Pro-wrestling’s past and present collide in WWE ’13
Although it ended more than a decade ago, “The Attitude Era” of WWE resonates with pro-wrestling fans to this day. Longtime connoisseurs of sports entertainment fondly remember “Stone Cold” Steve Austin beating up Vince McMahon with a bedpan, The Undertaker throwing Mankind off of the Hell in a Cell cage, and the emergence of The Rock as the most electrifying man in all of entertainment. These unforgettable moments and these unforgettable wrestlers team up with the WWE Superstars and Divas of today in WWE ’13.
The single-player centerpiece of WWE ’13 is The Attitude Era mode. Featuring six storylines covering multiple wrestlers, this mode uses actual WWE footage to retell some of the most memorable angles in WWE history in an interactive way. The action takes place over a two-year period, with WrestleMania XIV (1998) and WrestleMania XV (1999) as the high points. The six Attitude Era campaigns cover “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Degeneration X, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, The Brothers of Destruction (Undertaker, Kane), Mick Foley, and The Rock.
Going with The Attitude Era was a shrewd move by THQ. For many fans, it was the apex of pro-wrestling. Senior game designer Bryan Williams told me, “It was just an unpredictable time. The unpredictability of that span of time is what really resonated with people. When you watched Monday Night Raw back then, you didn’t know what the hell was going to happen. It was that spontaneous, that unpredictable, and that wild.”
Gamers will be able to relive that wild time through a blend of Yuke’s tried-and-true gameplay and WWE footage. The opening vignette of the Attitude Era mode sets the backdrop by recapping the WWF vs. WCW “Monday Night Wars” using footage from Monday Night Raw and WCW Monday Nitro. Clips of “Iron” Mike Tyson aligning with DX leading up to WrestleMania XIV were shown. The formation of WCW’s N.W.O. was used in an in-game timeline to provide context. Combining memorable events with interactive gameplay will give WWE ’13 a story mode that stands apart from its forerunners. “It’s one thing to watch it, but it’s a whole other thing to pick up that controller, play the game, and experience these moments for yourself,” said Williams.
Of course many of the current WWE Superstars and Divas are in the game too. Gamers will be able to pit current wrestlers like CM Punk, John Cena, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, and more against the legends of yesterday. “We’ve got the CM Punks of the world and the Daniel Bryans of the world. Being able to intermix the current day Superstars with those from The Attitude Era — you can have your dream matches! You can put them all together for the first time,” Williams said.
One of the coolest parts of the WWE ’13 roster is that it uses multiple versions of wrestlers. You can play as Triple H from 2012 or his ’90s persona Hunter Hearst Helmsley. You can even have a “Triple Threat” match pitting all three of Mick Foley’s characters — Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love — against each other.
While story mode focuses on the WWE’s past, the developers at Yuke’s are pushing the visuals to new heights with modern tech. Although the game is still early, I could see significant improvements in the animation system. Character movement and collision looked better too. Wrestlers of different sizes now have distinct skeletons, which adds authenticity and technical variation. The Big Show and Rey Mysterio will no longer look like they’re cut from the same cloth. Wrestlers will have contextual animations that vary based on the size of their opponents. All of these improvements should add up for the best looking and smoothest moving WWE Superstars ever seen in a videogame.
The game’s create-an-arena mode will have a number of new additions, including the ability to change crowd size, side walls, stages, audience attire, and more. You can choose from a number of templates from old WWE programs and PPV events. If you’ve ever wanted to create a wrestling league for Smurfs then you can start with the old SmackDown set and turn the fist centerpiece blue. Then you’d make the stage grass and shrink the arena so that it only holds a few hundred people. Voila! Smurf wrestling — only in WWE ’13.
Out of the new features revealed at the preview event, the “spectacular moments” clips were my favorite. These are achieved during particularly brutal moments in a match. For example, spearing someone through the barricade will trigger a spectacular moment that shows the move replayed several times from different angles and at different speeds. It makes the match seem more like a WWE broadcast and highlights the impact of big moves. There are even spectacular moments specific to matches like Hell in a Cell or TLC. I was playing a Hell in a Cell match as Shawn Michaels and superkicked my opponent off the top of the cage. Both of us marked out while the spectacular moment was played over and over again.
THQ still has a lot to reveal about WWE ’13, but what the company have shown already is more than enough to get wrestling fans excited. The blend of today’s Superstars, Attitude Era Superstars, new tech, and new features should add up to the most electrifying wrestling game the world has ever seen.