A not-so-Royal Rumble
It’s been a difficult transition from current-gen hardware to next-gen for a lot of the yearly sports franchises, but these titles seem to fall into one of two categories. Some series are taking the challenge head-on, while others are trying desperately not to rock the boat, with hopes of riding out whatever wave of momentum they’ve built up over the last seven years to survive their final current-gen entry.
WWE 2K14 falls in the latter category. Even taking events like a huge publisher change into consideration, it feels like the franchise is just ready for current-gen to be over and done with and is biding its time.
It’s not that WWE 2K14 is a bad experience. I still had a lot of fun with this year’s version of WWE’s annual gaming series, but a lot of its features and ideas seem stale, with little innovation in any of its modes. The same glitches and AI shortcomings that seem to pester the game year in and year out persist—Extreme Rules matches remaining counterfests where wrestlers just keep ripping whatever weapon they have out of each other’s hands and doing no real damage, players seeming to meld through the ropes instead of climbing over them, or character models looking like they’re floating off the mat when you go for the pin.
A perfect example of the lackadaisical approach taken to this year’s game is the WWE Universe mode. This option is so outdated that it still lists the Wednesday-night show as WWE Superstars, even though it’s now WWE Main Event and Superstars has been relegated to an Internet-only show on Friday nights. The only real addition to the mode this year is the Rivalry feature, where you can change storylines to force wrestlers to face each other—with varying stipulations—week in and week out. It’s really just a small customization feature that doesn’t do much for the experience as a whole–and serves to add more clutter to a user interface that’s already in desperate need of an overhaul.
Sure, it’s still interesting to create a character—or take control of one of your favorites—and put them through the paces of a year in the WWE and see if you can become top dog. But how about we expand this into NXT, the WWE’s developmental promotion? You could start as a rookie and really work your way up or learn new moves through a mentor, just like on the show. This could give us a chance to tell a much longer, more detailed story than we could before. And can we at least get the schedule of shows right? Yes, we can create our own, but let’s at least start from an accurate default.
While on the subject of creating things, I do have to say that while nothing’s really changed with the character, entrance, moveset, or arena-creator modes, nothing really had to, either. I can’t imagine these being any better than they already are, besides perhaps offering more options with greater detail. Hopefully, that will come with some of the added horsepower next year. The WWE series is known for having one of the best creator suites in the industry—and that, at the very least, remains in pristine condition.
Something that has seen some changes, however, is the story mode. Last year told the tale of the Attitude Era, while this year brings us 30 Years of WrestleMania. The major focus of this mode revolves around reliving 46 epic matches from three decades of the most dominant brand in wrestling, trying to pull off the same iconic moments that made these matches classics to begin with: Hogan bodyslamming Andre at Wrestlemania III, Stone Cold Steve Austin refusing to tap to Bret Hart in WrestleMania 13 (one of my personal favorites), all the way up to John Cena versus The Rock from just last year.
Hardcore wrestling fans will be able to recognize this is just an extension of last year’s mode, but instead of focusing on one specific time period (which also happens to be the shortest chapter here to prevent too much crossover), it draws from the WWE’s long history. It also conjures up a lot of memories of 2009’s WWE’s Legends of WrestleMania game—mostly early on—in regards to the matches chosen and the objectives given. It was like déjà vu; I had this constant feeling I’d already played half the mode before I even started it. However, it’s still tremendously fun to relive so many vintage moments, and it serves as a great learning tool for younger wrestling fans—or a trip down memory lane for older ones.
But there’s a lot more to 30 Years of Wrestlemania than just reliving the best matches of yesteryear. Another option in the mode is challenging “The Streak.” Here, you’re presented with two choices: Defeat the legendary Undertaker at WrestleMania, where his AI’s been amped up to near-impossible levels to offer you the truest test of your wrestling skills, or play as the Undertaker in the ultimate Gauntlet match against the entire WWE roster.
The Gauntlet match choice sounds much tougher than it is, though. Most combatants don’t really start to put up a fight until you’ve eliminated at least 25 guys, and the Undertaker recovers his health after every five. A score is assigned in either option, giving the entire mode a very arcade-like feel; it’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the simulation-heavy game. But unless you become obsessed with bettering your score, this mode sorely lacks any replay value. Even a difficult Undertaker can be countered after you learn his timing, and the Gauntlet match can take close to an hour for each runthrough of the roster, which is far too long for anything to be deemed truly “arcadey.”
WWE 2K14 is a decent entry into the series, but it lacks any changes that could help the franchise stay completely fresh and fun; this feels like a mailed-in effort before the advent of next-gen. The customization options we’ve come to know and love are still here to complement the most robust roster of old-school and current wrestlers yet. It just feels like the overall presentation and WWE Universe mode need to see the same spit-and-polish effort that goes into story mode every year.
|Developer: Yuke’s/Visual Concepts • Publisher: 2K Sports • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 10.29.13|
30 Years of WrestleMania will be a fun stroll down memory lane for older, more diehard WWE fans. Otherwise, WWE 2K14 feels like a mailed-in effort before next-gen hits, especially as the WWE Universe mode starts to show its age.
|The Good||30 Years of WrestleMania is a great follow up to last year’s Attitude Era mode.|
|The Bad||WWE Universe mode is starting to show its age; same glitches we see every year.|
|The Ugly||Mae Young. Just because.|
|WWE 2K14 is available on Xbox 360 and PS3. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.|