Released in October/November of 2013, WWE 2k14 is the latest installment of the wrestling series. Yukes, the developer, has been working on the series since the first game in the early 2000s, WWF Smackdown!. It was followed by another PS1 classic, Smackdown! 2 Know Your Role. Both games got critical acclaim for its fast-paced style, large variety of match types, an extensive season, an in depth creation mode, gigantic roster, and more. After various PS2 exclusive titles such as Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth, the series continued a trend of Smackdown! vs RAW games. After numerous titles, it was simply renamed WWE ’12, which is commonly seen in sports games nowadays. After gaining a new publisher in the widely known company 2k Games, WWE 2k14 is the first of the series to show the new title change. Although the new game contains many of the same elements as the previous entry WWE ’13 (which for the record I did not play so I will not compare the two games except in a few spots), 2k Games basically kept its nose out of Yukes’ business, and a great wrestling game has arrived.
Being a wrestling fan since the Attitude Era (which in my opinion roughly lasted from October 1997 to March 2002), I’ve slowly lost interest in the sport. After the Attitude Era came the so-called Agression Era, followed by the half-hated and half-liked PG Era. Although I stopped following the company around 2007, and with TNA and other promotions (besides JCW sometimes) unable to fulfill my entertainment needs, I still gave the games a chance. I’m glad I did, because WWE 2k14 is a body slam into the gaming industry.
Although the initial games featured fast-pace action, it seems Yukes finally got the speed and balance right. As any other wrestling game, you basically use a certain combination of buttons to perform moves on your opponent. It can range from simple moves like a suplex to more complicated maneuvers like a spinning wheel kick. Every wrestler has their own set of moves, so even though a powerhouse like Big Show will rely on body slams and big boots, you might have a high flier such as Rey Mysterio doing west coast pops and top rope splashes. It’s also balanced to the point where cruiserweight Rey Mysterio will normally not be able to pickup the super heavyweight Big Show; instead, the smaller wrestler will injure his back and might cost him the match. The balance between the weights is a well-needed fix to the previously unrealistic scenarios. In addition to the normal fighting, other actions such as running, climbing the top rope, grabbing a weapon from under the ring, and so on are very easy to pull off.
The reversal system can be hit or miss for most players. You basically have to push the correct button at the right time during an offensive move in order to reverse that move. Kicking out of a pin is rather unique as well. You have to hold the button as you’re being pinned, and a small meter starts to fill up above your head. You then have to release said button in the red zone of the meter in order to kick out. As your health and stamina starts to diminish, so does the red zone in the meter.
Using weapons and whipping oppoents to a certain area is one of the more easier things to do. Although you’ll get reversed half the time, it’s basically a match maker if pulled off. Most of the surroundings are interactive, such as a wrestler bashing up against a post on the outside, or someone getting extra damage for being slammed on the steel ramp.
Falls count anywhere and hardcore matches have always been my favorite. There’s a wide variety of weapons to be found under the ring or by creating them such as destorying the steel steps to the ring. The weapons do devasting damage, and if used right, can quickly end a match; however, the backstage areas are still dull. From what I’ve seen, they’ve been barely changed since the last game. There are only 4 areas, and even though there’s no load times between them, the camera angles seem a little whacky. At times, the camera is too close to the action and creates a blindspot for possible objects to use. There isn’t a wide range of interactiveness either. You can only do 1 move on the cars, and the hard cement floor and walls can quickly end the match via knockout. Although it’s cool to use the hallway doors and soda machines as a weapon for the first time, you’ll notice each action is basically the same, and doesn’t really show a good deal of replayability. It’s been a long time since Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth appeared on the scene, but that game had such a large selection of backstage areas such as a street and restaurant, it’s upsetting that Yukes has ignored this section of gamplay over the years.
As always, you can select a good variety of matches. Some examples include Extreme Rules (which is basically a watered down name of a Hardcore match thanks to the PG Era), Hell in a Cell (which is the ability to wrestle around a steel structure), Royal Rumble (which up to 60 wrestlers in an over-the-top rope match compete), Elimination Chamber (which 6 wrestlers slowly gets released from their respective cell to battle it out), and many more match types. Basically every type of match that you desire is in this game. You can also select other options for each match, such as maybe make it a first blood match, or a falls count anywhere match. Up to 6 wrestlers can be on the screen at once. One downside to the match types is in the inability to have a female versus a male. It’s not an uncommon theme in the wrestling world. Again, the PG Era can be thanked for this.
