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WWE 2K14 Review

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  • X360

WWE 2K14 traipses through Wrestlemania's storied history with expected, but nonetheless entertaining results.

WWE 2K14 is simultaneously the first WWE game to release under 2K Sports' publishing banner, and very likely the last that will appear on current generation consoles. Both of those things should be viewed as considerable positives. This franchise's issues under former publisher THQ have been well documented since that company went out of business earlier this year, and the hope for wrestling fans is that this new partnership will result in better produced games down the line. Of course, that doesn't mean much in regards to 2K14, a game that was already well into its development cycle when THQ went under. If 2K14 is particularly laudable for anything, it's that it doesn't seem any worse for the wear, despite the team having to change horses midstream. It logically, and mostly likably builds upon what this series has been for the last couple of years. Nothing more, nothing less.

WWE 2K14 sets its historical sights on many of Wrestlemania's most iconic matches, as well as a few of the less iconic ones too.

If I sound a bit more muted in my praise compared with last year's WWE '13, it's mostly by virtue of how familiar much of 2K14 feels. Mechanically, very little has changed. Additional moves, including more of the OMG! Moment special moves introduced last year, as well as a new "catch" finisher system that lets you perform sudden, often great-looking variations on existing finishing maneuvers, are all nice enough additions. But apart from a somewhat awkward looking speed-up of strike moves (which artificially makes blocking strikes more difficult), and a modicum of improvement to the counter system, there's not much else here to get newly used to. Even after having not played WWE '13 for the last nine months, I was able to jump in and trounce the AI players almost immediately in 2K14. Bumping the difficulty up to the higher levels makes CPU matches a bit more exciting, especially now that a few of the more annoying AI glitches from last year seem to have been eradicated this time around. You'll still see some occasionally weird behavior--opponents randomly running outside the ring to tear apart the announce table, or running panicked circles around the ring when trying to get back in before a countout--but by and large, the game puts up better, more intelligent fights.

Of course, WWE '13's strongest feature wasn't really its gameplay, anyway. It was its newly introduced story mode, a sort of historical retelling of the WWE's fabled "Attitude Era." This mode allowed players to relive a number of the biggest, best, or at least most interesting matches from arguably the WWE's most exciting period, with numerous historical objectives to complete that added a layer of authenticity to the proceedings. In 2K14, the developers have taken this same concept and applied it to the industry's biggest event: Wrestlemania. Titled 30 Years of Wrestlemania, this mode covers at least one match from each of the 29 previous Wrestlemania shows over the course of a bit more than 45 bouts. This means that 2K14 has the distinction of featuring a huge roster of old school wrestling names, including the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Razor Ramon, Diesel, and the Ultimate Warrior. Of course they're joined by all the usual stars of today, though you may notice that some of the bigger names recently appearing on TV, like Rob Van Dam, the Usos, and The Wyatt Family, aren't included. It's one of those things that's the unfortunate result of development scheduling and late debuts conflicting, but it's nonetheless disappointing, especially given that precious few of those missing names are scheduled to show up in the game later as DLC.

A few omissions on both the current and classic rosters aside, this is as deep a roster as this series has ever had, and the developers use it well within the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode. Tons of major matches--Hogan vs. Andre and Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III, Warrior vs. Hogan from Wrestlemania VI, and the Michaels vs. Ramon ladder match from Wrestlemania X, to name a few--are recreated here with terrific attention to detail. It's not just about having familiar faces fight each other in the video game. Each match comes with a number of objectives that don't necessarily have to be met, but doing so nets you both unlockable items, as well as in-match cutscenes that faithfully recreate big spots from those fights. Often times all you'll have to do is perform a specific slate of moves at particular times during a match, or position an opponent into a particular space to set up a big moment that takes place outside of your control. Still, each of those moments tug nicely at the nostalgia strings, thanks in no small part to how wonderfully rendered these matches often are, not to mention the many video packages that run ahead of them, catching you up on the history of some of these classic feuds.

Of course, not every single match included in the mode is a winner, and 30 Years does unfortunately begin to drag as the years wear on. Few of the matches included from the first few eras are in any way questionable choices, but as the game wanders into the doldrums of the "Ruthless Aggression" era and on into the current "Universe" era, the matches become decidedly less memorable, and occasionally just plain irritating. The irritation has more to do with the mode's sudden dive headlong into three- and four-way matches that require you to wrangle multiple AI opponents to pull off those historical objectives, which can be a real pain in the ass, even when the AI seems specifically programmed to help get you into the right spaces for those objectives to take place.

