No matter how much effort WWE has used to repeatedly proclaim that they were now ready to go in new directions, it's all too often ended up being more of the same. The same stories, the same ego-trips and more than anything else, the same type of wrestler.
Something has changed. With Vince McMahon's partial transfer of management to other people in the company, the last year's offered several surprises. Former indie wrestlers such as Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero), Antonio Cesaro (Claudio Castagnoli), Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) and in particular CM Punk have been given chances, which has refreshed an otherwise stagnant show.
The same evolution in the game world started with last year's WWE 12, and is perhaps the reason why the new WWE 13 seems like a game that is still under development.
The typical "start from scratch" career is this time replaced the 'Attitude' Era where you get to relive one of the greatness periods in the business, from the perspective of some of the wrestlers who defined that era. You start as Degeneration X, but eventually Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and Mankind appear.
Each episode is divided into several sections, each with challenges. For example start the Degeneration X-incident with Shawn Michaels match against Mankind, and Triple H suddenly appears, just like fans from back then will remember it happened.
THQ have carefully selected the various episodes and selections, and has even made sure to explain everything with lots of video clips and descriptions of the stories, so you can follow the plotting even if you hadn't followed the show back then.
If you'd rather engage in something more contemporary, you've the opportunity to create virtually any type of game or tournament through the main menu. There isn't a real replacement to the classic Road to Wreslemania option, which is a bit disappointing.
Last year's edition also saw a rebuilt combat system, something that's continued to be built on this year. Punches and kicks are activated with a single button and the left analog stick. Greater damage is caused by different throws and submissions. Grabbing's one button as well, with the shoulder buttons determining where to focus the injury.
The possibilities are many, and if you choose for example to play as Daniel Bryan, it makes good sense to focus damage on the opponent's arms and head, as his No-Lock can quickly get an opponent to give up.
Unfortunately the game trips over itself: the fast pace and counter system that doesn't require different timings means its often more efficient to pound on buttons instead of attempting a real strategy.
However, it is not the only problem with the game. Yuke's has gradually mastered the ability to reproduce much of the visual wrapper which is such a big part of the WWE, which means that much of what you see on screen matches the TV counterpart.
Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten the most important detail: the wrestlers themselves. With few exceptions, most are similar to wax figures, with sparse facial animations. Particularly bad is to see that proportions often do not match reality, so in one way or another chubby wrestlers like Mankind and Brodus Clay come to resemble the same bodybuilder-types as the rest of the cast of characters.
The soundtrack does not fare much better. It has obviously not been a major issue to pull the famous theme songs into the game, but as soon as commentator team begins to talk, things falter. You can always hear how the game knits phrases of different sound bites together, as both in pace and tone they rarely fit together. Even worse is that the sound quality often varies so dramatically that you can hear the noise and imperfections taken from the Attitude era. This is undoubtedly the worst game of commentators-talk I've experienced in a game in recent times, and is not Jim Ross worthy.
One final frustration point is that Yuke's has not yet managed to recreate how many of the wrestlers behave in the ring as they do in real life. It's strange to see a almost perfect recreation of the Big Show, only to see him jump around like Rey Mysterio when the fight starts. It destroys the illusion, and it seems decidedly sloppy when the developers have by now had so many years working on the series.
It's frustrating that Yuke's is letting the same mistakes repeat themselves every year. Most of the errors in WWE 13 however, while still problematic, are also the kind that the series hardiest fans have already learned to live with.
If you are that kind of fan, you will still be able to enjoy the amazing opportunity to create your own characters and share them with the rest of the world, to participate in some of WWE's biggest stories from the Attitude era and to beat the stupidity out of the always annoying John Cena. You'll be able to enjoy a good wrestling game with a solid combat system that only requires a willingness to ignore the bugs that raise their head once more.