The size of the roster is up to date and features most of the current wrestlers. Big names such as John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Christian, The Undertaker, and many more are present. Although if you haven’t been following wrestling for the past year or so, many of the names will be unfamiliar to you. But there are loads more to unlock. Downloadable paid content such as the nWo featuring wrestlers Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Syxx, Scott Steiner, and others are a good addition to the roster. The unlockable legends also makes a return such as Stone Cold, Edge, Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, and many more.
One flaw I’ve noticed is that some wrestlers have multiple variations of them. For example, the main roster features Big Show. But as you unlock more superstars, you’ll come across Big Show (Retro). If you decide to get the DLCs, you’ll then have The Giant (nWo). Many of the superstars have 2 or 3 variations of themselves. Although it is a nice nostalgia gesture, it would seem a little more likely to simply have them as different outfits, and then attach the respective entrance and personality to the outfit, instead of making a whole new slot for them. But don’t be fooled, because in addition to the multiple slots, there are also multiple choices for attires. So maybe you want to dress up John Cena in his Wrestlemania 20 attire, or maybe in his Wrestlemania 29 attire.
One of the more boasted modes is Road to Wrestlemania. You relive classic matches from each and every Wrestlemania (usually just the main events or other big matches). You complete the goals for each match so that it plays out like it should, then you advance to the next event. What’s more impressive is the fact that every arena for every Wrestlemania is remade in this game. The layout for each arena is well done and obviously Yukes watched the archive tapes over and over to get everything in place correctly. Its logos and onscreen text-style is also present. The commentary is also redone for each match, to give a more authentic feel as you play. Yukes did a great job of recreating all of the right elements. Although there are some quick misses in terms of entrance attire on a few legends, it’s mainly a super hardcore fan that will notice the flaw, and it’s not really bothersome overall.
Another new mode is The Undertaker’s Streak. You play the role of the deadman and have to defend the Wrestlemania streak. As of this writing, he has 21 wins and 0 losses and 0 draws, straight. It’s one of the most watched storylines in all of sports entertainment, and every year he claims a new victim. This is an interesting mode for WWE 2k14 and although not earth shattering, it will kill some time.
The Universe Mode is also present in the game. You create your own feuds, schedule (for TV shows and PPVs), tag teams, titles, and more. You basically are in Vince McMahon’s CEO chair and recreate the wrestling universe to your liking. There could be a few things that can be improved, such as a less strict set on the scheduling rules, but this mode is bound to keep even the casual fan entertained. It’s also odd that even though you can edit the brands for the main roster, it won’t transfer over for exhibition mode. Granted, the Universe Mode is extremely shallow compared to other simulators such as Total Extreme Warfare, but this is the best a fan will get in terms of control in a 3D environment.
The creation modes are better than any other wrestling game yet. You can customize or create a wrestler down to every inch. If you want his or her nose to be slanted with green eyes and an afro while making him or her a super heavyweight and no facial hair, you’ll be able to. The depth of create-a-wrestler is so percise that it may take you more than an hour to get the basics in place. You’re also able to make your own outfit, and your own logos as well. I haven’t tried my hand at logos and graphics since I’m not a paintshop enthuastist, but there are many good creations out there.
There are also options such as creating arenas (which has a vast amount of graphics and layouts from old WWE events such as Over the Edge or Backlash to various logos such as ECW or WCW and so on), title belts (which has every WWF and WCW and ECW championships plus more), storylines (which has the ability to create feuds and cutscenes), and much more. As previously mentioned, you can paint up your own logo for these modes, and you can import your own music for entrances as well. It’s odd to note that for the entrances, you can’t use your own FMVs for it. So you’re stuck with a generic looking loop, or a current superstar’s video. It’ll take a good chunk of time just to skim the surface of the options for each mode. Once you’ve created an arena or a superstar, they get their own section during the selection screens. Although the main roster basically has one screen with many pallets for each star like most fighting games, for the DLCs and created superstars, there’s only one tiny button, and you have to go up or down to select the superstar. If you use the whopping 100 slots for your custom wrestlers, you have to scroll through just to get to someone specific. It’d be a lot easier if it was just one screen like the main roster, with the flexability to easily select someone. A perfect example would be the N64 classic WWF No Mercy, which you could easily edit and browse through the selection screen.