New catch finishers and two-man moves are nifty additions, but they're the only big changes to the otherwise familiar-feeling gameplay.

Those few instances aside, the bigger issue is that many of the later matches just don't inspire the same nostalgic feelings that those older ones do. I can't imagine anyone was really dying to replay the largely forgettable one-off battle between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, nor are many people thrilled at the prospect of recreating both Cena vs. Rock headliners from the last two years. Not the most satisfying way to end things, but when you peg your story mode to a specific historical theme, I suppose there's no good way around that.

Regardless of those few issues, I enjoyed the majority of 30 Years of Wrestlemania's tour through history. It covers a lot of the big moments without necessarily being all-encompassing, and even the little minigame attached to it--a "Streak" mode in which you choose to either try to break a ridiculously overpowered Undertaker's unbeaten streak, or attempt to defend it as the Dead Man himself--is a fun distraction. That's good, because little else of WWE 2K14's feature set did as much to grab my attention.

Understand, nothing has really changed dramatically or been removed from last year's game. But that's just it: most of these features are exactly what you played last year. Universe mode, the week-to-week career mode that lets you book entire shows and run randomly generated stories that sometimes resemble something close to reality, is the only mode that's seen any significant tweaking. Most of those tweaks are small, but useful. You can program specific rivalries between individual wrestlers now, and the interface has gotten a little easier to navigate. But by and large it's the same Universe mode we've had for a few years now, right down to the default split between RAW and SmackDown! rosters (which isn't something that's existed in quite some time).

There are a few other changes here and there. Players can set up different kinds of tournaments now, including gold rush tournaments for specific belts, including those of their own design. Now you can create new belts, as opposed to just building off of the existing slate of championships already included, though most of the created belts look chintzy at best. The only other major change to the creation suite is a new ability to clone and re-edit some existing wrestlers for the sake of creating alternate outfits. I say "some" because only a handful of wrestlers are available to clone (with more apparently on the way via DLC), and weirdly, you still can't actually make changes (outside of existing outfit colors) to the existing roster. You have to use a created wrestler slot to host whatever new outfit or terrifying body shape you've constructed, which isn't exactly ideal. This is, at best, a roundabout solution to what shouldn't really even be an issue to begin with.

A few tweaks to the Universe mode and creation suites are certainly positives, but most of this stuff is exactly what we had last year. At least the story editor is still kicking around.

The rest of the creation suite is essentially untouched. You can build wrestlers using pretty much the same exact array of parts you had last year, as you can with arenas, special moves, entrances (there are a few new ones to choose from this year, at least) and, of course, stories. Match types are essentially identical to WWE '13, with the sole exception of the re-added "Slobberknocker" match, and online play seems mostly untouched, if a bit more stable than usual. Of course, we'll have to wait and see if that holds up under the weight of a full player base.

WWE 2K14 is as solid a wrestling game as this team has ever developed, but it does highlight a growing split between an apparent desire to craft something closer to the product one generally sees on TV week to week, and the sometimes brainless, but basically entertaining fighting game Yuke's has been churning out in various forms for a decade and a half. As the developers build out these lovingly detailed story modes rooted in wrestling history, they end up highlighting exactly how goofy and out of sorts much of the in-game action looks compared with the many tightly scripted sequences built into 30 Years of Wrestlemania. The hope, again, is that 2K14 marks the last time we'll see this particular version of the game, and that with the bump to new consoles, 2K will grant its developers the opportunity to start fresh. Maybe that's an overly idealistic hope, but it's one I think is necessary. 2K14 most definitely satisfies whatever nostalgia I had for Wrestlemania's history, and I expect will provide ample enough amusement between now and next year's installment. But come next year, I'm considerably less certain that another entry just like 2K14 will be similarly satisfying.

Alex Navarro on Google+
59 Comments
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Posted by Happenstance

Every year I tell myself I wont be buying the latest WWE game and every year I end up buying it anyway. I havent watched Wrestling properly for about 9 years but the games just keep sucking me back in!

Posted by Solh0und

Wasn't expecting a early review. Thanks Alex!

Edited by Fallen189

But what does this bring to VGCW?

