With the recent and very public demise of the games publishing company known as THQ, there were a lot of concerns regarding what would happen to the future of the company’s game developers and their franchises that came under the, now defunct, THQ brand. One of such game properties was the WWE games franchise.
When Take-Two purchased the long time WWE games developer; Yukes, the WWE games franchise became part of Take-Two’s 2K Sports publishing faction. And with this change came expectations of a great overhaul of the established WWE games system and fears of the franchise changing into something horrible.
As one plays WWE2K14 it becomes apparent that all those expectations and fears were unfounded. For better or for worse, the game is more or less similar to previous iteration of the series under the THQ umbrella.
The new big thing in WWE 2K14 is its focus on celebrating the history of WrestleMania; the biggest event in pro-wrestling, bar none. The game accomplishes this through its main singleplayer campaign mode titled “30 years of WrestleMania”.
The WrestleMania mode plays almost exactly like the Attitude Era mode in WWE ’13. Segmented into “Hulkmania Runs Wild”, “The New Generation”, “Attitude Era”, “Ruthless Aggression” and “Universe Era”, the mode features a nostalgic ride through participation in 46 historic WrestleMania matches spanning across 29 years from 1985 to 2013.
Just like WWE ‘13’s Attitude Era mode, 30 years of WrestleMania features matches with basic primary objectives which are required to win the match and then bonus historical objectives which result in special WrestleMania moments which recreate the memorable moments from iconic wrestling matches of the past.
Disappointingly, the mode is missing some of very memorable matches like the very 1st main event of Wrestlemania with Mr.T, the brutal TLC matches, Kurt Angle vs. HBK and others.
While their omission can be understood due to contractual complications, but it is still something that is fairly disheartening for the fans of wrestling history, which makes the 30 years of Wrestlemania mode feel a bit incomplete.
Speaking of Wrestlemania, any mention of this grand event would be incomplete without paying homage to the staple highlight of the series; The Undertaker’s Streak.
The Streak feature includes two modes, which are impressively quite different from each other in terms of gameplay and both of which have been integrated with online leaderboards.
The first one named “Defend the Streak” allows players get to control the legendary Undertaker and defend his WrestleMania streak while trying to defeat as many challengers as possible.
Instead of the usual, going through one on one matches, which can easily be accomplished in the exhibition area, this is more of a survival gauntlet mode where the players have to defend the streak, against onslaught of different opponents, on the same energy bar.
The other mode is ‘Beat the Streak’ where the player endeavors to beat Undertaker’s streak by playing as his opponent.
What is interesting about this mode is that in the ‘Defeat the Streak’ mode, the AI is even tougher than the hardest setting available in the game.
The developers have really made it a challenge to beat Undertaker in his game and even included couple of supernatural elements like where light will suddenly go out mid-match and undertaker will suddenly have an upper hand on you.
This is a level of creativity that has been absent in previous iterations of WWE games and really brings a feeling of appreciation of the “lore” of the product the game is simulating.
The WWE Universe mode has also been expanded where players can now have all Divas show and also control rivalries and length of these rivalries as well as how the rivals get involved as well as utilize tournaments like the King of the Ring and put championships on the line.
As far as the general gameplay is concerned, the mechanics, the execution and the general feel of the game has largely remained the same from what players saw in WWE ’13. The button layout remains the same, as does the reversal system and other mechanics like finisher executions, signature moves, comebacks and OMG moves.
Where Yukes has slightly tweaked the gameplay is that now the reversals result in offensive attacks and it is now more difficult to reverse strikes, resulting in less tedium that players felt in WWE ’13’s constant reversals.
Moreover button to break submission hold is changed to prevent accidental breaks that were common in WWE ’13 and a slight pre-run animation has been added to minimize the surprise running strike spamming that most people encountered in the multiplayer of the previous WWE game iterations.
While the game does feature the new Elimination Chamber, by in large WWE 2K14 offers the similar slew of match types that were available in WWE ’13 with no noticeable addition or change to either match types or the rules.
However where the game really ups the ante is in its roster selection.
WWE 2K14 features an unprecedented number of wrestlers to select. The game roster contains stars ranging from the bygone time of WWF Hulkamania Era and WWF New Generation Era to the WWF Attitude Era, WWE Ruthless Aggression Era and the most recent WWE Universe Era.
Featuring a whopping selection of 83 stars from WWE’s past and present, WWE 2K14 not only allows players to select a vast myriad of contemporary and legendary wrestlers but also multiple incarnations of wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, HHH, HBK, Chris Jericho, Big Show, John Cena, Kane, Kevin Nash, Macho Man, Scott Hall, Rick Flair, X-Pac and The Rock.
Though the roster is stuffed with wrestlers old and new, some fans of the WWE product may still find room to complain.
As usual you will find a couple of new additions to WWE TV that are missing in the game. Names like the recently debuted Los Matadors and the Wyatts or fairly prominent wrestlers like Curtis Axel and Rob Van Dam.
These lapses from the contemporary roster are usual fare for the WWE games and players can fill their absences by either waiting for the DLC or by creating these characters themselves.
Speaking of which, the creation suite has also had couple of additions.
