WWE ’13: Reliving the Attitude Era
The best of wrestling is back - and you can experience it one more time.
by Richard George - IGN.com
It’s strange to think that the Attitude Era of the WWE began some 15 years ago. What started as a curious set of alliances between Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Rick Rude and Chyna led to the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and a severe shift in WWE programming. The risks taken - both by the company’s superstars and writers - were unprecedented. Not everything worked, but the bold experimentation made every week memorable. To this day, some wrestling fans regard that time as the peak of the WWE, with few modern moments approaching what occurred in the late ‘90s.
But that was a decade ago. Much has changed in the WWE, and many of its fans, perhaps most of them, are actually too young to really remember the Attitude Era to any significant degree. As old as that makes some of us feel, the reality is that the Attitude Era is a distant one. That’s why THQ is so smart to recreate the concept in WWE ’13.
Rather than push players through lengthy, original storylines featuring a set few characters, THQ is attempting to recreate the biggest, most iconic moments from late 1997, when DX formed, through Wrestlemania XV some two years later, when Austin and The Rock squared off for the first time. The single-player experience is divided into chapters of varying lengths, split amongst eight characters or entities: D-Generation X, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Mick Foley, The Rock, Bret Hart, Kane and the Undertaker.
Realizing that simply increasing the number of fixed characters and dividing the single player experience into chapters wasn’t enough, THQ has set about actually telling the story of wrestling’s past. To do that, the development team worked closely with WWE to produce 20 videos that fill in the gaps and storylines necessary to not only understand a match or feud’s context, but to actually get excited to see its resolution. You might not play every match on the path to Austin colliding with The Rock, but you’ll understand why they fought - and why people cared.
It’s a genius move on the part of the development team to understand that while a finite set of characters is critical to a story, an in-game engine and voice acting can only do so much. Nothing beats the insane live theater that is professional wrestling. Plus WWE’s editing and promotional teams are some of the best in the world, rivaling if not surpassing anything that’s done in Hollywood. Allowing those talented folks to assist in telling this story is absolutely the smartest move possible. Those of us who never saw the Attitude Era play out week-to-week will finally have that chance - through stellar video packages, 65 playable matches and even a ratings chart that follows the so-called ‘Monday Night Wars’ of WWE and its rival, WCW.
THQ’s smart decisions don’t end there. The manner in which the Attitude Era is played is different than its predecessors. Your basic objective is almost always the same - win your match. That will come as a huge relief to many who found themselves simply playing to an arbitrary point and pressing a button to let the computer take control to a pre-determined conclusion. Games are meant to be played - and beaten. To have a mode that wrests control from the hands of players was understandably frustrating to some.
WWE ’13 does away with that notion, instead working with incentives and bonus objectives to entice players to recreate moments from the past. Steve Austin beat Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIV, but he did it in a specific way. You can simply beat the Michaels and move on, but if you go that extra step, you can potentially tap into the massive amount of unlockable content the game features.
All told, between videos, photos, belts, superstars and alternate attires, there are more than 100 items that can be opened by seeking out bonus objectives - some of which are hidden to prevent you from knowing how a match will play out. Critically, your list of objectives can be displayed at any time with the quick press of a button, just in case you’re curious if you’re accomplishing everything that’s necessary before you make the pin.
There are a myriad of other elements in (and around) the Attitude Era mode that will simply make all the difference in the world to wrestling fans. Legendary commentator Jim Ross will be heard alongside Jerry “The King” Lawler, just as he was in the late ‘90s. It’s now possible to have a reversal indicator not only tell you when a reversal is possible, but whether your timing was too fast or too slow if your timing is off. Animations are increasingly more fluid, and odd collisions or transitions seem improved from WWE ’12 (no small feat considering the immense number of variables at work in any one of these matches). The crowd also sounds significantly better, as THQ is now pulling audio samples from a live arena versus trying to simulate that effect by stuffing 100 people into a warehouse.
THQ’s enhancements and additions don’t end there either. Though the developer has yet to unveil its Universe Mode for this year, it has shared its latest addition to its Creative Suite. In addition to creating rings, players will now be able to customize their own stage sets, even going so far as altering designs past and present. Did you like the Smackdown (’01 - ’08) set that featured a fist smashing through glass? Maybe you don’t want the fist there though. Maybe you want to paste a giant Summerslam logo on the entrance platform. You can do that - and plenty more. For those wanting to adjust every last detail of WWE ’13’s wrestling world, THQ will allow that - plus the ability to share those creations with the community online.
In many ways THQ is building on the massive changes that came with WWE ’12. Last year’s iteration was bold, and reinvented wrestling gaming in a fundamental way - one that brought a new level of addictive gameplay with it. One year later, the development team (both in the United States and in Japan with Yukes) has continued to seek perfection, even throwing away its ambitious vision for Road to Wrestlemania. Attitude Era looks to be an excellent single-player substitute, and will likely become the blueprint for future endeavors. In fact, based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m not sure how THQ will top itself next year.