On the surface, a lot about WWE 2K14 feels refreshingly new. The presence of a new publisher, following the closure of THQ, and the 2K Sports brand they bring, seems to have given the series the push it needed. Under the hood, however, it's all pretty familiar. That's not to say we're seeing a rehash of last year's WWE title, far from it. A huge new game mode leads the charge of new content, as well as some interesting extra tweaks to the way you'll play. With around a month until release, it's perhaps safe to say that this isn't the revolution in the series fans have been demanding, but it looks to be the most expansive, diverse and generally sizeable WWE video game ever. In a product that's all about size, be it the superstars or the ludicrous events, that's not a bad claim at all.
WWE 2K14 is headlined by a brand new game mode, titled 30 Years of Wrestlemania, which has clearly been influenced by the fantastic Attitude Era mode from WWE '13. Rather than focusing on a specific period of wrestling history, the new mode follows the incredible story of the Showcase of the Immortals and all the pageantry involved in it. The 46 (!) matches on offer in the mode are broken down into chapters, each one focusing on a certain era of the WWE. Beginning at the 'Hulkamania Runs Wild' chapter, which is pretty self-explanatory, through the 'New Generation" featuring the rise of HBK, Bret Hart and The Undertaker. The tour then moves on to the 'Attitude Era', followed by 'Ruthless Aggression' and concluding in the modern 'WWE Universe' chapter.
Each of these chapters contains a collection of some of the best matches in the long history of Wrestlemania. Hogan vs Andre at Wrestlemania III, for example; or The Rock vs Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania X8. It's a fantastic list filled to the brim with crowd-pleasing moments, brilliant technical wrestling and incredible storytelling. As with last year's Attitude Era mode, 30 Years of Wrestlemania features promos, created in-house by the WWE production team, that provide the crucial background info on each match. As you'd expect from a WWE promo, the videos are full of emotion and memory, plus, for newer fans the packages allow them to buff up on their WWE history. Before even entering a match, it's clear that this is a game mode designed by wrestling fans, for wrestling fans.
Once gameplay begins, it all gets a bit more technical. You'll automatically be selected to play as the historical victor of each match, often with the simple goal of replicating history. Winning the match will unlock the next bout, but there's a lot more to keep you busy. Each match features a selection of historical objectives which, when achieved, reward you with bonus items for use in standard play. Things like extra attire or new arenas. These historical objectives task you with creating the situations that occurred during the real life matches. An objective in the Shawn Michaels vs Ric Flair Wrestlemania XXIV match, for instance, tasks you with placing Flair up against the announcer's table with light damage. Pulling this off activates a short animation in which HBK springboards off the ropes and moonsaults ribs-first into the table, just as he did in reality. It's a great way to blend an objective-based game mode with pure fan service, as completing each objectives sparks that little bit of nostalgia every time.
Outside of this new mode, there's plenty of new content to grapple with. The creation modes have seen an expansion this year; one particularly interesting feature allows you to use the template of a current WWE wrestler within create a superstar mode. So if you fancy making an old man version of Kofi Kingston, then you've now got the options. Still waiting for that John Cena heel turn? Just create your own version of the megastar but give him a negative crowd reaction (although I suppose that's close to reality). It also means you can completely experiment with ring-gear. That doesn't mean WWE Threads won't be making a return, however. On top of standard in-ring attire, it's now also possible to edit the superstar's entrance attire. With most of the grapplers rocking their accurate gear, there are a lot of things to adapt. Bright pink robe for The Undertaker? Topical.
Following the creative vein, creating championships has been overhauled, giving a lot more choice to the player. Adding skins over the top of belt plates, for example. Despite this, the changes aren't all focused on creation tools; WWE Universe mode, one of the best features of the more recent WWE titles, has been hugely improved by one key feature. The ability to create and edit custom rivalries should provide a brilliant extra layer to the game mode. It's an element that should make the mode mean so much more, and make it that much more like the actual WWE product. In fact, it's highly reminiscent of the fantastic GM mode from older WWE games, which is a huge plus in my book. Another brilliant inclusion is the ever hilarious King of the Ring mode, which is particularly good for sofa play with mates.
It's a lot to take in, and the fact is that's not even all of the new content. You can check out a whole separate article about the new Streak mode, focusing on The Undertaker's Wrestlemania win streak. I mentioned that this is looking to be the biggest WWE game to date, and that's certainly no bullshit promotional nonsense. It's simply vast, from the expansive 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode to the huge variety of creation options, not to mention the 85 strong roster. WWE 2K14 is looking to be the last hurrah of a generation of wrestling gaming. One can sense that next year will bring the revolution, for now however, 2K14 looks intent to be the biggest and best wrestling game ever made.