Almost a year to the day Yuke’s are back with their yearly instalment of the WWE franchise with WWE 2K14. One immediate difference this year is a change in publisher to 2K game following the sad demise of THQ. The game was already in development during the publisher transition though so you’ll have to wait until next year and next-gen for some game-changing differences.
We’ll admit we’ve never been the biggest wrestling fans in the world but we’ve played and reviewed plenty of the games over the years. We’ve also seen a fair few of the famous matches which helps to appreciate the effort and detail that goes into trying to please the big fans of the sport.
Thanks to a packed roster, with over 80 wrestlers to choose from, even gamers who aren’t fans of the sport will find plenty they recognise from the past 30 years. We’re sure big fans will still complain about certain omissions but there are more than enough on offer to keep them happy. We were pleased to see the likes of The Rock, Undertaker, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and Triple H making an appearance.
In addition to the included roster is the ability to create up to 100 of your own custom wrestlers. The game is generous with its customisation options allowing you to create the wrestlers of your dreams. You can start out by using one of the included wrestlers as a template or pick a generic face. After this you can go to town sculpting their facial features, hair, makeup and body art. You can also change body type, add scars and choose their clothing.
The customisation doesn’t stop there as the game allows you to tweak your abilities, attributes and even hit point ratios for different parts of the body. You can also select ring, entrance and cinematic attire as well as your pose for the menu screen and even the signs the crowd will hold during your bouts.
When playing against friends the game allows you to pretty much setup your dream match. The options allow 1v1, 2v2 and a variety of elimination, Battle Royal and cage fights. You can go tag-team, face off with uneven teams or go for specialist fights and tournaments like Royal Rumble and King of the Ring. The sheer number of options is staggering and you can even customise these further if desired.
The controls in WWE games always seem to have a steep learning curve and we found this years no different. The basics are simple enough but adding in the various modifiers takes a lot of practice. However this year everything seems to feel a lot less laggy and more responsive. We’ve always struggled with pins and counters but this year we got along a lot better. As ever timing is key and once you learn to recognise some of the different moves it becomes possible to pull these off.
This year’s single player is the much anticipated 30 years of WrestleMania mode. Long-time fans will love the nostalgia of replaying over 45 classic matches complete with archive footage. This mode is split up into five distinct chapters starting with Hulkmania then moving through matches showing the rise of stars such as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, Edge, John Cena, Brock Lesnar and new cover star The Rock. A really nice touch is the way the older matches have been made to look like the lower quality video you used to see on TV.
Matches in WrestleMania mode have two types of objectives – primary and historical. To progress you need to meet the requirements of the primary objective with the historical ones acting as bonuses. Depending on the match and objective you sometimes get free control over carrying these out while others are done via dreaded QTE’s.
Wrestling fans will also love the new Streak mode that focuses on Undertaker and his undefeated 21-0 WrestleMania winning streak. Here you can try to defend the streak while playing as Undertaker or attempt to break it by defeating him. The difficulty is a bit like fighting the man himself and is absolutely brutal.
The other big mode is the popular sandbox mode of WWE Universe. This is full of improvements and tweaks over previous years. Here you create your own Superstar and follow them through their career. This comes complete with a unique story and rivalries. We found the mode a bit overwhelming but hardcore wrestling fans are sure to spend months playing it.
Graphically the game looks fantastic thanks to the strong attention to detail. Some wrestlers have obviously had more time spent on them than others but overall they are all instantly recognisable and their movement is realistic. The developers have also spent a ton of time getting everything else looking right. Wrestlers outfits are spot on, their entrances are spectacular and the arenas have an electrifying atmosphere complete with a fully 3D crowd.
WWE 2K14 is jam-packed with enough features and options to satisfy any wrestling fan. It’s still a little intimidating for new players but it’s still the best game in the series to date. It will be interesting to see what Yuke’s and 2K come up with for next year’s inevitable next-gen instalment.