Do you smell what THQ is cooking?
Mike “The Baddest Man On The Planet” Tyson, as a part of the WWE '13 SummerSlam press event in Los Angeles, attended the celebrity guest panel which also included “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Sheamus, and current WWE champion CM Punk. And before you ask why a boxer has anything to do with pro wrestling, I suggest looking up D-Generation X. When he opened his mouth for the first time during the panel, a few journalists in the crowd began to chuckle at his soft, high voice. (I didn't because I like my jawline.) But when he emphatically, sultrily uttered the words “Barbecue Sauce!”, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself. Then when he said “he might have to take a #2” before taking interviews, I nearly lost it on the inside. For that alone, WWE '13 has my full support.
Those who fidget at the mention of D-Generation X and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the first paragraph will be overjoyed to discover that WWE '13 has backslammed the storylines from last year's title in favor of reintroducing one of the most nostalgic times in pro wrestling history: the Attitude Era. This isn't some terrible, insubstantial hook where maybe one or two old-school wrestlers become available as DLC characters or as bonuses for pre-ordering the title (that's reserved for Mike Tyson as a bonus for pre-ordering at GameStop). The 80+-character roster has been split through the middle, dividing wrestlers of the modern era from those of the Attitude Era while simultaneously suggesting that this is not going to be an ordinary WWE title.
WWE '13 will take players down memory lane by challenging them to reenact the most memorable matches of the time period, with the likes of The Rock, Mankind, The Undertaker, Brett Hart, Ken Shamrock, and Eddie Guerrero. Satisfying the general requirement of winning is easy enough, but nailing all the historical objectives as well like winning in a particular fashion or performing a specific move at the appropriate time is more difficult. As you complete the objectives of each match, you'll progress from one superstar to the next from 1997 to 2002, during which the ratings for the then WWF overtook that of its only rival WCW, and earn all sorts of unlockables and bonus galleries.
Outside of this single-player tribute to the Attitude Era, these iconic wrestlers will join their fellow contemporaries in the modern era. This will not only allow fans to test out their match-up theories between various wrestlers, like John Cena vs. Road Warrior Animal, but also those between the same person in different time periods, like Chris Jericho vs. his younger Y2J self. Or how about Mankind vs. Cactus Jack vs. Dude Love? I mean, talk about a personality complex.
If that wasn't enough, you can also set your matches in iconic sets like Unforgiven '98 and Suvivor Series '98, and then proceed to change them in Create An Arena by adding or removing set pieces and stage effects. The number of stats for each wrestler has been expanded as well to include Jump and Durability, increasing the total to a whopping 14. In exhibition mode, you can also start a wrestler off with up to three finishers or even an infinite number of finishers in case you want to set a handicap.
While the demo we were shown didn't reveal much the Create A Wrestler mode, apart from the inclusion of extra large skeletons for the super heavyweights, it clearly showed how much the production values have been improved. The sound effects have been completed overhauled with a thicker, flatter tone so that mat slams and chest strikes have an undeniable thump. The character modeling have been enhanced one more, with CM Punk looking the best yet with his medium-length stubble.
The various gameplay changes tend to make the combat clearer or more exciting. Apart from the outlandishly named OMG moments, in which you can spear an opponent through a ring barrier, the ring can now collapse under the weight of a super heavyweight crashing into the center of the ring. Reversals have been made less of a guessing game by showing whether players are too early or too late, thereby making it very clear that it's the player's fault for not pressing the right trigger at the right time. Even better, you can spring off the ropes for a high-flyin' attack with ease, though the maneuver is hard to land cleanly. Otherwise, it's essentially the same combat from last year's.
WWE '13 new concept with the Attitude Era will be a sure-fire hit and conjures for me the days of playing WWF No Mercy on N64 for weeks just crafting wrestlers and seeing all of the various storyline branches. WWE '13 releases for Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii on October 30, 2012.