History is a collection of moments etched in time. Some are moments of triumph, some of failure. But what we call ‘history’ is ultimately the summation of all of these flickers throughout time. In the world of wrestling, these flickers can be a hard fought victory, a perfectly placed elbow drop from the top rope, a devastating fall from the top of a 20 foot ladder or the crushing defeat that comes with being pinned 1-2-3 in the middle of that squared circle.
In a way it is only fitting that WWE 2K14 focuses on such historic moments, because the history of these games is itself filled with moments of great heights and even greater falls. It begs the question though, if we look at the history of WWE games, where does WWE 2K14 fit? How does it etch its place in this history defined by winners and losers?
For fans of the series, there has undoubtedly been a rise and fall for the WWE games. With last years installment WWE 13, we saw a hint of a rise beginning once again after the steep fall that was WWE 12. With THQ now out of the picture, 2K Games have taken the reigns on the WWE series and with WWE 2K14, the fresh hands on deck make quite a bit of difference.
While the game by and large feels very much like WWE 13, the details are what make WWE 2K14 shine. One of the major new improvements is the reversal system. In the last game, reversals were very easy to do and required little to no skill to pull off. Often there would be a string of reversals that got ridiculous to say the least, breaking up gameplay entirely and proving to be a major fun killer. With WWE 2K14 however, the reversal system is much tighter, with a smaller window of time in which you can reverse. On top of that reversals don’t always chain, with many reversals going straight into a move, to prevent endless chaining. While it may seem like a small detail compared to the plethora of other features in the game, it is a major component of the gameplay that greatly impacts the experience positively.
The Universe Mode also sees an overhaul in WWE 2K14. You are now able to have more control than ever over your very own WWE Universe. With the inclusion of the rivalry system and more logical match ups, the stories you want to see are now possible. In the past there was often random interference and other illogical plot-points that took you out of the experience, ruining moments and any stories you were trying to create. You can now craft your stories how you please and with countless new scenarios possible, the stories feel true to life in many regards. Unfortunately though there are some hiccups. At times a randomized match up can derail a story line’s momentum, but it is far from a common occurrence.
Besides the Universe Mode the game also features another major single player campaign mode in the form of the 30 Years of Wrestlemania Mode. The mode itself chronicles some of the greatest matches in the history of the legendary event that is Wrestlemania. Much like last year’s Attitude Era Mode, you take on some historic moments and matches in the goal of performing the events accurately (generally one of the memorable spots in the match). These matches are often bumpered with promo packages that provide a bit of insight to the story line behind the match and what led up to it. The matches themselves are well represented for the most part, however there is a bit of a slump mid-way through, with some Wrestlemania events getting very little attention or effort put in (Wrestlemania 21). It is a minor disappointment in an all around superb single player journey throughout the epic history of the showcase of immortals that is Wrestlemania.
Undoubtedly though the greatest point of improvement with WWE 2K14 is in the AI. Computer players behave far more intelligently than ever before. Not only do they react naturally and aim to win matches rather than behave randomly without logic, but they also prove to be quite challenging at times. Playing through the Wrestlemania mode is a real treat thanks to the new and improved AI, giving a real ‘boss battle’ feel to match ups like Rock vs Cena and Warrior vs Hogan. To put it simply, the intelligence in artificial intelligence is actually present in this game and it makes for a huge leap forward for the franchise that has long suffered weak AI.
The AI featured in the game is very impressive, but none more so than that of the Undertaker in the brand new Streak Mode. The Streak Mode is like playing on the hardest difficulty with one hand tied behind your back and one eye taped shut. Undertaker is an absolute beast in this mode and damn near impossible to beat at times. He will resort to all manner of tricks in order to retain his streak. Beating him is one hell of a challenge and the AI used on the Undertaker in this mode may very well be the best that the series has ever featured.
From top to bottom WWE 2K14 is really an improved version of WWE 13. The game uses the same engine and core gameplay but refines it and polishes it up into something quite special. The creation suite has been refurbished with some new possibilities available for customization allowing players to craft their own wrestling world and superstars unlike ever before. The level of possibilties with the creation suite is simply phenomenal and is only really matched by the impressive online mode in hours that can be spent sunken away into it.
The online mode allows you to participate in ranked or player matches to test your meddle against other players around the world. While that alone is more than enough hours of fun to entertain yourself with, there is another component of the online mode that is equally impressive. That feature is of course the community creations which return from WWE 13. This is where you can upload your creations to share with the world or simply just download others creations for your own benefit. There is simply an immeasurable amount of content available in this game and the online mode shows that.
While the game is overall an incredible improvement over previous installments, there are still some issues present. The commentary is still miss-timed, occasionally random and unrelated to the action in ring. The repeated phrases will get somewhat grating after a while, but there are some memorable lines there. The other issues lie in matches that involve a large number of weapons in ring, it causes a few glitches and bugs that are highly noticable, but mostly laughable rather than frustrating.
All in all, WWE 2K14 is a superb game and easily one of the best wrestling titles released in a long time. 2K have given the game their magic touch and one can only wonder where things will go from here. Judging by the quality of this game, I think it is only going to get bigger and better from here on out.
Visuals and Audio
As far as aesthetics go, WWE has never looked so good. The visuals are crisp and highly realistic, capturing the appearance of each wrestler with a great attention to detail. The lighting effects are well presented and the arena designs are impressive. It is a nice coat of polish on the visuals we saw in WWE 13 and then some. The only way they can improve upon these visuals is by bringing the series to the next generation. Perhaps with WWE 2K15 we will see the series come to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
The game’s soundtrack as with WWE 13 consists of wrestler’s theme songs and a few custom tracks made for the game. The difference here is that instead of hearing David Otunga’s theme on near constant repeat, you can pick and choose what songs you would like to play in the new Music Jukebox feature. It is a great little tool that lets you shape the audio experience to your own personal tastes and isn’t that what we’re all after anyways?
History is a funny thing, win or lose, you become a part of it. With WWE 2K14, 2K have won this round. The game improves upon its predecessors in almost every way, taking a diamond in the rough and polishing it until it shined. The thing that we will remember this game for is the revolution it has begun.
Is this the perfect storm? No. Is this once in a life time? No. While this may not be the end of an era, it is certainly the beginning of a brave new one. Has 2K taken the first steps towards reclaiming the WWE series’ former glory? YES! YES! YES!
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