There is something about yearly wrestling titles that makes me want to wax philosophic, which to some might seem a bit ridiculous, yet, it happens. While I can’t boast that I’ve owned every wrestling game in history, the numbers have stacked themselves up to the point where I’ve owned or played just about every game. For some reason, for me, wrestling games transcend the concept of professional wrestling itself. Even if I’m not particularly interested in the rather maudlin world of professional wrestling when a new wrestling game comes out, I find myself still engrossed in the idea of buying and playing a new wrestling game.
The time seems right for everything to come together for WWE 2K14, for it to finally fix the wrongs from past WWE titles and take its place among the greats of professional wrestling games, yet something still feels a little bit off. Yukes has been developing professional wrestling titles since 1995’s Toukon Retsuden, with the initial Smackdown games being based upon Toukon Retsuden 4’s engine and has just continued to build from there. In a way, you can still see a little bit of how WWE 2K14 has built off of 1999’s TR4, which is crazy to me.
Yukes has essentially had almost 20 years now to build up their expertise at building professional wrestling games now, so it’s comforting to know that WWE 2K14 is the best WWE wrestling game that they’ve made. WWE ‘13 was a good game that came very close to being a great game but fell short in many ways. The good news is that a lot of the ways that WWE ‘13 fell short in, WWE 2K14 has fixed; the timing on reversals is a bit more sensitive now, taking away the mash-to-win style of gameplay, there are actual near falls in matches no as opposed to just one counts and then a finish! This helps the matches to flow a lot more naturally and for it to resemble actual professional wrestling!
Playing matches in WWE 2K14 is actually an enjoyable experience once you have adjusted the sliders and the difficulty to get what you want out of it. It’s still a shame that you have to go deep into the settings to make the game feel more authentic, but this is also a stylistic thing for myself and other players, not everyone will need to do this to enjoy the game. The strikes are now a little bit quicker and more difficult to reverse in order to help make the action a little bit smoother. It does feel a lot less like a reversal-fest like WWE ‘12 and WWE ‘13 were, which helps a lot.
My only question is; will this last or is it just an adjustment period to the new timing? I guess that time will only tell, but online matches were actually fun and a bit more tense, coming down to more than just perfect timing on reversals but instead storing up resiliency and finishers for the right time while escaping everything else.
Of course, it still feels kind of the same as past games, though, which seems to be the overriding factor in WWE 2K14; everything feels the same with just a little tweaking. It’s hard to expect more from a yearly series, yet for a $60 game with a $20 season pass it is fair for fans to expect more from games than an updated roster and a few gameplay tweaks. This brings us to the fact that the modes are all essentially exactly the same as last year and the year before. Last year’s Attitude Era Mode has become 30 Years of Wrestlemania Mode, along with a gauntlet mode starring the Undertaker tacked on.
Last year’s Attitude Era Mode felt fresh, new and exciting. It was like “historic” modes that we’ve seen in other wrestling or fighting games where you relive a historic fight by repeating key moments. This year’s Wrestlemania Mode is just as fun, if not more fun for fans of older wrassling. There is something about playing as Randy Savage and dropping that elbow that is satisfying, just like it is satisfying playing the WMX Ladder Match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon. There are some little nagging issues of continuity, like having Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross announce everything while King’s model is still wearing his Affliction shirt, or how fans in the crowd look kind of “modern” while you are reliving a classic Wrestlemania.
No matter what, though, it is still a fun mode. The rest of the modes have seen little to no additions in them, which is moderately disappointing. Universe Mode has had some of the nagging problems in it fixed, as well as a Rivalry tracking system. It’s still pretty much the same, though, just like the Story Creation Mode, Finisher Creation, etc. haven’t been touched at all. They are all great ideas that I’d love to see get the same level of attention as the main single player got. Instead it feels like they are still just there from the last few games to keep you busy.
What really feels like it is holding these games back year-after-year is how shallow the move list and what you can create for special moves really is. Every year we hear how many hundreds or even thousands of “new moves” are in the game, only to find out that they are counting stuff like superfluous taunts or variations on the most famous guys’ finishers. I mean, we have something like five Attitude Adjustments for John Cena now from a standing position and I’m not sure they need more than one or two if you are feeling generous.
Part of what makes for a great wrestling game is to have a ton of moves to give players a real variety. Little nagging things like how there isn’t a regular reverse DDT in the game after all of these years is just ridiculous. I get that no one currently under WWE contract does one, but what if one joins within the coming months and the only substitutes are scoop slams into reverse DDTs? Yet there have to be at least two dozen variations of the neckbreaker in the game.
I’m really not sure where the disconnect here is, as the guys in charge of the creative end at THQ-now-2K are big wrestling and wrestling game nerds and the guys at Yukes have done some fantastic work in the past. I doubt it has much to do with licensing issues when you see that fans make some crazy stuff in creations, like nearly perfect versions of Marvel superheroes.
The big question now is where WWE 2K15 comes into play next year. It will be a time for new consoles, which means less restrictions and room for more of everything. Does 2K keep Yukes onboard? Do they move to an in-house development studio? Maybe a new studio altogether? Do they keep Yukes to pump out another similar game while they try to churn out an entirely new game?
WWE 2K14 is a truly fine game, but I’m not sure that there is room for another game that plays exactly like this with the exact same features. The graphics and models in this engine are showing some serious age now. The sound is fine, but the levels are sometimes way off, which once again, can be adjusted, but seems like something the end user shouldn’t have to worry about. The presentation is fine, just like it was before, with the menus being the most logical Yukes menus we’ve ever seen. The fact is that the menus are pretty much identical to the last game’s menus, though, so it’s hard to really comment on them as being some sort of revelation.
The bottom line on WWE 2K14 is that if you are a wrestling fan (or wrestling game fan) you’ll probably pick it up no matter what and it will provide you with endless amount of hours of fun until the next one comes out. The fixes to match flow and core gameplay are a godsend and have made for the best Yukes WWE wrestling game experience ever. If you were looking for new modes, moves or anything else like that you are out of luck, but it is really cool to have a roster full of WWE Legends. You’ll find yourself playing a lot of really fun matches between old timers if you are like me, which is worth the price of admission alone. WWE 2K14 will still leave you wanting more, though, as in more options, features, moves and fleshed out modes.
Dave Walsh is a writer residing in Albuquerque, New Mexico who is best known for his work as a Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts journalist. His work has been featured on a number of publications, including BloodyElbow.com, MiddleEasy.com, CageSideSeats.com, Heavy.com as well as his own site, LiverKick.com.
His first novel, The Godslayer, is on sale now.