WWE 2K14

WWE 2K14 is a gleaming wrestling extravaganza, providing fans of the WWE — and even timid “when there’s nothing else on TV” fans — the opportunity to lay the smackdown in a captivating interpretation of the sports opera. While it’s continuously hampered by AI issues that have hurt the series for a number of years, not to mention its unforgiving counterattack mechanism, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable look back at the WWE’s most enthralling moments.

Leading from the front as WWE 2K14’s champion mode is “30 Years of Wrestlemania”, a collection of 46 matches from the event’s storied history. Undoubtedly the finest addition to the WWE brand that developer Yukes has ever incorporated — even bettering last year’s great Attitude Era story mode — the mode is a mesmerizing ride through some truly outstandingly recreated big matches. Things start off explosive enough with the likes of Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan, setting a rigid standard of tough historical challenges.

Yukes has nailed this mode on almost every front. The presentation is an impressive blend of grainy ‘80s telecasting and refined wrestler animations and grunts. Moving through the 30 years and 46 different matches will test your wrestling skills — it sets a very high standard for 100% completion with a default difficulty certainly befitting of Wrestlemania’s prestige in wrestling circles. It’s an intricately scripted and profoundly controlled experience that successfully reinvigorates great matches for new generations of wrestling fans. The Undertaker’s “The Streak” mode is unlocked right from the get-go and is a powerful insight to the intimidating brute force of one of the WWE’s most iconic superstars.

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Yukes has improved on the brilliant Attitude Era story mode from WWE ’13 with “30 Years Of Wrestlemania”, a stunning recreation of 46 matches from the event’s storied history. Move your way through iconic matches, recreating each with challenging objectives and goals to help relive WWE history.

There’s a simplicity to the WWE 2K14 formula that, while certainly initially bogged down by the inevitable learning curve, leads into a smooth and enjoyable wrestling experience. It feels like its been sped up on other years, but I found it to be a smoother, quicker and therefore more action-packed experience because of these factors. Overall there’s an age-old wrestling experience waiting to be tampered with, and a hoard of creation and optimization modes and features to sink your teeth into.

It’s not a perfect experience, though. While the counterattack mechanic — right shoulder button — is a satisfying move when you pull it off, it could probably be broadened an extra millisecond or two. Particularly in the 30 Years Of Wrestlemania mode when matches can get quite tough, becoming bogged down in a repetitive onslaught by the AI that can make it very tough to nail a counter-attack just when you need one. I’m not sure how increasing the time would influence the pacing and balancing of a match — I assume it would significantly change both — but there needs to be some tweaking or at least some subtle reminders that a potential counter is forthcoming.

Yet, it’s ironic that with such a simple issue lies WWE 2K14’s brilliance: a match can often appear one-sided, only for a perfectly-timed counter-attack to suddenly swing things back in your direction. It’s clearly Yukes’ intention to create a game in which the counterattack is neither too easy nor too hard, but it still veers too close to the latter for my liking. It’s a tough gig, being a game developer (I imagine), but I’d like to see a different take on match pacing and momentum because often there is just far too much reliance on the counterattack.

There’s a simplicity to the WWE 2K14 formula that, while certainly initially bogged down by the inevitable learning curve, leads into a smooth and enjoyable wrestling experience.

The opposing AI could also be given a bit of a work over: it’s not terrible by any means and I feel the 30 Years mode has a great balance of challenge and accessibility. However, AI-controlled wrestlers often hang back when they should attack, which seems like a strange counter-balance to the at-times over-focus on counterattacks. My wrestler will at times be lying on the ground, and the AI wrestler might just hover around rather than attack or pin, giving me the split second needed to time a counterattack and get back up on my feet.

These issues aside, WWE 2K14 is still an engrossing and deeply entertainment offering. The create-a-superstar options are damn near intimidating, and with templates of current WWE superstars available to help mold your wrestler as best as possible, it makes for a cheeky entrance to the WWE arena. The story creator is a tonne of fun, and it has just the perfect amount of cheeky dialogue and story branches to make your own WWE opera with.

The Final Verdict

If, like me, you spent at least some part of your childhood obsessed with the craziness of the WWE world, then the 30 Years Of Wrestlemania mode is worth the price of admission alone (where’s Goldust though?) Everything else is your standard WWE game fare, with a stack of neat customisation options and a story mode that can keep your playing for hours.