1997. That was the height of our WWE (or WWF as it was known at the time) fandom, and with the Attitude Era in full swing and the likes of D-Generation-X, Undertaker, Kane, Mankind and others all mixing it up in the square circle, it's hardly surprising that wrestling (or sports entertainment, if you prefer) was at the height of its popularity too.
WWE '13 is bringing back the Attitude Era in full force, with an entire roster devoted to the superstars that once defined the World Wrestling Federation. Packed into WWE '13's skintight trunks are dozens of current superstars alongside dozens of Attitude Era faces, most of which are actually locked from the outset, waiting to be unlocked within the new Attitude Era mode. Completing various objectives based on the actual historical events is the crux of Attitude Era mode, so in one infamous match-up between HBK and Mankind, you'll have to break out a chair, hit your opponent and get yourself disqualified.
Attitude Era mode is WWE '13's new season mode for all intents and purposes, consisting of a number of chapters charting the rise of D-X and beyond. It's also our first port of call for our hands-on session with WWE '13, starting as Shawn 'The Heartbreak Kid' Michaels against Mankind, before Hunter Hearst Helmsley joins in against the Undertaker and Mankind in a tag-team match. You take the reins as a number of superstars throughout Attitude Era mode, reliving the events as they happened back in the day.
For anyone who revelled in the mid to late 90s WWF, Attitude Era will feel like a nostalgia-fuelled homecoming, with a whole array of Attitude superstars, including Mick Foley showing up again further down the line as Dude Love, the late British Bulldog cropping up as a rival, and Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and others all making an appearance at some point. During our time with the Attitude Era mode, we get to see video footage taken from the actual match-ups and the pre-event build-up, taking us right back to the glory days when the sport was at the very peak of its powers.
In the full Attitude Era mode, there's more than 60 chunks of archive footage and over 35 superstars including Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kane, The Rock and the aforementioned, all of which can be unlocked – alongside alternate attire and other gubbins - to use in any of the plethora of modes on offer in WWE '13. Speaking of which, there's still the full complement of game types you'd expect to find, including the return of the I Quit Match alongside the usual stuff.
From a gameplay perspective, WWE '13 essentially retains the same system, using the right trigger for countering grapples and attacks, with split-second timing required to turn the tide. It's a system that served WWE '12 well, but required hair-trigger reactions and even a little bit of anticipation to successfully turn things around. It still works nicely here, demanding practice to get the timing just right. Thankfully, Attitude Era also eases you into things, with a gentle tutorial of sorts introducing you to the basics.
You'll find the dynamic cameras, face button grapples and movement is pretty much unchanged too, although the game's Predator Engine is in its second iteration, making the action slightly more fluid, while collisions, transitions and so on have been tightened up and refined. Targeting and standard attacks have also been brushed up, so there's less flailing at thin air, and engaging in a match with multiple opponents is a lot less of a headache. It all plays rather nicely, provided you can master the timing on the right trigger, otherwise you're in for a bit of a miserable time.
With the grappling action pretty much intact, WWE '13 will really be all about its content, and on that front, the game looks poised to deliver on practically every conceivable level. With Attitude Era providing the core of WWE '13 and I Quit returning, you can expect the usual suite of game types to flesh out the rest of the game, with matches like Hell in a Cell, Royal Rumble, Backstage Brawl, Steel Cage, Last Man Standing, Submission, TLC and a host of others that encompass 1 on 1, 2 on 2, Triple Threat, Fatal 4 Way, 6-Man, Handicap matches and more.
You can also tweak match parameters using the Match Creation feature, while the WWE Universe enables you to engage in a whole bunch of match cards with branching storylines, and My WWE allows you to keep tabs on your stats, progress and unlockables. WWE '13 is looking to be every bit as feature and content laden as its predecessor, and then some. Championship Scramble also returns, giving you 10 minutes to score as many pinfalls as you can against an opponent, with a new superstar entering the ring every 2-minutes. The wrestler with the most pinfalls is crowned the champion. It's just as confused and messy as before, but still fun. Kinda.
Add that lot to the unparalleled wrestler creation feature, and you have yet another instalment in the WWE franchise that should prove to be every bit as accomplished as the titles that have gone before it. Attitude Era mode is genuinely exciting, and the grappling systems feel neater and more accomplished than they did in WWE '12. Wrestling fans of all types are going to love WWE '13 regardless of course, and getting the chance to return to the halcyon days of DX, Undertaker, Mankind, The Rock et al is something that we welcome with open arms. Open arms just aching to grapple with WWE '13 and choke slam it into the canvas. Why? Because we said so! Or Stone Cold did... We can't remember.
WWE '13 is out on October 30th in North America and November 2nd in Europe.