WrestleMania has been the focus of much of the marketing for WWE 2K14, but there’s more to this year’s WWE video game than an ode to the rich history of the Showcase of Immortals.
Sure, paying homage to Superstars and Divas of yesteryear is always cool and deserves its place in the limelight, but new features and a solid contemporary roster is essential. With all the information that has been released, creating my detailed preview was a cinch.
Now, with game in hand for a week, the previews are over. And even after having played only a handful of matches online, it is time to breakdown this mammoth release from top to bottom. However, let’s set some expectations and guidelines first.
For each section, we’ll talk about what was expected, what we got and what would have been ideal (after all, no game is perfect). Finally, I’ll deliver a rating.
When it comes to graphics, my expectations regarding any sports video game released this year on current-generation systems were high but realistic.
None of the franchises delivered groundbreaking visuals in 2013, but that is primarily due to the fact that we’re at the end of a console generation. Rarely—if ever—will you see the graphical envelope pushed drastically in such situations.
That said, I expected to see graphics and animations that looked very much like WWE 13, but ones without some of the physics gaffes that periodically weirded gamers out from previous versions.
None of these instances ruined the game, but each new version of a game should show growth.
What We Got
The player models are mostly the same, but the characters have a little more pop on the screen. The glare of lights in the arena beams off Superstars and Divas, and sweat looks far more real and appropriately disgusting.
The only notable difference to player models in WWE 2K14 comes in the body proportions of some of the legends. Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan’s lower bodies may be just a tad too small, but this is really a very small detail, yet it is one that you can see. Aside from this, attires, tattoos and other such details are very accurate.
There is also a good number of alternate outfits.
Many of the animations are smoother than before. Reversals and sequences meld together like a well-worked match from WWE programming.
The design of the new and old arenas is solid as well. Several new structures are available to accommodate some of the historic arenas, and the crowd is on par with what we’ve seen in older games.
One sparkling aspect of the visual package is the presentation of matches in arenas from the past. Screen filters have been employed to accurately capture the level of technology of the time. It was a great touch that was popularized in NBA 2K12 for games featuring retro teams.
As for those instances where weird animations took over your monitor in WWE 13, those are almost non-existent in WWE 2K14. Through tons of gameplay, I saw a few funky vibrations—exclusively when interacting with objects—but nothing on the level of the mayhem that happened sporadically in WWE 13.
This is a good thing.
The developers clearly understand how critical the WWE gaming community can be over small details, and it is clear that the team tried to leave few stones unturned.
What Would Be Perfect
Based on realistic expectations, there isn’t much that could have been improved about the game from a pure graphical standpoint. That doesn’t mean it is perfect in this regard, but it is still solid.
To make any sort of major impact, designers would have had to revamp the entire look and design of the character models. Doing this may not have resulted in better looking Superstars and Divas, though, s it wasn’t a risk worth taking considering the current concept of models already look good.
Reasonable fans have to be happy with the graphics and animation. Once the game hits next-generation systems, it’ll be exciting and interesting to see how awesome the game looks. It is safe to predict that WWE 2K15—if that’s the title—could be one of the best looking games of the next year from a character model standpoint.
Because the Superstars and Divas generally perform in the same arenas and travel together, day after day, getting accurate scans shouldn’t be a problem with the next-gen hardware.
The controls from previous WWE games were intuitive, but in some theme matches, it was difficult to manipulate objects appropriately.
It is fair to expect this aspect of the controls to be improved. A better representation of weight and height is a natural progression many sports games have made recently. Expecting WWE 2K14 to keep up in that area is also reasonable.
Also, polishing up the reversals system was a needed tweak. In previous versions, it felt as though reversals were a bit too easy. Remember the The Rock and John Cena’s match at WrestleMania 29? It was a reversal fest that got a little too over the top.
If two really good gamers were battling on WWE 13, matches could sometimes feel like that.
