WWE 2K14 Review.
It might have a new name, but there's a lot that feels familiar about WWE 2K14, something that won't come as a shock for those familiar with this long standing wrestling franchise. While publisher 2K games might have purchased the rights to the WWE wrestling games after THQ's collapse, it's still long-time developer Yukes at the helm. However with 2K now involved, fans were hopeful they might be able to sprinkle some of the magic that has made their NBA basketball games so beloved by fans of the sport. The question is, do they?
Now in the interest of fairness, WWE 2K14 was in development whilst THQ were still in operation, so it's difficult to judge 2K's involvement from the get-go. We might have to wait for next years installment to see any noticeable improvements in this regard, yet don't be to quick to roll your eyes at WWE 2K14. For this is far from a bland filler game for the franchise as we wait for the inevitable next gen versions to most likely hit next year. Developers Yukes and the WWE have done a fine job of presenting the spectacle of sports entertainment in a way that's difficult not to find charming, even for someone who hasn't watched wrestling since the mid 2000's.
First of all is their successor to the well received Attitude Era mode seen in last years game. 30's years of Wrestlemania puts the spotlight on the ultimate event in the wrestling calendar, Wrestlemania. Setting up 45 matches spreading the length of WWE's history from the great days of Hulkamania to more recent spectacles such as CM Punk's rivalry with Undertaker. This mode allows the inclusion of some real legendary faces of wrestling, the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy 'Macho Man' Savage, Big John Studd and so many more. Without a doubt WWE 2K14 features one of the best rosters the franchise as seen to date. While I appreciated the inclusion of the attitude era superstars in last years game (as someone who grew up watching that era) I can't argue with the likes of the Macho Man Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior who makes it first ever appearance in the franchise. The mode sets up historical Wrestlemania matches thanks to some splendid promos developed by the WWE, these do a great job of providing the history of famous feuds and even provide a bit of an history lesson for those unfamiliar with earlier eras of the WWE. In fact I'd argue that some of the best moments in the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode is relieving some of the earlier years, especially for someone who either wasn't alive or simply didn't watch wrestling back then. It's a mode that does a wonderful job of reminding you why the likes of Hulk Hogan are still so revered in wrestling.
That aside, this mode is mechanically identical to last years Attitude Era mode. You're still tasked with completing set objectives to experience well crafted cut scenes and earn unlockables, of which there's a great many to be unlocked. If there's any negative against the mode, it's that a few of the 45 matches included feel a little pointless and don't provide quite the thrill of the more established matches. Of course all this wouldn't mean much if the in-ring action isn't up to much. Last years game saw some improvements in animation and how wrestling is depicted, but poor AI and bugs meant that facing the AI was more of a chore than a charm. Thankfully Yuke's have fixed a great many of these issues in this years game. I'm happy to say that it plays better than the franchise as in a long, long time and while there are a few niggling issues here and there, the vast majority of the game is a pleasure to play. From a reworked reversal system, which makes matches flow with more speed and quicker strikes and grapples, the in-ring gameplay feels like a real improvement. Yuke's have also done a fine job of making the controls reasonably easy to pick up and play, with a better use of UI indications being used to highlight button presses and so forth. Unfortunately the targeting system is still as broken as ever, so matches with more than two superstars can prove a little frustrating, but long-time fans will appreciate the changes that have been made. Probably the best thing that can be said in regards to the AI in 2K14, is the fact that I've faced a much greater challenge in beating it on the legendary difficulty level, something that was never the case in WWE 13. Now it would be criminal of me not to mention the fact that things aren't perfect. Commentary remains awful with Michael Cole and Jerry 'The King' Lawler often repeating a line seconds after they'd already said it and even getting moves and reversals incorrect. Considering the high quality of commentary seen in 2K's NBA game, I can only hope that this is something that will be fixed in the future. Though not even 2K can fix the dislike I have for Michael Cole and his voice.
Another interesting addition this year is Undertaker's The Streak mode, which pits players with the task of finally breaking the Deadman's dominate undefeated Wrestlemania streak. Players can either face Taker to end the streak or defend it as the Undertaker, with a special difficulty level that makes Taker a real challenge to beat, we're talking greater than Legendary difficulty here folks. The Phenom even as a few tricks up his sleeve to, which only adds to the challenge you'll face when you take on the Deadman. Points are scored for various factors in a match, from the use of the resilience skill (in which points are deducted), how many finishes were used and if any weapons were used. Once you defeat the Undertaker you're given a score and placed upon the leaderboard. Defend the Streak is a little more basic, tasking you with defeating as many superstars as possible. If you were hopeful this mode would be a detailed look into the history Undertaker's streak than you might be left disappointed, however the added difficulty and score system makes this a real addictive addition and one that's already clearly popular with long-time players looking for a real challenge to their skills in-ring.
Universe Mode returns to, with a few changes. The rivalry feature being the mode substantial, this allows players to set up rivalries between two superstars or a tag team. Unfortunately that's the only rivalries that can be set up, and they can be setup for a given amount of weeks. Players can either create their own rivalries or have the computer do it for them. So what exactly does setting up a rivalry do? Well it basically provides the Universe Mode with some much needed structure as cut scenes will take place between matches and a very light thread of a storyline will develop as the weeks and shows go by. Sadly the rivalry feature feels very basic in function right now, but it's certainly a welcomed addition to the mode and one I could see being essential in the future for Universe Mode. Other than that there's only a few changes worthy of mention, for example the ability to now have a superstars attire randomize with each show instead of seeing them wear the exact same outfit week in and week out. One small change I appreciated regards superstar statistics, as it is now possible to see a superstars title history, how many times they've held a title and for how many weeks, you can even see how long they've lasted in a Royal Rumble and so forth. While superstar statistics aren't anything new to the mode, I think many players will appreciate the depth in which Yukes have gone in providing players with every bit of information this time round.
With the changes made to gameplay online benefits too as I witness more balanced matches than previous years. Whilst online isn't one of my favorite modes in the WWE games, I noticed an improvement in the way matches against other players played out and while I wouldn't go as far as to say there aren't any exploits at all, compared to previous years it didn't seem anywhere near as bad. Plus with 2K now looking after the franchise, one could hope that the much hated server issues that have plagued the series these last few years is at an end. Creation Mode as seen a couple of changes but nothing substantial. WWE fans will love the fact that you can now edit the entrance attires for all the superstars that have them and yes, that even includes Randy Savage and his rather splendid robe. Plus the fact that some superstars have so many attires this year, means that you can create, edit and upload to your hearts content. It's fascinating to see how far the WWE have come in allowing players to edit the superstars, arenas and shows over the years, especially when they were once so strict in what could and could not be changed.
So WWE 2K14 isn't short on content, even the 30 Years of Wrestlemania will keep you occupied for a good seven to eight hours. Plus with it's vast and impression creation suite, a satisfying Universe Mode and online that's still a blast to play with friends, it's fair to say you'll be getting your moneys worth and that's not to forgot the availability of user generated content to explore and play with. For long-time fans you'll most likely intend to or have picked this one up already, but for those who might have decided to skip this years game, know that WWE 2K14 is the best the franchise as played in a damn good while and presentation wise it's difficult not to be charmed by the attention to detail, time and effort put into this years game. Right now it's tough to tell what factor 2K will have in this franchise, but if this is the start of things to come than wrestling fans might finally get the wrestling game they deserve.