And a few things we don’t…
On a gloomy Friday afternoon buried deep inside a crypt, a stone’s throw away from London’s Farringdon station, 2K invited us into their assuredly spooky abode to sample WWE 2K14. Surrounded by giant hanging scrolls and epitaphs dedicated to The Undertaker himself, it’s clear that gaming’s annual wrestling series is definitely under new management. 2K has brought new money and new vigour to this prized franchise and the good news is that these touches have resulted in a much more polished and more ambitious wrestling experience.
Here are five things we love about WWE 2K14 and a few things we don’t…
- All Hail WrestleMania
WWE 2013 boasted a fair amount of nostalgia with a game mode dedicated to recreating key matches from the Attitude era and that attention to wrestling’s past continues this year in the ’30 Years of WrestleMania’ game mode. Essentially this mode is dedicated to recreating specific matches from sports entertainment’s biggest annualised pay-per-view, involving 45 historically accurate bouts dating back to the first WrestleMania with Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd to modern match ups like John Cena versus Shawn Michaels. Each fight is introduced with a wealth of archive footage and written material to give a flavour of why a particular match is so important, and these touches really help to get you pumped up for stepping into the ring. Once there you follow strict criteria effectively choreographing matches, with objectives like ‘Cause Critical Damage’, ‘Irish Whip Into Corner’, and ‘Perform Sweet Chin Music’ allowing key moments to be recreated. Carefully building momentum and pulling off key moves allows matches to feel more life like than freeform bouts and witnessing how wrestling and certain wrestlers have evolved throughout the different matches and eras also made us smile a lot. Do you remember when John Cena drove to the ring in a black and gold Ford Mustang for WrestleMania 23? Nope we didn’t either until we saw it recreated in-game.
- A Real Slobberknocker!
WWE games have been criticised a lot previously for having stilted animations and a game engine which looks and feels like it belongs in a different era. That’s still the case in WWE 2K14, but Yukes has made a few notable improvements to this series’ core gameplay. Wrestler animations for one have been tightened up a lot. Transitions between animations now feel snappier and more organic, giving matches a much more believable feel. Characters still grind against each other on occasion as if there’s an invisible wall between them, but these immersion breaking moments are much rarer than they were previously. These improvements are hard to sum up in words really, but this year’s game just feels a bit more frenetic and alive than previous games. The ability to reverse opposition moves is still slightly over powered, but the window for countering does seem smaller than before. Other tweaks include the ability to initiate catch finishers without having to wait for an opponent to climb a turnbuckle and a new Resilience buff which functions a lot like the Comeback ability, allowing players to instantly shrink the Breaking Point metre when their wrestler is neutralised in a hold. Resilience can only be activated once during a match, but it does add an additional bit of drama and more room for opponents to stage a classic momentum turn during matches.
- More Creator Options
When 2K took over the WWE license there was some thought that they’d reign in the series’ powerful character creator and storyline designer tools. We’re pleased to report that isn’t happening with WWE 2K14. If anything these tools are being expanded even further, now allowing players to create their own championships and design their own belts, in addition to creating new shows which can be used in WWE Universe. The example given to us was that players could create their own rival to Smackdown and Raw involving only Divas which might prove interesting. Before you ask, no you can’t recreate WWE’s Total Divas reality show in-game, but who knows what next year’s tools could bring? Other tweaks fall in line with general quality of life improvements like raising the stored superstars limit from 50 to 100 and being able to amend the look of existing superstars in the character creator and add their new look to a list of selectable attire. The sign and entrance editor also remains. All these editors offer fans a dizzying amount of choice, but much more important than that they should give Video Game Championship Wrestling even more scope for their zany brand of unlicensed sports entertainment!
- Improved WWE Universe
For us, WWE Universe is still the go to game mode if we fancy a quick bout of wrestling silliness, and in this year’s game it has been enhanced, albeit slightly. Rivalries can now be chosen by the player rather than just being doled out randomly by AI and finally the ‘King of the Ring’ match type has become part of this GM mode as well. Rivalry length can be toggled between short, medium and long, and rivalry bouts are specifically labelled in the match roster now to avoid any confusion. The ability for players to create their own shows is the big addition to Universe mode this year, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the experience has been neglected.
- Ode to ‘Taker
We were actually going to write a full blown lyrical stanza to celebrate WWE 2K14‘s biggest component outside of the WrestleMania stuff, even boasting a strophe, an antistrophe and an epode, but then we thought better of it and just decided to tell you about the new three-pronged mode instead. The Undertaker, arguably WWE’s biggest star, has been involved in 21 different matches at WrestleMania over the years and hasn’t lost a single bout. It would be weird if WWE 2K14 didn’t pay some kind of homage to this amazing streak, so instead Yukes has built a special hub dedicated to Taker’s record.
There’s three different components to this hub – Defeat the Streak, Victims of the Undertaker, and Defend the Streak. Defeat the Streak is all about recreating matches from Undertaker’s WrestleMania past, with the goal of defeating the pale ginger giant any way you can. This was described to us as WWE 2K14‘s hard mode, with the AI turned up to max and ‘Taker able to deploy a bunch of special tricks like switching off the lights above the ring and gaining access to a finisher in a matter of seconds to make the challenge that much stiffer. We played this mode and can attest to its fearsome difficulty. Simply put, it’s really bloody tough and despite playing as Batista, again emulating WrestleMania 23, we were pinned in a matter of minutes. If we successfully defeated ‘Taker we would have been awarded a score, taking into account excitement, showmanship, drama and competitiveness ratings, which would then uploaded to an online scoreboard showcasing our finesse to the world, but alas our skills fell short. Defend the streak follows a similar principle, with players controlling the Undertaker in a scenario where all his previous victims enter the ring one at a time thirsty for blood. Success in either of this modes will unlock more art and archive information in the third component; Victims of the Undertaker. This is a essentially a wiki bursting with information on each of Undertaker’s fights which will give younger fans a real impression of why ‘The Dead Man’ has become so iconic in the WWE Universe.
- And a few things we don’t like
Overall WWE 2K14 undoubtedly represents a positive step and significant step forward for this series, bursting with lots of imaginative new modes and tweaks, however a few old complaints about the series remain. Some of these complaints are picky to say the least, but they are things we wish Yukes would fix. Confusing menu design still remains a big problem for the series, with all the creator modes often hidden in the interface. Load times also remain frustratingly long, usually involving a few minutes wait before matches. Obviously this series is on the cusp of great change with WWE 2K15 likely targeting Xbox One and PlayStation 4 platforms first and foremost, still it’s a shame these issues can’t be sorted out. There’s also the mysterious reason why The Rock adorns this year’s cover, despite the fact that this year’s game is very much a love letter to the Undertaker and WrestleMania. We love ‘The Brahma Bull’ as much as the next wrestling fan, but why he’s on the cover we have no idea.
Finicky distractions aside WWE 2K14 remains a very exciting proposition for both existing and lapsed wrestling fans – especially those who’re looking to recreate the halcyon days of Sport Entertainment’s spandex-clad, body hair-free, greased up history. Sure all the modern superstars are here in their clean cut PG-13 glory, but it’s the return of the true greats of the sport that has us so excited and undoubtedly Undertaker belongs in that hallowed group. How would ‘Mr Phenom’ fare against ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage in his prime? Let us go boot up this year’s game to find out…
WWE 2K14 will be released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on Friday, 1st November in Europe . Find out up to the minute pre-order bonus and pricing details about this exciting release, check out PreOrder-IQ.com.
Tags: WWE 2K14