Platforms: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360
Publisher: 2K Sports Developer: Yukes
Genre: Wrestling Platform Played: PlayStation 3
Long-time fans of the WWE series have seen many hit-&-miss releases over the years, as Here Comes the Pain still sits as the pinnacle of what a wrestling game should present for many. That said, no title has come close to matching its extended roster, excellent season mode, and in-depth gameplay.
Following from the successfully implemented Attitude Era mode from WWE ’13, WWE 2K14 introduces WrestleMania mode. Besides allowing players to experience some of the memorable matches from every WrestleMania, gamers are also encouraged to re-enact certain moments from these matches, in order to unlock various bonuses, such as new superstars, alternate attires, arenas, and more. These instances are called Historic Moments. For example, when Hulk Hogan slammed Andre The Giant at WrestleMania 3, the player is asked to do the very same.
WrestleMania mode is the main package in 2K14, and it provides an outstanding amount of content that will take many hours to complete. However, it is the attention to detail that truly makes this mode a passionate representation of the history of the WWE. Matches from the very first WrestleMania will visually transport you back in time. Minor details, such as the grainy visuals or the fact that every logo for every WrestleMania mirrors the real life counterpart during entrances are greatly appreciated.
These details are also present in the superstars, with correct entrance music, attires, and superstar visuals – all present throughout each year. For example, when you play as The Rock at WrestleMania 19, you will notice the drastic visual difference from The Rock at WrestleMania 29. These details showcase just how much passion and love Yukes has for WWE, and it does an excellent job at allowing the player to relive these amazing moments.
Alongside WrestleMania mode is a new Undertaker-centric mode, known as The Streak, which allows players to either Defend, or Defeat the Streak. Undertaker’s 22 winning streak at WrestleMania is unparalleled, and The Streak also does an excellent job at detailing the significance behind each win with an in-depth summary of each match. Choosing to Defend the Streak has you playing as The Undertaker in an unlimited Gauntlet Match. Though it has nothing to do with The Streak itself, it is a fun, addictive, and challenging mode that also features online leaderboards.
Defeating the Streak, however, allows the player to choose any superstar to face The Undertaker – one-on-one – to try and end The Streak. It is an interesting concept that is marred by Undertaker’s almost god-like power; he is able to reverse almost every move, handle an obscene amount of damage, and has some significantly overpowered Undertaker abilities. Battling Taker feels cheap, frustrating, and impossible, in-turn making the interesting concept fall apart due to the unbridled difficulty.
Returning in 2K14 is WWE Universe, which allows players to control rosters, rivalries, and matches, with the ability to play-out these matches if they choose. Universe feels strikingly similar to the version WWE fans encountered last year. Superstars are able to enter rivalries against other superstars, which can be controlled by the player, or simply left up to the computer. “Rivalry” matches leave much to be desired, as most of the scenes added to build the tension between the superstars either mean there was a post-match, or pre-match beat-down. It feels like, once again, these rivalries are inconsequential and meaningless, adding little to what is essentially a half-baked GM Mode.
WWE 2K14 provides one of the best representations of true wrestling gameplay. Yukes has been able to mirror the constant momentum shifts a match can possess in real life, due to its timing-based reversal system. Reversing can play a drastic difference in winning and losing a match, and it helps to keep the match unpredictable. If you make a mistake and miss a vital reversal, you can find yourself in trouble, even on the easiest difficulty. It made each match of 2K14 feel like it could go either way, compared to previous entries in the series that felt formulaic and repetitive. The simple emphasis on timing provides a more skill-based system, which veterans will appreciate.
2K14‘s AI is not perfect, as you will find superstars not reacting to certain actions, being stuck in a repetitive action loop, and more. However, it seems likes more player-controlled superstars on-screen means that larger amount of cracks will appear in the game itself. Playing locally with four other players see superstars performing finishers, while floating high above the ring, or pieces of broken weapons frantically freaking out if players got to close.
Though, despite its flaws, playing with friends in 2K14 provides an overly entertaining experience. This is great, especially due to one of the best rosters the series has made available. Even players unfamiliar with the latest superstars on the WWE roster will find an astounding collection of legendary superstars to enjoy. The amount of selection also carries over to matches, with almost every single match type available. Backstage Brawls and Elimination Chamber matches feel nerfed in their brutality, compared to previous entries (perhaps to fall in-line with WWE’s PG-rated focus). The lack of brutality is disappointing, and noticeable to veteran players, especially when you cannot see your opponent catch fire after the conclusion of an Inferno match.
WWE 2K14 does show its age in the visual department, especially in the crowd. Crowd visuals in most sporting titles have never looked great, however, 2K14‘s crowd looks absolutely horrible, reminding me of PlayStation 1 visuals. Even worse there are times where seven of the exact same crowd model are situated within one small area, which drastically takes you out of the experience. Superstar models on the other hand look fine, though they lack much improvement from last year’s outing. Surprisingly (and disappointingly) there are an abundance of extended load times between matches and entrances, and I even experienced game-freezes over half-a-dozen times. The visuals in the WWE series are in need of a serious upgrade, and hopefully, the next generation consoles can provide this.
Visually, the crowd might be lacking, but the audio fidelity doesn’t isn’t. Crowds sound similar to the fans that are in attendance at each WWE broadcast, and will constantly react to the momentum shifts and key moments. Little positivity can be given to the commentators, especially in matches outside of WrestleMania mode. During other matches, the commentating is less scripted, and suffers because of it, as the voices we know and love will constantly repeat the same line, ignore conversations they are having with one another, and remain silent for long stretches of time.
The abundance of Creation Modes that have appeared throughout previous editions of the WWE series also make a return, though many lack improvements and innovations from last year’s release. Creating a Superstar, however, feels easier than ever, due to a streamlined presentation of the options on-hand, though the items available for superstars look eerily similar to the items that have been available for years, previously.
Aside from Create a Superstar, players can also create entrances, logos, arenas, and more. The problem is that these modes feel almost identical to WWE ’13, and with that come many of the issues I previously encountered. Creating logos is once again a tedious process, creating storylines feels overly complicated, and all these modes suffer due to extended load-times when previewing your creation. Creating an entrance for a superstar is especially annoying, as the entrance will continually repeat itself as you scroll to the next option, making creation more frustrating than it should be.
Online players can expect a fun experience, as the new skill-based requirement to reversals now mean that matches online feel like the victory is based on your ability. WWE 2K14‘s online component will continue to provide a fun experience, depending on how long the community sticks around. All rosters and matches are available online, and there is a basic leveling system to showcase how talented you are to your opposition online.
In the end, WWE 2K14 takes many large steps in rivaling its legendary PlayStation 2 ancestor, establishing some of the best gameplay the franchise has seen in years. The simple alterations to gameplay do an excellent job at providing the experience of a WWE match at home, offering an impressive amount of roster choices to boot, alongside a love letter to the WWE legends of the past in, a truly excellent attention to detail in WrestleMania mode.
Its lack of improvements in visual fidelity and the Creation Suites hold 2K14 back from being one of the best the franchise has encountered. Hopefully, the next-generation of gaming can help the WWE series improve itself in many ways, as the visuals are definitely starting to show their problems with age.
+ Excellent gameplay representation of the WWE
+ Attention to detail in WrestleMania mode
+ Extended roster and match selections
– Visuals are starting to show their age
– Creation modes lack improvements