Game Review: WWE 2K14 [PS3/Xbox360]
The theme of this year’s WWE instalment, to replace last year’s awesome and ever so popular ‘Attitude Era’ mode is the ‘30 Years of Wrestlemania’ mode. Throughout WWE’s rich history, there are so many ‘Wrestlemania Moments’ to pick from, everyone has their own unique memories that they look back on with fondness and nostalgia. In the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode there are a total of five unique era’s spanning over the 30 years and they are Hulkamania Runs Wild Era (WM 1-9), New Generation Era (WM 10-13), Attitude Era (WM 14-17), Ruthless Aggression Era (WM 18-24) and last, but certainly not least we have the Universe Era (WM 25-29).
As with WWE’13’s Attitude Era mode you had a series of matches spread over various chapters. Here you would re-live and play out some of the most iconic matches and moments from the Era that many fans consider being the pinnacle point in WWE’s history and much remains the same with this year’s campaign mode.
You have a host of bonus objectives from each match which are conveniently entitled the Wrestlemania Moments. Most of these moments are optional and by completing them you can unlock extra bonus matches, managers, outfits, superstars and more. So other than having the opportunity to replay these great Wrestlemania Moments, you also unlock a host of worthwhile extras by doing so. During each chapter and match you will also be treated to awesome clips from throughout the Wrestlemania archives, which is great for not only fans of old to relive those great moments, but it also acts as a great history lesson to younger fans that may have missed some of those moments, and who said learning wasn’t fun?
One of the problems with previous WWE games, is that once the campaign has been finished, apart from the odd exhibition match here and there, there wasn’t a great deal to keep you involved. You could say that there are always the online modes, but from my experience, the match connection has never been all that great throughout the WWE games. So it was all down to the Universe Mode to add the much needed replay value and last year’s Universe mode was a step in the right direction, but it was missing that special something. You would play out matches from Raw, Smackdown and Superstars, all of which would lead up to the monthly PPV event. In most part the matches were great and some of the rivalries that the game would generate would make some sense. But there were also some very randomly generated rivalries that would actually make little sense, if any.
This year’s Universe Mode is more of the same, but there are some subtle improvements and adjustments that have made all the difference to make your experience all that more authentic. As with previous games you can pair Superstars from the roster with their allies and rivals with whomever you choose. This in theory should allow the generated rivalries make more sense, though it never always worked that way in WWE’13.
In this year’s Universe Mode the game will take more consideration to whom a Superstars rival or ally might be. This means that the Superstar you’re controlling in a match will not only get attacked by his rival, but his or her ally may actually come into the ring to save them. Just as it happens in the real life TV shows. There are also far more cutscenes in this year’s Universe mode, meaning that you are far less likely to see the same cutscenes as often as you would have done in WWE’13.
There is an all new addition to the rivalries feature in the Universe mode and this is the one that makes the biggest difference of all and that’s down to the fact that you have more control over rivalries than ever before, which allows you to create your very own. In the Universe mode, there will be rivalries that have been pre generated and you can choose to play them out if you desire. If you’ve been watching WWE of late, then you would know that there’s big rivalry going on between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton. In previous games the only option that you had to re-create this rivalry is to pair them up as rivals and hope that the game would then generate the appropriate cutscenes or you could create the matches and play them out in Raw and Smackdown. Your options were very limited.
Now you can not only select who rivals with whom, but you can also select how long that rivalry will prolong. You can select the rivalries to last anywhere between 4 -12 weeks. So for example if you wanted to start a rivalry between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, you could select that rivalry to start from the Royal Rumble and have it lead up and come to penultimate end at the grandest stage of them all, Wrestlemania. This extra customisation feature will add so much more life into the Universe mode, long after you’ve finished the 30 Years of Wrestlemania as you can create rivalries that coincide with real life or even generate your very own dream feud, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. CM Punk, Goldberg vs. Ryback and so much more. It’s an old cliché, but the possibilities are in fact seemingly endless. That’s not even taking into account that you can create your very own storylines or download them from the online community creations.
