Before we continue, allow me to take a moment and ask you a very simple question. Do you consider yourself to be a fan of wrestling? More precisely a fan of the WWE brand of wrestling. If the answer is no, you don’t consider yourself a fan of grown men running around in their pants pretending to beat up other grown men, then you might as well move on. This isn’t the game for you. If the answer is yes, you are a WWE fan… I am sorry to tell you WWE 2K14 isn’t what we hoped for. With the all the PR and hype I was genuinely excited for the release, but I can’t help but feel short changed.
With previous WWE titles it is safe to say that players who weren’t fans or familiar with the style and setup of the WWE could quite easily drop in and out of the game and enjoy it. You didn’t need to watch Monday Night RAW or Friday’s SmackDown shows. You weren’t required to watch Hell in a Cell or Survivor Series aka the monthly PPV (Pay per View) shows and you definitely didn’t need to follow NXT or Superstars the smaller minor shows held throughout the week. But with WWE 2K14, the emphasis is centred around 30 Years of Wrestlemania and The Streak, if you aren’t a wrestling fan, the game becomes very alien. What makes a great sports game is not needing to be familiar with the source material. Very much like the FIFA or PES titles, you don’t need to know all the ins and outs of every team and league to enjoy the game. With WWE 2K14, it feels like you do. This could and most likely will ultimately reduce the enjoyment for none fans.
When you play WWE 2K14, it is very easy to think you are playing the same game you played in 2012 and 2011. Tweaks and changes have been made to the game and it does indeed play better overall, but the same clunky, shoddy and frustrating combat system we are all used to is back. Reversals are as difficult as ever to achieve even though your opponent seems to have no problem, even when brutally beaten down, reversing every grapple you attempt. That said, WWE 2K14 is packed to the point of bursting with new customisation options making it possible to customise elements of the game you probably never realised you wanted to change. Create a Ring, Create a Championship, Create a Storyline, Create a Team, Create a Superstar, Create a Finisher, Create a Move Set, Create Threads and more. All this allowing you to create until your heart’s content and then share with the WWE fans via Xbox LIVE allowing them to download and use your creations. A great example of giving fans what they want.
All of those creations can then be taken and used in WWE Universe, the games equivalent of a story/career mode. I am not a fan of the Universe Mode, but then I also wasn’t a fan of the hideous Road to Wrestlemania mode back in WWE 12, that was just utter shit. In WWE Universe mode you play out a typical year of weekly schedules in the WWE, which covers RAW and SmackDown along with the monthly pay per views. You’ll have your champions and feuds, and can take control of either challenger or champion to decide on the victor going forward. You could also spectate or simulate matches, often jumping ahead months in advance to witness the progress of the company. Which stars have been elevated? Which are the new contenders? Who’s still the champion and who isn’t? Of course, there’s also a new Rivalry system and stat-tracker to keep up with who hates who. You can shift rosters and contender lists around, create your own Universe – including your own shows (major and minor like NXT and Superstars) and PPV events – implement custom themes and even start your own tournaments.
My problem with the WWE Universe mode is I want to take one created Superstar (Kris ‘The Dockyard Brawler’ Bennett) and work my up the ladder. Earning myself a place amongst the WWE Hall of famers. I want to start at the bottom, fighting through the ranks of NXT, progress to Superstars and meet some of the major headliner names, work up to Monday Night Raw or SmackDown and become a contender for the Intercontinental Championship, make a name for myself and then challenge for the ultimate prize; The WWE Championship. This just doesn’t happen in the WWE Universe mode however. My created superstar within 2 months of being added to the roster of RAW was facing off against John Cena at Survivor series for the Championship.
30 Years of Wrestlemania; the headline game mode of WWE 2K14 is if anything gloriously detailed and executed. It is simply the only reason to play the game. It allows players to relive the greatest moments and matches in WWE history. This includes Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (Wrestlemania III, 1987), The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan (Wrestlemania 18, 2002), and The Rock vs. John Cena (Wrestlemania 28, 2012). In all there are 45 matches spread through five WWE eras which are all historically accurate. As you watch the entrances and videos in the lead up to each individual match you’ll notice the arenas, crowds, entrances, and visuals match exactly with how they looked in the 1980s and 1990s. Attention to detail here is superb. As you work your way through each Wrestlemania PPV you’ll be battling your opponent as well as keeping an eye out for a series of historical objectives you’ll be waiting to complete. Successfully completing every objective will unlock new characters, arenas and even some old archived WWE photography from eras long gone. The objectives will involve completing either a simple QTE (quick time event) or carefully manoeuvring your opponent into a specific position within the ring to trigger a cut scene mimicking the event as it happened. This seems at first like it could get tedious and frustrating, especially when you need to place the opponent in a particular position, but luckily for the player the AI seems, albeit slightly odd, to want to get into the positions you need them.
There is a downside to the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode and that is simply that after the first 5-6 matches it very quickly becomes a chore, completing checklist after checklist.
- Beat down your opponent to light/medium/heavy damage.
- Manoeuvre opponent to position A.
- Complete QTE.
- Beat down opponent to critical damage.
- Perform finisher/make opponent tap out/pin opponent.
Rise and repeat, so on and so forth. It feels a little like 2K Sports are sat behind you, glaring over your shoulder telling you how the game is to be played. Fans of the WWE will undoubtedly already know how the matches are supposed to play out, we don’t need the added pressure of being told how to do it. Imagine how good this mode would have been if we the player were able to change the course of history. Instead of Hulk beating Andre the Giant, Andre remained undefeated whilst Hulk didn’t win the championship, allowing some more freedom could have really spiced this mode up another level. With a mode like this, getting the balance between homage to player freedom must be difficult and despite my grumble above it has to be said that great care and attention to detail has been shown.
Coupled with the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode is The Streak mode where you can either attempt to break the Undertaker’s undefeated streak or play as the Dead Man himself and attempt to defend the Streak against a gauntlet of foes. Both options offer a good challenge and can make a good break from the checklist style gameplay of the mode above. When you attempt to beat The Streak you’ll only be able to choose Superstars who have faced the Undertaker in the past and of course, The Undertaker is amped up in difficulty and won’t go down without a prolonged, bloody and gruelling fight.
When you look at everything on the table, 30 Years of Wrestlemania, The Streak, WWE Universe and customisation options, it is hard to be overly critical of WWE 2K14. But the problem is not one of these modes feels superior enough to ignore all the obvious tedious issues and annoyances that game has. Unfortunately it still falls victim to many of the same control and movement issues the franchise has experienced in the past, albeit improvements have been made. Most importantly, the game is looking dated and is in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint / visual overhaul. WWE 2K14 just isn’t all that good when all is said and done. This was its chance, the last WWE title in the franchise to be released for current gen machines, and on the night they just didn’t manage to pick up the win. Therefore it gets a 1,2,3…