entrance, then one for the “championship match” screen, then one before the wrestlers face off, THEN the match begins.
Outside of the fairly hefty chunk of single player content stands the online mode. This ranges from ranked and player matches, to uploading and downloading created wrestlers. Handily, before entering someone’s online group you can see their connection strength. Initially I was impressed by the smoothness of online matches, but every now-and-again it would hiccup, freezing everything for a second. That said it was still an enjoyable enough experience and will extend the life of the game no end.
- Huge roster.
- Attitude Era is a brilliant idea.
- Fantastic attention to detail in terms of entrances.
- Loads to do, online or offline.
- Creation options.
- Some dreadful character models and commentary.
- Parts of the game feel broken.
- The collision detection needs a serious overhaul.
Let’s not beat around the bush here, this is not some fledging title making its first appearance in the wild. THQ have held the WWE licence for a long time now, so to put out a game that feels so broken, with poor collision detection and a large number of bugs are something I’m struggling to accept. What’s even worse is the fact that THQ clearly know their wrestling – the highly detailed entrances alone confirm that – and they have come up with a great idea in the Attitude Era mode, but it’s wrapped in such an unfinished package.
Yes, when it’s all working fine you can have a lot of fun with WWE ’13, and no doubt there will be lots of people willing to overlook the issues. I just worry about the future of the brand. Next year the Attitude Era won’t be shiny and new, and it certainly won’t be enough to rescue a poorly finished game; so what happens next?