The fact this game was released is astounding. Any positive points from WWE Attitude Mode or player creation are fully eclipsed by an absurd number of bugs and poor game design.
+ Attitude Era Nostalgia Bomb.
+ Deep and impressive player content creation tools.
- Frequent game crashes.
- Unpolished and riddled with glitches and bugs.
- Online servers keep erasing data.
- 3GB save file on PS3 makes PS+ Cloud storage useless.
- Broken Universe mode design.
- Pay-Per-View matches have no purpose.
- Terrible game audio issues.
- David Otunga's Music.
THQ's latest installment of their long lived World Wrestling Entertainment licence hit the shelves on October 30th 2012. While many publications, blog and fans rushed to get their reviews of WWE 13 up on day one, I waited. Patiently. Now that we’re over a month since its release, I'm rather glad I sat on this and really took the time to explore this game.
Why? Because anyone who has rated this game higher than a 6/10 is simply full of crap. They either clearly didn't spend enough time playing it, or were recently awoken from a coma and this was the first game they've played since the 80's.
I will openly challenge any score higher than 6/10 and proceed to bash it over the head with a folding chair of logic until it dies. The simple fact this game is sitting at 76 (PS3) and 79 (360) on Metacritic is both a testament to how flawed their rating system is, and how poorly people have reviewed it. I realize that reviews are based on opinion, and I'm about to give mine, but the level of atrocities, poor development, bad design, bugs, glitches and failures in this game is unforgivable. Let's take a walk into the squared circle and discuss why.
Attitude Era Nostalgia Overload
WWE 13 was touted as giving players the ability to "Relive the Attitude Era of WWE." In many respects, it does manage to do that. Before I explode into a tirade about how awful this game is, I will give credit where credit is due.
The biggest saving grace, and honestly the only selling point for this title, is the WWE Attitude Era story mode. Fans of wrestling in the 90's will remember the glorious World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Attitude Era. Well, that was the name before WWF got sued by the World Wildlife Foundation and became WWE, (World Wrestling Entertainment). Packed full of blood, sex, violence, vulgar language, controversy, and iconic characters, this was the peak of wrestling fandom.
Based around the ratings battles for Monday night viewership between WWF and their competition WCW, WWE 13's Attitude Era mode lets players relive this chapter and play out key points in wrestling history. As you progress you'll unlock real historic video footage, documentary style video recaps and iconic photo galleries of key WWF golden era superstars and moments. It’s a great fan service.
The presentation of the WWE Attitude mode is a huge nostalgia bomb for anyone who grew up watching wrestling. One of the few things this game did right, is the use of actual audio clips from old broadcasts to voice the commentators and wrestlers during key "WWE Moments." These will randomly pop up as quick-time events throughout matches. This is a great story telling vehicle that keeps the player on their toes. When combined with the "TV-Like" camera angles, it's pretty awesome to play.
Setting the Bar for Player Creation (Sadness for PS3 Owners)
Another gem among the endless sea of garbage that is this game, is a staple of wrestling games - Create A Superstar. Since the era of N64, THQ wrestling games have always been a shining industry beacon when it comes to custom character creation. WWE 13 is no different. If you choose to put in the time, you can easily spend 2-3 hours just making a single character.
Players will essentially have access to a simplified 3D modelling program that lets you build almost any wrestler you can imagine. Friends, yourself, super heros or even wrestlers not included in the default roster, can all be builtl to an incredible level of accurate detail. You're able to pick your own looks, entrances, taunts, and even build your own finishing move. Hell, you can even make your own Titantron entrance video using actual in-game highlight reels of your wrestler in action.
On top of an incredible player creator, you can also make your own rings, arenas, branching episodic story lines (don’t get too excited, as it is broken), logos for shirts and arena art, and even your own crowd signs. The best part is, if all of that sounds overwhelming or time-consuming (which it can be), you can go online and download all of these things from people all over the world. Assuming of course that you bought the game new or purchased the Online Axxess pass.
While the creation mode is impressive, I hope you're not on PS3 though because the save file for this game is over 3GB. Not to be confused with the massive 4.5GB game data install, this 3GB save game is stored on top of the system’s game data which means WWE 13 will eat up over 7GB's of space. If you subscribe to PS+, your game save cloud is useless now since it's only 1Gb. This means that after installing WWE 13 you'll get a constant reminder every time you turn on your system that your system’s save data exceeds cloud storage.
Now, I know what you're thinking…"I'll just back it up to a hard drive!" Nope. THQ locked the PS3 version so you can't transfer data to the hard drive, so have fun with that. Xbox users will be happy to know their save data is well under 200MB. If that sounds like shoddy development, wait until you hear about the rest of the game.
