“Thirty years ago, one man had a vision that would change our world. As the vision grew we cheered it on, stood in awe, held onto our seats, and gave up our hearts. We watched with utter disbelief, stunned silence, and sheer amazement. But above all we’ve been inspired and enriched by the vision.” These words spoken at the beginning of WrestleMania XX has defined the effect WrestleMania has had on the public ever since 1984. This was the time where legends were made and iconic moments performed by those athletes. Before WrestleMania turns thirty in March, it has been given the biggest tribute possible: a videogame to recreate and relive the greatest matches and moments over the past three decades, this is WWE 2k14.

While looking unchanged, WWE 2k14 has undergone some improvements behind the scenes and in the technology that brings it to life. Earlier this year publisher THQ went into bankruptcy and sold off all of their assets, including the license to make video games for the WWE. When everyone expected Electronic Arts to purchase the license it was purchased by none other than Take Two Interactive. WWE games would be in the same family as BioShock, Grand Theft Auto, and 2k sports titles. As such, the previous name style for WWE games would be changed from “WWE 13″ to “WWE 2k14″ incorporating wrestling into the 2k sports family.

In last year’s WWE 13, the WWE series made a transformation from a regular wrestling game to a wrestling re-enactor. This was shown last year with Attitude Mode which allowed you to re-enact moments from the iconic era that changed everything. Even though you already know the outcomes of the matches as they happened fifteen-plus years ago, you have historical objectives to complete and as long as you complete them, you will get unlockables that range from classic wrestlers to classic arenas.

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The developer of the WWE series Yukes makes a return to the franchise and at the same time could be their last as they were contracted to do one more WWE game after WWE ’13. So like Volition and Saints Row, this could be a parting of ways between developer and franchise. Also like the Saints Row IV/Volition separation is the fact that they’ve gone out on a high note, if this is indeed the end of Yukes’ partnership with the WWE.

When it comes to the gameplay of WWE 2k14, there have been fixes and additions to new features that debuted in previous games. There are more “OMG!” moments and instead of just being able to catch someone in a mid-air finisher you can throw your opponent up and hit him with an RKO or Super Kick. Further polished this year is the “Predator AI” system introduced in WWE ’12. This has been re-tooled to give a sense of struggle between you and your opponent. The reversal system has been fixed as well so there will be less back and forth. The comeback system returns allowing you to dynamically come back from the brink of defeat and win the match. There are also hints given as to what type of finisher you have and where to do it. For example, Bill Goldberg has the Spear and Jackhammer as his finishing move so when you do the military press slam and you get ready to do the Spear you will see “corner finisher” which, while very small and almost un-noticeable is a great indicator of what you can do.

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The audio of WWE 2k14 has been enhanced as well. Just like Attitude Era from WWE ’13 the play-by-play and commentary are done by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler up to the point where Ross departs and it becomes Lawler and Michael Cole. For the first 9 matches it may not feel right as neither JR nor Lawler worked for Vince McMahon at the time. This is largely due to the fact that the play-by-play and commentary for the first ten WrestleMania were done by Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby Heenan, Roddy Piper, and many others who either are no longer with us or no longer have the voice to do it. However, footage will play before each match to set it up and give some exposition to the circumstances of each match. There are certain matches where promos are recreated using the in-game engine, an example of this being the Razor Ramon/Shawn Michaels ladder match at WrestleMania X. It’s not just limited to promos, as you do a “WrestleMania moment” you will perform the actions that occurred at that point in the match historically. This is also seen in the Ramon/Michaels match as Michaels’ bodyguard Diesel (Kevin Nash) gets into a verbal argument with the referee after involving himself in the match and eventually getting thrown out of the match. There is also a mode titled “The Streak” where you aim to defend or break The Undertaker’s perfect streak at WrestleMania. It is essentially a ladder of enemies like Mortal Kombat. It is done pretty well and how you will either survive a gauntlet of adversaries or take down one of, if not THE biggest legend of WrestleMania.

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Current-day wrestlers such as Daniel Bryan who would speak during their entrance actually have the audio put in so you can hear Bryan Danielson repeatedly saying “NO!” to the fans who are chanting “YES!”.

The character models for the wrestlers remain identical to last year’s, but they don’t look as good as the character models in WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2007. However, as there are multiple wrestlers that make multiple appearances at WrestleMania there are attires that make said wrestler look like they did at that point in time. Triple H (Retro) has three attires, each one ranging from 2000 to his match against The Undertaker. Each model attire has a different look as well. For example, Chris Jericho’s WrestleMania XVIII attire has his signature ponytail and goatee ponytail he had in 2002. His WrestleMania XIX attire looks extremely similar to his appearance for much of 2003.

Ever since GM mode was removed from the WWE games all we have had has been Universe Mode which let you be the god of the WWE universe. Every iteration prior has allowed for more and more customization. Now they’ve opened the floodgates, allowing you to do anything from edit which titles are active, who’s a face/heel, replace PPV’s, and a lot more. The storylines are actually useful this time as you can create three rivalries for each show and the storyline will be connected to those involved rather than random moments.

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Perhaps the one thing that was ill-received last year were the WWE ’13 servers. They would be down more than a submarine, anything related to online you would have trouble with almost at launch. Thankfully, Take-Two has much better bandwidth than THQ did. You can play online and download online creations quicker and easier than you could possibly dream of in prior iterations.

For a game that has 46 matches in its single player mode “30 Years of WrestleMania” is actually very fun and can evoke feelings and memories from days long ago. So when it comes to comparing WWE 2k14 to its predecessors, WWE 2k14 comes out on top. I cannot wait to see what will happen with next year’s product.

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