WWE 13 Preview

In all the fallout of Eurogamer Expo, I completely forgot that I went to one of these events! Sorry guys.

Anyway, last week I got invited to go down to London and get a sneak preview at WWE 13, and got to play around with a lot of the characters and options that would make it into the final game. THQ know how to throw a party, I should probably add.

Free drinks and food in a lovely little bar in East London; super-appreciative right here. As much as I’d love to go on at length about the set-up though, I’ve got an actual game to preview!

So, WWE 13. The official instalment for next year’s ‘main’ WWE video game. Like many sports games with annual titles, it’s a lot like many of the WWE games that have preceded it, but there’s also many small changes (And some big ones) that improve the experience and try to make it the best possible game it can be for you, the player. WWE 13 wants to bring something back though, something important; The Attitude Era.

The years of the Attitude Era are what saved the WWE back in the days of the Monday Night Wars between WWE and WCW, many moons ago. An important time for the company and fans alike, but as time has crept forward; the gimmicks and themes of the Attitude Era have slowly melted away in favour of a more realistic, slightly less gimmicky present. 

WWE 13 wants that back though. This game is pretty much split two ways; letting you play it much like any other WWE video game, and letting you relive the famous matches of the Attitude Era on both WWE and WCW.

To this end, alongside the main features is the Attitude Era campaign, which will take you through those important moments and have you act out those matches with “history bonuses” for getting things as close to the original as possible.

As you play through the Monday Night Wars, the game will actually chart the rise of WCW and WWE through these times. The demo available to me allowed me to play through the matches that would one day lead to the formation of Degeneration X, one of the most infamous stables in WWE history.

Starting out with the legendary match between Mankind and Shawn Michaels, I was taught about the foundation on which HBK and HHH’s friendship would be founded on. I feel that the Attitude Era campaign is lacking a little something, but I can’t figure out what that thing is.

It looks to be a solid campaign, but could it do more? Obviously the wrestlers in the Attitude Era are their gimmicks costumes from back in those days (Triple H has made it in three separate incarnations including his present day version), and of course these Attitude Era variants are playable as separate characters.

What’s missing though? Maybe it’s more difficult to capture the essence of the turbulent times that were the Attitude Era and then project that feeling across a video game platform. It might be something that appeals to veterans of WWE fandom, but to the newer fans then it’s just another campaign.

Moving into other territory though, we see the successful return of WWE Universe mode. The sinister name of Paul Heyman must be invoked here, because the Heyman Hustle himself has worked quite closely on this gamemode with the developers over at THQ.

The WWE Universe mode isn’t about being a fan or part of the WWE community, but it’s about making entertainment for them. This gamemode puts you in control of theoretical WWE programming, allowing you to create your own shows and match cards.

You can develop your ideas and desires for the WWE and even play out the matches, or let the AI do everything for you (For those of you that love spreadsheets and numbers, anyway). Heyman has lent his expertise to THQ for all of this, as the previous manager of ECW, he has some great inside knowledge on what fans want and how to create a card for them.

It’s that kind of experience that has gone into the creation of WWE Universe mode, and with a legend in the industry like Paul Heyman, you know it’s got to be good.

WWE Universe mode simulates a lot more than just matches, it also creates storylines. More than 200 of them have been incorporated into it, and Heyman himself helped to write and guide the storylines.

Considering it was the extreme nature of ECW that helped to pave the way for WWE’s Attitude Era, Heyman knows exactly what fans want to hear. He has a lot of hope for WWE 13 as well which he expressed in a recent interview with IGN.

I am a believer that interactivity is the future. The more the gamer can control the environment, and choose which way they can take the experience, the more cutting edge your product will be.” Heyman noted his efforts to recreate the Attitude Era focused mostly on taking the storylines from over a decade ago and finding ways to present them with more modern sensibilities.

It’d be what an Attitude Era fan would relate to but what a modern day fan would understand is current and not just nostalgia, Heyman said. If you just come back and recreate from 15 years ago, you’re not really offering much.

If you present the Attitude Era as a modern day concept, then you’re doing something that’s new.” Given that he effectively created the blueprints for what WWE did back then, Heyman said stepping into this role was easy. “You know if McDonald’s is making Chicken McNuggets, and another company comes out with a nugget… you know the formula being used!

It’s a collaborative effort between an industry legend and gaming giants, THQ. Surely it’s going to be great? The small amount of time I got to spend playing the demo at the press event couldn’t possibly have shown me everything that this gamemode has to offer, despite how hard I may have tried. Trust me though, it’s more than in-depth enough for fans of all levels.

Wow, I’m running out of things to talk about. Not that I haven’t waffled on for a while. What’s left? Oh! Gameplay!

I haven’t played a WWE game since the N64 era, I’ll admit, so everything was pretty new to me. The presentation of the game is brilliant, but there’s something a bit more important than that to think about: What’s the gameplay like?

If it’s complicated, it might put a newcomer (Like myself, technically) off but if it’s too simple then more hardcore fans might feel left out. You’ve got to make things easy enough so that someone can just pick up a pad and play but with enough technical stuff going on behind the scenes to keep your hardcore fanbase happy.

I’m happy enough to say that WWE 13 passed the test successfully. The controls were easy enough to pick up, and it wasn’t long until I was stringing combos together and running around in a careful game of cat and mouse. The tag team matches felt particularly fun, with my AI companion interfering with the match should I get pinned or be in trouble.

It felt realistic enough that I was able to perform some faux-tag team moves with some quick thinking. The bread and butter of attacks such as grapples and punches are mapped to your main buttons, and all the interesting things are hiding in combos.

You need to position yourself correctly for certain moves, such as the Go To Sleep made famous by CM Punk or Dolph Ziggler’s Sleeper Hold, otherwise you may accidentally perform the wrong move, which was troublesome when I was starting out.

My only real complaint with the gameplay would have to be the counters. If you’re on the losing side of a battle, you can reverse the situation with a Quick Time Event.

The timeframe for these QTEs is based on a number of factors, as far as I can deduce; such as damage sustained/number of chances etc, but it seems pretty irrelevant as every chance gives you roughly half a second to hit them correctly, and I should really stress ‘correctly’ there.

Hitting it too late brings up a notification informing you of such, but if you have hair trigger reactions and hit it the very instant it appears, then it displays a little message simply saying “Too Fast” like it’s mocking your ability to perform.

The actual gap in which you can hit those QTEs seems pretty random, and there’s no way of telling when is the precise time to hit them without a LOT of practice.

Overall, it’s a pretty good experience. The WWE Universe mode is definitely my favourite part of it so far, and I can’t wait until the release now (Mostly because Edge isn’t playable in the demo, and I want to play as Edge).

If you’re a fan of WWE in general, or any of the games, then you’ll probably love this title. If not, then I’m not sure if you’d want to check it out. The game definitely feels like it’s catering to WWE fans rather than gamers in general, but I’d recommend giving it a try regardless.

WWE 13 is due out October 30 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.