The WWE Universe is one that is constantly in fluctuation. Major factors can change at the drop of a hat, and new twists and turns can come out of nowhere. Luckily WWE has products available on virtually every medium available, from the weekly tv shows, to the monthly Pay-Per-Views and WWE Magazine, and the annual release of the latest iteration of the WWE gaming franchise. With long-time publisher THQ’s closure at the start of the year, the publication of the next game went to 2K Games, and WWE 2K14 was born. Coming out of a stormy year, and going into one of the company’s largest events of all time (Wrestlemania 30), does WWE 2K14 bring the fans what they expect of the WWE Universe?
My first impression with WWE 2K14 is one of familiarity. While many would argue all day long about whether Professional Wrestling is truly a sport or not, the WWE games are undoubtedly sports games, and this year they’ve run face pace into the largest wall that all sports games face. How do you innovate in an annual release? If you’ve played WWE ’13, you’ve more or less played WWE 2K14. While there have been some changes since last year, the way in which you play the game has not.
The new ‘story mode’ type option this year is the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode, which takes players back to the beginning of the WWE’s largest Pay-Per-View and tasks you with recreating some of the memorable moments from each year’s event. This is sure to be a hit with long-time WWE fans who no doubt will be playing along and suddenly have a moment of “I remember that”. As an extension to this, there are also 2 Undertaker themed game modes. Defend The Streak has you battle a never ending string of opponents as The Undertaker, while Beat The Streak lets you choose your wrestler and then fight against a very difficult Undertaker. The problem here is that the difficulty is so high that you’ll be countered 85% of the time, and most people who have succeeded in beating the streak are doing so by using flaws in the game’s AI system.
The WWE Universe mode (a sort of sandbox mode that allows you to create shows and matches or manage the flow of every aspect of the franchise) also returns, although with extended customisation and better backend options. There’s now more detailed information about ongoing rivalries and a better way for you to establish rivalries between the characters you want, and with the ability to use custom logos and establish custom tournaments gives the player more sand in the box.
In the end WWE 2K14 does expand on some of the franchises core elements, but doesn’t do enough to really feel new. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as WWE ’13 was an amazing game. The 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode brings its own wave of problems, largely in content balancing. With virtually all of the game’s unlockable content focused on this mode, it means we end up with 8 different variations of Hulk Hogan, and 15 different versions of John Cena, but Curtis Axel (who has held a key title in the WWE for the last 6 months) is completely omitted from the roster. The glaring holes in the roster are only made more evident by the game’s online functionality. Nearly all of the highest rated user-created content, is current WWE superstars who were left out of the game and have been recreated by fans using the game’s own character creator.
*Review copy provided by 2K Games
WWE 2K14 provides plenty of Wrestlemania nostalgia, but doesn’t do enough to feel new. Fans of the current era will also have to resort to their imagination (once again) if they’re hoping for a real story involving current superstars.