‘WWE 2K14’ is a knockout gaming win

WWE 2K14 is a knockout gaming win

by Max Saucedo

For many hard-core wrestling fans who feel World Wrestling Entertainment regularly ignores their wishes in favor of appealing to the broader audience of 8-to-15-year-old children and teenagers, the WWE video game franchise remains a much closer love letter to fandom.

Many of the older developers at Yuke’s Co., Ltd. the developer behind the franchise, most likely grew up watching Hulk Hogan’s epic clash with Andre the Giant at WrestleMania 3 or witnessing the beginning of The Undertaker’s now 21-0 perfect streak at WrestleMania 7 with a victory against Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. The younger breed of developers probably have vivid memories of watching the two men who built up the WWE with a new attitude: Stone Cold Steve Austin and The People’s Champion, The Rock, and the duo’s three epic bouts at WrestleMania’s 15, 17 and 19. For young folks, such as myself, the recent WrestleManias featuring The Showstopper and The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, Dave Batista, John Cena and Triple H all highlight the global phenomenon known as WrestleMania.

With this in mind, Yuke’s has set out to create the most realistic experience in its games, allowing players to relive, recreate and redefine the last 29 years of WrestleMania. The main focus of the newly branded “WWE 2K14” has now brought the WWE into the 2K Sports fold, giving the brand a chance at celebrating its biggest spectacle in a new game mode, “30 Years of WrestleMania.” From the start, you are given the treat of seeing some of the all-time greatest matches and rivalries that had their beginnings and ends at WrestleMania. Giving players historical goals to be fulfilled increases the experience and sense of authenticity. Yuke’s performs a masterful job of locking down the elements that made its previous game, “WWE ’13, Attitude Era” by incorporating WWE’s immense video library. Before most matches, players are treated to small video vignettes detailing the match that is about to be played, giving the player context that adds to the mystique and aura of WrestleMania.

As one can expect, unlocking the majority of the legendary arenas, managers and era-specific wrestlers requires fulfillment of the historical goals mentioned above. At the time of this review, the roster for “WWE 2K14” is massive with more than 80 wrestlers including the unlockables. For many who have wished to put CM Punk into a match with “Macho Man” Randy Savage, the dream has finally come true. Gameplay has taken a turn for the better since “’WWE ’13,” as new grapple moves, finishers and a starting run allow for an even more balanced experience. My recommendation for the versus modes (and boy are there a lot) is to play with a human competitor. Don’t expect these matches to end quickly though, as the counter system most often results in an offensive counter to keep the gameplay rolling smoothly.

WWE Universe Mode returns, letting the player act as a pseudo-general manager, pitting WWE superstars against each other in an all-new rivalry system. This gives the player control on who is feuding, which titles are on the line and what type of matches will occur. The expanded roster is definitely a plus, because the locked rosters at the beginning of the year meant many current WWE stars were unfortunately not included. The boosted numbers game makes planning much easier. Yuke’s also ups the ante by expanding its famous Creation Suite, allowing the player to craft everything from championship belts, arenas, superstars, story arcs, finishing moves and much more.

There are several silver linings however to make up for the flaws. Continuing legacy issues plague the in-ring game experience. Hearing Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler call matches for the current day generations makes sense, but becomes particularly cringe-worthy when you hear their stale, bored voices reacting to something that normally would be cause for loud screaming. For a game that values its authenticity, the exclusion of classic commentary by Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse Ventura or even Vince McMahon seems antithetical. If you can get used to the same old commentary, or maybe you’d rather just pipe in your own music instead of having to listen, I’m sure WWE won’t hold it against you.

The second issue is the Undertaker Mode. As is well known, The Undertaker’s most prized record is his perfect win streak at WrestleMania. Two modes are offered: in Defend the Streak Mode players are tasked with facing a gauntlet-style match, facing an increasingly more difficult wrestling AI. In Defeat the Streak Mode, you choose a wrestler to pit against a maddeningly difficult The Undertaker. Make no mistake, I like the concept behind these ideas; but in terms of balancing, the game isn’t built to handle this fairly. The Undertaker deserves to have more of his story fleshed out, not just a gauntlet mode.

“WWE 2K14” is a crowning accomplishment for Yuke’s, as it manages to capture that nostalgia-infused era that existed back during the age of titans, all the way to the present days of WWE superstars. By letting players relive their favorite WrestleMania moments, the developers hit a home run and cemented WWE “2K14” as a centerpiece franchise.

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Photo courtesy of W2K