Absurd Audio Design
It's really hard to decide where to start when it comes to WWE 13's flaws and disappointments, but I'll get this dung-ball rolling with the audio design.
The best audio design in a videogame is the kind you don't even notice. Good audio design immerses you and fades into the background as it perfectly compliments what you're seeing. Even mediocre game audio really doesn't “stand out,” but maybe reveals room for improvement if you stop and dissect it. Bad audio design however, can ruin a game. And like a lot of things in WWE 13, it ruins this game.
WWE 13's audio mixing is so terrible that it warrants me crapping on it for multiple paragraphs. For starters, when you're playing Attitude Era mode you better have your remote sitting right beside you and a hair-trigger volume mod. You never know if the audio they pulled from actual live events will be as faint as a whisper, or mixed so loud that it actually distorts your speaker system to the point of potentially damaging them, or worse your own hearing. I had to find a horrible middle ground of volume settings that required me turn on closed captioning for the entire game. So if you're hearing impaired, you're in luck! If you're not, you will be after playing this game.
To further perpetuate my sadness, WWE 13 marketing constantly touted intelligent crowd audio systems as a huge feature of this game. Supposedly the crowd would provide pops, boos and chants at key moments during a match. Unfortunately this doesn't really happen as it should. Crowds will frequently break into the wrong chants creating an atmosphere that is both distracting and baffling to fans of wrestling.
If getting the wrong chants wasn't bad enough, don't you dare try to download or create a custom story. Why? Because you won't get any crowd effects at all. The arena will be quieter than a goddamned interpretative dance poetry jam, and then suddenly explode for a moment when one of the custom audio events happens.
This audio bug destroys any atmosphere in the game, and while THQ have acknowledge this problem, it is further launched into absurdity when you discover this issue has been happening since the last game.
Finally, to tie a nice bow on the mess that is WWE 13's audio, your ears will be assaulted by terrible music selection in the menus. For a game with so much customization, could you not include a “skip” feature? Or maybe a track list we could edit. Past games had this, why remove it?
While the game seems to have over a dozen songs it can play, it seems to favour three or so in particular. I hope you like David Otunga's theme song...By the end of your time with this game, this piece of audio barbed wire will be ringing in your head making you beg for some kind of amnesia inducing head trauma to grace you and put you out of your missery.
In short, it is both laughable and mind-blowing that this game has the balls to credit people for any kind of professional audio design or development.
Broken Universe Mode.
WWE 13's marketing heavily promoted the WWE Universe mode. The back of the box reads:
"Your actions shape your universe with dynamic matches, storyline twists and unpredictable moments from the creative direction of Paul Heyman!"
To further their marketing hype, they went on record in countless interviews and promotions stating that Paul Heyman (one of the story writers for WWE) directed over 200 storylines for WWE 13. This is either simply a bold faced lie, or the game is so broken to hell and they don't occur.
The THQ WWE 13 forums are riddled with post after post asking for clarification on this. There is even a sticky thread to help explain how to setup your Universe to get more story events, which is laughable since every single suggestion is written by a community member that is making total speculation. Not once has a THQ moderator or developer stepped in and said "This is how you can get stories." Instead, everyone is left to wallow in the garbage that is Universe Mode.
By now most people (myself included) have played for numerous game years (multiple in-game seasons) and often encounter no cutscenes of any kind. Those who have, go on to explain that they never achieve any of the so-called Paul Heymen "branching storylines" (a cinematic scene where you get to make a decision with impacting results on your universe). If they do occur, it's the half dozen scenes over and over again (typically the option post match to shake hands with your opponent, or punch them in the face). None of them amount to any ongoing story, as promised by the developer.
This means that 90% of the time, Universe Mode is really just a glorified random match generator, but when it does work it's even more offensive to fans. That's right. THQ managed to develop and design a feature so poorly that it's even worse when it works. There should a GDC award for that.
In WWE 13 if you should be so lucky to be graced by the gaming gods and have any kind of a storyline bestowed upon your universe, it only lasts for four weeks...By...Design.
Once the Pay-Per-View event (like Wrestlemania) happens, all feuds, partnerships and stories end without a single cutscene or story tie-in. Pay-Per-View events mean nothing in the WWE 13 universe. They end all existing stories and never produce a single cutscene or cinematic moment.
Now, those who aren't long time wrestling fans might not think four week long stories are a problem. You probably also don't understand why Pay-Per-View events not having any story impact is like having Star Wars without Lightsabers. It’s unacceptable to fans.
Hyping a Pay-Per-View event to become as important as possible has been a part of wrestling games (or wrestling in general) since... forever.
