A few months ago, we were unsure if WWE 2K14 (originally titled WWE '14) would even be made. Much like the real-life acquisition of WCW by Vince McMahon, WWE 2K14 was one of the titles stuck in limbo due to THQ filing for bankruptcy earlier in the year; wrestling fans worldwide were wondering what would happen to the WWE's gaming franchise. Luckily, Take-Two Interactive picked up the rights to WWE 2K14. And it's finally bell-time now that their subsidiary company, 2K Sports, has released WWE 2K14 much to the delight of the millions (and millions!), of wrestling fans worldwide. Similar to the in-ring shenanigans of our favorite over-muscled soap opera, wrestling tends to hype and build up feuds until its pay-per-view pinnacle, and this is where we're at with WWE 2K14. So what'cha gonna do brother, when WWE 2K14 runs wild on you!

Apparently, there's a lot to do with WWE 2K14. 2K Sports has taken what the WWE series had going for it and have continued to build and expand upon it. Unfortunately, 2K Sports played it safe, avoiding the major areas of the WWE series that needed mending (such as the counter system). So if there were certain mechanics in the WWE series that you absolutely despised, do not expect them remedied by 2K Sports. In particular, the A.I., commentary, recovery and counter systems were still underwhelming. Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler will always be remembered for the play-by-play during the WWE's prime, but the commentary in WWE 2K14 was extremely lackluster. It's unfortunate that WWE 2K14's Wrestlemania mode allows you to replay the most pivotal and important matches in Wrestlemania history combined with such unenthusiastic commentary.

Most wrestling game fans will probably overlook these fallacies in order to tweak their roster and WWE universe into a form that they see fit. And WWE 2K14 obliges its fans and tries to help them as much as possible into creating the WWE that they want. You remember how CM Punk would change his facial hair every few months? You're able to change how the official roster looks whenever you would like. Hate the new black and gold WWE championship belt? You're able to switch it out for whichever belt you would like from WWE history and have that act as the championship. Even better is the create-a-wrestler mode. Fan favorites who have gone to Impact Wrestling, such as Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy and Sting, have their entire movelist incorporated. So while WWE might not currently own the rights to these characters, it's quite easy to make your own version of them. And if you don't feel like taking the time to build your own wrestler? The online modes of WWE 2K14 got you covered.

The online aspects of WWE 2K14 are varied, letting you brawl it out with other wrestlers however you would like. Royal Rumble, tag team, inferno, first blood, street fights, etc. are all here for you to enjoy however you would like. But we like the ability to download movelists and created wrestlers that other users have made. WWE 2K14 allows you to download up to 100 created superstars. The best thing about this concept is that the WWE does not attempt to censor out any of the created characters, so expect to see all sorts of non-WWE wrestlers, from Sabu, Samoa Joe, Dean Malenko, AJ Styles to even the blacklisted Chris Benoit throughout the downloadable roster. Unfortunately, official downloadable characters most likely do not have their trademark moves in the create-a-wrestler mode, so if there's a wrestler in the DLC roster that you were hoping to make, the best you could do is try to find an online version with a move relatively close to their finisher (e.g., The Dudley Boyz' Dudley Death Drop). Nevertheless, the online aspects to WWE 2K14 are amazing. WWE '13 had horrible server issues, such as random disconnections and failure to load downloadable character lists, but it's great to see that 2K Sports have much more reliable servers than THQ did in the past.

While 2K Sports has enhanced many concepts, the series' core flaws are still widely abundant, such as the recovery system. For example, playing as Rob Van Dam, I wanted to put my opponent onto a table outside of the ring, and, in ECW fashion, jump from atop a ladder I set up inside of the ring onto my opponent. Despite performing my finisher and hitting my opponent with a plethora of weapon shots, they would still perfectly roll off of the table before I would land. This is where I would miss the Nintendo 64 heyday of THQ wrestling titles where getting hit with a weapon actually meant something. Even with RVD's enhanced speed, pulling off death-defying jumps were extremely hard to time, even when the opponent was decimated seconds prior.

Another major complaint can be said of the countering system, which still has remained relatively unchanged for the past three WWE titles. At times it seems that countering works perfectly with a well-timed button press, and other times it would feel as though you would have to spam the counter button just to be able to counter. While you would see the counter icon appear, it was still extremely tough to regularly counter moves, which was a core fundamental of wrestling itself - submission/wrestling hold followed by a counter. Meanwhile, it seems as if the computer A.I. has the ability to freely counter whenever it would like. Mix into the hit-or-miss style of the A.I., and it would seem as if the computer-controlled wrestlers had no clue what they were doing but could instantly counter no matter what.

Sure, you might be able to find a version of Taz or Bam Bam Bigelow and have them act as the reigning heavyweight champion, or bring back the Hart Foundation to be the tag team champions, but what's most important is how WWE 2K14 handles in (and out) of the ring. At its core, WWE 2K14 is the greatest wrestling-based fighting game we have ever played. There is an in-depth hold and submission system and you are able to target and work specific parts of the body all for the sake of either crippling your opponent or setting them up for your finishing move. Everything that was great about WWE '12 and '13 have been improved (while most of the series' detriments were ignored). An interesting addition is the implementation of being able to throw your opponent into the air above your head and catching them with with a signature move. For example, as Randy Orton, you can RKO your opponent from above, just like how Orton has been famous for pulling off the RKO in seemingly impossible scenarios.

At the forefront of WWE 2K14 is its Wrestlemania Mode. Starting with the first Wrestlemania up until the most recent, you must play through wrestling's Superbowl and relive the most monumental moments in WWE history. Even if you are too young to remember Hulk Hogan bodyslamming Andre the Giant, it is still rather impressive to see so many famous moments being recreated. This was done much better than last year's Attitude Era campaign, the addition of camera grain and the retro-look of the onscreen font was a delight which properly bridged the gap to the golden age of wrestling.

Ultimately, we would recommend WWE 2K14 to fans of both wrestling and gaming alike. Obviously, if you have no care for wrestling for all, WWE 2K14 isn't for you. Even if you stopped watching wrestling years or even decades ago, there is still enough content and nostalgia to keep you thoroughly entertained. While the detriments of the series are still quite there, there is enough content and improvement for us to recommend it to you. If you still own WWE '13, we would only suggest playing 2K14 if you wanted to experience its stellar Wrestlemania Mode and its surprisingly-underwhelming Undertaker Streak (where you have to inaccurately replay the Undertaker's undefeated Wrestlemania streak). Nevertheless, WWE 2K14 offers engaging in-ring mechanics and has enough fireworks and nostalgia to keep all sorts of wrestling fans entertained for months to come. Any wrestling title where you are able to rekindle the feud between Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes, Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels or Stone Cold and The Rock is more than enough to be a candidate for the king of the ring.

This review was based off of a purchased, retail copy of WWE 2K14 for the Xbox 360. WWE 2K14 is also available for the PlayStation 3.


8.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating