After having an opportunity to spend SummerSlam weekend in Los Angeles with WWE 2K14, I've come away with solid first impressions of the game. To be totally honest, I was surprised at the improvements.
It isn't because I didn't like WWE 13, and I'm not one of those eternally negative gamers that simply bashes games out of reflex. I expected only minimal improvements in 2K Sports' first year with the WWE license.
It seemed more realistic to expect the company to put their stamp on the series in year two on the next-gen consoles. I learned over the past week that wasn't the case.
The developers and folks in charge at 2K Sports have put in a lot of work to make this initial effort with the WWE a strong one. Here's what we know so far:
Features and Pre-Order Offers
Ultimate Warrior Pre-Order Bonus
The Ultimate Warrior makes his triumphant return to the WWE scene as a pre-order character in the upcoming game. Fans who buy ahead will receive a code to unlock the Warrior when the game is released on Oct. 29.
Undertaker Collector's Phenom Edition
In addition to the Warrior, fans can also pre-order a special edition of the game that comes with Taker-centric items. For $99.99, fans will receive the following, per WWE and 2K Sports:
Exclusive tin coffin box;
Exclusive collectible art card personally hand-signed by Undertaker;
Exclusive Undertaker “American Badass” playable character;
Exclusive Undertaker-themed controller skin;
WWE Undertaker – The Streak: Disc #1 (on Blu-Ray/DVD);
Access to WWE 2K14 global pre-order offer: Ultimate Warrior playable character;
Copy of WWE 2K14 video game.
30 Years of WrestleMania Mode
The single-player campaign mode is centered around the history of the WWE's biggest event, WrestleMania. The greatest matches from the past 29 years have been recreated with an impressive list of past stars with audio and video presentation details.
This mode has opened to door for the inclusion of superstars like Big John Studd, Yokozuna, Batista, Razor Ramon and Goldberg. How were the matches from past WrestleMania's chosen? I spoke with senior gameplay designer Bryan Williams about that and a few other things.
If anyone wonders whether the folks working on this game are truly wrestling fans, look no further than Williams. He is as hardcore as can be, and that is refreshing for a gamer/wrestling fan like myself.
(Pardon the camera angle for the first 15 seconds, things come together shortly.)
Gameplay Impressions and Presentation
Smooth Animation, Better Collision Detection and Reversal System
I had an opportunity to play about five matches in the demo provided after the symposium. There were approximately 15 playable superstars. You could play a Triple Threat, singles or selected matches in the 30 Years of WrestleMania.
I was actually happy that all the other modes that will fill the title out weren't playable. I know I would have been distracted by all the goodies and could have possibly lost track of evaluating the gameplay.
The first things I noticed were the smoother animations, improved collision detection and reversal system. The chaining together of moves was as solid as you'll see in a wrestling video game to this point.
One quality I've been looking for in a wrestling title is the ability to play a match and have it flow like a well-worked match on television. The gameplay I experienced at the symposium is the closest thing to that I've seen.
I didn't notice a ton of missed strikes or seemingly ignored instances of contact. Keep in mind, the game doesn't employ real-time physics yet, so you'll still have the slight invisible wall between characters, but since no game on the current generation of consoles has that covered, it is of no major problem.
Real-time physics is something I'd love to see implemented on the next-gen consoles, though.
Lastly, the reversal system has been vastly improved. It still functions the same way as before with the right trigger (R2 on PS3), but there is far more rhyme and reason. You don't find yourself in head-scratching reversal battles to the point of aggravation anymore.
Here's a look at gameplay provided by 2K Sports that features Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan.
Notes on Presentation
Presentation is huge in wrestling and all sports games. In WWE 2K14, steps have been taken to increase the presentation value. This is especially the case in the 30 Years of WrestleMania mode. Since you'll be playing matches from different eras, you'll be seeing matches that were originally broadcast before the advent of high-definition television.
Grainy filters and such have been incorporated to better bring these eras to life. I saw some wrestlers actually making facial expressions on the ring apron and in the match.
Also, the announcer team for the 30 Years of WrestleMania mode is Jim Ross and Jerry "the King" Lawler. This helps to add a retro feel to the mode. Here's an impressive look at some of the confirmed matches in the mode.
The objective is to recreate the most memorable moments in these iconic WrestleMania matches. This can be a little challenging for fans that aren't familiar with the matches that are spotlighted. For example, it's been years since I saw the Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy "Macho Man" Savage match from WrestleMania 3.
That was the match I played in the single-player campaign mode, and at some points, I was a bit lost. I ultimately found my way, though.
This mode may entice fans to scour YouTube to watch these classics in their entirety to become more familiar with the tasks.
I guess that's not such a bad idea.
As Williams mentioned in the video, there are still more announcements to come. The base of solid gameplay has been laid; now the addition of a few more options for depth, solid weapon-to-character physics and a deep set of creation tools could make this a monumental release.
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