Grizzly Gaming


Friday, January 25, 2013

Review - WWE ’13: Finally…a wrestling game that does it all


Full disclosure time – I haven’t played a new pro wrestling game since 2003’s “WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain.” I’d played the Playstation releases before “HCTP” as well as the Nintendo 64 titles like “WWF Wrestlemania 2000” and “WCW vs. nWo” but have missed out on all the “Raw vs. Smackdown” titles and other recent “WWE ‘XX” games. So while I won’t able to accurately compare what’s new or different from the past few WWE games, I have plenty of experience with wrestling games that I’ve used to discern the quality of THQ’s most recent wrestling title, “WWE ’13.”
Also, you should be aware that this article will probably be very heavy on wrestling terms. I’m assuming that since you’re here, reading this, that you already have a grasp on most of these terms. Cause honestly, I can’t image there’s someone who wants to read a review of a pro wrestling video game that doesn’t also understand terms like faces, heels, shoots, swerves and botches.
Right off the bat, before I even opened the packaging, I knew “WWE ‘13” was going to be special. Why? Because independent wrestling star turned WWE star C.M. Punk is on the cover. I don’t know how THQ managed to swerve WWE like that (because I’m sure they had other ideas for the cover *coughCenacough*) but I’m glad to see that at least sometimes Punk gets the credit he deserves.
(That’s another thing about my wrestling fanboy-ism, folks, I love the indy scene. As much as I love seeing Antonio Cesaro on TV each week with the US Title, my heart cries each time I have to call him “Antonio Cesaro” and not Claudio Castagnoli, his real name and the name he went by on the indies.)
Diving right into playing matches, you’ll find an incredible amount of options in what kind of match you want to set up from tag team matches to ladder matches and every one of WWE’s most popular gimmick matches like the Hell in the Cell or the Elimination Chamber. You can even set up your own King of the Ring tournaments or Royal Rumbles. One thing I noticed about the Rumble is that it features some unique animations when you’re trying to eliminate another competitor which sets the mode apart from run-of-the-mill matches or battle royals. But throughout each match and mode, there are several, context sensitive maneuvers that you can discover.

Back in my day, this guy had hair and was a Swiss banker. At least the "Very European" gimmick is still in tact.

Once in an actual match, I was stunned by the quality of each character model. Created wrestlers still look a little rough around the edges but in-game characters (and DLC wrestlers released by THQ) are immaculately polished and are often a mirror image of the Superstar you can catch on WWE’s weekly programming. But these characters are spitting images of their real life counterpart in more than just appearance. Each Superstar’s mannerism, movements, taunts and move set has been faithfully recreated, giving gamers the closest approximation of WWE action without actually being in the ring. Also, the action in the ring is very fluid and smooth with wrestlers and animations hardly ever clashing or looking odd.
I’ve also been blown away by how well characters interact with props and set pieces. In a recent match, I whipped my opponent into the steel steps, which had already been loosened from the ring itself. I was very surprised when my opponent actually tripped over the steps and fell down, grabbing his ankle.
Though this may seem inconsequential, this action would’ve been handled in earlier wrestling games with my opponent running into the steps while slowly and awkwardly pushing them aside, without actually ever interacting with the object or slowing down. Other actions along these lines I’ve witnessed have been bombs and slams onto the steel steps (with the character actually landing on the steps and not just awkwardly pushing them aside and landing on the mat) and trash cans or chairs being flattened after being landed on by a wrestler. But the greatest moment of on-the-fly-object-interaction I experienced happened during a ladder match. One of my opponents had climbed the ladder but before he could pull the belt down, the ladder was knocked out from under his feet. He hung onto the belt, still trying to bring it down until I leapt up and pulled him down – down in a powerbomb motion which happened to put him through a table. It was an incredible sequence of events that wasn’t planned in the least and moments like these happen all the time in “WWE ’13.” 
But even more than the moments you create on your own, “WWE ‘13” allows you to relive some of the biggest moments from one of the company’s most popular time periods. The “Attitude Era” is a unique mode that not only lets you play some of the most important, defining matches of the Attitude Era (the late 90s and early 2000s) but also gives you a historical background on the feuds, gimmicks and storylines that brought about huge events in WWE history like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s feud with Vince McMahon, the first appearance of the Undertaker’s monstrous brother Kane or the infamous “Montreal Screw-Job.” Set against the backdrop of the “Monday night ratings war” with WCW, completing these matches will also unlock numerous extras like Superstars, bonus matches and new championship belts for use in exhibition matches or the returning Universe mode.
The Attitude Era mode offers a look back at the companies most popular days.

WWE Universe Mode is a big step up from the story modes in the last wrestling games that I had played (which, again, are about 10 years old at this point). Universe mode allows you to be the booker – create cards, direct storylines and even create entirely new shows. Though Universe allows you the freedom to create your cards and hand-pick opponents for each match, Universe mode is only as much fun as you make it. What does that mean exactly? While the game itself will keep track of champions, contenders, the momentum of a wrestler, and rivalries, it doesn’t do such a good job of matchmaking from week to week. On the same note, the game itself doesn’t actually keep track of storylines and you may find yourself needing to frequently alter cards to suit what you have set up. It might seem tedious but if you’re a big fan of pro wrestling, the ability to set up shows and basically run your own organization with your own, unique roster of wrestlers is an amazing amount of fun.
I’ll give you a quick run down of how I have my Universe mode set up. Raw and Smackdown have been largely unchanged and still take place on Monday and Friday, respectively. However, I eliminated the Superstars show on Thursday, turning it into a Wednesday night show featuring old school wrestlers, legends and Attitude Era wrestlers. But the show that gets most of my attention is Saturday night’s Ring of Honor show featuring all of my favorite independent wrestling stars (as well as my own created wrestler). But how, I hear you asking, are you running a show with indy wrestlers? Well it’s all possible thanks to “WWE ‘13’s” intense Creation suite.
The Creation suite available in “WWE ‘13” is incredibly sophisticated and extensive allowing you to not only create realistic representations of your favorite indy wrestler but also create unique entrances, move-sets, arenas, logos and more. And when you’re done, you can upload your creations to the game’s servers and so that anyone can download them. So far I’ve pretty much filled up every created wrestler slot available. In fact, with the exception of Antonio Cesaro and Daniel Bryan, my Saturday night Ring of Honor show consists solely of downloaded created content. The arena, show logo and almost entire roster were downloaded from the “WWE ‘13” servers thanks to incredibly talented fans with way too much time on their hands. (That’s not a joke either. My own personal created wrestler took about 3-4 hours and I still don’t feel like he’s finished.)
WWE '13 allows for some truly outrageous matches and spot

