Monday, 20 January 2014

Review: WWE 2K14 (PS3)


WWE 2K14 is the first title in the 2K franchise after the sale of the WWE licence last year and outside of the name change on the box, WWE 2K14 is business as usual. 

The major focus of this title is Wrestlemania as 2014 will mark 30 years of WWE's biggest show of the year.  Much like WWE '13 focused on the more popular Attitude era, 2K14 has players running through numerous classic matches from Wrestlemania 1 through to Wrestlemania 29.  Matches involve performing certain tasks to relive classic moments such as Hogan slamming Andre, Warrior pinning Hogan, Rock and Austin and more recently Cena versus the Rock.

Universe mode looks quite weird with all the legends
It's nothing new really, if you played through WWE '13 then this will be the same just with a more varied mix of older wrestlers and more current ones.  The mode will take quite a while to complete though and there are plenty of unlocks to be found such as new wrestlers, attires, arenas and more.  It's great for the hardcore WWE fan who wants to see everything the game has to offer, however for the more casual fan a lot of this content will be over their heads.  Younger fans will likely fail to understand why certain moments chosen for the game are so important such as Hogan and Andre back in the 80's.

There are also a few puzzling exceptions such as a lack of Roddy Piper who played a rather significant part in the early Wrestlemania's of the time being the companies biggest heel.  Mr.Perfect is relegated to a managerial role despite being in previous games and is only seen as DLC under the Curt Hennig name.  Earthquake is missed even though he was a major threat to Hogan in the late 80's and early 90's and more.  The matches chosen do make sense but when you are using Wrestlemania as your focal point you have to make sure you hit all the right notes or you end up looking lazy.  This is where focusing on the Attitude era worked better because it was a collection of matches from a set number of years rather than being near three decades.

Apart from the Wrestlemania mode we also have the usual modes ranging from WWE universe, creation, online and exhibition modes.  Universe is where you will probably spend most of your time in singleplayer post 'mania completion.  It's been expanded to generate feuds randomly between characters and keeps track of them with numerous events occurring during each feud.  These can turn characters face or heel, improve their stats for a short time and actually make generally boring characters like King Kong Bundy interesting in the context of the feud.  Universe now also generates tag teams based on events and feuds can start organically based on actions taken by the player such as interfering in a match between AI characters.  Players have also been given more freedom to customise their universe with the ability to set diva specific shows, create new pay per views and edit the settings more thoroughly.

Characters are still expressionless dolls
The in depth and surprisingly easy to use creation tools continue to expand with new options during character creation.  Some of the work put in by players online is impressive and it's definitely a mode you could sink hours into simply tweaking your perfect wrestler or even creating those missed from the roster this time around.  There isn't anything significant added to this mode though since '13 so don't expect to see any massive overhauls here.

Match types in exhibition haven't been expanded on either with this iteration.  The maximum character count is still 6 so still we cannot have survivor series matches, but the match selection is large and quite varied, it just needs a little love to allow players to craft matches to their own specifications really.

The actual in game ring action has been left untouched for the most part with the majority of the work this time being on animations and gameplay tweaks.  Characters move faster than before and use new animations for running and movement in general.  Start up animations for running attacks make it harder to spam things like clotheslines and dropkicks.  The reversal system has been made much quicker making it harder to constantly reverse opponents or be trapped in a reversal stalemate.  The AI now kick out of pinning attempts more often to simulate near fall situations, although this creates hilarious moments where characters kick out of multiple finishing moves one after the other.

My biggest gripes are roster related really.  Although it's great to see the shield, Fandango, Big E. Langston, Jake the Snake and more, it's odd to see current roster characters missed such as El Matadores, The Wyatt family, Alex Riley, Goldust, Curt Hawkins, Curtis Axel, Evan Bourne, The Uso's, JTG, Yoshi Tatsu and Tyson Kidd.  Now maybe the Wyatt's were too late an addition to the roster on the show but many of the other characters were already on the show prior to release, in fact some have been in previous games so why they were left out confuses me. 

Ziggler botched this dropkick, he didn't even touch Rey
Graphically the game is showing it's age as the engine which looked good back in 2009 is struggling to impress.  Some wrestlers look like their real life counterpart but others just look weird, a limitation of the engine.  New animations for idle wrestlers or when they are simply moving around the ring are nice to see but it highlights the development teams apathy for the game when so little has been added.

The sound work is really mixed.  The commentary is still god awful and even spouts the wrong lines at times.  Sometimes Jerry will talk about Steve Austin when he isn't in the match and Cole will remark about Cena when the Rock is in a match as if Cena has hit him with the AA.  The music is, well, good, a matter of opinion really but the entrance themes are there and are generally ruined by the crowd noise.  You can barely here Jake the snakes theme over the crowd in this game.  The slamming, crashing and punching sounds are all good though and body slamming someone on a ladder still has that wince inducing effect.

Overall WWE 2K14 is a holding pattern game, a transitional champion you could say while 2K make their own version of the franchise.  This year will no doubt see the release of WWE 2K15 on PS4 and Xbox One and hopefully bring new graphics, features and a more varied roster.  WWE 2K14 isn't a bad game however, it just suffers from being caught up in the middle of a fire sale.  The game still plays like the last title and that isn't a bad thing, just don't expect great things from it.

SCORE: 6.0/10

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