By Chris Hughes (@chris_hughes)
After several years of different franchises, control layouts and game engines, the developers at Yukes seem to be happy with their basic foundation of a wrestling game and the latest effort results in a winner for both WWE fans and those who enjoy the fighting genre of games.
Despite the change from THQ to 2K Sports, WWE 2K14 keeps the look and feel of last year’s game, which is a good thing because there is no new controller layout to learn. This also allowed the developers to focus on refining the create-a-wrestler mode and the game’s signature storyline – 30 Years of WrestleMania.
The WrestleMania storyline is very similar to last year’s Attitude Era mode, where you are run through a main storyline that’s broken down into smaller segments, winning matches and unlocking rewards as you go.
I enjoyed this year’s feature over last year’s because each WrestleMania match takes you back to a time and angle that’s, for the most part, vastly different than the one you just completed. At times, WWE 13’s Attitude Era mode was a bit repetitive where you were having different combinations of singles and tag team matches featuring Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley and the Undertaker week after week, month after month.
The detail that accompany each WrestleMania moment is what makes this mode great. Each arena is done in painstaking detail, along with the correct television graphics of the time. Wrestlers’ and managers’ gear also matches what they wore at each event.
You can play each match on its own, controlling the winner but proceeding in whichever manner you’d like. If you want to have the Ultimate Warrior beat Hulk Hogan via a roll-up at WrestleMania 6, that’s fine. But, you can also mimic reality by following the objectives that the game gives you for each match, this way you can have Warrior roll out of the way of Hogan’s legdrop and hit the big splash for the win.
Meeting the objectives allows you to unlock all of the old characters, arenas and title belts (or you can pay $1.99 to have it all unlocked for you, but what’s the fun in that?).
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler provide the commentary for this entire storyline, but it makes for some awkward moments as they just say the things that people like Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse Ventura and Heenan said on the original commentary for the shows. It is funny to hear J.R. talk about Hogan being “the greatest athlete in the world today” after beating Sgt. Slaughter at WrestleMania 7, and The King unabashedly root for Ric Flair like Bobby Heenan did at WrestleMania 8.
The other part of the 30 Years of WrestleMania mode is “The Streak”. You can attempt to break Undertaker’s streak, or play as the Phenom in an endless gauntlet match to try to break his current record of 21. You will really have to be on your game to beat the streak, as you not only have to face the Undertaker on the highest difficulty level, but you have to contend with his superpowers as well; nothing is more frustrating than having the match won, when the lights suddenly go out during the pin attempt, and when they come back on, he’s back up and ready to attack.
This mode is based on a points-system that takes various factors into account and gives you a score after you either attempt to beat the streak or defend the streak, and you can measure up against other players on the online leaderboard.
The create mode was also given some nice improvements. You can still create wrestlers, entrances, belts, arenas and storylines, but you are now given some creative license when it comes to the WWE superstars themselves.
For example, you can choose whether you want Daniel Bryan to come down to chants of YES! YES! YES!, NO! NO! NO!, or neither. You can also edit the colors of any superstars’ ring attire – so if you want to give C.M. Punk four different color schemes on his trunks, you can do that.
The best part of the create mode is that you can now edit several wrestlers from scratch. You can choose a template of selected wrestlers (mainly the top guys), then give them any hairstyle, any t-shirts, jackets, trunks, pants, tattoos, and it goes on and on. You can then attach your vision of that wrestler to their main character in the game and use it in the ring. The only downside is that you cannot do this for every character in the game, but it could be something to save for future editions as the years go on.
Everything else is what you’d expect from a WWE game since this format was established a few years ago – nearly endless combinations of exhibition matches (featuring the usual match types like Hell in a Cell, Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, etc.), a WWE Universe free-form calendar mode complete with angles and title matches, and an online mode where you can compete against other players and share created wrestlers, arenas and titles.
If you’re new into the video game market and haven’t played any of the WWE games, I highly recommend this. If you are a steady customer, it comes down to if you think it’s worth $59.99 (or $79.99 if you want to buy all of the extras) for an updated roster, the 30 Years of WrestleMania and the create-a-wrestler upgrades. I feel that there are enough new additions to the game to make it worth the purchase, as compared to sports franchise games like Madden football, the new features in this game out-do many traditional sports titles that you see on a year-by-year basis.
When you consider that you can have this game for a little more than the price of what WWE has been offering on pay-per-view as of late, it’s a no brainer – and Daniel Bryan can even win the Hell in a Cell match in your own little WWE Universe. And that, of course, is what’s best for business.