Despite how much fun I’ve had with “WWE ’13,” it’s not perfect. With so much content available, some of it gets lost in the game’s menu heavy user interface. For example, there is a way to create unique championship belts (well, alter the appearance of existing belts), which you would think would be found in the Creation suite. Nope, it’s under the “My WWE” tab, whatever that is. Also, navigating these menus can be a real pain thanks to the game constantly blaring theme music at you. In almost every single menu navigable (and even some loading screens), “WWE ‘13” will be berating you with randomly chosen theme music. It wouldn’t be so bad if a majority of these songs weren’t terrible. Except, most of them are just that – terrible. These awful songs also would be more bearable if the same ones weren’t repeated over and over again. But they are. So be very prepared to hear Zack Ryder’s theme, Dolph Ziggler’s theme, Jack Swagger’s theme and the Nexus theme over, and over, and over again. (No lie, I have Zack Ryder’s theme song stuck in my head right now and if I were ever asked to compile a list of songs you’d never want stuck in your head, Zack Ryder’s theme would be very close to the top.)
Also, it needs to be mentioned that to play online, you’ll need an “Online Pass,” which you can get for free by purchasing the game new. But, in order to download all the official WWE DLC (which contains guys like Ryback, Antonio Cesaro and Damien Sandow), you’ll need to purchase the $20 “Fan Axxess” pass, which will net you three packs of DLC that include new wrestlers, championship belts, attire and more. You can purchase these items individually BUT you should also know this - many fan-created wrestlers available to download utilize pieces of “Fan Axxess” only DLC so unless you get it all, you may not be able to download every wrestler you want. It’s unfortunate but trust me, if you’re a fan of independent wrestling like I am, no amount of money in the world should dissuade you from being able to download stars from Chikara, PWG, ROH and even stars from Japan and Mexico.
And, because I’m pretty awesome, I’ve compiled a list of the best user-generated content I’ve found on the “WWE ’13” servers, so far. Below, you’ll find the user-name of the creator and the term I searched to find their work. Once you find the correct wrestler, you should be able to view all the content from that user.


Name: deanymoose
Search term: Quack
I was looking for a good “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush when I found this guy who has three or four pages of VERY high-quality Chikara wrestlers. From Gen 1 originals like Quack, Jigsaw and Ultramantis Black to entire teams like The Colony and F.I.S.T. (even newer guys like Dasher Hatfield and Archibald Peck can be found here), deanymoose seems to specialize in Chikara wrestlers and you definitely will want to check them out. (Unfortunately, he doesn’t have an “Easton Funplex” arena created. [Not that I expected him to, though, that was more of just a name-drop joke.])


Name: Friedful
Search term: Hallowicked
While Friedful doesn’t have as many Chikara stars as deanymoose, he does have a great Hallowicked and Frightmare and a spectacularly well detailed Super Dragon (of PWG). Though Dragon, unfortunately, doesn’t do a curb stomp, he does have a great looking Psycho Driver (and I even found a great, uploaded Barry White Driver after some extra searching). Along with those indy stars, Friedful also has a handful of luchadores like Dr. Wagner Jr. and La Parka.


Name: dest07
Search term: Homicide
Though “The Notorious 187” is the only wrestler I made a note of snagging from dest07, he is very highly detailed and his appearance is spot on. He has a handful of other indy wrestlers as well as logos.


Name: JOnnyboy97
Search term: Zandig
Though I haven’t kept up with CZW in a long time, the “Ultraviolent Icon” John Zandig will forever remain one of my all-time favorite wrestlers and JOnnyboy97 has done a great job recreating the former owner of CZW. Along with Zandig, this guy has many great old school wrestlers like Jerry Lynn, Shane Douglas, Raven and Ian Rotten available for download. He even has a few puro stars, like Mr. Pogo.


Name: itachi4937
Search term: Kobashi
After seeing JOnnyboy97’s puro stars, I went searching for some more and boy did I find a treasure trove. Itachi4937 not only has tons of great puro stars, such as Kenta Kobashi, but also many Japanese arenas from companies like AJPW and NOAH. He’s even got a bunch of created, puro logos as well.

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about “WWE ’13.” The mechanics of the in-ring action are absolutely top-notch, capable of creating exciting matches when played by the biggest of smarks or by people who know nothing about pro wrestling. The character models, whether they are on-disc, DLC or user-created, are the most highly detailed of any wrestling game I’ve ever played. But the real meat of the game are its Attitude Era and Universe modes, which give players the ability to relive wrestling history or create their own. No matter how you play “WWE ‘13” there’s no doubt that it could easily win over any gamer – fans, non-fans and everyone in between.

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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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