WWE ’13 – Xbox 360
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations
Release Date: Oct 30, 2012
Genre: Sports
Reviewed by Dean Engle

Review Score: 3 of 5

The main line WWE games have always walked the line between a mechanically fun wrestling game and reproducing the insanity that is professional wrestling drama, and WWE 13 is no exception. Before the name change to WWE last year with WWE 12, SmackDown vs Raw accomplished neither of these things, while trying to do both. The overhaul that came along with the name change set the franchise in the right direction, but I still felt a disconnect between the larger than life drama and actually playing the game. For me, this lack of focus always leads to a game that just isn’t very fun. Thankfully, WWE 13 introduces characters and storylines from easily the best time period for all professional wrestling, the Attitude Era, to make up for, and actually complement, its mediocre gameplay.

I’ll start by admitting it, I’ve never been the biggest fan of pro wrestling. That doesn’t mean I never appreciated liking it ironically, but it’s just never drawn me in. That’s probably because the Attitude Era was in the late 90’s before I was even 10 years old when liking something ironically wasn’t really something my not-even-ten-year-old self could comprehend. That being said, I look at the Attitude Era roster newly available this year and I find myself recognizing a lot of the characters in both look and name, while I barely know anyone currently wrestling. I think my lack of knowledge of current wrestlers is a good indicator of the state of wrestling these days, in that it’s become mostly irrelevant and kind of terrible, and not the kind of terrible where you actively hate the persona of any given wrestler because he or she was written to be a scumbag, but simply terrible in a way where it’s just kind of boring and not many people really care anymore.

All that being said, WWE 13 does a great job of using its history to bolster the franchise. The Attitude Era mode lets players play through the matches that caused the then WWF to distinguish itself from the WCW during the late ‘90s Monday Night Wars. This is really where the game shines. Each match in this mode is introduced with real footage that helps give context to those unfamiliar with WWE history, while also providing some exciting nostalgic moments for those who remember it. Giving the player the ability to play out key moments from the careers of superstars like Stone Cold, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, and D-Generation X strongly complements the sluggish and relatively boring gameplay that usually comes along with wrestling games. The focus is no longer just beating the opponent, but, rather, accomplishing the objectives given within each match to reenact the actual events as closely as possible. This gives the action a much needed direction and adds an element of variation to the same old grappling and countering mechanics that quickly become stale.

The action is very similar to last year with some added improvements. If the player fails when pressing the right trigger to counter, some small text will pop up informing the player whether or not the button press was too fast or too slow. This, along with some added animations and minor improvements from last year, make the game more enjoyable to play. The match commentary is also much less stilted and awkward than in previous years, but there’s still the occasional unnatural line of dialogue and interaction between commentators that has always plagued wrestling games.

Unfortunately, WWE 13 doesn’t do enough to make the action stand out it’s non-Attitude Era modes. The story frills and objectives of the Attitude Era are great, but that only goes so far when the game backing it simply isn’t fun. That’s not to say there aren’t improvements to the systems in WWE 13, because there definitely are, I’m speaking more about the philosophy of how the game is played. I sense the developers feel the need to cling onto the fighting game mentality of the matches even though the slow, unrealistic grappling and countering nature of the wrestling doesn’t lend itself to being as exciting as something like a UFC game where the style is supposed to be realistic due to it being based off actual, real world fights. The introduction of the Attitude Era mode leads me to believe the developers know the strength of wrestling is really in the characters and creation of scenarios for their superstars. That’s why it’s a bit disappointing that WWE is still trying to be a fighting game.

One of the best parts of WWE 13 is its creation tools. The Creation Suite let’s players edit and create their very own superstars, entrances, finishing moves, storylines, and highlight reels to play with or share with others online. Creating storylines for the superstars is some of the funniest, most enjoyable parts of WWE 13 because it gives players to ability to create the insanity and ridiculousness that can really make wrestling entertaining. Whether it’s current day The Rock running over 90’s The Rock with a car, or the silly out of place music and commentator dialogue attached to any one scene, there’s always something hilarious and awesome to make with the creation tools. Fortunately, this year’s online is not broken like it was last year. This makes sharing of matches and storylines easy, and finding matches online is actually possible, as opposed to last year where the online feature effectively didn’t exist.

Considering WWE 12 was a large overhaul for the franchise, WWE 13 being an iterative game is completely understandable. It’s silly to expect an annual franchise to make drastic changes for the better every year, and WWE 13 is slowly progressing in the right direction. I’ll be interested to see if next year’s game keeps this focus on the Attitude Era, and whether or not the creation tools will be expanded. WWE 13 is not a great game by any means, but it’s heading in the right direction. Those who’ve been fans of WWE for over a decade will find the nostalgic parts of the Attitude Era exciting, while fans of the more recent WWE will find it just as engaging, but, as with almost any wrestling game, those who aren’t wrestling fans should probably steer clear of WWE 13.