This is Xbox was kindly invited to a very special hands on preview for WWE2K14 in a very wet and rainy central London. Stepping into a eery lit church themed venue it was like stepping into Parts Unknown and greeted by large 10ft posters featuring the iconic Phenom, The Undertaker, the atmosphere was set.
The preview began with a 30 minute presentation from WWE2K14’s lead designer Bryan Williams, a man who is as passionate about the game as he is about the WWE and the excitement he had came out in every word of the presentation. Bryan led us through a demonstration of WWE2K14 and its new features and modes that fans of the series have been eager to learn about since the game’s announcement.
Starting off with the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode, Bryan selected the Ric Flair Vs Shawn Michaels retirement match from Wrestlemania 24. Following on from the Attitude Era mode from last year’s WWE13, it is made up of the most iconic matches from Wrestlemania history. The mode will feature 40 matches from across the 30 years and blended with videos made exclusively by WWE themselves, will take some fans on a trip down memory lane and teach new fans the history behind the matches and the superstars that wrestled them. Featuring the commentary talents of the legendary Jim ‘JR’ and Jerry ‘The KIng’ Lawler who recorded commentary especially for the game and its modes.
Each match aims to recreate the original and will have objectives for the player to complete in order to complete the match. These range from getting the opponent to a certain damage level, which in the Flair Vs Michaels match, meant getting Flair down to Light damage, and positioning him to lean against the announce table. If successful, the game will then take over and play out a sequence from the original match where Michaels attempts to land a moonsault on Flair but misses and lands on the announce table. The audio comes right from the original match and the game engine retells the moment superbly. Completing the objectives will lead to unlocking in game items and progress in 30 years of Wrestlemania Mode.
Next, Bryan introduced us to the new mode The Streak. As WWE fans will know, The Streak refers to the undefeated record of the WWE’s Phenom, The Undertaker. Currently at 21 Wins and no losses, The Streak is as much a part of any Wrestlemania event as any main title match. Bryan, once more with real passion, explains that the mode was added to the game as a homage and love letter to The Undertaker.
The Streak comprises of two components. Players will have the option to choose to either Defend the Streak, playing as The Undertaker to maintain an unbeaten record but also, the chance to Beat The Streak. This option will you as the player selecting anyone from the game’s roster in an attempt to defeat The Undertaker and end his Wrestlemania Streak. But to truly experience what its like to face The Phenom on the grandest stage of them all, Wrestlemania, Bryan Williams explains that they have added something very special to the mode. The player will face the ultimate version of The Undertaker. His AI is designed to be the toughest ‘Boss Battle” the player would have ever encountered. Everything about this Undertaker is about winning, he will be the toughest fighter possible with AI specifically designed to give the player the biggest challenge yet in order to keep The Streak alive. The smile on Bryan’s face as he explained how the mode will work was as electrifying as any promo given by The Rock, and the demonstration on screen showed just how aggressive the version of Taker would be in this mode.
Another aspect to Beat The Streak, is that if you are successful in ending The Undertaker’s streak, you are scored based on your performance in the match. That score is then uploaded to an online leaderboard which will be refreshed each week with the top scorers listed given an added incentive to not only beating the Phenom himself but also other players who may also have defeated him. The mode also gives a bio from all the takers Streak matches, who he has faced and the history of each match to really enhance this most special of new modes for WWE2K14.
Bryan Williams ended the presentation by showing off the new aspects to the Customisation options that WWE2K14 will give players. The developers spent a great deal of time listening to and reacting to fan’s feedback for the changes and improvements to customisation options. The number of created wrestlers a player can create and have has been doubled from 50 to 100, which basically means that fans can now create their own Federation of superstars to use in the game in WWE Universe mode. Entire new shows which use the new roster can be created so players can now like never before create their own wrestling experience in the game. To crown this moment, the player will also be able to Create a Title, making their own championship belt, fully customisable which can then be used in Universe mode giving it that extra personal touch.
Superstar templates are now available in Create a Wrestler, you can take CM Punk and edit anything about them from hair to any tattoos, wrestling attire for in ring or entrance can now be edited by the player which can then be used as alternate attires for that superstar. Often in WWE games the moment they are released a superstar could be out of date if in the real world they change their hair or their entrance music or their ring clothing, using Kofi Kingston as an example, Bryan explains that during development they had Kofi in his usual trunks look but then see Kofi on TV suddenly wearing full leg tights. Now fans can respond and update their favourite superstars themselves.
