Review: WWE 2K14

WWE 2K14 marks the first time that a WWE title has released under a different publisher since 2000. 2K Sports picked up the franchise following the bankruptcy of THQ, the series former publisher. The hope for wrestling fans is that this new partnership will result in better produced games because under THQ, it seemed the series was simply surviving on roster updates each year. Much like previous games in the series, WWE 2K14 features a shiner coat of paint along with a roster update, but alongside its perfected assets comes enough new innovations to call long-term fans back to the squared circle.

By and large, WWE 2K14 is the what’s “Best for Business”.

Developer: Yukes/Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also Available On: PlayStation 3
Release Date: Available Now

Away from the additions of its game modes and features, WWE 2K14 hasn’t really brought too many new changes to the series. Now, those features are great and add new levels of entertainment, but a lot of what this year’s entry offers isn’t much different than the previous ones . There are additional moves, OMG! Moments (introduced last year) and new catch finishers. But as awesome as these new features are, they really are just surface changes and there isn’t much more to mechanics or new moves to get used to. Even after a nearly a year of not playing WWE 13, it’s very easy to jump right back into this year’s entry and start beating down every opponent that dared enter the ring.

The WWE series has always had its share of glitches and bugs and with the exception of THQ’s 2011 server overload, they’ve never been something I’d describe as severe or gamebreakingly bad. It’s always been conmen place for the AI to so crazy things like getting caught on the ring apron or continually pick up a ladder and put it down in the same spot, sometimes you’d be thankful of a glitch buying you a bit of resting time for your Superstar to catch up. Well, it seems in WWE 2K14 that many of those bugs have been fixed, but now brings its own set of new glitches. This only really becomes a problem in the story mode when having to do things like grapple the AI out by the steps, and they will repeatedly leave the ring and climb back in. This can make it hard to do what the game requires these objectives to unlock different things from matches.

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Gameplay, while nothing groundbreaking, remains its same solid formula of punches, grapples, dropkicks, and finishers. What really matters in this year’s iteration once again is the story mode. Last year was the first time for it and it had gamers playing through a retelling of the 90’s Attitude Era, which allowed players to experience many of the most memorable matches during what is considered to be one of the most exciting times of the WWE’s long history in the business. Now under the banner of 2K, developers have taken that same template used for the industry’s biggest event and grandest stage of them all… WrestleMania.

30 Years of WrestleMania covers each of the 29 previous historic shows over the course of a little more than 45 bouts and five signature  eras; Hulkamania Runs Wild, New Generation, Attitude Era, Ruthless Aggression and finally the Universe Era. This as you can probably imagine gives the game quite a large roster  to choose from, with over 80 different Superstars, Legends, Divas, variations and Managers to pick from on release (and even more to grab through the powers of DLC). 2K also uses this robust roster very well in the 30 Years of WrestleMania. You’ll get to relive classic matches: like Shawn Michaels & Razor Ramon’s Wrestlemania X ladder match, CM Punk trying to break the Undertaker’s streak at Wrestlemania and the obligatory Hulk Hogan body-slamming Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III. All of these matches are recreated incredibly with great attention to detail.

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This mode is not just about taking part in reliving the matches, but each match also has a set of objectives players must complete to unlock different in game things. It is in these objectives that the glitches I spoke of earlier come into play. Objectives performed are usually a specific slate of moves at particular times during a match or positioning an opponent into a particular spot to set up a big moment. Details in these objectives do a good job at tugging at the heart strings and give a nice feeling of nostalgia for most of the matches. One objective type is referred to as WrestleMania Moments which are Quick Time Events used to trigger key moments that actually happened during whichever match you are taking part in. However, a good amount of these do add up to just pushing a button to see the opponent come up behind you and miss hitting you and hitting the referee instead. Unfortunately, as the 30 years of WrestleMania goes on, the matches can start to drag a bit and in the later years there are more and more of the objectives. The problem with these objectives is even though they can take you back as you travel down memory lane, most of the time they add up and sometimes players don’t control the situation. As you progress further into the game, matches become more about spectating than participating.

Once you get into the Ruthless Aggression era and into the modern day Universe Era, matches become much less memorable and frankly, annoying. It’s irritating and ultimately exhaustive as the mode gets into more three-way and four-way matches and harder to pull off historical objectives. It also doesn’t help some of the later matches end up feeling more repetitive than nostalgic. There was no need to have all three Stone Cold/Rock matches from three different WrestleMania events in here and it definitely didn’t need both John Cena/Rock matches either. Of course it could be said that some of the newer matches haven’t aged long enough to even build the same reputation as many of the older matches have. Outside of those few faults, the 30 Years of WrestleMania is, by far, the best mode this series has to offer and it will be interesting what they do next year to top it. Maybe they’ll pull from another long running PPV such as SummerSlam,  Survivor Series, or maybe even go back to creating original story driven content?

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Hidden away in the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode, comes The Streak. As most fans know The Undertaker is 21-0 at WrestleMania and in this Boss challenge of a mode, players can either try their best to take down a super-duper hardened version of Undertaker, or play as the Deadman himself and take on wrestlers one after another hanging on as long as possible. There isn’t really anything deep here, just 2K Sports trying to do something special for Wrestlemania 30 by celebrating one of it’s most celebrated traditions. The result of the Streak being brought to the table is an über-hard mode that will be enjoyed by the majority of long running fans who have been following the series of titles, waiting for a challenge.

Once you step outside of WrestleMania’s deep history, the lack of changes become apparent. There are a few changes to the Universe mode, you still run week-to-week shows, set up matches and play through the monthly Pay-Per-View. King of the Ring has been brought back as an option for a event (which is something that was added after it debuted in the game last year) but this year, they left it out of Universe Mode. There is also a new rivalry system where you can have one-on-one or tag-teams fight it out over a course of time that you set up, which can be four to twelve weeks long and can be for championships as well. Its nothing too grandiose, but can make the Universe Mode that much more interesting. Players can set up other tournaments as well, including Gold Rush tournaments for different regulation Championship titles alongside your own user-created belts.

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The creation section is largely untouched and really offers nothing new, except gamers can recreate a handful of existing wrestlers such as John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Undertaker and Triple H. This option is here assuming you’ll create different outfits for these wrestlers. For instance if you’re a bit sick of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s action movie roles and want him back into family flicks, give him a tutu a la Tooth Fairy . Once you’ve got your customisations created, you’ll have the option to either use it as a an alternate attire or turn it into an entirely separate character altogether (30-Brock Lesnar Royal Rumble anyone?). Also, there is still the same old stuff of creating move sets, rings, finishers and so on, but what I have dabbled in is mainly unchanged.

A Slobberknocker Roster of Legends & Superstars to please fans of all ages
Major Creation Suite improvements for all the budding CAW creators out there
Undertaker’s Defeat the Streak Mode provides a challenge to even experienced players
Graphical improvements don’t exactly leap from WWE 13
Minor glitches that, while hilarious, can be annoying

WWE 2K14 is by far the best game in the WWE series, thanks the great roster of up-to-date Superstars and old-school Legends, along with the 30 Years of WrestleMania. It does seem with this game that we might be seeing the start of something more fresh than the same old mindless brawler Yuke’s has been turning out for the last several years. It would be nice if 2K Sports keeps them putting real effort into the making of this annualized franchise. There is also the fact that new consoles are coming out soon and hopefully, with that, we will see something totally new with the next instalment in this series. No matter though, this game is a blast and was well worth the wait.

Even with the problems there are and the lack of big changes, the next game certainly has big shoes to fill.

The review copy of this title was purchased by the author.
Official Game Site

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