Posted by Dokaka

Haven't bought a WWE game in 2 years now. The online has been insanely laggy, full of abusive glitches and so on for years now, and I don't find much entertainment in playing this game alone.

They REALLY need a new engine.

Posted by Flappy

I don't plan on buying this game, but it's good to hear that it's not a steaming pile of Maven.

Edited by TurboMan

Please God make a new engine next year, 2K.

I think that the "feud creator" feature is a neat addition to Universe mode... hopefully it's a step into the right direction of a fully fledged "Booker Mode".

Posted by JohnZimmerman

how does the pinning mechanic work? if its like last year no thank you. i always prefer fun over realism.

Posted by JoeyRavn

Have they finally implemented a fully-featured Ghost Problems Mode? If not, I'm not interested.

Edited by Darro

Good review Alex! While I am looking forward to playing the 30 years of Wrestlemania mode, the problem I have is that some of the more memorable matches from the past can't be done due to some of the wrestlers being in other companies therefore they have to go ahead with the dire stuff like Goldberg vs Lesnar, which was pretty abysmal. Best match of Wrestlemania 21 (Angle vs Michaels) for example won't be on there, which is a shame. I thought last year's entry was the best since Here Comes the Pain but that was mainly because of the Atittude Era mode since I played very little outside of it! Sure I will enjoy this entry nonetheless but I do hope next year we see some drastic changes.

And thanks for answering my question on Bombin' the AM today about the reversals!

Posted by stalefishies

You'll still see some occasionally weird behavior--opponents randomly running outside the ring to tear apart the announce table

Table-san never gets a break ;_;

Posted by alexthebehemoth

The lack of wrasslin on the PC is a real drag.

Posted by RedCricketChase

Why are WWE crotches so bulgeless? Strange.

Posted by Demoskinos
Posted by Spiritof

But what does this bring to VGCW?

I think Bazza was testing it last week and he wasn't liking what he saw.

Posted by iAmJohn

And that's the bottom line, cuz Alex Navarro said so.

Posted by RetroVirus

I wonder how this will affect VGCW. I've gotta think Bazza has a plan.

Posted by jimmyfenix
Edited by FLStyle

But what does this bring to VGCW?

Indeed!

Posted by Draxyle

But what does this bring to VGCW?

That's about the only reason this game is even on my radar. They're making the switch to that title for the show very soon and I do wonder how it'll be improved (or not).

Posted by BRYN

@spiritof: Quite the opposite actually. Though it's still an iterative update, so it wont blow anything out of the water. To me, this feels like more of a patch in what VGCW uses the game for.

Posted by Elliotpage

You'll still see some occasionally weird behavior--opponents randomly running outside the ring to tear apart the announce table

TABLE-SAAAAAAAAAAAAN

Posted by DougCL

im excited. im picking it up at midnight tonight.

Posted by SlightlyTriangularRectangle

I do not know how this series, even with a new developer and new engine, will improve in one year's time. I feel that much like the core wrestling product, these wrestling games are based on what will sell the most, not necessarily what is most entertaining.

Thus these games are made to be "huge" with large rosters, extensive wardrobe options, multiple game modes--essentially everything to make a wrestling fan want to buy the games. But none of that helps improve the basic gameplay structure, so these games, while laden with content, end up mediocre and often rife with bugs. And that they turn out that way is really not surprising; I imagine extensive resources are consumed in development in an attempt to cram as much content into the product as is possible.

I could be wrong, and I hope that I am, but I do not see this series ever improving unless the developers start over, try not to make the game so big, and focus instead on making a fun video game with solid gameplay mechanics. But knowing the WWE, and considering that these games seem primarily developed for a wrestling audience, not a video game audience, I imagine that the tagline for next year's game will be something like, "look how much new content we crammed into this year's super greatest ever video game!"

Edited by ThatIndianGuy7116

This is exciting to hear. I was totally expecting it to be a 2-3 star review, but I'm glad I was wrong. I told myself I wasn't going to buy it this year, but it just looks so fucking awesome.

Edited by mcmax3000

@johnzimmerman said:

how does the pinning mechanic work? if its like last year no thank you. i always prefer fun over realism.

I played it at PAX. Pinning (and submissions for that matter) worked exactly the same as 13 from what I remember.

Posted by Zacagawea

Kind of tired of rewarding stagnation with 4 stars

Edited by KittyVonDoom

WWE games: Why bother trying to make them actually good when the only people that'll play them buy them every year regardless of quality.

