Last year’s WWE 2K13 took gamers down memory lane during the Attitude Era, which kicked off in the late 90s. It was an incredible journey that brought back fond memories of some of the WWE’s most enjoyable angles and personalities. However, if you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for a similar take on the 80s era (no, Legends of WrestleMania doesn’t count cause it sucked) and fortunately, 2K has done just that with WWE 2K14.
Obviously the hook of the game is the highly touted ’30 Years of WrestleMania’ mode that lets players relive some of the classic matches over the course of the event’s history, which begins with Andre the Giant’s ‘$15,000 Body Slam’ match against Big John Studd. As you progress through this mode, you’ll have to ensure that the real outcome of every match unfolds the way it should. You’ll also get bonuses for pulling off other challenges such as Hulk Hogan body slamming King Kong Bundy during their steel cage match at WrestleMania 2. You can still complete the match by getting Hogan to exit the cage, but you’ll be able go get more unlockable content if you complete the side challenges.
What I really enjoyed most of these old school matches was the pre-match video packages that highlight the match itself as far as how the match came to be and the overall significance of it. In addition, specifically in the earlier WM matches, the presentation is something akin to NBA 2K12’s classic games, where you might notice the game look a little grainy or with washed out colors to bring some nostalgia to each clash. I also appreciated the inclusion of The Fink (Howard Finkel) as the ring announcer for these matches, as it would’ve killed the experience if they would’ve just stuck out one of the newer ring announcers. As far as commentary goes, obviously it’s not possible to have Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse Ventura, or Bobby Heenan call these matches, and it’s up to good ol’ JR (Jim Ross) and Jerry Lawler to tell the story. Perhaps my mind is playing tricks on me but I could swear that a lof of what they say during these matches are things that were actually said by some of the legendary commentators, or at least pretty close to it, which I really dug.
All told, there are whopping 46 matches from WrestleMania in the mode, and you’ll get to unlock old title belts, arenas and wrestlers along the way. Aside from this mode, which is certainly the meat of the game, you’ll also find a mode dedicated to the Undertaker called “The Streak”, which asks you to either end or defend ‘Taker’s unbeaten WrestleMania streak. While it sounds pretty awesome in concept, I feel like it wasn’t executed properly, or at least the way I had hoped. In playing this mode, you can try to end his streak but the Undertaker is extremely difficult to beat. Meanwhile, if you choose to defend the streak as the Deadman, you’ll basically go up against a back-to-back series of foes until you lose. As someone who’s witnessed The Undertaker’s streak since it began at WrestleMania VII, I simply did not like the historical inaccuracy of the mode as it makes no sense in context and takes you out of the experience of his stream.
As far as straight up exhibition matches, developer Yukes has included a whole gamut of matches, from simple one-on-one matches, to Royal Rumble, steel cage, ladder matches and more. I also liked that as was the case in WWE 2K13, the controls are once again kept simple and are easy enough for anyone to pick up and play, but deep enough that a seasoned player can really take advantage of everything there is to offer. Strikes are also a little bit faster while countering is still possible but is difficult enough to be realistic and not present non-stop counterfests.
The wrestlers themselves also look fantastic in terms of detail and their movements, while entrances have always been some of my favorite things from these games, and their long enough to really enjoy. For those who really like creating their own Superstars, the creative suite is again extremely deep and the game now lets you store up to 100 characters, either from ones you create from scratch or ones you download from other players. I also appreciated that you can use an existing WWE Superstar and use them as a template to create a new one. While there may still be a few patchy moments such as questionable A.I. or glitchy collision detection, overall WWE 2K14 is a blast. Like I mentioned before, I could’ve done without the odd implementation of The Undertaker’s streak, but the ’30 Years of WrestleMania’ mode is fantastic and easily my favorite story modes of any previous WWE game.
With next-gen systems finally coming this month, I can’t wait to see what 2K and Yukes have up their sleeves for next year, and hopefully even the Wii U can get a little love next time around.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5