Wrestling games are kind of like crack to me at times. Even if I’m not in one of those “on” periods where I actually watch wrestling, I still play wrestling games almost as if it were a religion. There has been a bit of a love/hate relationship with the THQ/Yukes WWE games over the years for myself and many other fans who prefer some older, more technical wrestling game series, but WWE ‘13 was a step in the right direction in many ways. The thing is, the more information that comes out about WWE2K14 the less excited I find myself.
All sports games (and quasi-sport games like WWE2K14) seem to have the same set of problems when a yearly installment comes out; is there enough that has changed to warrant me buying this game? Are there new modes? Did they finally fix these problems? When it comes to WWE2K14 this seems compounded due to the transition from THQ to 2K after THQ’s fire sale. Sure, the team working on WWE2K14 claim that there was only about a week period where they weren’t working on the game, but a game being moved to a new publisher with a new management team overseeing it in the middle of development seems ominous. The truth about WWE ‘13 was that it was the best wrestling game that we’ve seen in a long time, but there were still some major problems with the game, like the distinct lack of nearfalls and how when playing against a human opponent the game will just be endless reversals.
Part of the disconnect from professional wrestling to pro wrestling games is that pro wrestling games play like competitive fighting games, not like scripted athletic theater. Yet a game like WWE ‘13 could need to be played like athletic theater to end up enjoyable when playing against friends and there is always that one guy who just wants to do running grapples and just to “win.” While there is talk of this being addressed for WWE2K14, with reversals sometimes being into moves which do damage, there is still that fear of it just being a game that revolves around most of the damage coming from reversals.
The new features being added to WWE2K14 are cool, but they are window dressing at best. New “OMG!!!” Moments are pretty cool, as they were a good addition to matches, but it still feels like there need to be a lot more, if not have them assignable to characters to fit the rest of their moveset. The catapult finisher idea is a cool way to work around how rare the catch finishers were, but it’s still just a cool thing that can happen once in a while and not a core game mechanic.
The WWE games just feel like they might need a few really important tweaks to the gameplay to take them that one step further and it doesn’t sound like WWE2K14 is going to be that game. In fact, if you pay attention to the character models, they look like they’ve somehow gotten worse over the years. The Ultimate Warrior looks really, really comical, at best. In a way, the devolution of character models seems to be a metaphor for the series as a whole; there are steps forward and steps backward in these games which leaves them always just out of reach of greatness.