WWE ’13 Preview (PS3)

The mere existence of WWE ’13 was frighteningly unclear at E3. If you remember, THQ did not secure a booth on the show floor due to financial troubles. They instead hawked their upcoming titles in private in a quaint room tucked away on the second floor with Darksiders II, Metro: Red Light, and Company of Heroes 2 – with nary a sight of WWE ’13 anywhere. With only several months until the annual wrestling title’s intended release in October and new THQ president Jason Rubin removing licensed titles from the company’s catalogue including the UFC Undisputed franchise, I was dubious that the company could recover in time or even retain the WWE license. So it is with a heavy sigh of relief that I found WWE ’13 more than safe and sound.

This year, THQ is not pulling any punches with the WWE series, as they shouldn’t as this is one of their largest moneymakers both locally and internationally. After receiving criticism from fans and reviewers that the storylines in last year’s title were too bare and scripted, THQ has gone back to the drawing board by returning to the time when wrestling was at its prime, a period known only as The Attitude Era.

The head-to-head feud between the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling between 1997 and 2002 is chuck full of nostalgia and unforgettable stars – Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H and Shawn Michaels in D-Generation X, Cactus Jack, and even the presence of Iron Mike Tyson (an extra character included in WWE ’13 if you pre-order the title at GameStop). No one can dismiss from mind Mick Foley’s triple persona as Cactus Jack, Dude Love, and Mankind, especially the moment when he was thrown off the top of the Hell in a Cell by The Undertaker.

All of these notable wrestlers appear in the 80+ character roster for WWE ’13 right alongside modern wrestlers. John Cena, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan can officially brawl with the likes of Ken Shamrock, Big Boss Man, British Bulldog, Road Dogg Jesse James, and Eddie Guerrero (RIP). In addition, current wrestlers can face off against their younger selves – Chris Jericho versus his Y2J self, Triple H versus his D-Generation X self, The Undertaker versus his The Lord of Darkness self. These are the possibilities that fans clamor for, the kind that they would have to recreate through the comprehensive Create A Wrestler mode.

WWE ’13 challenges you to revisit and recreate the memorable matches during the Attitude Era in the single-player campaign. Much like the historical challenges in EA Sports titles, you are tasked with following a match through the eyes of the winner and repeating the key moments of the match, like winning with a submission or winning within 3 minutes. Manage to meet all the requirements and you’ll unlock bonus video, photographs, and other unlockables highlighting the Attitude Era at its best.

The early build presented in the press event did not have a CAW demo but it clearly showed off the improved production values, with superb character modeling and all new sound design. The thuds on the mat and punches to the chest are heavier, like pounding a sack of meat. The Create An Arena mode has been expanded to include numerous old-school venues, like Raw is War ’97, Wrestlemania ’98, and Unforgiven ’98, all of which you can modify with stage textures, arena sizes, and set pieces.

Most of the in-ring wrestling remains the same as last year’s but with several notable changes. Reversals now have clear indicators showing whether you are too late or too early with the right trigger. Up to three finishers can be stored at a time, and for the purpose of setting handicaps, you can give a wrestler in exhibition mode 1, 2, 3, or an infinite number of finishers at the start of the match.

If you can your opponent carefully aligned, you can also initiate OMG moments like slamming the opponent through a steel barrier or the announcer table. Perform a superplex from the corner of the ring against a super heavyweight and the ring might even collapse on itself. The best addition is the ability to run at the ropes and spring off them into a flying attack, a move that’s difficult to pull over but inflicts a heap of damage.

As THQ stated in their presentation of WWE ’13, the press event was the largest one it has ever held for a WWE title. That just shows their commitment to the brand and their confidence that it will give THQ the comeback that they need. Given the solid concept of the bringing back Attitude Era and better overall gameplay and presentation, WWE ’13 is inclined to do just that when it releases October 30th for Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii.