I don’t want to toot my own horn, but if you read my WWE 13 review last year, you’ll notice I mentioned something about expanding on the Attitude Era mode in 2014’s entry and tackling the WWE’s entire history. Yukes…thank you for listening to me.
All faux-arrogance aside, I am absolutely thrilled to see the Attitude Era mode return as the 30 Years of Wrestlmania mode. It’s all here; 30 Wrestlemanias worth of historical matches to play through. Now granted, some of these matches weren’t all that fun (Yokozuna VS Bret Hart, I’m looking at you), but I am beyond grateful that this mode even exists at all. As a long time wrestling fan, this brings back some pretty great memories.
When 2K took over the WWE franchise, I was secretly hoping to see an entire overhaul of the game, but since the game just received an overhaul in 2012, I guess that would have been asking too much. Besides, last year’s effort was very strong, so why mess with a good thing? As it stands, not that much has changed between WWE 13 and WWE 2K14…which isn’t a surprise considering Yukes has remained the developer. All the better, since Yukes has been making WWE games since I was but a wee lad in college (I wasn’t; I was actually a pretty big dude).
The general “layout” of WWE 2K14 hasn’t changed from WWE 13. You still have a bevy of exhibition matches, WWE Universe, the career mode (30 Years of Wrestlemania, replacing last year’s Attitude Era Mode), WWE Creations, online (multiplayer and community creations), and a variety of options to tweak. Most of what you’ll notice as far as changes go lie in the UI and some less noticeable gameplay tweaks.
For anyone who plays the NBA 2K series, the UI should feel insanely familiar. Big, bold, bright reds and “2K14” splashed liberally about scream in your face. Loading screens show various wrestlers while proudly emblazoning “2K14” across the screen, all while WWE theme songs blare in the background.
The in-game balancing seems to work a bit better, as the AI opponents put up more of a fight this time around. The reversals have been tweaked as well so they aren’t as easy to perform as they were last year. The window of opportunity for the R2 button press is pretty small, and pulling off a successful reversal is actually cause for celebration as opposed to last year, where one could get locked into an entire chain of reversals with relative ease. That would be fine if it was Benoit vs Eddie Guerrero, but if it’s HHH vs Big Show, it looks a little silly.
Wrestlers move nicely with smooth animation for the most part, but there are still more than a few instances where robotic movements and choppiness occur. Also, the move where you hold both triggers to drag a downed wrestler around the ring just looks plain silly. There’s a lot of clipping during that move and it just doesn’t look all that smooth, but I don’t know any other way around positioning an opponent to avoid rope breaks and such.
Graphically the game looks about the same as it did for WWE 13, which means it looks fantastic. Sure, the crowd is still a low poly mess and any wrestler that has long hair still looks like they have Smucker’s Magic Shell dripped over their skulls, but everything else, from the gleam of sweat to the stadium, looks wonderful. Audio is also well done except for certain instances in 30 Years of Wrestlemania where the actual audio from broadcasts were used. These sound bytes are significantly louder, of a different quality overall, and have a lot more emotion and personality than the pre-recorded stuff for the game. It sticks out pretty severely and ruins the flow of the commentary quite a bit.
Chances are if you’re purchasing WWE 2K14, you’ll be doing so for the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode and WWE Universe. These two comprise the “career mode” of them game, and if you’re a dedicated enough wrestling fan, it should easily keep you occupied until WWE 2K15. 30 Years of Wrestlemania is laid out in the same format as the Attitude Era mode. You have a number of different eras, each with their own number of Wrestlemanias represented. You’ll play through some of the most iconic matches in WM history, including the Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon ladder match, Savage/Steamboat, Rock/Austin, Rock/Hogan, and so on. Like the Attitude Era mode, matches are often preceded by WWE Films video packages, and live matches are often interspersed with actual commentary (for better or worse). You’ll also get some in-game recreations of major moments from classic matches. All in all, it’s extremely well put together, and a very fun time, and you’ll encounter no shortage of unlockables by completing all the historical objectives.
There are a few gripes, however. I’m a WWE history nut, so I was thrilled to see the Austin/Bret Hart WM XIII submission match in the game. However, when I got to the climactic ending where Austin refused to submit to the Sharpshooter, slowly passing out in a pool of his own blood, I was extremely disappointed to see that all the blood was taken out. If you take out the fact that he was bleeding out, then he’s just a guy who wussed out to a typical submission hold. That’s one of the most iconic images in Stone Cold Steve Austin’s career, yet the moment was completely ruined by a perfectly clean digital Austin just passing out. In real life, his resilience and determination defined his character from that moment on, but the version in the game just seemed like some guy who passed out from a submission hold. The drama was all gone.
I was also slightly disappointed to see the Rock/Austin WM XV match back in the game. It’s the same match as the end of the Attitude Era mode from last year, though I understand why it was included in this year’s game. It’s one of the those all time classic matches that defined a whole era, so I guess I can forgive Yukes for double dipping. Besides, what else would they have included from WM XV; Big Boss Man/Undertaker? Butterbean/Bart Gunn? No thank you.
WWE Universe returns as my most played mode once again. Ever since the early days of the Smackdown series on PS1, I’ve wanted to create my own storylines, feuds, and alliances. With WWE Universe, Yukes is once again putting the booking power in your hands as a virtual god over the WWE…um…”universe.” If hands-on isn’t your thing, then you can let WWE Universe randomly generate everything for you, though there are more than a few curiosities at play.
If you choose this route, I would highly suggest going in and modifying the rosters and active wrestlers. Since there are often multiple versions of the same character (two Chris Jerichos, two Brock Lesnars, Rocks, Hogans, etc), you’ll sometimes run into a situation where multiple versions of the same character are booked on the same show…even sometimes going so far as to have two Rocks going at each other. No…just no. Also, WWE Universe has a strange way of giving you the ability to choose who your allies are…then putting you into a rivalry with them. I created Sting and made him one of my allies, then found myself in a rivalry with him that was several months long. I had to go in and manually change my opponent each time, hoping that the game would recognize that I was now in a user created feud with Justin Gabriel, but it still kept putting my buddy Sting in my way.
I have to mention the creation suite once again, since I spend so much time creating my own characters. I appreciate that Yukes has such a meaty creation suite where virtually anyone can be made (including Marvel Comics’ Venom, which I found in the community creations online), and I appreciate that year after year, they don’t take anything out. But for the love of God, can we get some new material in there? The creation suite hasn’t changed at all, other than updated entrance themes, videos, and some additional moves. As far as character creation goes, it’s the same batch of features that have been around since this franchise was still in its Smackdown VS Raw days. I know this because just a few days ago, I popped in Smackdown VS Raw 2010 and confirmed my suspicions.
Again, I hate to complain because I have so much freedom to create what I want, but it’s starting to be a little redundant.
As an annual release title, the WWE series has an ace up its sleeve in its career mode. With the Attitude Era mode last year and with the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode in 2K14, Yukes seems to have stumbled upon a game mode that will keep wrestling fans coming back year after year. If they really want to dig into the WWE’s history, there can be many great eras to be explored. Let’s see a WCW or ECW themed career mode in the future, or even a Monday Night Wars mode. We can even go so far as to include “What Ifs?” into this mode, like a WCW/ECW Invasion done right.
Despite my complaints above, I still loved playing through WWE 2K14. I was concerned with the WWE franchise’s fate after THQ folded, but it’s clear that future WWE games are in good hands under 2K Sports. They wisely retained Yukes and allowed them to make the game that we’re all familiar with, giving us a quality wresting product. WWE 2K14 may not have changed too many gameplay elements from WWE 13, but as a game, it’s incredibly solid. Now, let’s see what 2K/Yukes can do with next-gen. My PS4 awaits its first wrestling game. Impress me!
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