WWE 2K14 Review
Should you lay one more Smackdown on current generation consoles?
WWE 2K14 marks the first title in the ongoing franchise to be released by a different publisher. THQ - may the company rest in peace - has now been replaced by 2K Sports; but even with a new company overseeing production the familiar face of Yukes still holds reign over the title’s development. What exactly does this all mean? It means not a lot has changed from the series’ previous releases which is both a good and a bad thing. While the old saying “why fix what isn’t broken” does apply to most aspects of 2K14, there are some issues - particularly with the game’s online portion - that need to be addressed. However, the changes that do appear compliment the game’s familiar feel and make this trek into the ring an amusing one.
Graphically, WWE 2K14 has not changed much from its predecessors. There are some smoother animations and a more stable framerate, and striking attacks have been sped up to make them more useful. Though quicker attacks are helpful, they sometimes look like the wrestler is moving in fast forward removing any weight or significance from the hits. Players may also run into a couple moments of awkward clipping, occurring only when too many foes and weapons are in the ring at the same time. While the look of the game is certainly not going to be dropping jaws anytime soon, it does its job in recreating some of professional wrestling’s greatest stars and their famous stages.
The game’s atmosphere and controls will immediately resonate with those who have gotten their hands on WWE ’12 and WWE ’13. Players can grapple, punch, kick and throw their opponents in order to beat them into a lifeless pulp. Adding to this diversity is the ability to target specific parts of the body which is extremely helpful when trying to go for a submission. Since there are many different angles to perform these moves from, all yielding different results, it may take newcomers some time to get accustomed to the controls. The most difficult move one will have to master quickly is the reversal. The reversal has been a problematic technique in the past two games and it is disappointing Yukes has not perfected it this third go around. A maneuver that can change the flow of a match, the unhelpful button prompt to perform it appears on screen and disappears before most will have a chance to react. This means players will have to disregard the prompt and try to learn through a character’s movements when an opponent’s strike should be countered. There are prompts that show up indicating that whether or not you were “Too fast” or “Too slow” but they seem so inconsistent that it would probably benefit players to just turn the prompts off. Fortunately, the reversal isn’t impossible to learn; it just takes practice. Once players develop an understanding of the game’s mechanics the opportunities seem endless helping each match differ from the last.
Whether standing, lying down or running, a wrestler can be beaten upon. After laying enough of a smack down on your adversary players are granted the option to perform their signature and finishing moves. These moves are both delightful to watch and devastating to a wrestler’s condition, and often lead to the end of a match by pin fall or submission. Many favorite character specific signatures and finishers are present from John Cena’s Attitude Adjustment and Stone Cold’s Stunner to Hulk Hogan’s Leg Drop and Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter. If caught by one of these, players must be ready to kick out of a pin or break a submission. In order to do this, one must complete a small mini-game. When it comes to submissions it is basically a button-mashing affair, easily broken out of unless your opponent weakens the targeted area enough. It’s a different story with a pin as a small bar with a highlighted area appears on screen. The objective is to fill it by holding the appropriate button and release it when the bar reaches the highlighted area. It seems basic but the more weary your wrestler, the smaller the highlighted area. The problem with this mini-game is that it can be difficult at times even when your wrestler isn’t weary; and since you only have a three second count, one mistake can cost the match.
Battling for your entertainment is a large roster of modern and classic wrestlers. Fans from all generations of wrestling will find names they recognize and enjoy havinging past heroes battle contemporary stars. It is somewhat disappointing that there are some superstars and divas missing, most notably Jimmy and Jey Uso, then again this is understandable given the game’s development cutoff date. What really bothers me is the fact that there are character doubles that seem to just take up space. For example, you can choose John Cena or you can choose the “Thuganomics” version of John Cena; the only difference being less moves and an alternate entrance. It just seems like these slots could have been used to accommodate more talent to choose from. Nonetheless, the roster, containing stars from the mid 80’s to present day allows for some extremely enjoyable matchups. Seriously, I’ve always wanted to pit Andre the Giant against The Big Show.
The reason for this ranging roster is the main draw of the game: 30 Years of Wrestlemania. This “campaign” mode grants players the opportunity to relive headline matches, along with a few other matches, from every Wrestlemania event dating back to 1985. Players start at the very beginning; where the grandest stage of all time was born. From here, the game moves along like a fun history lesson. Players take control of the victor and must defeat their opponent to progress to the next Wrestlemania. To add to the challenge and nostalgia overload players can try to complete objectives to trigger historical events from those matches. Players should aim to complete these optional objectives since they are easily the best part of the mode as it allows you to interactively relive some of the most memorable Wrestlemania moments; just don’t think the AI will simply roll over and let you to progress. Yukes has improved the AI system without making them utterly obnoxious to create some intense matches. Quite a few times I found myself just barely earning the “W”. The only downside to this mode is that there are quite few Wrestlemania matches that didn’t make the cut. Electrifying battles such as “Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior” should have been in there.