There is a fairly enhanced create a championship where the players can tweak all aspects of a championship belt and customize is fairly elaborate ways.
Thanks to the games focus on the 30 years of Wrestlemania, there are tons of different arena types and this adds a lot of variety to the Create-an-Arena mode.
The Create-a-Superstar tool has also featured some additions. Along with the customary addition to items available in the mode, the players have also been given ability to save up to a hundred created stars as opposed to maximum of fifty that were allowed in WWE ’13.
Players can also alter and change the in-ring attire and the entrance attire for the WWE superstars. While this option was previously available for created wrestlers, players haven’t been privy to this level of customization for the default roster.
What’s more, players can also ‘clone’ a wrester from a limited selection of WWE superstars’ templates and can completely alter their shape, attire, moves and attributes to create their own versions of these wrestlers as however they see fit and then use it as their functional wrestler.
And as was the case in the previous game, all the player creations can be shared, used and then customized via online community creations.
Graphically WWE 2K14 does not have any noticeable improvements over WWE ’13.
With accurate recreations of WWE Arenas to badly made audience member, from great lighting effects to inconsistency in how well different wrestlers look, the game is still a mixed bag in the visual department.
WWE 2K14 has received a few tweaks in the animation department, which, while not revolutionary, do seem to freshen up the gameplay landscape when compared to WWE ’13.
According to the developers, there are upwards of 300 new moves in this new game, which is mostly targeted on the new additions to the roster, as well as moves for the Legends of the past.
This also includes new OMG moments, Taunts as well as new sets of comebacks for characters like Kane, Ryback and Hulk Hogan.
The gameplay seems to be a bit smoother than WWE’13 and there are fewer instances of glitch animations that were abundantly noticeable in the playthrough.
The game does not stray away from the usual pedigree of WWE games in the sound department as it contains all the audio that evokes the feeling of watching a WWE product.
All the usual audial panache is present here. The game features all the themes of WWE wrestlers and programs, crowd chants as well as running commentaries from the customary team of commentators with no noticeable improvement in the way it connects to the match at hand.
This refers to how robotic and repetitive the running commentaries sound. While these have been serviceable and do not distract from what’s happening in-ring but compared to the likes of FIFA games, they are embarrassingly inadequate.
However the inclusion of distinct commentaries for previous WrestleManias is a nice touch, where the announcers mention the context of the match at hand and also reference unique instances that take place during that match. This goes a long way to adding authenticity of matches being recreated onscreen.
What’s more, with the recent “retirement” of Jim Ross, this is may be the last time players will ever get to hear Good ‘Ol JR’s voice in a new WWE game.
With the bevy of characters, modes and options it offers, WWE 2K14 is sure to keep fans of the game busy for days on end. But most of these options aren’t anything new to this iteration of the game and gamers might get the same enjoyment out of playing WWE ’13.
At the end of the day if you are a casual fan, who owns WWE ’13 and has little to no interest in updated roster or history of WrestleMania, then WWE 2K14 has nothing new to offer and is definitely not worth a purchase. However, if you are a long-time fan of the “sport” and value the iconic history, then the expanded roster and WrestleMania mode is worth the price of admission.
The special edition for the game contains additional character of The Biker; American Badass, Undertaker, an Undertaker themed controller skin, a DVD chronicling his Streak from his very first WrestleMania match to his last match with Triple H, a Black Casket tin casing for the game as well as a hand signed autograph picture of the Undertaker.
Considering that this edition is $40 more expensive than the usual game, it still looks worth its price for an Undertaker fan due to the inclusion of Streak DVD, which costs $30 in its 3 DVD version in retail and the included autograph is a rare commodity as Undertaker hardly ever attends signings to maintain kayfabe.
While the gameplay systems in WWE 2K14 are quite robust, there is not much of a noticeable improvement from previous year, leading to a game that is enjoyable but is plagued by occasional issues that take away from the immersion of being inside WWE programming.
The visual side of the game features a similar story. With inconsistent level of detail in wrestler likenesses and other areas, the look of the game remains a mixed bag similar to what players got in WWE ’13.
As was the case with WWE ’13, WWE 2K14 also features perfect soundtrack which takes into account every wrestler theme and music that mimics the feel of WWE programing to the T.
What brings the audial quality of the game down is the traditionally robotic and repetitive running commentary that can wear out its welcome after a few bouts in the ring.
Not only does the game successfully recreate the audial and visual qualities of regular WWE programming in the normal gameplay modes but the level of detail in reformation of iconic matches throughout the near 3 decades of WrestleMania packs a powerful punch of nostalgia.
With its unprecedented variety in selectable wrestlers and the numerous match types and creation tools available coupled with local and online play, WWE 2K14 has potential to keeps fans of WWE entertained for months.
The only drawback is the game’s similarity with its predecessor which may lead owners of WWE ’13 to get tired of WWE 2K14 fairly quickly.
WWE 2K14 is a solid wrestling game, however the lack of any significant changes from WWE ’13 means that it retains most of the missteps and flaws of its predecessor. Which means that if you own WWE ’13, then the only notable reason to pick up WWE 2K14 is if you are fan of wrestling history and feel the need to relive iconic moments of the spectacle known as WrestleMania.