Last year, the custodians of the WWE franchise — working under THQ at the time — honored fans' collective memories of the Attitude Era, one of the most well-known and beloved periods in wrestling history, with a special mode in WWE '13.
This year, with WWE 2K14 under 2K Sports, they're giving the same treatment to the WWE's most enduring contribution to pop culture: WrestleMania.
WWE 2K14 will feature a new mode called "30 Years of WrestleMania," 2K Sports representatives revealed to members of the media last week during a conference call. As described by Cory Ledesma, creative director of the WWE series, 30 Years of WrestleMania sounds very similar to the Attitude Era setup seen in WWE '13, except with the goal being to honor the legacy of WrestleMania as opposed to a particular period of WWE history.
"This will be a nostalgic journey spanning three decades that will allow players to relive the greatest moments and matches of WrestleMania history," said Ledesma. "It's all the unforgettable moments that have defined the greatness of what WrestleMania has become over the last 30 years."
WrestleMania is perennially the biggest night of the WWE year
WrestleMania, held annually since 1985 in late March or early April, is the biggest night of the year for the WWE and its followers. The event itself often features high-stakes marquee matchups to draw fans in, and over the years many of the combatants have lived up to the billing, delivering memorable moments that have become enshrined in WWE legend.
WWE 2K14's 30 Years of WrestleMania will let players relive more than 45 matches from WrestleMania history. For now, 2K Sports is only confirming three of them: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III (1987); Hogan vs. The Rock at WrestleMania 18 (2002); and The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania XVIII (2012). Ledesma pointed out that "the mode itself ends up defining a large part of the game's roster," and announced that the full WWE 2K14 wrestler lineup will be revealed Aug. 17 during a Twitch livestream from WWE SummerSlam Axxess at 3:30 p.m. ET.
According to Ledesma, this year's special feature was inspired by a major upcoming landmark for WrestleMania and the WWE: WrestleMania XXX, which is set for April 6, 2014, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. "Once we saw that milestone was coming up, everything just started clicking on our side," said Ledesma to Polygon. "We thought it made great sense to relive that history, and we thought fans would really get a kick out of that."
"I'm a real big believer in history, and knowing where you came from is important to where you're going to go," said Triple H, a WWE executive and longtime wrestler, during the conference call. "And as WrestleMania continues to grow, I think it's important for us to see where it's been."
It sounds like WWE 2K14's developers are devoting the same care and attention to bringing WrestleMania to life as they did to the Attitude Era in WWE '13. Just like last year's mode, 30 Years of WrestleMania will showcase the unique setting, format and period-accurate appearance of every match. Developer Yuke's has recreated each WrestleMania arena featured in the progression, along with era-appropriate crowds and television graphics. In addition, older matches from the '80s and '90s will be displayed with a video filter to approximate the way they were beamed out to TVs in the pre-HD days (see image above).
More importantly, it seems that 30 Years of WrestleMania will also bring back the best thing about the Attitude Era mode: the ways in which it served as an interactive history lesson. The WrestleMania matches featured in WWE 2K14 will offer special objectives based on the unique events that occurred during those contests; players who recreate those historically accurate moments in the game will unlock bonus content such as arenas, costumes and playable characters. WWE 2K14 will also include WWE-produced video packages for some of the matches to refresh players' memories about the storylines and feuds that led up to those bouts.
However, Ledesma declined to comment on whether 30 Years of WrestleMania will include another historical touch that the Attitude Era mode offered last year: real-life commentary clips from Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. He did highlight the fact that the presence in the mode of multiple matches featuring the same wrestlers means we'll see different incarnations of those stars. For example, WrestleMania III took place during the height of Hogan's "Hulkamania" craze, while the all-American wrestler was in his "Hollywood" phase at WrestleMania 18 (see image below).
WrestleMania's three-decade mark is certainly a milestone worth celebrating. But since the Attitude Era mode in WWE '13 already memorialized that period with a similar treatment, 30 Years of WrestleMania will have to go above and beyond it in order to set itself apart. Asked if he's anticipating fan criticism about going back to the historical well with WWE 2K14, Ledesma said no, and reiterated that the developers are building this component specifically because WrestleMania's 30-year milestone is happening now.
"We saw a lot of success last year [with the Attitude Era mode]," said Ledesma, explaining that because that mode had an overwhelmingly positive reception, the developers "weren't too concerned" about criticism for the WrestleMania-specific element of WWE 2K14.
It'll be interesting to see the wrestlers and matches, past and present, that Yuke's and 2K Sports decide to include in 30 Years of WrestleMania. The Undertaker, one of the defining legends of WrestleMania and the star of WWE 2K14's special edition, is surely a lock. Fans will certainly debate the matches that the developers pick, but those who played WWE '13 will also be curious to see if the WWE teams at 2K and Yuke's can build on what was there with the Attitude Era mode last year.