WWE 2K14 PS3 review – Between The Rock and a scarred face

Over the last half decade, thanks mainly to its basketball series, 2K has deservedly garnered a reputation as the go-to company if you’re looking for attention to detail in sports games. So fans were justifiably delighted when it picked up the rights to Yuke’s WWE series after THQ went under at the turn of 2013. Wholesale changes were anticipated that would transform wrestling videogames for the better when WWE 2K14 hit this November. Well, here we are. And if you were one of those Rock-worshipping, Cena-bashing die-hards expecting a whole new ‘rasslin experience… you’ll have to wait until next-gen.

WWE 2K14 PS3 review

As it turns out, 2K’s first crack at the Stone Cold Stunning, People’s Elbowing genre is a lot like THQ’s final one. Matches feel immediately familiar if you spent any amount of time with last year’s game. The main mode is basically a reskin of WWE 13’s. And the roster contains very few new faces, as least as far as the E’s current set of brutes, divas and matadors (really) are concerned. That’s not to say that it’s a bad game – the opposite, in fact – but expectations need to be managed before you wade in.

WWE 13 was Yuke’s finest ever entry in the series formerly known as Smackdown, so that aforementioned familiarity isn’t a negative. As before, there’s a pleasantly natural flow to matches, with punches, kicks and more generic moves abounding early on, before you’re able to nail a wrestler’s signature stuff once your opponent is groggy and/or you’ve built up sufficient momentum.

The best way to play is against another human, but on Hard difficulty I’ve had plenty of tough back-and-forth contests with the AI, too. By default it’s much more aggressive when on top this year, and reversal windows are shorter, making for a experience that offers a true challenge for the first time in yonks.

“This isn’t Street Fighter or Soulcalibur,
because it doesn’t set out to be. It’s
time series critics accepted that.

That said, this is still strictly a wrestling game, as opposed to a fighting game with wrestling moves. The onus remains on fun, with a simple control scheme and certain concessions included (like the returning ability to spark a comeback by hitting triangle when your wrestler is battered) in order to retain the sense that either guy could win right up to the final three count. After all, that’s what happens in the orchestrated reality of WWE proper. This isn’t Street Fighter or Soulcalibur, because it doesn’t set out to be. And it’s time series critics accepted that.

There are a handful of tweaks to the in-ring game, and while they don’t revolutionise the experience, their inclusion is still welcome. Specific wrestlers can perform moves on two opponents at the same time (John Cena’s FU and Ryback’s Shell Shock being two examples), there are cool new ‘OMG moments’ like being able to DDT your foe on the apron, and two-counts now work properly. The last ‘improvement’ is actually a bug fix – in WWE 13, it was basically impossible to keep your foe down for longer than a one-count unless he was out cold – but it’s nonetheless a relief to have last-second kickouts restored, and matches are more exciting as a result.

With little else to proclaim as ‘new’ in terms of in-ring content, the feature 2K has been evangelising for months is 30 Years Of WrestleMania mode. As the name suggests, it sees you playing at least one match from every Mania since the event began in 1985, and this is where that attention to detail really does come into play. Every arena has been faithfully recreated, with accurate entranceways, furniture (including Miami’s massive fake palm trees from Mania 28) and logos (both in the arena, and onscreen).