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WWE ’13 : Hands On & First Impressions with THQ’s Latest Grapple Game!

It’s not often this blogger gets to escape the confines of the steel cage that is the Gadget Helpline office and go on a special assignment but a couple areas where my passions excel are video gaming and wrestling – So imagine my shear excitement to receive a prestigious invitation from the kind people at the THQ press office to try out the bodyslammin’ new WWE ’13 game a month before any of you guys get your grubby mitts on it on November the 2nd! After applying a sick headlock on our powers that be (more like laying down a desperate plea!) I was allowed a day off to hit London like a People’s Elbow and it was ‘TIME TO PLAY THE GAAAME..!!”

Arriving at the Brickhouse in Shoreditch, I joined a number of fellow industry writers and the day’s game testers as the venue was getting its final preparations before the mob were let in and I sneaked a peak at a wrestling ring stage. What was that hanging from the ring post? Only a shiny gold replica WWE belt, which of course “marking out” I was almost as eager to get my hands on as the WWE ’13 game itself!

We are finally greeted by Sue from THQ who welcomes us into the red lit and stylish setting covered in WWE banners, cut-outs of wrestling superstars and screen projection playing footage of the game and the pre-order deals and invites me to take a seat at one of the many consoles – all Xbox 360, strangely no PS3. But no complaints here, just seeing that opening screen waiting there with CM Punk and the red ‘X’ as used in the publicity poster and cover art was enough to glue me to the seat for a somewhat unhealthy five hours (making an Iron Man match look like child’s play!)

I kicked things off with one-on-one rematch of the classic bouts between Stone Cold Steve Austin and a youthful version of The Rock – this from a potential starting selection of 36 current and 4 Attitude Era superstars such as John Cena, Randy Orton and The Miz (with more unlockable and downloadable as we discovered earlier this week). With the epic and stunning Wrestlemania 28 setting chosen as the obvious stage for this anticipated return conflict we’re ready to rumble and out come the competitors. Firstly an incredibly detailed and life-like Stone Cold – walking with a purpose to the ring and performing those signiture taunts and Attitude is well and truly back! He’s followed out by The Rock, who looks like he’s just walked out of Monday Night RAW circa ’97. Its clear to see the incredible graphic upgrades to authenticity this game has received (a bead of sweat running down HBK’s back while locking in a submission move and every detail of CM Punk’s intricate tattoos were noted as I played other matches – unbelievable realism, virtually an interactive TV show).

The game controls very similarly to last year’s WWE ’12 which was very easy to pick up but with the new Predator Technology driving it the fluidity of the animation is so much slicker. It’s very easy to hook up a string of natural looking chain wrestling if you can keep up with the fast reversals, particularly with the technical guys like Daniel Bryan. But if you don’t keep up the match can quickly turn in the other guys favour, as I found out quite a few times! Likewise an individual characters’ strength and weight is all in perspective and you won’t see Rey Mysterio giving Sheamus the fisherman’s suplex without some serious grunt, so it’s best to learn and play to your characters abilities. This all plays up to that realism factor that is really mind blowing in this year’s game. However, there is a slight distraction with those corner bumps and some of the weapon attacks. On occasion, your superstar will make an invisible impact before even hitting the buckle or will react to a chair shot before it even lands. These are tiny flaws that have been evident since the very earliest ‘big console’ wrestle games and have never been remedied, instead they’ve become charming expectations – “ah, it still does that” – I was thinking with tongue-in-cheek. But this is still just a very minor threat to the enjoyment of the WWE ’13 game.

As readers of my WWE ’13 coverage here will know, the Road to Wrestlemania story mode has been thrown out the ring this year and the Attitude Era takes centre stage. On starting up this mode we’re greeted with the goosebump raising prelude:

“You are about to to relive one of the greatest and most influencial eras in all of WWE and Sports Entertainment history..”

Oh Hell Yeah!!

Following a video highlight reel featuring ‘Austin 3:16’ and Mankind’s fall from the Hell in the Cell at the hands of the Undertaker, we have choice of seven historical storylines including ‘Rise of DX‘ which is playable from the start and six other legacies to be unlocked (which we know will cover WWF alumini such as The Rock, Stone Cold, Undertaker and Kane). As these classic stories unfold and we are encouraged to repeat historical objectives (such as busting Mankind with a chair) we can trace the ratings war between WWE and WCW throughout the mid to late 90s as well as unlocking video and photo retrospectives from the much beloved and missed age which changed all the rules of pro-wrestling. It’s a great nostalgia trip to read the backstory of each event and then actually get to play through the years with the formation of DX – HBK Shawn Michaels and Hunter Hurst Helmsley (now Triple H) in their classic gear and on ‘vintage’ stages such as Monday Night RAW, with matches spliced with cut scenes and replays helping the story-telling keep an enjoyable pace.

WWE Universe is back and allows you to once again play General Manager, creating your own shows and playing them out as your see fit with a new statistic tracker and the Creation mode of course returns offering more choice and versatility to make custom superstars (more than I had time to fully enjoy in the limited time I had). Back to the free play modes and “OMG!” Moments are a great compliment to game play and we can now recreate classic scenes such as the Big Show exploding ring backdrop or Edge’s spear through the guard rail as featured in the game trailer and ‘Super Cena’ style Comebacks are handy in a pinch! We have an amazing choice of match-ups for one-on-one, two-on-two, triple threat, fatal fourway and six-man variations including Extreme Rules, Hell in the Cell, Inferno, Iron Man, Last Man Standing, Ladder, TLC, Steel Cage, Submission, Table, Elimination Chamber and the newly re-added “I Quit” match. ‘Speciality’ bouts come in the form of Backstage Brawl, Special Referee, Championship Scramble, Royal Rumble and King of the Ring (the biggest ever) with titles to be contested including WWE, World Heavyweight, United States, Intercontinental, Divas and Tag Team with 27 more locked (some of which available in the recently announced DLC packs).

WWE ’13 is the perfect clash of nostalgia and modern action with cutting edge gaming technology. The game is completely refreshed and rewarding to us older fans and younger fans alike and it’s incredibly easy to get immersed in this ‘Revolution’. It may be very bold to say but personally I think if WWF’s finest Attitude Era title ‘No Mercy ’64’ was remade today this is as close as it gets!

Many thanks to Sue and Simon of THQ for inviting the Gadget Helpline to enjoy WWE ’13 which is released to the public on November the 2nd for Xbox 360 and PS3.

Let us know your thoughts on our comments below or via our @Gadget_Helpline Twitter page or Official Facebook group.