Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: PlayStation 3
Written by: Bracken Lee-Rudolph
WWE is the act of a testosterone-fuelled mind. Permeated with sweaty men smashing other into corners, ropes and floors (not to mention with chairs and sledgehammers) and featuring the occasional scantily-clad woman. Notorious for being choreographed and scripted, WWE still remains one of the world’s most popular wrestling franchises – both in videogame format, and reality.
The last WWE title I played for any serious amount of time was around 2008 – a Smackdown vs. RAW title on the PlayStation 2. Since then, a generation of consoles have passed, THQ has gone out of business and the franchise and its developers are now under the banner of 2K Sports. The core of the gameplay, however, has not changed dramatically. The basic body-slam, grapple, and beatdown mechanics remain largely familiar, even to a player who hasn’t touched the series in almost 6 years.
This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because the gameplay has been tweaked and refined over the past generation to deliver a very polished and stable refinement of the WWE franchise’s fighting mechanic, and it offers a very accessible platform to new players and series veterans alike. Add to that the sheer number of different modes, and you have a game that’s very stable, full of content, and knows exactly what it wants to be. Unfortunately, for WWE 2K14, this often just isn’t enough.
As you can imagine, sharing characteristics with a PS2 game means that the franchise is beginning to really show its age. The movement feels incredibly clunky and tired, and while precision movement will never be a selling point for a WWE game, it wouldn’t hurt if the characters didn’t labour around the ring with all the finesse of a drowsy hippo. The attacks are starting to seem similarly as clunky, even if the more theatrical moves still have the trademark heavy impact on their receivers.
While the one-on-one fights are still passable with these aging mechanics, any Triple Threat fight (or higher) or mode with an objective (such as cage matches), the mechanics really show their age – the multiple-wrestler matches turn into a mess of one-on-one fights, while the objective matches lack the edge-of-the-seat drama the interactive items should provide. This may have been par for the course in 2008, but with next-gen looming, the WWE series is in serious need of a gameplay overhaul.
WWE really has a lot of content to wade through; from the comprehensive customisation system – which allows you to create everything from fighters of all shapes, sizes, and varying degrees of humanity, to user-defined universes with their own rivalries, alliances, and schedules. Add to that the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode, which escorts you through some of prominent moments in the annals of Wrestlemania history. *
The other new mode available is the “The Streak” mode, which covers the Undertaker’s 21 Wrestlemania match unbeaten streak. Players can play as the Undertaker, defending his record from the challengers, or as the challengers, trying to knock the Undertaker off his perch. The twist in this mode is that the difficulty is elevated extremely when fighting against the Undertaker. This means that the mode should bring a fresh challenge to experienced WWE veterans.
Visually, the title teeters on the edge of dated visuals, with aging environment visuals, sticky animations and low-res crowd models. The character models are detailed, and you can see when special attention has been paid to character detail, such as The Rock’s tattoos and Hulk Hogan’s beard and spandex (I almost wish this was a joke). The animations – specifically the intro animations, look quite smooth, even if the actual in-game motion is very clunky.
The audio is probably one of the finest aspects of the title – hit and crashes thump convincingly, and the crowd’s “ooh’s” and “aah’s” echo cacophonously through the arena. The menu and intro music are the same, which is a little off-putting, but fits considering the theme of the title. Lastly, while the commentary is nothing earth-shattering, it is good to see an in-game commentary team following the fight accurately.
The online component of the title is decent enough, allowing you to explore some of the characters moves against other players, but certain moves have such a “spam” factor, that it is actually unpleasant to play against other players when they just repeat the same attacks, with the same characters over, and over again. There is some lag, and this is slightly debilitating, considering the timed nature of counter-attacks and dodges.
For a fan of the franchise or the WWE, WWE 2K14 should have a lot to keep them occupied until the next title in the franchise. However, for fans looking for something a little more substantial in terms of gameplay, the title will likely disappoint. Undoubtedly, WWE 2K14 has a lot of content, but it falls short in gameplay variety – and now, gameplay quality.
WWE 2K14 is certainly not a bad wrestling simulator (if it weren’t simulated already). It has a very stable engine, consistent gameplay and numerous other redeeming qualities. The visuals are on the verge of looking dated, but some pinpoint character models show that there is still some life left in the engine. The audio is probably the best part of the title, and the sound effects benefit immersion to no end.
Unfortunately, an aging gameplay mechanic is really starting to show its age, and this undermines the incredible amount of content available to the player. WWE 2K14 offers a homage to the incredible history of the WWE franchise, but 2K Sports and Yuke’s need to move away from the history of the THQ franchise if the WWE games are going to remain relevant in the future.
Lasting Appeal: 7.5/10