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'WWE 2K14' provides a smackdown for wrestling fans

By Ricci Kearney

Video Game Reviews

9:30 PM EDT, October 29, 2013

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The buzz for the first WWE game published by 2K Sports has been building since it was announced that the company purchased the license in the aftermath of THQ's bankruptcy.

Fans rejoiced at the thought of one of the most critically acclaimed studios now becoming part of the WWE Universe.

We wondered for months if "WWE 2K14" would feature the same detail and polish as 2K Sports other titles. We also wondered if the company would keep the essence of the WWE license and produce a quality game that tops the bar set by its predecessor. As a lifelong WWE fan, I am here to give you a simple answer to all those questions. YES! YES! YES!

To say "WWE 2K14" is a great game is an understatement. "WWE 2K14" is the best wrestling game ever made (And yes, I am counting "WWF No Mercy" on the Nintendo 64). Now, don't get me wrong, "WWE 2K14" has its flaws, but they are outweighed by its strengths. From presentation to gameplay, "WWE 2K14" shows that the license should have belonged to 2K Sports from the beginning.

Now let's hit the entrance music, pull back the curtain, and step into the ring with "WWE 2K14" . . .

PRESENTATION

"WWE 2K14" does away with intro videos of the past and gets right to the action. Instead of a custom made opening video package, the game opens right up to the title screen featuring the cover athlete himself, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. After setting some basic saving options, you are taken to a trimmed down and polished menu. Now a smoother menu may not seem like much to most, but with all the customizable match options that "WWE 2K14" offers, this allows you to more quickly navigate to the desired match type or mode.

Once you select your Superstar, Legend or Diva, you begin to witness the attention to detail that makes the WWE Games division of 2K Sports so impressive. The entrances of all the characters in the game look incredible. From the lighting to the attitude (pun intended), every entrance accurately portrays the spirit of that performer. While the entrances may not be up to date with current WWE programing, the team did its best to capture a piece of the ever-evolving WWE landscape. Once in the ring, the presentation of "WWE 2K14" truly goes for the gold.

I was immediately taken aback by the visual differences between "WWE 13" and "WWE 2K14." The grapplers look more lifelike than ever; the attention to detail impressive. Play as John Cena and watch him tighten his wristbands in between holds. Small details like this truly immerse you in the experience of the WWE Universe. This is a cliche in the gaming world, but I'll say it anyway: "WWE 2K14" has to be played to be believed.

"WWE 2K14" even goes so far as to add actual voices to the gameplay experience. This means you will hear Daniel Bryan chanting, "No! No! No!" on his way to the ring as well as Titus O'Neil's Omega Bark when he taunts during his matches. Presentation also spreads to the 30 Years of WrestleMania mode -- which I'll cover in a moment. First, let's get into what truly matters in a WWE game: the gameplay.

GAMEPLAY

The team at WWE Games and 2K Sports worked hard to improve the gameplay and it shows. The team has made changes to the core gameplay that speed the pace of matches and make the game more enjoyable. These changes are instantly noticeable.

First off, the team has changed the reversal system in the game. In past iterations, reversals would lead to other reversals, which would create a frustrating chain of reoccurring reversals until one performer ended up on top. Now, reversals lead to moves. This not only keeps the pace of the match going, but it rewards the player -- and causes damage to the opponent.

The A.I. has also been retooled and they are more vicious than ever. The A.I. still seems to spam the reversal system and it can get caught in the occasional loop of performing the same move over and over until you are able to reverse it. Still, while some of the constant A.I. problems still lag (Triple Threat matches still turn into Handicap matches), the A.I. feels more competent and more challenging than last year's version. Here, even on normal, your opponent will take every opportunity to capitalize on your mistakes and achieve victory.

The gameplay in "WWE 2K14" is leaps and bounds above the last few iterations of the game which makes this year's new modes even more fun to play.

30 YEARS OF WRESTLEMANIA

Last year's Attitude Era mode focused on the one of the most popular times in sports entertainment. From Stone Cold to D-Generation X, the mode covered the most popular moments from the era. Players got to play historic matches, as well as view archived footage of those amazing moments. This year 2K Sports took that same focus and turned it to 30 Years of WrestleMania.

30 Years of WrestleMania reaches into the WWE Universe and pulls out 46 of the most historic matches. The mode is separated into eras, classified by the Superstars, Legends, and Divas who participated in the event. The mode begins with the rise of Hulkamania at the first WrestleMania and continues through to WrestleMania 29. The presentation evolves throughout the mode with the filter going from grainy to HD to recreate the authentic experience of those classic events. The match pacing even quickens as we approach the more modern era.

Photos and videos help to recreate the moment for those unfamiliar with some of these classic matches. If you don't remember when Ric Flair accused Miss Elizabeth of cheating on the Macho Man, you will after playing this mode. The mode even goes as far as to recreate classic promos given before the match using the in game characters. It is a amazing little touch that allows the true wrestling fan to appreciate this game.

While playing the mode is enjoyable on its own, you will want to play the mode and and achieve all objectives in the match. This allows you to unlock arenas, Superstars, Legends, Divas, and attire that you can use when playing in exhibition. Playing this mode allows you to unlock the best roster in video game history.

While WrestleMania is the Grandest Stage of Them All, you ca not talk about the event without mentioning one man. A man who is undefeated at WrestleMania. A man known as The Undertaker.

THE STREAK

Since his first appearance at WrestleMania, the Undertaker has defeated every opponent who has stepped into his yard at the sacred event. WrestleMania serves as Undertaker's holy grail, with every victory moving him closer to immortality. "WWE 2K14" recreates this feeling in a competition mode that sees you taking on the Streak and the WWE Universe.

The Streak has two different modes. The first is Defeat the Streak. In this mode, you can choose any WWE Superstar or Legend in the game and attempt to take out the Undertaker at WrestleMania 30. This is no easy fea,t as he is endowed with all of his supernatural abilities. The Undertaker is super difficult to beat. The extra difficulty setting works -- and it is even more amazing when you actually beat him.

The second mode is a gauntlet match, in which The Undertaker must defend his streak at WrestleMania 30 against every WWE Superstar and Legend in the game. The damage The Undertaker takes carries over, but you regain health after defeating the first 10 opponents. After that, you regain health after every five victims. It would have been great if we could use the same powers The Undertaker uses in Defeat the Streak, but the mode is still enjoyable.

After every mode, you are awarded points. The points are based on showmanship and excitement. While your score can be uploaded after the Defend the Streak mode, your score from Defeat the Streak can only be uploaded if you defeat The Undertaker.

"WWE 2K14" is a truly amazing wrestling game. The game has improved presentation, gameplay and graphics. The 30 Years of WrestleMania mode is a great nod to history and a gateway that should connect both older and younger fans in the WWE Universe. With the improvements to Universe Mode (Rivalry Manager allows you to create ongoing rivalries), the Creation Suite (now featuring 100 slots for created wrestlers and Create A Championship) and The Streak, this is a game that will be replayed for months to come.

As the ta line says, this game is truly immortal. At least until "WWE 2K15" -- which has a lot to ground to cover.

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