Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: WWE ‘13

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THQ’s WWE videogame franchise underwent something of a makeover last year. WWE ’12 drew a line in the sand, marking a transition from the ‘smackdown’ tagline to a new, more immediate title. But in that the development team at Yukes have also taken the opportunity to reflect on years past; on both earlier videogame and popular eras from the television programme.

Taking the opportunity to look back at previous WWE videogames has clearly lead Yukes to one very important conclusion: WWE Smackdown have become bloated. Too much content packed into each annual iteration meant that the team would struggle to revitalise every aspect every year, but also that unless you’ve matured alongside the series there’s unlikely to be a point at which you feel comfortable to jump in. WWE ’13 changes all that, rewriting the rulebook with the variety of gameplay modes included and the control system presented to the players.

Attitude Era mode is a brand new addition that glamorises the history of the WWE franchise, showing narrated video with highlights of the story past; both the reality of the brand and the fiction of the show. Players will take part in some of the most infamous characters from WWE, competing in some of their biggest fights. Given basic objectives players will also be given additional ‘Historical Bonus Objectives’ which unlock greater rewards for completion. It’s an interesting addition to the WWE videogame franchise, and one that is certainly surprising that it wasn’t kept in reserve for a landmark release; after all, how are Yukes going to follow next year? Repeat the same events?

Just as the Attitude Era mode looks back to the ‘Attitude’ era, so too does the control system. Simplified to accommodate newcomers and allow the flexibility of dozens of movesets that returning players have become used to, WWE ’13 does well to put the most common moves right at the front of the scheme and more demanding moves towards the upper end of the string of inputs. Somehow Yukes have managed to hit the nail right on the head, perfecting the balance between accessibility and versatility. However Electronic Theatre does wonder how long the studio can maintain such a delicate balance; surely the expansion required over the coming decade will only complicate things yet again, as it did over the past decade.

The reversals system is an interesting mechanic. With moves that leave room for a reversal the right trigger will appear on-screen; press it within this window and the reversal will be successful. However, this window becomes smaller as the match progresses, taking account fatigue and damage endured. This parallels the pin, submissions and daze recoveries, though these are more obvious in the timing of their opportunities.

The WWE Universe returns as the main story mode, alongside exhibition matches, championship belts and the online gameplay. A reasonable length, the WWE Universe mode will be the core attraction for most gamers, but once that’s finished and the marvel of Attitude Era mode has subsided where else does the lone player go? The fully customisable one-off matches provide a wealth of gameplay alternatives that could only be considered underwhelming by the most cynical WWE videogame fan. The online play of course takes advantage of these many gameplay options, allowing player to customise their match to the nth degree. As would be expected of a WWE videogame the gameplay lives and dies on the reliability its connection and input detection, and thankfully for the most part it scores very highly in both regards. There are occasional issues when playing against opponents with poor connection speeds, but these are only momentary and rarely are the matches dropped due to the connectivity.

The visual quality of WWE ’13 is clearly miles ahead of previous instalments, with animation and character detail working to create a level of presentation that excels for the genre. That being said, it is looking pretty tired in the closing stages of the current-generation. Other franchises have leaped ahead of their predecessors, while WWE seems content to take baby steps with each new iteration. The speed of WWE ’13 is the videogame’s biggest obstruction – just as it always has been for the franchise – and it’s a hurdle that will not easily be overcome. The soundtrack remains full of trashy rock, but of course WWE fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

As WWE ’12 essentially rebooted the videogame franchise, WWE ’13 has a significant amount of ground to make up to bring the series back to its former glory. Thankfully Yukes has invested in all the right areas, preventing WWE ’13 from becoming unnecessarily bloated but still delivering a fantastic variety in the gameplay through a combination of modes, wrestlers and customisation. WWE ’13 is not the pinnacle of the franchise thus far, but it is a step closer to that former glory that THQ and Yukes so desperately want to reach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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