Although you need to pay additional money (unless you got a new game with a code) to access the Community Creations, it’s well worth it. A huge selection of wrestlers, titles, arenas, movesets, and more are being released every hour by the community. So if you want to download a hardcore division of wrestlers such as Al Snow, Bob Holly, Raven, and Justin Credible, you’ll have no trouble finding different variations of each. But if you want to go beyond the company and snatch other stars that have never signed contracts with WWE such as Sting, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, or other whacky characters like Batman, then that’s up for grabs as well. Maybe you want the nWo Souled Out PPV arena, or the classic WWF Heat arena to fulfill your wrestling world. Quite possibly, you’ll want a certain moveset to download for your created superstar. There are tons of options, and it’s well worth it to search and browse for the perfect archive of creations. But that’s only the downloading side. If you want to create your own JCW arena, with your own roster filled with stars such as Violent J or Vampiro or Evil Dead or Monoxide, with your own Juggalo World Title, you can upload all of that for the public to enjoy.
The graphics, judging from videos and photos of the previous game, haven’t been improved too much. The models are quite detailed, the crowd is no longer blocky like the older games and each person has their own stance, the lighting and pyros are suited perfectly for the game, and other small things exist such as the realistic bounce of the ropes or a guitar shattering into pieces. You probably shouldn’t expect a mind-blowing display of graphics, but I’ve always been the one to rate gameplay higher on a priority list. Only thing that bothers me is the wrestlers’ hair. It’s just flimsy and rushed right out the gate.
The sound is nothing to write home about. Commentary has never been a strong point in any wrestling game whatsover, and you’ll quickly grow tire of it, except maybe during Road to Wrestlemania. The music in the game has some generic tunes, but since there’s a good selection of current superstars and legends, you’re able to customize the jukebox with these theme songs to your liking. But the saving grace is the ability to use your own music in the game, whether it be for the main menu or a wrestler’s entrance; however, there is a glitch to it. I learned the hard way, and since I had about 1000 songs on my hard drive (which isn’t even a fraction of what amount of music I have overall), too much will glitch the game like no other. The creation modes might freeze up, the menu music might not play, or the music used as a winning theme will either loop or not play at all. I had to cut the amount of music in half in order for the game to work properly, which is a shame because I own a gigantic 500GB PS3, and only a few gigs could be used for music now.
It’s easy to find online matches within the community (again you need the code with the new game or buy one). There are rankings and various options that you can use. I’m more of an in person type of guy, so I’d rather grab 5 other buddies in the same room, and start up a 6-Man Tag Match or something similiar. It’s a lot more fun when you can actually interact with the people beside you, on the same screen. Plus, you don’t have to deal with unnecessary lag and possibly annoying personalities (unless you loathe your real-life friends as well, in that case you’re screwed).
All in all, WWE 2k14 is a refreshment to the wrestling series. I haven’t touched any of the games since Smackdown! vs RAW 2008, so making that leap was a very drastic one. The previous game (WWE ’13) is now cheaper and basically sports the same graphics, and instead of Road to Wrestlemania there’s an Attitude Era mode. But since I’ve made that leap, I’m quite satisified with WWE 2k14. There are new modes, an interesting mix of a roster, and a larger online community. Even though there are still a few glitches such as custom music screwing things up and odd decisions such as too many variations of the same wrestler, this game is still a new stepping stone in the series. I’d imagine that Yukes will drastically change the next installment, but if they don’t, then WWE 2k15 will basically be the third rehash of the franchise. We’ll have to wait and find out.
Top 5 Pros:
-Massive customization options such as wrestlers, arenas, titles, and movesets.
-Road to Wrestlemania has every event to date, with details such as specific attires and arena layouts.
-A large community equals easy matchmaking and an even easier search for custom creations.
-Pretty much every match type you can think of.
-The actual wrestling is well-balanced and fun to play.
Top 5 Cons:
-Custom music may glitch the game.
-Very annoying selection process for downloaded and custom wrestlers when starting a quick match.
-Universe Mode has a few odd restrictions but it might not impact the game overall.
-Basically the same graphics as the previous game but it’s still good looking.
-The backstage areas should be vastly improved in the future.