"Heir to the Throne"
WWE 2K14 represents a turning point in this long-standing video game franchise. The first title released since original publishers THQ filed for bankruptcy. The license was acquired by Take-Two and ultimately published by 2K Sports, and many loyal fans of the franchise were uncertain if this shift in ownership and direction with bring an injection of new energy and finesse or spell doom for the beloved series of wrestling games. Very happily, the former seems to be in full effect.
The partnership between 2K Sports and developer Visual Concepts has been a fruitful one in the past, and absolutely flourishes with WWE 2K14. In terms of content, the game is absolutely loaded, with almost endless replay value and a series of historical modes to satisfy the most diehard wrestling fan. Playing through the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode is especially satisfying, with archival footage and playable tributes to many of the best matches in history. The nostalgia value is through the roof (and for newer fans of professional wrestling, it is a super fun and surprisingly comprehensive history lesson). The historical objectives required to complete these matches can be frustrating, and getting stuck on completing a scripted event often breaks the wonderful sense of suspended disbelief. Passing these objectives is also necessary to unlock different eras as well as a ton of extra content, and so there are high stakes on getting stuck. Still, it's an immersive and deeply enjoyable experience.
WWE 2K14 doesn't neglect the customizable aspect of wrestling gameplay either, and Universe Mode is especially well done. Players can build, control and implement a full narrative arc in the WWE universe, and being able to control everything from rivalries to pyrotechnics is a wrestling geek's dream. It puts the player in a creative, authorial role that deepens the already considerable amount of investment the player has in the universe.
The gameplay is physical, solid, and satisfying. The controls are occasionally unforgiving, especially when it comes to counters and reversals. The prompts are extremely brief and this can be frustrating at times. Generally speaking, however, the physics have a satisfying weight and the logic of the controls is sound.
This isn't just a sports game, of course, but a “sports entertainment” game. The WWE is an elaborate theatrical construction set in the context of sport and athletics, and as such the game must be similarly archetypal and dramatic in its design, spirit and execution. There is a severity to many sports games, an earnest dedication to facts and realism that WWE games can stretch — not so much as to become cartoonish, but enough so as to push the epic narrative of sports to an operatic excess. WWE 2K14's developers is aware of this, and celebrates the theatricality of the aesthetics of the WWE universe without descending into ridiculous parody. It's a fine balance, and they nailed it.
GameDynamo's Score for WWE 2K14 (PS3)
Natalie Zina Walschots is a music writer, poet, and editor based in Toronto, Ontario. She writes about comic books, video games, combat sports, sadomasochism, feminism, and difficult music for a number of publications, both in print and online, and currently serves as the Managing Editor of Canada Arts Connect, as well as the Reviews Editor of This Magazine. She also has published books - DOOM: Love Poems For Supervillains and Thumbscrews, which won a Robert Kroetsch Award.
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