Review: WWE 2K14 (Sony PlayStation 3)

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WWE 2K14
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Yukes
Genre: Sports/Wrestling
Release Date: 10/29/2013

So THQ goes belly up and all of the sudden some of the biggest and most lucrative franchises in video games go up for sale. What better chance for 2K to bolster its sports lineup than by picking up the WWE license? It’s like printing money, especially when they sign Yukes to once again head up development.

Of course, all that supposed sweetness could in fact turn sour when you really start to contemplate things. The WWE games have been stagnant for a long time now, with no real innovations since the create-a-story was introduced in 2009. Sure, things have been tweaked and improved. The physics engine is better, the collision is better, etc. However, we haven’t seen that next leap in wresting games. WWE ’13, though fun, focused entirely on the nostalgia factor, pretty much riding on the Attitude Era to sell copies. It worked. I, along with many other tired fans, loved 13, and continue to play it to this day. Still, relying on old stuff to sell your games isn’t the best strategy for creating a long term relationship. That’s why 2K14 selling itself on “30 Years of Wrestlemania” is such a worrisome predicament. It begs the question of what the company will do when they run out of things to make players all nostalgic?

Well. At least for this year, they don’t have to worry about it. If you’ve been a wrestling fan your whole life, prepare to get sucked back into time.

wwe2k141The main mode here is 30 Years of Wrestlemania. It plays out pretty much identical to the Attitude Era mode from last year, and even uses the same menu system. Every single WM is represented by at least one match, with many having as much as three. The upside is a slew of classic wrestlers such as Macho Man, Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, and Razor Ramon. The downside is that the ‘Manias that are represented by more than one match tend to be the ones that occurred in the past few years.

The way the mode works is that you’ll simply play the selected matches in the order they occurred. Each match has a stipulation that you’ll need to complete in order to move on and unlock the next match. Usually, it’s as simple as winning by pinfall or submission. However, there are also historical objectives. These objectives involve re-enacting key moments from the actual matches. For example, the Hogan/Andre match just wouldn’t be the same without the body slam heard ’round the world. Completing an objective can often unlock a recreated moment all together. For example, if you drag The Rock over to the table during WM 2000, a scene will play that shows how Mick Foley attempted the Cactus Elbow on the grandest stage of them all. Moments like these are the best in the game, and it needed more of them. Also, not all of the matches are created equally. While some of them are filled with historical objectives that make the match more and more like the real thing, some matches simply ask you to hit your finisher and call it a day. Still, my only real gripe with the mode is that there isn’t more of it. I’d love even more old wrestlers and classic matches to be represented.

Also included is a “Streak” mode. This allows you to either defend or defeat the legendary unbeaten streak of the Undertaker. To defeat the streak, you need merely beat the deadman. However, that’s easier said than done thanks to a high rate of difficulty and a few special tricks he can throw at you. Defending the streak actually brings back a match type not seen since WWE was still WWF! That would be the “Slobber Knocker” match. Basically, it’s a survival mode where you fight wrestler after wrestler until someone finally finishes you off. Your score can be posted on a leaderboard to compare it with other players. Playing this once unlocks the match type for use in exhibition as well, which is nice.

wwe2k142For those looking for an experience with the modern roster, there’s still the old standbys. Universe mode returns with a few new upgrades. For example, you can create a show for female wrestlers (even if there are only a handful of them in the game), set up rivalries, and you now have more freedom when setting up matches for PPVs. This was the first time I was able to put an unranked wrestler in a championship match. Before, I’d have to spend hours grinding wins to get my created guy to become number one contender. I definitely call this an improvement. Still, it hurts that there’s no real story mode, apart from any created stories you bother to download.

The creation suite is back and as grand as ever. You can create wrestlers, arenas, special moves, belts, stories, and entrances to your heart’s content. There’s some added content to be sure, but nothing much has been changed here. The biggest update is the inclusion of superstar heads, allowing you to use the face of one of several superstars. So, if you want to make a fat John Cena, now you can. It’s amusing, though I’m annoyed there aren’t a whole lot more options than what we’re given to start with.

Online play returns as well, but my hopes have been dashed in this department. It plays exactly like WWE ’13, lag included. I was really hoping that THQ was to blame for the online issues with WWE games, but now it just looks like the problems will follow the series wherever it goes. When you do manage to get a match going, it’s a ton of fun. It’s great to see what creations other people have come up with, and pulling up a come from behind victory against them is even more rewarding.

