WWE 2K14 is a game for the fans. It has all of the customization a fan would want alongside gameplay clearly built from years of iteration. With iteration comes quality and with quality WWE comes quality fan service. And when I say this is a game for the fans, I mean that it is a game for the fans…and no one else.
The gameplay of WWE is easy to learn but hard to master. Generally, it’s a game of getting in hits, pulling off moves, countering at the perfect time, dealing with your opponents countering, and pulling off more complicated moves and signatures when the time comes. This is my first WWE game so I don’t have too much of a perspective to compare my experience to, but the constant countering cycles and slow animation some people were complaining about last year don’t seem to be an issue here.
Because the game features no proper tutorial (only a mode labeled Tutorial that explains what moves are in plain text), newcomers definitely have a learning curve to get around before they can fully take advantage of the ins and outs. For what is on offer, I appreciate the counter-based fighting system because it’s just simple enough for anyone to grasp while simultaneously being versatile enough to fit into any of the myriad ladder and cage matches you might want to stuff in the ring. The only complaints I would have are that the AI is somewhat dumb and the announcers sound generic and vague compared to the specific play-by-play action of NHL, but those are both relatively minor issues.
For a solo experience, there are the same exhibition type modes one might expect in any 2K or EA Sports game, but the real action comes in with the campaign modes and the customization. 30 Years of WrestleMania takes 46 of the most memorable WrestleMania matches and challenges you to not only beat them, but also optionally beat them in the same way those matches happened historically. The historical accuracy is nice, but Yuke’s goes the extra mile by adding the proper grain, footage, and even TV overlay fonts from the ’80s onward. The Streak is also present, allowing you to either defend your streak as the infamous Undertaker or play as someone else to end that streak. It works exactly the way it’s supposed to, but it doesn’t feel especially significant or interesting in relation to the impressive other modes.
While I did play the online mode, I wasn’t very impressed by it. There is a decent bit of match customization to find, but either the matchmaking or community seemed pretty poor. Every single match I joined were either private matches listed as public, spam matches of the same few moves over and over again, or matches of some dude goofing around as a custom Diva with bizarre proportions. I don’t know how much I can blame the game for a poor community if that is the issue here, but after attempting thirteen matches, only two of them were actually any good. In other words, if you want to play online, make sure you have someone to play with.
Pleasantly, 2K14 has one of the most robust content creation systems I have ever seen in an annual sports game. You can customize characters down to body proportions and tattoos for up to 100 slots. You can customize your own story plotlines for either pre-existing shows or ones of your own. You can sync up stage effects with custom camera angles. You can even customize game balance. Almost like LittleBigPlanet, the customization mode is a beautiful feat of allowing the most passionate of fans every tool they will ever need.
Naturally, the fan service is also in full swing. In addition to the aforementioned modes and customization, 2K14 has an enormous roster of current and past wrestlers to choose from with all of the wrestling theme songs you would expect. Want to see how CM Punk would fare against André the Giant? You can do that. But because Yuke’s goes all out to provide fan service, you really can’t fully enjoy this experience without understanding wrestling to some degree. This is not really a complaint, but the appeal to be found here for a wider audience is nothing if not limited.
While this is my first WWE game, it’s easy to tell that this game is aging just as much as any other modern annual franchise this late in the console game. It doesn’t look bad by any means, but it’s easy to tell that these graphics are a heavily polished iteration on visuals that have surely been used in this series for years. The game would have looked perfectly serviceable 3-4 years ago, but 2K14 seems just a little rough by 2013 standards.
I like WWE 2K14 because it’s made with passion for an extremely passionate fan base. It has enormous customization options, a solid gameplay system, and a single-player mode far more impressive than anything I’ve seen in NBA or NHL. Even so, the weak visuals, the crummy online, and some questionable announcing makes me feel like this series is probably about ready for a next-gen overhaul.
PS3 review copy provided by 2K. WWE 2K14 is available now on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.