WWE Diva’s now have more options available, and again following fan feedback from Diva fans, players will be able to create shows in WWE Universe mode which can have a full Diva roster and with the ability to create titles, the Diva experience has been enhanced like never before. WWE Universe mode will also allow for the player to create rivalries between superstars both real and created. Single or Tag team rivalries can be created and edited, with such detail that you can even plan for superstars to interrupt their rivals matches. There is just so much for a player to do with customisation in WWE2K14, not seen before in any WWE game.
With the presentation over, it was finally time to get actual hands on with the game itself, and picking up the Xbox 360 controller, the first thing I did was head into the 30 Years of Wrestlemania Mode and to the Ric Flair Vs Shawn Michaels match. The video that leads into the match was just amazing, having been a fan and watched the original match Live, the video did an impressive job of setting up the match both as a reminder for me but will easily show new fans why its such an iconic match in the Wrestlemania history.
The controls are the same as with WWE13, but did feel more fluid this time. The objectives for the match were key moments from the original match and the guide on screen is easy enough to follow to execute them as required. The objectives do not spoil the game as whilst you do have to play in a certain way to complete them, you still have the freedom to enjoy the match as you normally would. The match and its objectives do an excellent job of recreating both the action of the original match but also the emotion, as those who know the match know it was the match where Ric Flair was forced to ‘retire’ from WWE wrestling, and the game recreates ever aspect of this so well. If they other 39 matches in the mode live up to this demo then fans are in for perhaps the greatest mode created for a WWE game yet.
For the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode to work, it has to be more then just fun and a challenge to play. It has to capture the story, the history and the emotion behind each of the matches from Wrestlemania’s taken from it’s history for this new mode and just from playing the Flair Vs Michaels’ match it certainly has. As a lifelong WWE fan this looks like it will tick all the right boxes and will be a big selling point for WWE2K14.
Next it was time to finally challenge The Streak. With the words of Bryan Williams still in my head, I went straight into Beat The Streak mode, selected ‘The Viper’ Randy Orton. What stood out for me, was that the game automatically picked Wrestlemania 21 as the arena for our match, this was of course the first time The Legend Killer had faced The Phenom and its a nice little touch for the mode that anyone you select that has had a match with Taker at Wrestlemania, the game will put you in the same Wrestlemania arena location for your match to recreate that moment.
What stands out straight away when watching the entrances for the superstars, is just how polished the game now looks, the engine has been improved and tweeked since WWE13 and now looks better then ever. Into the match itself and as soon as the bell rang, The Undertaker was raining down his punches and kicks on me and I found myself in trouble very quickly. Bryan Williams was not kidding when he described this mode as the toughest boss battle fight the player will have, I struggled to even counter some of his moves and it did not take long before Taker had a signature move trigger ready to hit on me and them BOOM, chokeslam and first pin attempt. I managed to kick out but Taker was on me right away and proceeded to hit with me another new addition to the game, the OMG finisher.
One of the things The Undertaker is most known for, is his amazing ability to soar above the top rope and come crashing down on his opponent outside the ring. Taker grabbed me, positioned me against the ropes then with a hard clothesline sent me to the outside. Triggering his OMG finisher, Taker set to running off the ropes before diving over the top rope and landing on me, taking out my Randy Orton in truly spectacular fashion. Rolling me into the ring, it was not long before the 1,2,3 and bell ringing for The Streak to remain undefeated. This mode will be a true challenge for even the most well practiced WWE game player. Being so totally destroyed by Undertaker gave me the desire to try again, and that is the point of the mode, he needs to be that hard to beat or the mode itself fails to live up to the legacy that is The Undertaker.
Overall WWE2K14 is for me the most complete WWE game yet, and I have been playing these games since 1996 with WWF In Your House. The move from the now defunct publisher THQ to 2K has been a smooth transition and the game’s development has not suffered from the change in license owner. Packed with more game modes then ever before and enhancements to familiar customisation features and the exceptional 30 Years of Wrestlemania and The Streak game modes, WWE2k14 is going to be the game to have for all wrestling fans both new and old. It captures the WWE Experience perfectly and as a game there is just so much to do as a player that its worth its price.
I am very much looking forward to recreating some classic Wrestlemania matches but also setting up some dream matches with the game’s most impressive roster to date and this game is the perfect start to the new 2K and WWE relationship in games and a total win for fans of WWE games. Visually stunning with great gameplay and diversity in options, WWE2K14 is going to live up to the hype and will deliver on the single player experience as well as the online competitive mode. As both a gamer and WWE fan, this has been the game that the WWE Universe has been waiting for.
WWE2K14 is released for Xbox 360 on October 29th in the US and November 1st in UK and Europe.
A big thank you to Bryan Williams and 2K games for the opportunity for hands on preview of the game.