For whom the bell tolls
Wrestlemania. For those in the wrestling world, it is the grandest stage of them all. It is also the source of many new features for the upcoming release of WWE 2K14, where the 30th anniversary of the Superbowl of sports entertainment will offer fans a whole host of new modes and content.
One such mode recently unveiled to me by the game’s developers is The Streak. Wrestling fans new and old will no doubt be familiar with the fabled 22-0 WrestleMania streak of the Undertaker, one of the most larger-than-life men to ever step into the WWE’s squared circle. Should you not be familiar with his legendary win record, The Streak will feature a full rundown of all of the Understaker’s victims, and how those matches turned out.
Of course, the main focus of The Streak is getting into the ring with the Undertaker—both as the Phenom himself, or as his opponent. The mode’s two main gameplay choices are Defeat the Streak and Defend the Streak, where you can either fight to keep the Undertaker’s WrestleMania win streak intact in a gauntlet-style match, or attempt to be the first to defeat it. Doing so won’t be easy, as The Streak will have a special fifth difficulty level, and Taker will have some of his more memorable paranormal abilities that aren’t featured in the main portion of the game (such as being able to teleport around the arena while the lights are out).
While The Streak was the highlight of the reveals I was shown for WWE 2K14, I also got to check out a host of other updates and additions across all of the game’s other modes. As someone who’s always been heavily interested in customization in wrestling games, the new offerings here were especially appreciated. In Universe mode, there’s now a rivalry manager, allowing players to not only replicate the various rivalries currently airing on RAW and SmackDown, but also set up and remove rivalries, create feuds between solo wrestlers or tag teams, or specify how long a rivalry will last.
When it comes to the wrestlers themselves, more options have been added to a segment of customization not always offered in wrestling games: the WWE superstars themselves. Fourteen of the top names in the company can now be fully modified, with the exception of their heads. You can have Triple H look like an out-of-shape slob or turn CM Punk into a 8-foot-tall giant, and those changes will be shown throughout the entire game. Attire can now also be more heavily modified through the Superstar Threads options, where you can adjust the colors of each wrestler’s various outfits (including their entrance attire). For those who like giving birth to their own custom wrestlers, there’s another piece of good news in that regard: The slots available for such characters has been bumped up from 50 to 100.
One of the reasons I came to care about customization as much as I do for wrestling games was because of the e-fed my friends and I put together back in the days of WrestleMania 2000 on the N64. One of the options we always longed for was the ability to craft our own championship belts, and then fight one another for ownership of them.
Customized titles have been in the series before, but the option hasn’t been seen for a while. Now, they’re back in WWE 2K14, and would-be bookers can go crazy making personalized championships to battle over. After picking a basic template, you can then modify each individual metal plate on the belt, changing their color or tweaking their design via graphical elements, logos, or WWE Superstar photos. Once you’ve got the belt’s look down, up to six vocal clips can be strung together for the title’s name, and players can square off over championships locally (but, unfortunately, not online).
Beyond the question of customization, polish has also been applied to WWE 2K14‘s gameplay. One of the goals of this year’s iteration? Giving the game a faster, more fluid feel, and that’s been done in part by having reversals for grapples go directly into reversal attacks (instead of a second grapple). Improvements to match speed and flow have also been tweaked via catch finishers—the ability to catch an opponent in mid-air with your finisher. When they were added to last year’s game, they were only usable as defensive maneuvers; this year, they can also be done by throwing your opponent up into the air, meaning they can be both offensive and defensive options. And, when you’re really in a mood for showing off, OMG moves—powerful environment-based attacks—can be done to two opponents at once instead of just one.
Funnily enough, one of the changes I most took notice of was a very simple one: Wrestlers now have voice clips during entrances and moves. You’d think having Daniel Bryan saying “No! No! No!” as he walks down the ramp during his entrance would be a no-brainer, but it’s a little feature that’s been missing from the series for a long time.
The big question next year will be if 2K Sports sticks with Yuke’s as the primary developer on WWE-branded wrestling games, or if the company will use their purchase of the franchise to move development to another team. At least for now, WWE 2K14 is looking to be a marked improvement over WWE ’13, one that will come packed with modes, features, and revisions that fans have been asking for.