This year’s WWE video game WWE 2K14 may be under new sole publishers in 2K Sports but the longstanding developers Yuke’s, who have been around in the “Sports Entertainment” (still wrestling to most of us) world since the original addictive SmackDown game, are ever present. With this knowledge I am not expecting wholesale changes in WWE 2K14 on the Xbox 360 but hopefully some freshening up and a little more refinement from WWE 13.
Immediately on the main menu it feels all too familiar, with one exception of course. Where the brilliant Attitude Era once was, there is now a 30 Years Of WrestleMania mode. It is clear from the outset that all the eggs are firmly in this basket, it’s a risk, but one that may just pay off. There’s no better place to begin than here.
Spanning the complete 29 WrestleMania events, this mode covers at least one classic match from each of them. For these matches you must not only win, but achieve the historical objectives which are key in unlocking new characters, attires, belts and arenas. Let me take you back to where it all began, the original WrestleMania, and of course the Body Slam Challenge between André the Giant and Big John Studd. Here you have to slam the big man Studd after giving him a real beat down and if you can, do it in less than six minutes.
What made this and many other vintage matches feel even more authentic was the deliberately old school look of how it would broadcast back in the day, a little bit fuzzy. There are a whole load of minor things that add to the nostalgic brilliance such as hall of famer Howard Finkel announcing, the blue steel cage and the in-game characters doing a little backstage promo before the fight.
Before a few of the 40+ matches you will be working through, there are promotional video packages that re-cap how the certain bouts came to fruition. Just like the ones you would see on the TV, these are superb in giving you a feel of a rivalry and making the viewer crave for them to settle their differences. Unfortunately this is where I found my first annoyance, the censoring of the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) logo is odd considering the recent settlements to be able to use it again on old footage, but blurring out a whole person in the background is downright silly. Why add that part into the video when it looks so poor.
Over the entire mode, I’d say the first twenty WrestleMania events take you through the motions with classics like Hulk Hogan vs Macho Man Randy Savage (WM V), Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior (WM VI) and “HBK” Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon (WM X), just to name a few. Seeing and playing as these legends in matches that I remember gave me goosebumps and even a little tear to the eye with the Macho Man and his fabulous attires “Ohhhhh Yeahhhh”.
I can tell you no lies; the next nine aren’t as nostalgic, as most of them are still fresh in the mind. Without spoiling too much, it involves a large dose of John Cena and an awful lot of him winning. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun though, as I send Ric Flair into retirement or continue the Undertaker’s Streak. Overall it has that ‘grandest stage of them all’ feeling, and whilst for older fans it will be magical, for newer fans it is a comprehensive list of moments that will give them a great love for the years gone by.
Hold on, this is 30 Years Of WrestleMania… yet there is only 29 events. That’s because the upcoming thirtieth annual WrestleMania is in your hands, or at least creating a moment is. A quite novel way to encourage gamer to company interaction is to have us choose a match, play it to its conclusion, and then submit a screenshot for a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to WrestleMania 30 (XXX) that we covered previously in an article HERE.
Almost synonymous with WrestleMania is the Undertaker’s win streak, and not to miss out on this is a side mode all about The Streak. One of the toughest matches you will ever face is what you will find in Defeat The Streak, choosing any of the roster to take on the Undertaker. A real challenge as you will need to kick out of Tombstones, escape Hell’s Gate submissions and do anything to survive whilst maintaining offence to wear him down.
Alternatively Defend The Streak sees you take control of Taker to face wrestler after wrestler from the locker room. This is where mental stamina is needed, I found it tough to concentrate, and once I had used all his moves many times it became a drag before I got blindsided by a Cobra! Don’t worry I wasn’t hurt, my ego was though when Santino Marella delivered his finisher then proceeded to make me tap out. Forty-eight was the unlucky number but it goes to a hundred, so you are in for a real slobber knocker.
I cannot knock it too much but there was mini outrage when I noticed the historical list of the actual streak was omitting a few items. It bugs me when they added the fact he won at WrestleMania 9 and 13, but unlike the rest there were neither names nor accounts of the matches. For those who wish to know and have been left in the dark by this, it was Giant Gonzalez and Sycho Sid. Might not seem much, I guess it is testament to WWE 2K14 when these little things are the worst I can find.
Apart from a slight visual overhaul the WWE Universe mode is practically the same, if you haven’t played it before though it is you as the gamer in full control of rosters, schedules and rivalries. I didn’t get into this much previously but I feel as though it is the best way to get value from the roster, to get plenty of game time with Divas and Superstars alike. Playing through the set match-ups you can make sure your favourites win and mould the future shows from this. If you don’t fancy Heath Slater vs David Otunga on Raw then you can simulate or just change the participants at anytime.
Finally with game modes themselves we are left with exhibition mode where almost any match you can think of is possible. For example Handicap, Tag Team, Rumble, Hell in a Cell, more than enough for you to create the fantasy matches you’ve always wanted to. Most of these are available to use online too, which so far I’ve found is much more stable than the usual efforts. Nothing better than taking on a friend from across the country in a ruthless battle, which you can see in the video below.
“Creations” allows those creative juices to flow; yet again it isn’t much different though than what we’ve seen already. The saying goes if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it… there’s also one that goes on about taking vitamins and saying prayers but I better not digress any further. Not only can you create the wrestler you’ve always wanted to be but add a custom entrance, custom moves and even a belt. It is the best way to make things in your own style to suit whatever you want to have in your WWE 2K14 Universe.
I suppose I better get round to the biggest roster ever in a WWE game, I count 82 without any of the DLC or created characters. It is huge, but it can’t go unnoticed that there is quite a few duplicates such as Shawn Michaels, HHH, Undertaker, Hogan, Flair and The Rock. That being said, it opens up a world of possibilities for anyone who has ever wanted to pit the smooth moving Razor Ramon against Dolph Ziggler or create the slowest match ever seen having André the Giant going toe to toe with The Giant Khali (doesn’t bare thinking about).
For the majority of the time the gameplay does feel more refined, however there’s the odd moment where your guy is in a constant loop of dizziness falling over every time he is picked up. Generally it handles better, each character having an arsenal of manoeuvres to either target a specific limb or just power moves to inflict overall damage. New this year is the catapult catch finishers which look awesome, nothing more fulfilling than whipping Cena against the ropes then throwing him in the air before receiving a monstrous spear from Roman Reigns.
Having played wrestling games for over twenty years, I often refer to WCW/nWo Revenge and the first SmackDown game amongst the best. WWE 2K14 is almost at its limit for the current generation where there is very little they could do to improve it. Sure the commentary can be a little off, some of the character models need a bit more work and we always want more wrestlers (they already have more in the pipeline – Read about DLC), but I don’t think they could do all that without next-gen. So for now, veteran fans relive the moments that made you fall in love with Sports Entertainment, whereas for new fans there’s much to discover here. The best there is, the best there was…? Maybe.