Growing up, anyone could tune in to watch RAW and Smackdown with even the most basic cable packages. Pay-Per-Views on the other hand, were the wrestling fan equivalent to crack. You had to see it, and it wasn't going to be cheap. You had to either fork over $40+ to your Pay-Per-View-Ready cable provider, go to a movie theater and pay $40+, or buy an expensive illegal "black box" from some shady friend of a friend of a friend to watch these events… Getting to watch one was a BIG FUCKING DEAL.
Pay-Per-View events are over the top and uncensored. A night where epic multi-month stories would come to a head and collide in one big dramatic gong show, causing new stories and alliances to occur. All of this is thrown out the window in WWE 13, despite the marketing machine of THQ exclaiming boldly that it exists. But it doesn't, and if it does, it’s trash.
To make matters worse, even the THQ forum moderators (who are probably also WWE fans) were just as bewildered by the fact that Pay-Per-View events are meaningless to story progression and have zero cinematic points by design.
Here's an actual, unedited THQ forum moderator's post.
WWE 13 Moderator - THQ_Throatkick:
"Let me also restate that you should be getting cutscenes in PPV's."
WWE 13 Moderator - THQ_Throatkick:
"Ok, after getting into this issue it turns out that cutscenes not occuring on PPV's are intended design. I apoligize for the mistake."
The response to this rampant back-peddling is best captured by forum user "miwiro" who simply replied:
"Trading this game in tomorrow."
How can a company that has been tasked with making WWE games since the days it was still called WWF, suddenly think it's a good idea to neuter something so critical to the franchise?
I really do applaud the developers for many of WWE 13's new advancements and improvements. Hell, many of the small pops and glitches could arguably be overlooked due to the sheer scope of certain parts of this game... But this is an incredibly poor design choice that really baffles me, and clearly many others.
I can't fathom how any wrestling fan employed at THQ would not voice their concern about Pay-Per-View matches not having any kind of cinematic climax or special narratives. WWE PPV's do not simply end with a title exchange due to match results. How do they end? They end with Good Ol' JR having a god damned stroke as he screams commentary at the top of his lungs about the insanity he's witnessing. People cheat. Matches are interfered in. People get mud-hole stomped by a group of guys at the end of the match. Alliances are formed. Rivalries are fuelled. And most importantly, the next Monday Night Raw recaps it all and explodes it even more. It's not a clean slate.
This isn't UFC. This isn't Boxing. It's wrestling. The stories matter. A lot.
THQ Ships Rampant Game Crashes and Bugs
WWE 13 is quite simply one of the most bug ridden and crash riddled games I've played in a very long time. Out of respect to THQ due to my enjoyment of Saints Row the Third, I patiently waited on my review to see how they would handle some of the bugs and crashes that inevitably happen with games like this. There's always a few patches to fix things the community uncovers, and I'm okay with that. But the way THQ has handled their forums and communication with fans is confusing and downright stupid.
It is abhorrently clear that this game had zero testing of any kind. If it did, it was willingly shipped with so many bugs, that I can't believe Microsoft and Sony certification allowed it to pass.
Ranging from silly glitches and crashes to entire online servers being wiped clean over and over again, it's unimaginable that this game was shipped and it's even more offensive how THQ has decided to handle these issues.
Now, as someone who works in community management myself, I know that you can only provide help based on certain information and instructions that you're given "from above." So when I say that THQ has done a horrible job at communicating with their overwhelmingly unhappy customers, the forum moderators and community spokespeople have indeed done their best with the information they're given. I don't envy their jobs.
The worst part of the WWE 13 forum is the complete lack of any kind of road map or acknowledgement of fixes. All they would have to do is post a simple announcement that says "These are the issues we're aware of" with links to the original threads. You don’t even have to say when they’ll be fixed, just acknowledge them. The first step to fixing something is admitting you have a problem to begin with. IInstead, the community is left to fester in a black hole of locked and ignored threads to rage and guess about what's being done.
Rather than go on and on about how awful this game is, I'm simply going to leave you with a link to their forums. If you have nothing better to do with your day, skim through the endless sea of pissed off customer comments. It’s a joke.
Do not buy this game. Do not let someone else buy you this game. This is possibly the worst thing I’ve ever seen THQ put out. Considering they are in a downward spiral towards bankruptcy, I really thought there was a chance they would at least try with WWE 13. As far as I can tell, they have zero plans to fix most of many of these issues. The critical issues, like missing stories, have gone from “it’s a bug” to “as designed.”
Do not even rent this game. If you absolutely must play it, borrow it from someone who already bought it. Giving THQ any kind of money or support for this title is simply encouraging them to create more garbage like this. Unacceptable.