Posted by TheHBK

The Usos are boring and bland. Don't much care for them. Can't wait to replay the Razor vs HBK match.

Posted by Bernoulli

we want a quicklook we want a quicklook

Posted by ThomasCro

I find it more amusing to think about people enjoying wrestling, than wrestling itself.

Posted by Klarion18

Only reason to buy this game is for the DLC:

Online
Posted by BamBamBradley

@happenstance: Me too man, I seem to buy every wrestling game, even though I haven't watched wrestling since 2004.

Posted by AjayRaz
Posted by RudeTrooper

I do not know how this series, even with a new developer and new engine, will improve in one year's time.

The reality is that the annual games are planned further than a year out. They start the next before they are done with the current years edition.

Posted by Demoskinos

WWE games: Why bother trying to make them actually good when the only people that'll play them buy them every year regardless of quality.

Thing is all the small minute changes are things that wrestling fans are excited about and matter to them. So yes, a lot of the big systems don't change that often but that is just the thing this isn't for non-wrestling fans and the people that do like it are more focused on those small tweaks. Stupid things like specific variations of moves are huge deals to people who like these games.

Posted by jayc4life

I do not know how this series, even with a new developer and new engine, will improve in one year's time.

I've a feeling that 2K decided to keep the status quo and run a mostly same-shit-different-year game while work's done on some sort of next-gen engine for the PS4/Xbox One (and hopefully, please please please please please PC).

I'm hoping that 2K and Yuke's part ways and 2K get a new in-house dev team working on WWE in America. With what happened at 2K Marin though, that doesn't seem likely, but having a team test how feasible it might be to use their NBA engine - which is the best in sports games as far as I'm concerned, save for Pro Evolution Soccer's new Fox Engine because i haven't played that - would please me greatly.

Posted by Olivaw

It sounds like the important things will remain. That being Table-San, and Mind Games.

Posted by TheGameGrump

Like a few others around here - I almost never want to actually pick these games up, but then they end up suckering me in. It's the work that they put into the special modes really that gets me - I realize that the look and gameplay is all essentially the same, but the Attitude/Wrestlemania type modes have just been flat out amazing recently.

I told myself to be prepared for this. The buyout occurred at a weird time, and I'll get ready for the future by stating that they are going to have to step things up graphically for the next generation. But maybe this is all just wishful thinking in the end.

Posted by WMoyer83

The only way this game could be more realistic is if Sin Cara would sporadically botch moves and prematurely end matches with self inflicted injuries.

Posted by CrippWox
Posted by NegativeCero

I'm honestly giving thought into picking this up having not played one of these since, like, Smackdown vs. Raw 2006. I kind of miss playing these games even if they haven't changed much since then.

Posted by Fram

Obligatory WWF No Mercy superiority comment.

Edited by LegendaryChopChop

Going to the midnight release of this one. Can't wait.

Posted by hellforce

I hope this game isn't haunted. Last year's game was very problematic in this regard.

Posted by fisk0

I really don't understand wrestling. I guess paraphrasing Jeff's comment about DOTA and soccer is apt - it's a bunch of intense looking Americans and I don't know what's going on.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

But does this game have... Ghost Problems?

Edited by Y2Ken

Is the Universe mode just like the WWE GM mode from a while back? Because I really liked that one back when it first appeared, having to manage a roster, book shows, deal with injuries and such. It was a really neat twist on the whole shebang.

What I do think the WWE games would really benefit from (more so, in fact, than the games it is currently in) is that "current form" thing that EA Sports uses in stuff like FIFA, where they could adjust stats based on how wrestlers were performing in the show. Obviously it wouldn't be applied to the legends, just the current roster, and it would probably want to be an optional thing. But I'd definitely make use of that.

Overall I still think the action looks a little clunky. But I'm still more excited for it than I have been in a while, although that's largely down to the fact that I've actually started watching the show again since PBcast began. Cheers, Alex!

Posted by Salvation73

They should have put the kid from The Sixth Sense in the game, "I see dead people"... like half the roster. But more importantly, why don't wrestling games ever come to the PC?

The last one I had was WWF wrestlemania for the SNES and they still don't hold a candle to Pro Wrestling!

Back Brain Kick!

Edited by ch3burashka

alright sibling

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