WWE 2K14 Review

WWE2K143When THQ announced that it was selling off its assets and closing down, the gaming world waited with baited breath to see who would swoop in and save their various titles and licences from a potential demise. As time went by, one by one the various projects were picked up by numerous publishers, yet the WWE franchise was still missing a home. For a minute it seemed that for the first time in the franchise’s long storied history it was under the real threat of being homeless. However, after weeks of bizarre rumours and hearsay (one of which included Rockstar as a potential publisher of the next title), in swooped 2K Games and at last the WWE franchise had a new home.

Now many of you may be thinking, ‘What does this gaming history lesson have to do with anything?’ Well as you can imagine, all of the above took time, so much so in fact that by the time 2K took over the franchise it was late on the game’s development cycle for 2K to have any real major impact on the title and try to incorporate any of their touches to it. This time crunch also meant that the traditional May reveals of the game and its features were pushed back to the August-September period, with an initial trailer and announcement made at the end of June. So in short 2K had to hit the ground running with not only one of the biggest franchises in gaming, but also one that has the most passionate and vocal audiences. So any mistake could not only prove costly, but could also cost them members of a very brand loyal audience.

So did they make a mistake in WWE 2K14? Well in short, no. They have in fact played it safe and have let the title proceed as it would have if this were a THQ title, opting for the extension of last year’s one player WWE Attitude Era mode into a new one player mode that focuses on celebrating 30 years of the WWE’s biggest pay-per-view event, Wrestlemania. So instead of celebrating some of the company’s most defining eras, this time the game focuses on some of Wrestlemania’s defining matches. Granted this has been done in a similar way to last year’s Attitude Era mode, with each of the modes 45+ matches split into six chapters that span the early years of the event in the Hulkamania Runs Wild chapter to the more recent events in the Universe Era chapter. So whilst this expansion does feel like the game has developed and grown, it feels like it has done so more in the way of a sequel to WWE’13 rather than a new title.

Like last year, what also has been kept and given a tiny bit of improvement in 2K14 are the video packages that support this mode. From the moment you first view the mode’s opening video you are sucked into the spirit of nostalgia that the game wants to invoke. It is just a shame that little flaws, such as the commentary being done by those who were not in the era, and glitches in the control method (such as being told to press A to body slam and then this not responding) drag you out of the nostalgia. The case of the controls in particular can lead you to frustration.

Another carry over from last year is also the ability to unlock bonuses by completing certain challenges during the Wrestlemania modes, which whilst gratifying initially, does seem rather fruitless when you find out that if you purchase a certain DLC pack you can unlock all of these same bonuses at the touch of a button and in doing so save yourselves hours of potential frustration.

Luckily for WWE 2K14 though, they have not stopped at extending the one player mode, they have also added a new mode especially for this title called The Streak Mode. Focused on one of The WWE’s most well known athletes, The Undertaker, this mode allows the player to do one of two things, either attempt to break his legendary 21-0 Wrestlemania winning streak or defend it. Whilst both modes offer a great sense of satisfaction, it has to be said that the chance to end the streak with a created character will have many a WWE fan spending hours on this part of the game. However, with The Undertaker’s difficultly level being exponentially higher and him also having the ability to use special tricks, such as turn out the lights and appear behind you, this mode is certainly a challenge to rival facing the man himself at the event. Add to that the little touches such as the commentators recognising if the player is using a character that has faced the Deadman before and the mode certainly is more than the add-on that it may have looked to be a first.

WWE2K14 Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair

The one player mode aside, this year sees the return of the WWE Universe mode and once again fans are able to guide their favourite Superstars (or even their created ones), through many years and many championships should they so wish. This year however you are also able to manage rivalries more directly, your own pay-per views are less restricted and you can now create more WWE Diva focused programming. Frankly this mode is the one that the hardcore WWE gamer and fan will flock to as they will be able to satisfy their lust to create the matches and shape the WWE Universe the way they have longed to for many years. Whilst the changes are nice, the fact that some of the current WWE roster have been left out (such as Big E Langston) does mean that fans may not have a 100% accurate representation of the WWE that they crave. But if they so desire they can always create the missing characters in the Create-a-Superstar mode.

Speaking of which, the return of the Create-a-Superstar mode has seen a few minor tweaks, such as being able to save up to 100 created superstars, the odd new move or two and also the ability to use WWE Superstars bodies as a template. This mode also still allows players to create unique character entrances, clothing, move sets, finishing moves and even Championship titles, but still lacks the ability to port over previous years characters which could have been a nice addition. Considering that very little on the surface appears to have changed, surely it’s a possible addition down the line? All this aside, this mode is still as addictive as ever and frankly without it the title would lose hours of gameplay and enjoyment.

WWE2K14 Dolph Ziggler

In past years the WWE games have undergone radical changes in gameplay and graphics and last year saw the debut of a new control system for the game, which on the whole managed to be a success. This year it seems that there were still a few tweaks that needed to be made. So in order to give the game a more realistic match experience, the characters have now all had their speed improved; the reversals system has been tweaked so that they all now result in the player dealing out an offensive attack. Couple this with little touches such as striking attacks being harder to reverse, characters adjusting their wristbands or motioning for players to get up, and yes, the overall match feel is more realistic. However, it appears that these fixes come at a price.

As seen in the last few games (and noticeably in this title), the character models have started to look less and less like their real life WWE counterparts. Whilst you could argue that this is only a video game and therefore there is room for artistic licence, when the game itself strives to create a realistic simulation based on the franchise, then surely it makes sense to make the person the player is fighting look like their real life WWE opponent. This is especially noticeable in the Wrestlemania mode when fighting the likes of Andre The Giant in match one; the Andre presented moves and indeed looks a lot more physically fit and toned than he was at the time. Other examples include WWE Superstars such as The Rock, who during his entrance looks more like a generic bald man cosplaying as the superstar. This is probably down to personal taste and some may argue that they do look like their counterparts, yet for this reviewer, at times they did not, and when creating future titles the hope is that a lot more dedication to detail is put back in to the character models. This aside, graphically the game is great to look at and credit must go to the team for little touches such as adding filters to the screen when you are playing in matches at the earlier Wrestlemania events.

So overall, while on the surface WWE 2K14 is trying to be a new title in the WWE franchise, it does in fact play like more of a sequel. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing as you can get the odd good sequel, i.e. Grand Theft Auto V, you must then do something new and completely different in the next instalment and not just upgrade slightly what has come before, hoping that no one will notice. WWE 2K14 is still playable though, even if it is a bit frustrating at times and it will keep the ardent WWE fan happy until the next iteration, much like WWE’13 did. This sequel too will be a success, but let’s just hope that with the next generation of consoles looming and 2K Games having more of an input into the next title, that WWE 2K15 shows us a new and even more realistic direction for the WWE gaming franchise.

WWE 2K14 is now available on Xbox 360 and PS3.

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