First, a disclaimer: I play video games sparingly, often revisiting the old games of my youth in lieu of the new generation (think: Castlevania instead of the latest Call of Duty).
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy new games. I’m in awe of the advances made in the past decade, and the level of detail that goes into games like WWE2K14 is truly impressive. I just tend to prefer the classics.
Disclaimer number two: I haven’t watched professional wrestling since elementary school. Growing up, I owned Wrestlemania 2 on VHS (the one where Hulk Hogan battled King Kong Bundy in a steel cage match) and rooted for the likes of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior. But in the two decades or so since, I’ve fallen off. I’m only somewhat familiar with the new cast of characters, though I was astonished to learn that, somehow, The Undertaker is still with the WWE. Mind = blown.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks. Although it presents an incredible array of options and gives users control of impressively life-like grapplers, WWE2K14 has a huge learning curve for beginners. Each main button can be combined with the left and right triggers to execute a mind-boggling array of attacks. My clumsy button-mashing style didn’t get me very far at first. After a few matches I began to get the hang of it, but the learning process was frustrating, and despite staunch efforts, I remain poor when attempting reversals against AI opponents.
If you’re new to this style of game, you may have to put in some serious time to get good at WWE2K14. It isn’t easy for a first-timer to climb into the WWE2K14 virtual ring and excel. Personally, I’d like to be able to to jump in and pull off basic moves right off the bat, then work toward perfecting my skills over time. You’ll need to invest a good bit of time early to make the basic mechanics of WWE2K14 work for you.
Despite my inexperience, playing the game is fun and interesting. There are a number of match types for the one-on-one battles alone, including Hell in a Cell, Inferno, Iron Man and Extreme Rules. I didn’t try them all—you could spend hours doing so.
Wrestlemania Mode was by far my favorite feature of the game. It takes you through the 30-year history of Wrestlemania, allowing you to relive some of its most memorable moments (like that infamous cage match between Hulk and Bundy). The matches are goal-oriented, and they challenge you to accomplish feats as they happened in the actual matches. Older Wrestlemanias have a washed-out treatment to replicate an ’80s TV broadcast, using the same video graphics and mimicking video quality of the time. Very nice touch.
Other standouts are Streak Mode, which allows you to fight either as or against the Undertaker during his 21-0 Wrestlemania run; WWE Universe Mode, in which you control the WWE corporation in supervising Pay-Per-View events while managing the various superstars; and Create Mode, which will surely keep hard-core fans playing WWE2K14 over the long haul, as it allows you to design your own superstars, arenas, entrances and finishing moves. Customization is always one of the more enjoyable features of a game like this, as it allows the player to put himself in the ring against his favorite wrestler and live out his fantasy of fighting in the WWE. Altogether, there are 83 wrestlers to choose from, dating back to the early days of the organization.
Overall, this game was pretty enjoyable, although not personally something I’d play daily. It’ll have its place at STACK HQ to settle scores (because really, how many Push-Up contests can you have?). Once you scale up the initial learning curve and start to pull off more complex and satisfying moves, frustration will give way to some good old-fashioned rasslin’ fun.
WWE2K14 is available today on Xbox 360 and PS3.