WWE 2K14 hands-on: Big victory for old school WrestleManiac
Other matches I don’t get to play but are definitely in include Savage vs Ricky Steamboat (WrestleMania III), DiBiase vs Savage (IV), Hogan vs Warrior (VI), Michaels vs Razor Ramon (X), Rock vs Austin (X-Seven), plus Rock vs John Cena and Undertaker vs Triple H (both XXVIII). Given the roster, expect Hart vs Yoko (IX) and Edge vs ’Taker (XXIV) to feature, too.
And in case you’re wondering: no, the Summerslam ’92 arena isn’t featured – but you’ll be able to download fan-made versions of it (and Crush, and Repo, if you really are that keen to relive your youth) once the game hits, thanks to the series’ always-vast catalogue of UGC.
Away from 30 Years Of WrestleMania mode, I also manage 20 minutes of general play in exhibition mode, where last year’s excellent engine (ignore the haters – it underpinned the best grap outing in Yuke’s history) has been improved by quicker strikes and fewer chain reversals (countering an opponent punch or hold results in an immediate offensive move).
It definitely feels faster without going all-out arcade, and more fluid – a match between Daniel Bryan (me) and Dolph Ziggler (CPU) features all manner of high spots and big bumps, with noticably less waiting around from the AI when it’s on the attack. I found last year’s game too easy on ‘hard’ difficulty; this time out, playing on ‘normal’, I still win every match but it takes much more concentration and skill in terms of timing.
Aside from Bryan and Ziggler, other current stars who are playable and confirmed for the game include Cena, Rey Mysterio, Alberto Del Rio, Ryback, and Antonio Cesaro. I’d put money on The Shield and Kaitlyn making their debuts this year, too, but 2K wouldn’t confirm as much during or after the hands-on.
It’s a relief to discover that two-counts have been restored after a mysterious bug (which couldn’t be patched once THQ had met the same fate as Undertaker’s 21 WrestleMania opponents) essentially eliminated them from last year’s game. Hardly something that should be openly praised, but at least worth noting.
“Brilliantly, Daniel Bryan’s shouts of ‘no!’ during his entrance and while taunting have been captured by the sound team, and so can be heard over his music and the crowd.”
Brilliantly, Bryan’s shouts of ‘no!’ during his entrance and while taunting have been captured by the game’s sound team, so you actually hear them over his music and the crowd. It’s a very welcome bit of detail, typical of 2K’s influence – its basketball games have been packed with these kind of intricacies for years.
(And if you’re worried that his famed ‘yes!’ entrance has been cut, don’t be – 2K’s Bryan Williams hinted to me at Summerslam itself that it’s in there as an alternative option.)
Other inclusions like new OMG moments (I manage to nail a ring-apron DDT at one point) are welcome, although I’m still unsure about the new ‘catching finishers’. On an adjacent screen, I see an American journalist catapult Ziggler in the air with Michaels and then hit a super kick – it’s a cool spectacle, but I can’t remember it happening once in the Heart Break Kid’s illustrious career. It’s a moment of silliness in a game striving for authenticity, and 2K needs to ensure more of those don’t creep in if it’s to truly build upon the legacy of THQ’s WWE games.
Overall, though, I’m impressed by the company’s first attempt at a wrestling game. If you hated Yuke’s’ past efforts then this is unlikely to suddenly win you over, because the engine has been refined rather than reinvented. But current fans should enjoy the slicker action, and – as I mentioned at the outset – lapsed WWF die-hards will go gaga for all the old-school content. You’d hope for a freshening up of the series on next-gen once WWE 2K15 pokes its face-painted noggin through the curtain – but until then, this promising grap effort should put up quite the fight.
WWE 2K14 is out on PS3 on 1 November.