After rediscovering my enjoyment for professional wrestling only a mere two years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to review the latest instalment in the popular annualised WWE franchise: WWE 2K14. Taking the 2K sports moniker and boasting a large number of wrestlers both old and new, does this title build on its previous foundations and deliver a slobber-knocker package of explosive wrestling action?
Whereas WWE ’13 had a concentrated focus on the Attitude era of wrestling, this title takes a different approach, instead basing itself primarily around the 30 years of history that surrounds the company’s most famous pay-per-view event: WrestleMania. Taking the same ‘mission-like’ structure of last year’s game, each match see’s the player taking part in a famous fight and attempting to create the same outcome that is written in the history books. While at a glance this mode may seem rather restrictive and as though you are following a script (much like the show itself), it’s a great surprise to see each mode retaining an element of challenge. To add further to this, some matches offer a variety of hidden objectives that must be discovered throughout the course of play, requiring players to experiment with their character abilities, fighting style, and of course each wrestlers finishing move. It’s great to see here that these matches offer plenty of variety and that they stay true to the actual events they are based off, offering a truly unique experience that is as nostalgic as it is fun. And it’s this sense of nostalgia that is half of this mode’s charm with clear effort being put in to feel like the real thing. From each wrestler’s original entrances, to the music, to the WrestleMania venues, each aspect has been well crafted to provide a great insight into some of history’s greatest fights. Not only is it some of the best gameplay the series has ever received, it serves as a great history lesson for those interested in the companies past, and the great rivalries of old. Original images, video footage and narrated montages inform greatly and are sure to excite more than just the hardcore of wrestling fans.
Another new addition to the series is ‘The Streak’ mode, a slice of gameplay devoted to the Phenom himself: The Undertaker. Created in celebration of his 21 straight wins in WrestleMania, this mode pits you against wave after wave of individual wrestlers as you attempt to last as long as possible and increase your streak as much as you can. Gameplay here is largely the same as the rest of the game, with the notable addition of a score system. Adopting an arcade style, this mode encourages repetition of play in order to best high scores. Though this mode will certainly warrant a few plays, it is unlikely to grip your attention too much, with The Undertakers move set becoming a little boring to work with after a while, much as the gameplay itself becomes repetitive over its lengthy course. That said however, as an extra game mode it is a welcome, and I hope it turns into something new in the next WWE title.
Outside of the stellar ’30 Years Of WrestleMania’ mode and ‘The Streak’ game mode, everything else is routine, sticking to the usual selection of gameplay options you would come to expect from a wrestling game. Players have the ability to play whatever type of match they like, and plenty of customisation of these events is at hand allowing for variety between matches. Each are well crafted and work nicely, and are largely without complaint. Cage matches still frustrate immensely though through the absurdly primitive and sluggish cage climbing mechanic, of which could really do with an overhaul.
Annoyingly, the developers have failed to develop the promising ‘Road To Wrestlemania’ mode into anything particularly special. While there is more ability to customise the universe itself, there still doesn’t feel like there’s much consequence to any of your actions. While there are some special scenes that might unfold before or after matches, these are sparse and feel so out of place, a problem made worse by the lack of given explanation. I appreciate the attempt at making a dramatic feeling for the game akin to the show, but this mode feels confused despite various incarnations of it over the years. I would like to think that this aspect can be worked upon to realise its potential, but for now it feels soulless, and will largely be ignored.
On top of all these modes, WWE 2K14 continues the series trend and offers an in-depth ‘Creation Suite’, allowing the creation of wrestlers, arenas, entrances and much more. While some of this feels overly-complicated, it is more than capable and provides a huge scope and lots of options to play around with. Players will soon find themselves creating the most badass or most damn right ridiculous looking wrestlers to date with this tool set, and I can’t wait to see the results.
Despite these new mode additions to the series, the fighting gameplay has been left largely untouched; with the wrestling feeling very much the same as it did in previous years. Retaining the ability to target specific areas of the body in grapples and submissions, there is a lot of freedom in terms of the way you wish to fight. The fighting itself feels a little more fluid this year, but despite this the combat occasionally feels inaccurate, with some grapples and punches missing the target completely despite the short distance between the two wrestlers. This is only a small gripe, but it is frustrating when it happens in the heat of battle when you have little room for error. The counter system from previous titles has returned and feels a little more forgiving, adding a bit of leeway with your reaction times, alleviating the somewhat immense challenge of pressing the button at the exact moment of impact. Despite this seemingly more forgiving nature, there is still a challenge in achieving a counter, and so the matches don’t become too easy. Opponent AI still feels patchy, with opponents frequently wandering around the ring appearing confused, and with some strange decisions made at crucial points. Despite all of this however, the AI is serviceable and never fails to at least challenge your ability.
Controlling the wrestlers in the ring is mostly a breeze, and the player will easily pick up the controls in a short space of time. While there can be some frustration found when trying to leave the ring and climbing the corners, the overall control scheme is not tarnished and is easy enough to digest. The games controls are aided by the brilliant animations that are used throughout, with each movement and finisher feeling every bit as precise as the superstars themselves.
Graphically this game isn’t too strong, though the superstars are well modelled and retain significant likeness to the real thing, crowds still look very blocky and primitive, and the wrestlers never appear to be looking too realistic. The games audio is as ever pretty strong, with roaring crowds, entrance music, and fighting sound effects really adding to the presentation. It’s just a shame that the commentary throughout is very limited, and often repeats itself multiple times within the same match. While the voice talent of Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler are present, the commentary never sounds particularly organic and fails to impact much on the action taking place.
While on one hand it’s really easy to judge WWE 2K14 as it doesn’t really do too much wrong, it does tread on safe ground and doesn’t feel like too much of an upgrade from the previous year’s instalment. While some gamers may not find enough new content to make this a worthy purchase, newcomers and hardcore fans will lap this up thanks to great fighting mechanics, an impressive character roster, and an incredibly fun WrestleMania mode. There is no doubting that this is the best WWE game to date, though the lack of any real innovation here does cripple the game somewhat for those expecting a significant step. Hopefully next year’s game will resolve this issue thanks to the release of next-gen hardware and the inclusion of 2K Sports from the very beginning of development. Until then however, this title which will almost certainly retain interest until that time comes.
- Fantastic WrestleMania game mode.
- Large character roster.
- Fighting offers plenty of depth.
- Same great WWE wrestling action and game modes.
- In-depth customisation offerings.
- Doesn’t feel like too much of an improvement from WWE ’13.
- Road To WrestleMania mode still needs a lot of work.
- Often daft AI.
- Match commentary is limited and weak.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.