Written by Jimmy Donofrio
Back in January, I wrote a piece on WWE ’12 that begged Yuke’s, THQ, and the WWE to change the tired formula of their wrestling video game. It was the first year for the newly branded brawler, but not enough had actually changed to justify buying what amounted to an updated roster (and even that was incomplete, as Chris Jericho, a headliner at this year’s Wrestlemania, is still missing from the game despite three rounds of DLC). I wanted the game to be about the business of wrestling, eliminating the kayfabe and basing matches on performance goals (including losing on purpose) instead of simply winning and furthering the story.
Flash forward four months, and the first new details of this year’s entry, WWE ’13, have finally emerged. On Tuesday, IGN debuted the new teaser trailer and exclusive details of WWE ’13, along with an exclusive interview with cover-grappler, CM Punk. While it isn’t everything (or, arguably, anything) that I could have hoped for, I’ll admit, there is a lot to be excited about.
The shiniest addition that will get most of the attention in the lead up to the October 30 release is the new Attitude Era Mode, which will warp players back in time to the late 90’s, the heyday of professional wrestling as a moneymaking, media-driven spectacle. You’ll play through some choice storylines of old while reliving the Monday Night Wars from the perspective of the WWE and classic superstars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, and The Undertaker. It isn’t mentioned in the article, but it’s obvious that Yuke’s found some inspiration in the “Jordan Challenge” and the recent success of the NBA 2K series. How it will be executed is yet to be seen, but if there’s one thing that sells in professional wrestling, it’s nostalgia.
Is it finally “Clobbering Time” for a WWE video game?
What really got me pumped up were the new details pertaining to individual matches. New settings and factors will make previously unrealistic (I realize the irony in using that word, but stay with me) match lengths and outcomes more logical and bearable, by professional wrestling standards. From the IGN article:
..players will be able to adjust a setting called ‘Match Experience’. Three settings - “Quick”, “Normal” and “Epic” - will affect the overall pacing of a fight, independent of AI difficulty. Factors such as momentum, damage, enemy aggressiveness and even kick out and reversal rates will be affected. The difference can be staggering. Quick matches feel lightning quick compared to epic ones, where superstars seem to have limitless stamina - and health.
Add to that a new setting that limits the amount of finishers available to use during a given match (from 0 to infinite) and tweaks to the way devastating moves will influence pinfalls, and I’d argue that we’re starting to see a change in the genre as a whole. Up to now, wrestling video games were fighting games based on the “rules” of the wrestling universe. These changes to match mechanics are the greatest step towards a real broadcast wrestling experience since the introduction of real TV and PPV arenas in WCW/nWo Revenge on the N64.
There’s still a lot to be revealed and learned about WWE ’13 in the coming months, but I’m going to label myself “Cautiously Optimistic” that this is actually a step in the right direction for the future of wrestling games. We may never get the real look behind the curtain that I rallied for, but actually attempting to mirror the product your game is based on is certainly good enough, for now.