What We Got
One of the first things that gamers will notice is the difference in sprint speeds for smaller Superstars versus bigger ones. First of all, super heavyweights like the Big Show take a little longer to get up a head of steam when you sprint. Speedsters like Kofi Kingston are far more agile. This feels great and very realistic.
What is still a bit of an issue is the way smaller Superstars are still able to execute throwing or lifting moves over super heavyweights. This may be a philosophical issue with the designers, and every gamer may even have a different opinion. However, it seems that allowing the likes of Dolph Ziggler to suplex Mark Henry may not be what’s best for business.
Thankfully, the reversal system has been improved, as the timing required to do so seems to be more difficult to master. Mixing up the execution of your attacks will give you more success, even when playing a good opponent.
Collision detection is improved in every area. From flying off the top rope, to landing punches, kicks and throws through objects, it is all more realistic. The instances where you’re asking yourself, “did that really hit him?,” are almost—if not entirely—gone.
One issue in the gameplay is still the manner in which you manipulate objects. In ladder matches, it is still very hard to place the ladder in the exact spot required to reach the briefcase. While gamers shouldn’t be able to set up the ladder on the Spanish announcer table and still reach the prize, the mark shouldn’t need to be surgically precise. Losing a match because you couldn’t figure out how to properly place the ladder is a bummer.
Moreover, the gameplay is fun and that is the most important thing. There are a few small issues, but the predominant feeling from the gameplay experience is enjoyable.
What Would Be Perfect
Making the Superstars' movement more precise while they're holding objects would be ideal. Completely disabling the throwing moves of smaller Superstars when facing opponents over a certain weight would be cool and challenging. However, it may be seen as unfair.
To that point, fans are sold when little guys like Daniel Bryan pull wins over big guys like the Big Show on WWE programming. It would stand to reason that a little guy could successfully employ a strength-limited moveset against a big guy in the video game.
Even someone like John Cena should have to build up his emotions to a fever pitch to pull off an Attitude Adjustment on a foe who weighs 350 pounds or more.
The commentary in WWE games has long been an area in need of improvement. Of all the areas of the game, this is the one that was in need of the most work.
In WWE 12, the series introduced a feature called "WWE Live." It brought the sound effects of a real WWE programming event to the gaming experience, so building upon that feature is something that should be a given.
What We Got
The in-match sound effects are the best that the series—or any other wrestling video game—has ever had. From enhanced effects on the impact of throws to the breaking of objects and the clarity of in-ring chants, it all sounds awesome. You can actually hear Superstars like Titus O’Neil and Daniel Bryan deliver their signature phrases.
From a sound-effect standpoint, the series is headed in the right direction, but the commentary is still lagging a bit.
There are some positives. Jim Ross joins Jerry “The King” Lawler, and the two deliver as the announcers team for the "30 Years of WrestleMania" single-player mode. Their comments are relevant, timely and keep you interested.
Part of this is because you're generally going to play these matches once—or until you beat them. They are designed to be enjoyed as one-off experiences.
On the down side, the commentary during contemporary matchups and outside of the 30 YOWM mode is not very good. Most of the phrases are the same ones from previous versions, with the exception of a few punch-ins from Lawler.
What Would Be Perfect
Having Lawler and Michael Cole sit in the booth together to record all new commentary is the only way to bring the series up to speed in this area. A more organic feel is in needed, and with commentary excellence being a staple of the 2K Sports brand, there is no doubt that it will be addressed in future games.
With the power of next-gen, this could easily be turned into a strength in the future.
WWE games have spoiled gamers with the most robust creation tool in sports video games and a plethora of game modes. Every year, it seems the series brings a treasure chest of options.
The expectations are for the series to come up with more compelling modes and for the online components to function properly.
What We Got
The development team has again outdone themselves in this department. It is almost hard to know where to begin when praising the features and mode options in WWE 2K14.
