'WWE 13' goes all in on Attitude

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin's feud with Vince McMahon took the Attitude Era to another level. THQ

If you look through the history of professional wrestling to find that perfect period to design a video game around, no doubt it would be WWE’s Attitude Era.

From Mankind being spiked through the roof of the Hell in a Cell cage to the “pimpin’ ain’t easy” ways of the Godfather to the controversy of the Montreal Screwjob, there’s so much unbelievable, over-the-top and just plain ridiculous material (Mae Young gave birth to a hand!?) that a video game that retells the classics is better to me than any highlight footage -- especially now that gamers are not only controlling the action, but are re-imagining some of this history.

That’s because for “WWE 13,” THQ has ditched its Road to Wrestlemania story mode and replaced it with an Attitude Era single-player campaign that enables gamers to relive the exact moments in time from the old-school Monday Night Wars.

“We’re highlighting the WWE side of these Monday Night Wars,” explains the game’s creative director, Cory Ledesma. “We have a timeline that fans will be able to play through that spans about two years, and through the course of those two years, we focus on the time period where WWE was down at its lowest points in its ratings, as compared to WCW’s ratings, and how WWE then forced its way back up the ratings and eventually overtaking WCW in the ratings, while at the same time becoming the juggernaut that WWE eventually became.”

In those two years, gamers will be able to play through a variety of chapters, including the Austin 3:16 chapter that showcases the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, his championship reign and his feud with Mr. McMahon.

“That was the feud that sparked the Attitude Era in a lot of ways,” says Ledesma. “That’s when WWE started to see their ratings start to pass WCW during that time.”

So not only will gamers get to lace the virtual boots of the Texas Rattlesnake, but thanks to a series of more than 20 WWE-produced videos featured in the game, fans will be able to sit down and relive the action that took place in real life before attempting to recreate it in the game.

Adds Ledesma: “We try our best to recreate everything, from the arenas to the costumes the superstars are wearing, and we’ve even added match objectives this year. The basic objective is to continue down the timeline and complete the story, but then we also have these optional bonus objectives that are based on history and actually happened in the match. So maybe as the Undertaker, you have to perform three Tombstones in order to win, or Mankind needs to put someone through the announcer’s table.

"These bonus objectives give players something else to do during the matches; they recreate history and on top of that, all of the objectives are tied to unlockables. There are over 60 matches in the Attitude Era story, and every one of them has unlockables tied to them, from championship titles to arenas to alternate attires. We even have bonus matches as unlockables. Lots of cool stuff.”

And when you successfully accomplish the bonus objectives, bonus cut scenes will play out that you wouldn’t see if you simply played through the story and ignored the added stipulations. Now it’s not just about going into the match and trying to win. In “WWE 13,” it finally pays to recreate history while pulling off the same moves that made the matches famous in the first place.

“And for a lot of the cut scenes we have in the game, we actually took the audio straight from the original show,” says Ledesma. “The performance is so much better because it’s not the announcers trying to do voice-over from a sound booth. These are their actual performances put straight into the game.”

Another cool feature: As you play through the Attitude Era, you’re not stuck playing as the same character over and over again. Throughout the various chapters, you’re playing as all of the major characters from the time, including the Rock, Mankind, the Undertaker, D-X and Kane. And because of the variety in characters, you’re constantly playing different matchups, avoiding the rut of past Road to Wrestlemania modes in which you’d be stuck playing against the same superstars throughout the campaign.

“We even add in bonus matches from that time, so if you’re playing as Stone Cold against Dude Love, we will also let you play some of the bigger matches that also happened on that pay-per-view, like the New Age Outlaws against the Road Warriors,” Ledesma said. “That adds some cool variety and gives you some of the flavor of some of those side stories that weren’t in the main event, but really added to the fun of the show.

“This is an era that we haven’t covered for 15-plus years in video game form, and it’s an era that holds very dear to many of our fan’s hearts. Wrestling fans who grew up playing ‘Wrestlemania 2000’ and ‘No Mercy’ are really going to enjoy it, and even our younger fans who are into John Cena now, they get to see a guy like Stone Cold and find out what he was all about.”