As a child who grew up during the 1990s, pro wrestling was a pretty big deal in my life for a while. From around 1994 to 2002, every Monday I would park myself down in front of the TV and make sure to catch Monday Night Raw. There’s just something about watching angry, colorful characters beat the tar out of each other that really appeals to kids.
In addition to these weekly staples of programming, one Sunday a month would feature a pay-per-view with a clever title such as King Of The Ring or Survivor Series. While these certainly were big events that saw feuds end and titles change hands, the biggest of all events was WrestleMania. I remember watching countless WrestleManias while being in awe at the sheer spectacle of it all and being amazed at the classic matches being put on display. Being able to relive these epic moments is the main hook of WWE 2K14, the latest entry in the sport’s long running video game franchise.
The biggest addition to this year’s iteration of the series is the “30 Years Of WrestleMania” mode, which takes the place of WWE 13‘s “Attitude Era” campaign. Basically, you make your way through every WrestleMania so far and complete a match or two from each one that usually carries some sort of significance in the world of the WWE. In addition to completing the match with the proper combatant, those who wish to fully complete each scenario must accomplish a series of historical objectives. These objectives can range from grappling your opponent near the announcer table to “WrestleMania Moments,” which are either short cutscenes or a series of quicktime events. Completing these tasks reward gamers with witnessing an iconic moment from the match play out.
The mode is broken down into five major stages: “Hulkamania Runs Wild,” “The New Generation,” “The Attitude Era,” “Ruthless Aggression” and “The WWE Universe Era”. There are 46 matches split between the stages, so each one gets enough time to showcase what that particular era meant to pro wrestling as a whole. I think this is a great addition to the series and something that 2K Games should expand upon for the next entry. Excellent video packages before most of the events really help sell the importance of each match and they are a great way to both get a younger audience into older superstars such as Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart, and for older fans to appreciate the work of John Cena and CM Punk.
My only qualm is that some of the matches that are missing from the mode could have easily been placed in. I’m not going to criticize the use of matches such as The Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy because there had to be something from that WrestleMania, but why isn’t a match like Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin included? Both guys are included and that match essentially fully kick-started the “Attitude Era.” The only reason I could think of was licensing issues with special referee Mike Tyson, but he was included in the last game so I’m not really sure.
The other new addition to WWE 2K14 is “The Streak” mode. If you have even a passing knowledge of the company, then you’ve probably heard of The Undertaker. You know, the 6 foot, 10 inch undead wrestler who was also once a wrestling biker? Yeah, that guy. You see, The Undertaker is undefeated at WrestleMania and has recorded 21 victories since his debut. In “The Streak,” you can either take charge as The Undertaker and attempt to defend your reign against a wave of superstars, or you can try to be the man who ends the streak. Both are hard and frustrating, but trying to break the streak is almost too difficult. It makes sense, of course, but after trying (and failing) to defeat the dead man, I had to wave the white flag and surrender.
The rest of the included modes in WWE 2K14 are your typical wrestling game features. You get a variety of match types such as Hell In A Cell, Elimination Chamber, Inferno and Royal Rumble to put the 80+ combatants through. Additionally, the “WWE Universe” mode also makes a return this year. In it, you have complete control over the “WWE universe,” which means you can control the TV shows and pay-per-views as you see fit. It’s a fairly deep mode and one that will have fantasy GMs playing until the next iteration of the series releases.
In fact, I would say that creativity is a fairly big piece of this year’s package. In addition to the “WWE Universe” mode, gamers can stretch their artistic talents by crafting everything from new superstars to additional titles to win. These features have been a staple of the series for a long time and have been constantly improving. Being able to craft classic superstars that may not have been included in the game or even other iconic characters such as Spider-Man is a ton of fun and adds a lot to the proceedings. I can’t think of many titles that offer the same amount of creative freedom as the WWE series.
With all the focus on the history of the WWE, I suppose it would only make sense that the gameplay in WWE 2K14 feels properly archaic as well. You strike with one button and grapple with another, with the additional option of being able to target specific limbs. Reversals also play a big role and a prompt will come up to tell you when to attempt one. Landing more attacks or throwing taunts will raise your special bar, which will allow you to unleash a signature move and eventually a finishing move. Certain moments also require you to properly time the hit a button, such as climbing out of a steel cage or kicking out of a pinfall. Everything here works as it should, but it all feels very stale. None of the matches felt very different from one another outside of who was fighting, and this led to me feeling pretty bored with things by the time I wrapped up the main campaign.
Graphically, WWE 2K14 is probably the best the series has looked since it started appearing on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The character models are detailed, and while I never expect them to fully look lifelike, this is the best they will look on current-gen consoles. I also appreciated Yuke’s adding in the different outfits the wrestlers wore for their WrestleMania appearances. Sure, there may not be a huge difference between how Hulk Hogan looked at WrestleMania and how he did at WrestleMania 3, but it’s cool that you can choose between them anyway. Something that still doesn’t look great though is the audience. The same shoddy looking crowd shows up for every event, and while I understand that the graphical detail of the audience is the least of Yuke’s concern, it still looks incredibly poor.
By looking back through the history of the company, WWE 2K14 has provided wrestling fans with arguably the best campaign that the series has had in years. Playing through classic WrestleMania events is a treat for both new and old fans alike and I hope that 2K Games will continue to expand on the mode. However, 2K Games would be smart to finally completely overhaul the stale gameplay that continues to haunt the series. I understand that they took over publishing duties here after the dissolution of THQ, but let’s hope that the inevitable WWE 2K15 will finally give wrestling the gameplay it deserves.
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
WWE 2K14 is a historical treat for both new and old fans alike, but the series' reliance on the same shoddy gameplay continues to hold it back from achieving true greatness.