Each and every year since the beginning of the Smackdown series, I return home from a midnight release, lace up the boots, put on my mask, and start my journey to be the greatest superstar to ever step into the ring. Every year, I seem to be pleased by some aspects, and baffled by others.
Will WWE 2K14 be the game to win the Royal Rumble and go on to Wrestlemania to win the Title? Well, to be the best, you've got to beat the best and this go around 2K got the 3 count.
WWE 2K14 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
On March 29th 1987, I sat in front of the brightly lit television with my father and his best friend. For weeks I had been hearing of this man who was the "Lord and the Master of the Ring" and how a Dragon had stolen his Elizabeth. The two giants were going to collide in the squared circle in Pontiac, Michigan -- this was Wrestlemania III. When it started, a man dressed in a flamboyant robe with ski goggles and a man dressed as a master of martial arts stood in the center of the ring. The announcers kept saying, "Everything is on the line!"
I had absolutely no clue what was going on, but what I witnessed was one of the greatest fights in the history of wrestling. With 19 two counts, and a small package by Ricky the Dragon Steamboat on Macho Man Randy Savage, the crowd erupted, history was made and a new Intercontinental Champion was crowned. That was the moment that hooked me.
In WWE 2K14, you can relive that moment, and 44 other amazing groundbreaking moments in wrestling history. Matches such as WWE Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Intercontinental Champion the Ultimate Warrior, Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels in a Ladder Match, and CM Punk vs. the Undertaker.
When I was informed that the Ultimate Warrior was part of the roster, I literally chanted "YES! YES! YES!" jumping around my living room like Daniel Bryan. Then I found out that the main attraction was 30 years of Wrestlemania, I threw my coat jacket on the floor and started "stylin' and profilin'" like Ric Flair.
The single-player campaign focus is on five different eras spanning various WrestleMania matches. It starts with "Hulk Hogan Running Wild," "the New Generation," "the Attitude Era," "Ruthless Aggression," and "the WWE Universe Era." An added bonus is "the Streak" where you try to defeat or defend the Undertaker's legendary Wrestlemania streak.
The campaign itself is similar to last year's WWE '13. These matches have objectives as bonuses with the primary goal to complete the match. You are rewarded with new Characters, Attires, Arenas, and Titles for finishing everything on the checklist during a bout. Each match includes a back story and videos to build up to the event if you're unfamiliar with what is going on. Within the matches themselves are "Wrestlemania Moments," small quick-time events that play an important role in adding authenticity to each bout. I myself am not a big fan of QTEs, but they are relatively short and do not take away from the action.
Matches are commentated by Jim Ross and Jerry "the King" Lawler, using sound clips from the original bouts with very little in the way of noticeable repetition. During my run of 30 Years of Wrestlemania I had no glitches, no noticeable camera problems, and only one instance where my pugilist attempted to defy gravity (putting a ladder in the ring, climbing it, only to jump over another ladder to my opponent lying across the announcer table). Honestly, the whole experience made me feel like a kid again. I haven't been a big fan of Hulk Hogan for years, but as soon as I started playing as him, I was doing the poses and trying to tear my shirt to my wife's disdain. Musical playlists have been added to the series, which allows me to play "Real American" on constant loop -- a major bonus!
However, with all the glory I was experiencing, I began to frown that I couldn't put my created wrestler for the past three seasons, the Boglin King, into a solo campaign mode. I can't complain too much because the Universe Mode is back again giving a rich experience of evolving angles between AI and giving you creative direction. You'd be surprised that Italian Spiderman has been feuding with Ted Dibiase for two months without my guidance, and it's impressive how you can let the game control individual storylines, or take full creative direction for yourself.
If you're not into the nostalgia, there are plenty of other modes. WWE 2K14 provides every type of match that you would see in the WWE Universe. If you like Tables, Ladders, Chairs (oh my), Triple Threats, Hell in a Cell, Cage, I Quit!, King of the Ring, or just Normal one-on-one bouts, you can plug in superstars or your creations and play to your heart's content.
I could sell you on the single-player modes alone, but character creation is always going to be the big draw. Like previous seasons you can create belts, arenas, finishing moves, and entrances, but yet again we're given the ability to create whoever we want as a wrestler. From fat Mega Man to Willem Dafoe, The Man in the Yellow Hat to Captain Crunch, you can create iconic figures and put them in your dream matches. If you're not creative, you may download characters from the online servers and pit them into whatever bouts you can imagine. Last year I had a separate roster of just Destructoid writers and contributors fighting for the coveted Dtoid title.
During the time of this review Online was not available. Hopefully it will run smoothly and store our uploaded creations as that was a major problem last season.
Now let's go behind the curtain to the gorilla position so I can give you the rundown. The characters in the game look great. There is so much detail that go into each of the superstars' model, and it's a vast improvement from the previous titles. The classic Undertaker actually creeped me out with how accurate he looked. On the other hand, we still have the same knockoff "Lil Naitch" referee. I love Charles Robinson, he's a fantastic official, but seeing how we can change managers, I don't understand why we cannot change the default referee. I'd love to see John Cone or Scott Armstrong keeping the match straight down the middle for a change.
The Arenas look wonderful as you're also given the option to create smaller looking venues like the NXT arena, but we still have the same strangely odd crowd. At times I'd almost like to have an empty arena option so I don't have to look at the pudgy man in the Hot Rod! shirt waving his arms around. I wouldn't be too picky about this, but when I see his twin brother four seats down wearing the same shirt, I tend to wish for some improvement on that side.
The gameplay is very smooth. I had always had an issue with the Counter System and even the Pin System constantly flustering me, but it is more responsive this go around. The Counter system is still in tact, teaching players that timing is key when going for a reversal listing a "too soon" or "too late" if you button mash. The Pin System is still in play as a slider that you hold the button down and release when you're in the kickout zone. I noticed that this time around you have to actually be in critical before the kickout bar is just a sliver. Of Course, you can always go into the gameplay settings and adjust the sliders to balance things out with the AI if you feel.
Some new features are the amazing animations with the "catch" moves. For example, John Cena climbs up to the top turn-buckle while I seem to lay lifeless on the mat as Randy Orton. Cena taunts, only for me to get up as he jumps and catch him with an RKO. Along with this addition are the "lift" moves, where you can throw someone up and catch them with an Attitude Adjustment or other maneuver.
While catching can lead to some awkward transition animations, they do little to break the flow of the match and only occur rarely. Sometimes the physics go a bit wild, leading to madly spinning chairs, and the only real effect is that one can't help laughing. If they decided to take out such quirky moments (such as me trying to throw a table on another table and then a chair on top of it only for them to break as I moonsault over them) I would probably be upset. Botched stunts are all part of the fun.
WWE 2K14 lets me be creative, it told me a wonderful story of titans colliding, and gave me the gift of being a kid again. 2K Sports really picked the ball up and ran with it. I'm looking forward to the WWE franchise to continue to grow with 2K. With a Roster of 84 Superstars, from Legends to Current, creation modes, and reliving some of the best moments in wrestling history, this game truly is "what's best for business."
THE VERDICT - WWE 2K14
Reviewed by Johnny Luchador