There are many names throughout the years that can claim to be the icon of the Wrestlemania spectacle, Hulk Hogan dominated the PPV for nearly 10 years, HBK Shawn Michaels earned the nicknames ‘The Show Stopper’ and ‘Mr Wrestlemania’, but there has been one other iconic Superstar that has dominated the Grandest stage of them all like none other, and that is the Phenom, The Undertaker. His 21-0 streak has become one of the most iconic streaks in WWE’s history; in fact the Streak is so synonymous with Wrestlemania that many consider it to be more important than any title or main event to be on the card. After all there have been many title defences and exchanges at every Wrestlemania event, but there can only ever be one person to break the Dead Man’s streak, that’s assuming that anyone ever manages to beat the streak before he one day retires.
The main feature of the Streak mode is to take on the Dead Man and be the one that finally breaks the streak, in ‘Defeat the Streak’. But be warned, this is no mere glamour exhibition match that allows you to take on The Taker with you chosen difficulty setting. You are taking on the Dead Man in his most difficult form and he’s as hard as hell. He can generate a signature or finishing manoeuvre in an instant, at times as soon as that bell rings.
In fact he can generate his finishers at almost any stage of the match, at any given time. So matches can be over quicker than a hiccup or you can be dominating the Dead Man one second and then he’s hit you in a Tombstone the next. He will reverse the vast majority of you moves and that includes your signature and finishers. But should you manage to hit CM Punk’s GTS and when you think you’ve got the Dead Man down, you go for the pin and then he grabs you by the throat and chokeslams you straight to hell. A cool moment also occurred just when I hit the Triangle button for my finisher, and then the lights went out and then came back on with Taker stood right behind me, breathing down my neck. Then Bam…Tombstone…game over!
Should you somehow win and most likely loose, when the match is over you will be scored based upon your performance which will then be uploaded to the global Leaderboards to see how your scores fair against your friends and other WWE 2K14 online gamers. Your score will be broken down on reversals you hit, finishing moves performed, kick outs, time survived and more. This is a very difficult mode, but this is one of the reasons that makes it ever so addictive and long after the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode is finished and I’ve milked the Universe mode as much as possible, attempting to defeat the streak with the highest score possible will be the main reason that I will return to WWE 2K14 for many months to come.
In the streak mode you can also ‘Defend the Streak’ as new superstars will come running to the ring after every pinfall, submission or knockout. This effectively is an Undertaker themed gauntlet match and like ‘Defeat the Streak’, you will be given a final score which will then be uploaded to the online Leaderboards. In the Streak mode, there are also a host of stats to be looked at, including all the fallen victims over the years at the hands of the Dead Man, as well as a host of archive clips for you to enjoy.
Gameplay wise WWE 2K14 essentially plays the same as WWE’13, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, as they say “If it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it”. This isn’t to say that I don’t want to see the gameplay evolved or for that matter a new engine, because I most certainly do. But with the collapse of THQ and 2K Games acquiring the rights to the WWE licence, there simply wasn’t enough time for 2K to overhaul the game and make any drastic changes as much as they perhaps would have liked. So for that reason, I’ll let 2K off, especially as they’ve brought us another great WWE video game experience. But with the next gen consoles just around the corner, I really hope that big changes and improvements will be made should we have a next gen WWE 2K15. If there’s not a new engine for next year’s instalment, most fans of the series will at least want to see sufficient changes to their beloved franchise and tired old engine.
There have been a few subtle improvements made to the gameplay, such as being a little more difficult to hit a reversal. Though on the harder difficulty settings, that rule doesn’t seem to apply to the computer A.I. There are more OMG finishing moves (seven in fact), the gameplay also feels a little faster and smoother in comparison to WWE’13. For the exhibition matches, a Slobbernocker mode has been added (which is basically a glorified Gauntlet match) and a new and improved King of the Ring mode. If you were to flick quickly between WWE’13 and WWE 2K14, I doubt very much that you would notice a great deal of difference between the games visuals. But I guess if you were to scrutinise 2K14’s graphics and animation, then you might just notice an ever so slight improvement with the visuals looking slightly crisper than its predecessor.
