It has to be said, the lineage of sports entertainment is one like no other. Those who discover the crazy world of professional wrestling seem to all revert to a childlike state of wonder, excitement and awe (regardless of their actual age) on illustrious nights such as Wrestlemania or the Royal Rumble. The excitement and atmosphere of these events seems to spread through the WWE community on a level almost akin to that of a World Cup final. It is that palpable sense of lineage that WWE 2K14 attempts to tap in to more than anything else. But will it live up to the colossal expectation of the history of sports entertainment? Despite a few issues it seems that the answer is a firm yes.
Those familiar with the series will know that last year’s instalment found some success with the ‘Attitude Era’ mode. This year the sense of wrestling history is even more present with the new ’30 years of Wrestlemania mode’ Essentially an expanded iteration of what came before, this new option allows players to re-live or re-shape 46 carefully selected matches from the last 30 years of the WWE.
Despite perhaps limiting its appeal to a more hardcore audience, it is hard to not respect the amount of time and effort that has clearly gone into forging and developing this new option for players. Matches are well framed with tonnes of tailored art direction and clips from the era in question and a sense of atmosphere is created perhaps better than in any WWE game thus far. During matches players are given a script allowing them to follow the events that actually occurred or go off book and bend history to their will. Despite some unlockables and clips being given for following the script, this idea is grounded by the sense of freedom that it gives the player to choose the outcome of each match as you never feel like you are being ushered down any particular path.
Adding to the positives here is the control system. A refinement on last year rather than an overhaul, it’s one of the smoothest in wrestling game history and allows matches to take on a very natural rhythm often robbed of the genre due to clunky controls and design decisions. Despite taking a few rounds to get completely comfortable, most players will find a system that is easy to learn but is also full of depth.
Furthermore the creation suite has also been expanded even further this year allowing for even more user created carnage. Entrance videos and music can be tweaked better than ever and a new feature regarding editing from an established WWE Superstar’s base likeness is sure to please hardcore fans who want create variations. This is also compounded by the ability to store one hundred created characters in 2k14, double what was possible in last year’s entry.
Despite being almost worth a purchase just for the ’30 Years of Wrestlemania’ mode, there is still more WWE 2k14 in the form of the ever popular ‘WWE Universe’ Mode. This combination of player generated elements and randomly generated content allows for literally hours and hours of varied playtime and the experience has once again been refined here. Additions like the ability to download other player’s creations and content have only served to bring this mode into its own even more.
Unfortunately however, not all elements have been refined so convincingly this year. Common issues with the franchise such as occasional hit detection problems, bad commentary and weird AI still seem to plague this entry just as they have for years. Also the changes to the flow of the control system to make it more fluid do have tendency to create some visual issues such as abrupt variations in the speed of an animation. Although not disastrous this does tend to detract from an otherwise great combat system which is a shame.
Despite these issues, it has to be said that WWE 2k14 is the best wrestling game since…well 2013. The choice to iterate on established ideas and refine rather than overhaul is a welcome one and is something that I for one hope the franchise continues to do in the future. If this attitude can just be applied to a few of the issues that have been consistently annoying fans of the franchise for too long then the only way is up for the world of simulated sports entertainment.