The graphics for WWE game have been steadily improving year after year. It might seem like there’s little improvement at all, but the amount of progress is impressive for a yearly release. This is the best looking game yet in terms of character models, expressions, and animations. While limbs will clip through bodies, it happens infrequently. Little details have been paid attention to, to the point where some of the characters are dead ringers for their real life counterparts. However, the crowd still looks like it’s from the PSX era. I wish they’d find a way to fix that. Overall, it’s an impressive looking package.

wwe2k143Someone should have given JR a red bull when he was recording the lines for this game. Good lord. He does all he can to suck out all of the energy and emotion from recreating a historic match. He can’t even redo his own famous quotes properly. At several points, you can tell he just read some lines off a script and called it a day. Jerry Lawler isn’t too much better, but he at least puts some effort into it. The rest of package is quite good though. There’s a jukebox that allows you to set up a playlist using any of the wrestler’s themes in the game. What’s nice here is that they went all authentic on us and included alternate entrance themes for guys who used them in the past. So Triple H comes out to “My Time” when you play as the attitude version of him. The entrance themes make the aural experience, as they should.

If you want a simple explanation for how 2K14 plays, take ’13, speed it up a bit, and you’ve got it in a nutshell. If you’re looking for something a bit more in depth, read on.

Each playable superstar is capable of performing trademark strikes, grapples, taunts, special moves, etc. Some even have unique running animations. The controls are simple, though advanced techniques can be a bit tricky at times. The cross button is for grapples, the square button is for strikes, the analog stick move the character, the left shoulder button is for running, etc. Buttons perform similar actions no matter what position an opponent is in, keeping things simple. You’ll tap square to punch a standing guy in the face, or tap square to stomp a guy on the ground. Moving the analog stick in different directions allows for the use of different moves and holds, meaning each performer has a wide range of offensive maneuvers at their disposal.

The most important button is R2. This button is for reversals. Like in past games, you can attempt to reverse an incoming attack by tapping the button when a prompt appears above your superstar’s head. The timing is pretty tough to get down, changes depending on the move. I’d say it got a bit harder to reverse from last year, but that it isn’t quite as bad as the terrible system from ’12.

Enemy AI has seen an improvement, such that playing on a harder difficulty setting is actually hard. They’ll still reverse like crazy, but now they’re much more aggressive. They’ll gleefully attack a specific body part, and lock on a submission when you start to get critical. I’ve lost to the likes of Drew McIntyre on hard, and I’m used to playing on legend difficulty. Of course, playing the game when it’s not one on one is still a bit of a train wreck. Getting your guy to focus on the right enemy can be tough when there are other guys zipping around the ring. It’s also a real pain to attempt a pin when you have to clear everyone else out first. Still, that kind of chaos can be fun in the right environment, provided you don’t get stuck in hour long ladder matches.

wwe2k144In terms of additions, there are few. The new stuff is pretty much regulated to some new OMG moments and the ability to perform a catapult finisher. The new OMG moments include being able to use specific finisher on multiple opponents at the same time. Finally, Kane can chokeslam two fools at once! And I tell you, watching Ryback lift up Andre the Giant AND Big Show is just nuts. Catapult finishers, on the other hand, allow you to use catch finishers without waiting for an opponent to jump off the top rope. What you do is lift an incoming running opponent with the L1 button and then hit your finisher. For guys who can do this, they become extremely deadly. Running toward Cena when he’s got a stored finisher is a really stupid mistake that just might get you hit with the AA. It’s also darn cool to watch HBK toss someone in the air and then super kick them into oblivion. I had a blast pulling these bad boys out every time.

In the end, the selling point is the Wrestlemania mode. I’d say it does the job, especially if you’ve been dying to scratch that nostalgia itch. While games in the past have let you play as many of the legends and current superstars, this game is the first time you can finally set up that dream fatal four way between Goldberg, Ultimate Warrior, Brock Lesnar, and Batista. It’s also great to see the likes of Bobby Heenan and Miss Elizabeth in the game as well. While it’s not perfect, the game hits the notes it needs to hit. However, future titles in the series are going to have to step things up. The nostalgia kick isn’t going to last forever.

Short Attention Span Summary

WWE 2K14 is fast, fun, and filled with nostalgic moments. On top of that, it includes the vast creation suites that make the game so incredibly replayable. While there’s not much beyond the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode to separate it from last year’s game, it’s still worth getting simply because that one mode is worth the price of admission alone. Add in the other stuff, and this is one complete wrestling game. Now, lets just hope this is one last look at the past before we get the real future of professional wrestling games.

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