In fairness, given the time that 2K Games have had to work on WWE 2K14, they’ve focused on the most important factor and that’s by the improving its modes and making subtle improvements to the gameplay itself. Going back to WWE 2K14’s visuals each and every superstar are instantly recognisable and as always fans will love watching their favourites making their way towards the ring with the authentic entrances.
The commentary in the WWE games has never been all that great, especially when playing the exhibition matches where you would hear the same recycled comments and one liners over and over again. After a while you will get that use to it, and the likelihood is that you’ll eventually blank it out as you get stuck into the action. The only plus side that I could give to the exhibition match commentary is that you won’t be hearing Michael Cole giggling like a school girl with an obsessive crush every time John Cena attempts to tell a very tame joke. If you watch the TV shows Raw and Smackdown, then I’m sure you will know exactly what I am on about. The commentary for the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode on the other hand is far greater.
Unlike during the exhibition matches where you must endear the voices of Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and the TV giggling Michael Cole, in the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode you have the arguably the best commentary team pairing of Jerry Lawler and ‘Good Old’ Jim Ross. If you are a long standing WWE fan as I am, I’m sure you would dream of hearing the commentary of Gorilla Monsoon, Alfred Hayes, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan and even Vince McMahon (yes he was a commentator back in the day). Sadly that dream is near impossible, as Gorilla Monsoon and Alfred Hayes are no longer with us, and Bobby Heenan has suffered ongoing health problems. But with that said, you couldn’t find a much better paring of JR and Jerry Lawler to take over the reins. The fact that all the matches from the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode are 100% scripted and enhanced from the real life commentary that actually occurred, you will be far less likely to hear any recycled commentary and as expected, their voices provide excellent work.
A little feature that I was disappointed to see gone from WWE’13, was the ability to click on the analogue stick to cycle through the Superstars official theme music during the in-game menus. So I was glad to discover that this feature has now returned in WWE 2K14 and if you get bored of hearing the same music being played over or you just feel like changing it around, then fear not as you can select who’s music plays during the menu’s via the Jukebox that you will find within the options.
WWE games have always offered bucket loads of replay value and bang for your buck, even more so this year with the 30 Years of Wrestlemania and the enhanced Universe mode which will keep you busy for as long as you want it to. Creating your own rivalries, storylines, exchanging of the many championship belts at the big PPV events and more. There are more possibilities with this year’s Universe mode than ever before and if you wanted WWE 2K14 to last up until the release of next year’s instalment, there’s no reason to why you shouldn’t be able to do that.
The create features are also more in-depth, as not only can you create your own superstar from scratch, but you can also use many of the real life WWE Superstars past and present as templates. The create a championship feature has also had an overhaul, as that now has more layers and plates than ever before. You also have old favourite create an arena, which could effective evolve into creating you very own PPV. Not to mention create your own entrances, move sets and more. All of which can be uploaded to the online community and of course you can download thousands of ever increasing community creations to help maximise WWE 2K14’s shelf life.
Then you have the various online matches, which are great fun as long as you or the gamer that your paired with has a good connection. My advice in regards to the online modes, is that if you’re not all that fussed about ranked matches, is to get involved with your friends that also own a copy of WWE 2K14. After all, nothing beats teaming up or going one on one with a friend and owning the bragging rights. There’s so much more that I haven’t even mentioned that is included in WWE 2K14 that I could ramble on forever. But for the benefit of the review, I won’t do that. In a nutshell, WWE 2K14 is quite possibly the most packed WWE game to date.
WWE 2K14 is a worthy service to fans, while I’m sure that 2K Games would have liked the extra year to really make the game their own, 2K14 has made enough improvements and extra additions to justify the purchase. The 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode is a great campaign and some may argue that it’s even improved on last year’s Attitude Era mode. Then on top of that you have the improved Universe mode, creation options and the Streak mode is a touch of genius.
Next year will be a big year for 2K Games and the WWE franchise, especially if we are to get a next gen instalment and then the WWE series will hopefully get the true revamp that fans have longed for. In the mean time, I’ll be picking up the control pad and will continue on with my crusade in breaking The Undertakers streak and carve my name in history on the Deadman’s tombstone.