Somewhere deep in the heart of every hardcore wrestling mark, there’s a rowdy little kid recreating their favorite matches with six-inch plastic figures. They’re pitting the irresistible forces against the immovable objects. They’re dropping elbows and raising eyebrows. They love reliving old memories, but they’re hungry to create new ones, too. WWE 2K14 gives that wrestling fan in all of us the tools required to do both. Though it continues to suffer from many of the same AI and commentary issues that have plagued the series for years, it also builds on its many successes, delivering a sports-entertainment extravaganza that can easily steal dozens of hours of your time.
Last year we saw WWE ‘13’s fresh approach to story mode, The Attitude Era, which felt like the start of something special. This year’s greatly expanded version, 30 Years of Wrestlemania, collects 46 of the most memorable matches to ever grace the event, leveraging historically accurate objectives to make bouts like Ric Flair’s retirement match against Shawn Michaels feel like more than just another fight for the old 1, 2, 3. Developer Yukes has outdone itself with its faithful curation of WWE history here, utilizing tons of archival footage, photos, and historical accounts to frame each match. Even the TV overlays and ‘80s film grain are accurately represented.
Pro wrestling is nothing if not a form of physical theatre, and having the option to play along with the true-to-life highs and lows of each historic match honors that element of performance without hamstringing player freedom. Following the script accurately nets you some nicely done mid-match cutscenes, as well as some unlockable goodies, so there’s incentive to play along even if you aren’t old enough to mark-out over Hulk vs Andre or even Rock vs. Austin.