Let’s go with the addictive 30 YOWM mode. Gamers will go on an interactive history lesson of the Showcase of Immortals that spans 46 matches. The matches feature most of the biggest and best Superstars the company has ever had.
Much like the Attitude Era mode from WWE 13, gamers are charged with recreating and completing in-ring tasks from the historic matches. The rewards are a boatload of unlockable characters, championships and arenas.
Once you get going in this mode, it is really hard to put it down.
New to the series this year is the Streak mode. Inspired by the king of WrestleMania, the Undertaker, gamers will have the chance to either defeat the streak or defend it. The latter is basically a recreation of the old slobber-knocker mode, which is also available in the game this year, albeit separately.
Gamers play as Taker and attempt to defeat as many Superstars in a row on one energy bar. On the other side of the mode, you can choose any Superstar and attempt to defeat the mighty Taker at WrestleMania.
This is easier said than done. The difficulty rating is beyond Legend, and Taker pulls every trick in the book to keep you from beating him. It is pretty challenging. You’ll accumulate a score in both modes that will be ranked on an online leaderboard.
The Universe mode returns, and it has undergone a few noteworthy changes. Gamers can now manage feuds and rivalries. If you don’t want Randy Orton and Bryan’s feud to last 12 weeks, you can shorten it. If you don’t want them to feud at all, you can change it. In WWE 2K14, you can completely manage every feud in the story line.
Also, making an all-Divas show is now a possibility. You can appoint the Divas championship as the main title for a created show and fill the entire show with Divas matches. That’s a pretty cool option.
The creation suite has always been a strong suit of the game, but this year, things are even more blown out. The ability to clone a handful of the roster to make alternate versions is a great way to add diversity and character to the stacked roster.
As it stands, the roster is at 85, with a mix of Superstars and Divas from the present and past. This year, WWE 2K14 allows gamers to create up to 100 Superstars to add to that roster. That’s double what was available for WWE 13.
To augment the expandability of the roster, gamers can still create arenas. These arenas can even employ the details from the venues in the 30 YOWM.
Last, but certainly not least, is the addition of Create-a-Championship. This year, the mode is true to its name in that you can customize nearly every inch of your title creation. Images, different-sized name plates and more are all at your disposal. It is customization heaven. Other options like Create-a-Story are still in the game as well to provide a robust offline experience.
As for online play, things look great so far. I was part of an online gaming session with a group of media folks and developers on Friday. The action was quick, lag-free and finding matches should be no problem—even when the servers are full.
Obviously, volume could affect performance here, but it seems as though server issues could finally be a thing of the past with the series.
As if the roster wasn’t already stacked, 2K Sports announced a healthy downloadable content pack. The nWO, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Bruno Sammartino, Dusty Rhodes, Big E Langston and others will be added over the next three months for those who purchase the Season Pass or items individually.
In case you don’t want to play through 30 YOWM, you can obtain all of the unlockables via Season Pass or from individual purchase. Click here for details.
The feature set is absolutely bananas in WWE 2K14. It is easily the best aspect of the title and adds countless hours of replay value.
What Would Be Perfect
As cool as the DLC is, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the absence of Superstars like Curtis Axel and The Usos. The latter are major players in the tag team division, and Axel was the Intercontinental champion heading into Hell in a Cell on Sunday.
Their absence is the most glaring of any on the roster.
More match types would have been cool, too. Because the WWE is constantly inventing or—at least rehashing classic match themes—it would be nice to have more options there. Even with those things said, you’d have to be crazy not to appreciate all the options here.
As I said, no game is perfect. There will always be areas that make us say “you know what would have been cool.” The key is to not have any shortcomings that ruin or drastically impair the gaming experience. Along the way, the game should hit us with some truly awesome features and qualities.
WWE 2K14 accomplishes this, for the most part. The game is nostalgic, easy on the eyes and most importantly, it is fun. Should you buy this game? Yes! Yes! Yes!
Rating: 8.4 out of 10
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