WWE 2K14 ReviewNovember 9, 2013
Last year saw the downfall of THQ, and with it came uncertainty as to the future of the WWE video game franchise. It wasn’t long before the announcement came that 2K Sports was taking the reigns, but everyone knew that with a yearly release schedule to uphold, a built-from-scratch game was impossible. And so, longtime developer Yuke’s was brought into the fold for one last go-round. Their collaborative effort WWE 2K14 thus feels very similar to past entries, yet still manages to create an impact. While the engine is largely unchanged – bringing with it longstanding AI and commentary issues – its huge roster and stellar story mode manage to keep things interesting.
Last year’s WWE 13 saw an overhaul of the series’ career mode, eliminating the long-standing Road To WrestleMania in favor of a new Attitude Era mode where players could relive some of wrestling’s most memorable events. WWE 2K14’s 30 Years of WrestleMania greatly expands on that concept, allowing fans to recreate 46 headlining matches from every single WrestleMania – everything from Andre The Giant Vs. Big John Studd to CM Punk Vs. The Undertaker. Like last year, historical objectives allow emulations of major story beats in the matches, such as Edge putting Mick Foley through a flaming table or John Cena ramming The Miz through the barricade at WrestleMania 27. Yuke’s and 2K went to great lengths to ensure historical accuracy here, as every Superstar and Diva has perfectly accurate ring attire, haircuts and entrance music for the given time period – even The Big Show’s changing body hair is accurately represented. There’s also a filter that adds to the feel of watching the early matches on an old tube television, adding noise that slowly diminishes until the HD-era matches remove it entirely.
There are a few mistakes that I noticed here and there, such as Chris Jericho having his 2013 tattoos in a match that took place years prior, and The Rock’s abs strangely disappearing and re-appearing in different WrestleMania matches. And the graphics are still very hit-or-miss – some models, like The Undertaker, AJ Lee and CM Punk are dead-on, while The Rock, Shawn Michaels and others are barely recognizable. Overall, though, the attention to detail is impressive – every arena has been recreated – and it’s a great, interactive way to experience the matches you might have missed. Completing all of the historical objectives will net you a host of unlockables, ranging from costumes to arenas to extra wrestlers.
Additionally, WWE 2K14 has an all-new Undertaker mode where players can choose to either defend or defeat The Streak -‘Taker’s impressive 21-0 record at WrestleMania. Defeating The Streak is damn near impossible, as I suppose it should be, but in this “boss fight” Undertaker is just straight-up cheap, reversing everything you throw at him and building up finishers faster than you can throw your controller at the screen. It doesn’t help that the reversal system has been completely overhauled. In an attempt to stop the endless series of reversals from past games, the window for reversals has been dramatically shortened, making this match particularly infuriating. Fast moves like kicks and punches practically require Spidey-sense to counter, and finisher reversals feel far too prevalent. Defending The Streak is just an endless Gauntlet match, which continues until someone finally takes the Deadman down – in my case it was Wade Barrett, which is better than Heath Slater I suppose.
Character customization has always been a huge draw for the WWE games, and thankfully it’s better than ever in WWE 2K14. All of the features from previous titles, such as the ability to create arenas, Superstars and Divas, tattoos, storylines and more are back, alongside some great new additions. This year you can create rivalries in the Universe mode, and even completely customize existing Superstars and Divas. If for whatever reason you’re not happy with Chris Jericho’s appearance, or you want Cody Rhodes to lose the moustache, you can easily create a new version of them using templates. This is also fantastic for those of us who just want to jump into Universe mode without having to spend hours in the creation suite. Of course creations can once again be uploaded to WWE 2K14’s online servers, where they can be shared all over the world, creating an influx of never-ending content that will keep fans satiated until WWE 2K15 drops next year.
WWE 2K14 manages to pack in a lot of great improvements over last year, but lingering AI and commentary issues bring it down a notch. The fantastic 30 Years Of WrestleMania mode is a huge draw, and the ever-expanding creation suite is bigger and better than ever. I’m definitely excited to see what 2K will do with a full year-plus of development time for its next (and likely next-gen) installment.