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If you’re like me and watch a lot of WWE programming then you’ll no doubt have sat through the barrage of WWE ’13 advertising on each show. If you’re just a wrestling game enthusiast then I’m sure you’ve read a lot about this game online. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the game, the new attitude era mode; the era the game is centralised on, the new Paul Heyman influenced story-lines and the expanded creation options.
I’ll admit I was a sucker for the hype, I love character creation stuff and WWE games have always been great for that. I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of the attitude era mode at first but it would surely be better than the stale Road To Wrestlemania mode. So when my copy finally arrived I was eager to create, re-live and enjoy the WWE universe.
Having now played the game for several evening in a row, I can only say that I’m somewhat disappointed; I think. I’m very conflicted. The game is great in some areas but frustrating in others.

The Good:

The Attitude Era. Originally I wasn’t sold, I thought it would be cool but suspected it was just a way for WWE to further cling to the memory of the great time past. Boy was I wrong. The Attitude Era mode is hands down the BEST part of the game; or any previous game I can remember. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect but I assumed it would be a collection of matches, billed the same as they were in the 90’s. However this mode is fleshed out very well and really makes you feel like you’re actually reliving this iconic period of WWE history. The inclusion of video footage and even the WWF(E)/WCW ratings chart loading screen all add to the immersion. Watching a clip of Undertaker beat the hell out of Shawn Michael, then the game loading the match with me playing as Michaels starting flat on my back in the middle of the ring was great. The videos and/or cutscenes before, during or after a match definitely keep up the continuity and excitement of the story. Several times while progressing through this mode I got to watch a clip and found myself going “yeah!, I’ve just played that match”, seeing a clip of Jericho being disqualified after putting Road Dogg through a table, while knowing I’ve played and ended that match in identical fashion was surprisingly satisfying.

Winning matches in the historical fashion; as mentioned above, are presented as ‘History Bonus Objectives’. You don’t need to conform to these requirement but you lose any bonus content (such as character/rings/belt) if you don’t. Winning the correct way is half the point of this mode anyway so I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to complete them all every match. It’s a good feeling knowing I’ve played out the match including all the key moments that made it so memorable. Some objectives can be difficult and frustrating at times (Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs Kane – Steel cage match. Win without using a finisher, perform a 10 count corner punch, win by escaping the cage. If trying to hit all 10 punches wasn’t bad enough, getting Kane to stay down long enough for me to climb out took way to much time, I must have jumped off the cage countless times to avoid being thrown off) however never so much that it detracts from the experience.
The characters chosen to form each chapter of this mode, I feel, are well thought out, I certainly wasn’t ever thinking ‘why wasn’t xxx included’. You start off with ‘Rise of DX’ and continue through 67 matches with an additional 10 matches unlocked after. This mode certainly took well over 10 hours to complete making it a substantial feature, one that kept me hooked all the way through.

The Bad:

Universe Mode.  I’ve come from playing Smackdown vs Raw 2011 and wasn’t a fan of universe mode replacing the standard career mode. I didn’t understand what to do with my created wrestler or how I could engage him in a story. Whenever I played a match it would also add it into the universe mode, which I didn’t want because I thought it would affect the ‘story’ of the universe. When I learned everything was a part of universe, played through enough to win a belt it got very boring rather fast. Repeatedly pressing simulate endlessly until I finally got a match was tedious at best, unless I was feeling particularly determined.
So upon hearing it had been expanded to include new branching story-lines and the fact Paul Heyman was drafted in to help give his insight into the ‘over 200 new story-lines’ I was willing to give universe a second chance.

Unfortunately I’m still left wanting more … and still pressing square an awful lot. I’ve yet to really experience any of the story-lines, unless being attacked on the ramp or shaking hands (or not) after a match counts but I saw all that in SVR 2011. I’ve played to Wrestlemania and had a minor feud with David Otunga and jack Swagger, nothing interesting has happened. I was really hoping my character would get involved in a TV style feud where my opponent and I would exchange attacks backstage and give some mic talk to call one anther out. Alas, zilch.
Universe mode appears to be more of a WWE manager mode, of which I’m not overly interested. Editing rosters, PPV’s, schedules and matches all sound great but have little depth if my CAW can’t have a meaningful existence inside my new mega show. Maybe I have to watch more matches on each show card to see these story-lines unfold. The fact I only enjoy playing matches that involve my CAW may be restricting the probability of these story-lines happening when I play. Regardless, watching every com battle and playing wrestling GOD isn’t what I wanted, if I wanted WWE Manager 2013 I would have (or not) bought it. I’d much prefer sitting in front of the TV watching Smackdown or RAW and talk about it with friends than watch two game character slide and glitch around a ring.
Please let me have career mode back … or maybe I just don’t get universe mode.

The Ugly:

Glitches. For the most part the game is visually very impressive. Character models look great, the animations in-game and in the cutscenes have been greatly improved and the crowd and TV-style camera angles all add to the overall polish. The game is just let down by some silly mistakes. I fully understand the difficulties of character collision and hit detection, however particular in-ring moves always result in heads intersecting arms and dislocated elbows. Collisions with objects, action outside the ring or with multiple characters could be forgiven, WWE games aren’t (probably never will be) perfect, I don’t expect them to be but I was expecting a little more in-ring polish. On top of what was mentioned, characters often lie slightly inside the ring mat when pinned and the ref seems to have an odd glitch resulting in him missing the first count on a pin, meaning most pin counts are actually 4 counts. The crowd level is somewhat sporadic, one time it will be very quiet, next; usually when someone is trying to talk in a cutscene, it will be monstrously loud.
Hopefully THQ can fix some of these small glitches with a patch, none are major but the immersion of a good match can be swiftly undone by a popping elbow and dodgy ref.

Overall I’m pleased with my purchase, if nothing else the Attitude Era mode is worth it. Being just to young to fully experience it during its prime, playing through in the game was not only interesting from a wrestling stand point but well constructed and enjoyable from a gaming perspective. The technical flaws are minor and the visual impress. Only the universe mode leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, I feel like I’ve been strung along by the hype. If you liked it before however, you will most certainly enjoy version 3.0 immensely as it has expanded in nearly every aspect.