For years, THQ has taken the World Wrestling Entertainment franchise to new heights, whether it was through wrestling simulations like WWE Smackdown vs. Raw or WWE 13; arcade-style releases such as WWE All-Stars; or more creative affairs, like the Twisted Metal-esque WWE Crush Hour. This year, there's a new publisher in town (2K Sports) and with it comes an all-new effort that wrestling fans are sure to love – WWE 2K14.
In this latest entry, fans will once again be introduced to modes that came with previous releases, as well as gameplay improvements and the addition of new modes to keep them grappling and body-slamming for hours on end.
Like previously released wrestling games, WWE 2K14 will come with a cavalcade of superstars, both from the company's past and present rosters. Fans of the 80's will no doubt delve into matches with Bret "The Hitman" Hart, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, while more current fans can play as the mega- bearded Daniel Bryan, John Cena or any given member of the Shield. There are over 80 superstars on the main roster in all, including a number of WWE Divas, such as Lita, Layla and Internet favorite A.J. Lee.
WWE 2K14 lets you create your own dream matches however you please. There are certain limitations, however. For instance, unless you're a really skilled player, chances are that underdog Santino Morella won't be able to bring down the massive Andre the Giant – no matter how many Cobras you end up using. Also, you can't pit WWE Divas against male wrestlers, only against other women in their division. Aside from that, however, it's interesting to see what matches you can pull off, whether it's Ryback against Goldberg or the late Eddie Guerrero versus straightedge CM Punk.
If your favorite superstar isn't included – or you just want to implement yourself in the game – you can do so with Create-a-Mode. Here, you can put together your own silly wrestler, either making yourself into a muscular god or inventing a modern take on the classic Doink the Clown, complete with enlarged hands. What? They're good for clotheslines. You can also modify elements of your wrestling style, including what kind of finishing move you want to use. For good measure, entrance styles and celebration animations are also at your editing fingertips.
Like WWE 13 before it, WWE 2K14 will come with a number of modes and match types you can partake in. Feel like ripping Randy Orton to pieces in Hell In a Cell, with a huge steel structure surrounding the ring for about five feet out? You
certainly can. Maybe you want to challenge Kane in an Inferno Match, with fire engulfed around the ropes? Hey, it's your funeral, but go ahead. Even the classic Ladder Match makes its return, where you can pit Razor Ramon vs. Shawn "HBK" Michaels in a rematch for the ages.
A new mode being added to the game is 30 Years of Wrestlemania. Here, you can recreate popular matches from the nearly three decades of the event, from the historic meeting of the muscle between Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior in Wrestlemania VI to the "twice in a lifetime" rematch between The Rock and John Cena at Wrestlemania 29. In good fashion, each match is recreated to match the era in terms of presentation, including film filtering, font styles and announcers. So if a match originally took place in the 90's, it would come straight from that era, instead of the 2013 set-up.
Gameplay has also been improved in many areas. First off, the navigation system has been completely reworked, so running and walking around isn't so clumsy, particularly when you're turning around to face your opponent or performing a reversal. Also, players now have "start-up" animations, so they won't be able to spam opponents with instant running attacks, as they've done in the past.
The game's reversal system makes a return, with slightly better timing so you can turn around a superstar's assault within the right moments. There's also a timing meter implemented with pins, so you can release at just the right time to prevent the three count – or suffer a loss if you screw up. Catapulting finishers can also be used, in case you feel like launching off the top rope with "Macho Man" Randy Savage's flying elbow. Let's be honest, who doesn't?
Finally, you'll want to keep an eye out for OMG moments. These are game changers over the course of a match, which a player can execute at the right possible spot. For instance, a top rope launch into an opponent through a table definitely qualifies, or hitting someone like the Big Show into the turnbuckle and causing major damage. As in previous games, you can also introduce various weapons into the mix, such as tables to crash your opponents through, as well as ladders and, a Triple H favorite, sledgehammers.
We'll get more in-depth with gameplay styles – and what works best for each particular type of wrestler – with our strategic preview later this week. For now, we can't wait to get our hands on WWE 2K14. It's a wrestling machine that just won't quit. Kind of like Daniel Bryan. "YES!"
WWE 2K14 ships on October 29th for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.