Let it be known, nostalgia sells! Too many of us overgrown children have disposable income to throw at DVD collections and old toys and publishers are well aware of this. Just look no further than this year’s entry in the WWE video game catalog: WWE ’13. Now, there’s nothing nostalgic about the title but the focus of the game’s single player mode is the now much celebrated Attitude Era of the WWE. I’ve spoken fondly of it in the past, but that’s definitely my favorite era for the then WWF, even surpassing Hulkamania for me in terms of pure enjoyment. Vince McMahon’s promotion was arguably never more popular or culturally significant at any other point in time, including today. It made a lot of sense to revisit it (even if it seems strange to almost ignore the current product by doing so) and without it I’m not certain I would have purchased the game.
This review is going to mostly focus on the Attitude Era mode, but before diving into it I will provide an overview of the rest of the game. This is the second game since THQ/Yukes dropped the Smackdown vs Raw title and refined the gameplay. I didn’t play last year’s game, but the differences from the last Smackdown vs Raw and this one are minor. They brought back the limb targeting system and modified the chain grapple slightly. The changes are mostly superficial, but not to the detriment of the gameplay. The havok engine the game makes use of was overhauled to a point as well. The ring now reacts better to what’s going on, as do objects in the field of play. Though overall, the visual quality looks to have taken a slight step back. The audio is kind of all over the place in terms of levels, and the new dynamic camera system is wretched (but thankfully something you can turn off). The create modes are unchanged. Some moves have been returned to the game and some have disappeared. It’s pretty disappointing that the create-a-finisher mode is still as limited as it was when it first debuted several years ago now. There’s also a create-an-arena that is new but not very exciting. I haven’t checked out the create-a-scenario but I suspect it hasn’t been improved upon much, if at all. WWE Universe mode is also back for the third year in a row. Expect more of the same.
The gameplay is solid enough, and it’s probably one of the better grapplers put out by Yukes, but I’m only interested in the Attitude Era. The Attitude Era mode basically replaces the single player storylines from past games. It’s divided into multiple parts that put the focus on a different wrestler from the era. The scenarios are: DX, Stone Cold, The Brothers of Destruction, The Rock, Mankind, and Wrestlemania XV. The first scenario starts off in the summer of 1997 and the scenario ends after Wrestlemania XV. Once complete though, some bonus challenges open up featuring wrestlers such as Edge, The Godfather, and Lita. I was rather impressed with how many old wrestlers were included in this mode considering some of them are no longer with the company. Expect to take on the British Bulldog, the Road Warriors, and even Vader as you progress through the scenario. During each match, the game will also assign special objectives that unlock additional content along the way. Most of these objectives refer back to the real match and encourage you to recreate it as best as possible. None stand out to me as being particularly challenging so expect to unlock them all with little trouble.
Since the Attitude Era has, until now really, been something only fans recognize it makes it difficult to get a consensus on when it started and ended. Some think it started as far back as “Austin 3:16,” while others maintain it was the infamous Montreal Screwjob. THQ decided to go with the formation of Degeneration X when Shawn Michaels and Triple H turned their backstage “Kliq” into an actual onscreen stable. The game also constantly references the Monday Night Wars, the ratings battle between WWF’s Raw and WCW’s Nitro, as an ongoing storyline throughout the Attitude Era. DX ends up being pretty well represented in the game, with the only notable exclusion being Chyna (probably due to her being an adult film actress now). Even Mike Tyson is present for Wrestlemania XIV, which makes sense given that he was inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame earlier this year.
The characters THQ chose to focus on for the era were logical. They were certainly the most recognizable from the era. A lot of the big matches are covered including Michaels vs Hart at Survivor Series ’97, the inaugural Hell in a Cell match, the more famous Undertaker vs Mankind Hell in a Cell match, and the mode culminates in Austin vs Rock. The only matches I missed that weren’t included was the Monday night match between Mick Foley and Terry Funk (who’s not included in the game unless you want to pay for him as Chainsaw Charlie) which took place in between the Austin vs Dude Love Pay-Per-View bouts; and the Austin vs Undertaker Buried Alive match at Rock Bottom ’98. In the case of the second one, Yukes probably didn’t feel like coming up with a Buried Alive match again (they did at least bring back the I Quit match for the Rock vs Mankind feud) or the WWE felt like it wasn’t appropriate for their audience. That last excuse seems unlikely as the game doesn’t shy away much from the content of the era. There are some annoying inconsistencies though with the liberties taken by THQ. For instance, Billy Gun is able to use his Bad Ass gimmick but Road Dogg can’t say the word “ass” as part of his intro. The raunch is mostly absent though beyond a few utterances of the phrase “suck it.” Austin’s middle finder is annoyingly censored, and the audio is as well whenever a character says “WWF” (it sounds like a lot of the audio was lifted directly from broadcast tapes excepting Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler’s commentary) which is distracting, but not as distracting as if they were saying WWE instead.
The game mode makes frequent references to WCW and its Nitro program but focuses solely on Raw. It would have been cool to bounce back and forth considering WWE owns all of the WCW stuff at this point, plus a lot of WCW’s wrestlers from that era eventually ended up in WWE. Perhaps THQ will one day give fans a WWE vs WCW game. It’s also a little disappointing that the scenario ends before the end of the Attitude Era. Like the start date, the end is hard to define but most everyone would agree that Wrestlemani XV is not the endpoint. It’s more logical end would either be the start of the Invasion storyline, the introduction of the nWo into WWE programming, or Wrestlemania XIX where Stone Cold wrestled his final match. Perhaps THQ is saving that for future downloadable content, a sequel, or maybe it was just too burdensome to pull off. In order to accurately depict that era wrestlers such as the Dudley Boys, Hardys, and Kurt Angle would have to be included and all are currently with TNA Impact Wrestling. TNA has in the past allowed its wrestlers to appear on WWE programs, usually limited to Hall of Fame related stuff, so maybe those guys could appear in a WWE game, but maybe at an unattractive price for THQ.
Regardless of the mode’s shortcomings, it was by and large a fun experience for me to take a trip down memory lane with some of my favorite characters from yesterday. The mode got a lot right, and I appreciated the subtle details such as making all of Foley’s alter-egos their own selectable character, same for making the Hunter Hearst Helmsley character different from Triple H. There is quite a bit of content in the scenario, though probably not enough to make purchasing the game solely for the Attitude Era mode a wise one. I think I’ll get enough mileage out of the rest of the game to make it worthwhile, but I still have yet to fully dive into the other modes. I’m glad to see the WWE and THQ recognizing that there’s a large market for the Attitude Era and hopefully this isn’t the last we see of it.