WWE 2K14 is a celebration of three decades of WrestleMania, and The Undertaker figures heavily into the event's history. So it seems fitting that publisher 2K Sports and developer Yuke's are singling out the Lord of Darkness with his very own mode, The Streak.
The game's 30 Years of WrestleMania mode features more than 45 matches spanning WrestleMania's three-decade run from 1985 to the present. The Undertaker has fought in 21 WrestleMania matches, and has yet to lose at the event. Thanks to that undefeated streak, Taker's career is inextricably linked to WrestleMania history.
"We just felt like we couldn't do a 30 Years of WrestleMania [mode] without some kind of special tribute to The Undertaker," said Cory Ledesma, creative director on the WWE series at 2K Sports, during a recent demo of WWE 2K14. "We felt like we weren't really going to do him justice, because he has so many matches; there's so much history with him and WrestleMania that we wanted to do something different."
Two options are available in the mode: Defeat the Streak, and Defend the Streak. Nobody has beaten Taker at WrestleMania in 21 tries, but Defeat the Streak lets you throw your hat into the ring for the toughest fight of your life, a no-disqualification match against what Ledesma called "an uber-hard Undertaker."
"We cranked the difficulty level really high, and there's no changing that — there's no option in there for that," said Ledesma. "Our top guys sometimes struggle to beat it. We wanted to make it really tough, to make it feel special." That extra-difficult Undertaker even has a bag of tricks at his disposal, with gimmicks like being able to temporarily turn out the lights in the arena and reappear right behind you.
"We cranked the difficulty level really high"
You'll be able to select anybody, including created wrestlers, for your attempt to give Taker a 21-1 record at WrestleMania. Winning with one of his previous victims will unlock some bonus content. Whether you succeed or fail, The Streak will score you on your match, factoring in criteria such as "excitement" (not spamming the same moves), "drama" (two-counts and reversals), "showmanship" (spectacular moves like catapult finishers and "OMG" attacks) and the length of the bout. WWE 2K14 uploads that score to the web, so you can measure the impressiveness of your attempt against matches from other users.
The other choice, Defend the Streak, puts you in Taker's boots for a "slobberknocker" match, a contest in which the American Badass faces a never-ending succession of opponents to see how long he can last. As soon as you defeat one wrestler, a fresh opponent will come down the ramp. Because it's all one continuous contest for you, your damage will remain, so it gets exponentially tougher to defend the streak as the gauntlet-style match continues. There's also a match score for this mode of play, and Defend the Streak tracks statistics like how many reversals and finishers you've pulled off.
Ledesma also showed off a number of additions and improvements to the long-running, popular WWE Universe mode, which lets players set up and customize their own WWE within the game.
The major new element of WWE Universe in WWE 2K14 is the rivalry manager. In previous years, the game would automatically generate rivalries between wrestlers; this year, users will be able to edit those rivalries as well as create their own, and set the length of the rivalries. Both one-on-one matchups and rivalries between tag teams are available. WWE 2K14 tracks each new development in every rivalry, so you can go back and see the history between the rivals, such as who defeated whom at which event.
Yuke's has made some minor additions to WWE Universe as well. You can now put any show on any week, and create Diva-only shows or pay-per-view events featuring a single tournament (such as King of the Ring). And if you want a wrestler to appear in your WWE Universe in just one outfit, you can make it happen by setting the attire individually.
Fans love WWE Universe because it gives them the opportunity to tell their own stories. Ledesma and the developers have also found success with modes that look back on real-life WWE history, such as the well-received Attitude Era mode in WWE '13, which was the model for this year's 30 Years of WrestleMania mode. According to Ledesma, those two approaches — as opposed to having the developers craft story-based campaign modes — work because they don't rely on staying current with the WWE.
"it's ... more challenging to sell an original story to a consumer"
"We really like the historical route; we'd like to continue to do that. Last couple of years before the Attitude Era, we were doing original stories, and it's just — it's a little bit more challenging to sell an original story to a consumer," Ledesma explained.
"If it doesn't seem to connect, or if there's anything that's getting outdated, it kind of deteriorates quickly," he continued. "If you have a storyline that's based around Seamus being a bad guy and now he's a good guy, all of a sudden, you're like, 'Well, I'm not really into this story because he's not...' Sometimes it's hard to make that connection with the original creative."