Tag Archive: jim ross

A not-so-Royal Rumble

It’s been a difficult transition from current-gen hardware to next-gen for a lot of the yearly sports franchises, but these titles seem to fall into one of two categories. Some series are taking the challenge head-on, while others are trying desperately not to rock the boat, with hopes of riding out whatever wave of momentum they’ve built up over the last seven years to survive their final current-gen entry.

WWE 2K14 falls in the latter category. Even taking events like a huge publisher change into consideration, it feels like the franchise is just ready for current-gen to be over and done with and is biding its time.

It’s not that WWE 2K14 is a bad experience. I still had a lot of fun with this year’s version of WWE’s annual gaming series, but a lot of its features and ideas seem stale, with little innovation in any of its modes. The same glitches and AI shortcomings that seem to pester the game year in and year out persist—Extreme Rules matches remaining counterfests where wrestlers just keep ripping whatever weapon they have out of each other’s hands and doing no real damage, players seeming to meld through the ropes instead of climbing over them, or character models looking like they’re floating off the mat when you go for the pin.

A perfect example of the lackadaisical approach taken to this year’s game is the WWE Universe mode. This option is so outdated that it still lists the Wednesday-night show as WWE Superstars, even though it’s now WWE Main Event and Superstars has been relegated to an Internet-only show on Friday nights. The only real addition to the mode this year is the Rivalry feature, where you can change storylines to force wrestlers to face each other—with varying stipulations—week in and week out. It’s really just a small customization feature that doesn’t do much for the experience as a whole–and serves to add more clutter to a user interface that’s already in desperate need of an overhaul.

Sure, it’s still interesting to create a character—or take control of one of your favorites—and put them through the paces of a year in the WWE and see if you can become top dog. But how about we expand this into NXT, the WWE’s developmental promotion? You could start as a rookie and really work your way up or learn new moves through a mentor, just like on the show. This could give us a chance to tell a much longer, more detailed story than we could before. And can we at least get the schedule of shows right? Yes, we can create our own, but let’s at least start from an accurate default.

While on the subject of creating things, I do have to say that while nothing’s really changed with the character, entrance, moveset, or arena-creator modes, nothing really had to, either. I can’t imagine these being any better than they already are, besides perhaps offering more options with greater detail. Hopefully, that will come with some of the added horsepower next year. The WWE series is known for having one of the best creator suites in the industry—and that, at the very least, remains in pristine condition.

Something that has seen some changes, however, is the story mode. Last year told the tale of the Attitude Era, while this year brings us 30 Years of WrestleMania. The major focus of this mode revolves around reliving 46 epic matches from three decades of the most dominant brand in wrestling, trying to pull off the same iconic moments that made these matches classics to begin with: Hogan bodyslamming Andre at Wrestlemania III, Stone Cold Steve Austin refusing to tap to Bret Hart in WrestleMania 13 (one of my personal favorites), all the way up to John Cena versus The Rock from just last year.

Hardcore wrestling fans will be able to recognize this is just an extension of last year’s mode, but instead of focusing on one specific time period (which also happens to be the shortest chapter here to prevent too much crossover), it draws from the WWE’s long history. It also conjures up a lot of memories of 2009’s WWE’s Legends of WrestleMania game—mostly early on—in regards to the matches chosen and the objectives given. It was like déjà vu; I had this constant feeling I’d already played half the mode before I even started it. However, it’s still tremendously fun to relive so many vintage moments, and it serves as a great learning tool for younger wrestling fans—or a trip down memory lane for older ones.

But there’s a lot more to 30 Years of Wrestlemania than just reliving the best matches of yesteryear. Another option in the mode is challenging “The Streak.” Here, you’re presented with two choices: Defeat the legendary Undertaker at WrestleMania, where his AI’s been amped up to near-impossible levels to offer you the truest test of your wrestling skills, or play as the Undertaker in the ultimate Gauntlet match against the entire WWE roster.

The Gauntlet match choice sounds much tougher than it is, though. Most combatants don’t really start to put up a fight until you’ve eliminated at least 25 guys, and the Undertaker recovers his health after every five. A score is assigned in either option, giving the entire mode a very arcade-like feel; it’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the simulation-heavy game. But unless you become obsessed with bettering your score, this mode sorely lacks any replay value. Even a difficult Undertaker can be countered after you learn his timing, and the Gauntlet match can take close to an hour for each runthrough of the roster, which is far too long for anything to be deemed truly “arcadey.”

WWE 2K14 is a decent entry into the series, but it lacks any changes that could help the franchise stay completely fresh and fun; this feels like a mailed-in effort before the advent of next-gen. The customization options we’ve come to know and love are still here to complement the most robust roster of old-school and current wrestlers yet. It just feels like the overall presentation and WWE Universe mode need to see the same spit-and-polish effort that goes into story mode every year.

Developer: Yuke’s/Visual Concepts • Publisher: 2K Sports • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 10.29.13
30 Years of WrestleMania will be a fun stroll down memory lane for older, more diehard WWE fans. Otherwise, WWE 2K14 feels like a mailed-in effort before next-gen hits, especially as the WWE Universe mode starts to show its age.
The Good 30 Years of WrestleMania is a great follow up to last year’s Attitude Era mode.
The Bad WWE Universe mode is starting to show its age; same glitches we see every year.
The Ugly Mae Young. Just because.
WWE 2K14 is available on Xbox 360 and PS3. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

A Slobberknocker to Remember

Originally Published: April 3, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com), ESPNVideoGames.com, and Lundberg.me

It’s that time of year again: Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, 250-pound men are hitting each other with steel chairs and baseball bats covered in barbed-wire…

That’s right, it’s time for Wrestlemania! Wrestlemania has grown over the years into an event that encompasses an entire weekend and the days leading up to the event, almost like the Super Bowl. The WWE Hall of Fame ceremonies are always the night before and with Friday Night Smackdown, ECW on Tuesdays, and Monday Night Raw, the buildup is almost as big as the Pay-Per-View itself.

This year is extra special because it is the 25th Anniversary and in that vein the WWE has released a new video game titled Legends of Wrestlemania. This game takes 38 of the greatest WWE wrestlers to ever grace the squared-circle and allows you to pick your favorites as you re-enact the greatest matches of all-time.

Before we even get into how great this game is, though, I had a chance to catch up with the voice of the WWE, “Good Ol’ J.R.”, Jim Ross, and talk to him about this year’s Wrestlemania matches, Hall of Fame class, and the video game itself.

– to listen to my interview with the voice of the WWE, Jim Ross.

Now, like I said above, Legends of Wrestlemania is amazing. Unlike other wrestling games that struggle to find a storyline or to immerse you in the action, this one is all set in that regard because the storylines were used 10-25 years ago and show they stand the test of time in terms of immersion because everyone remembers where they were when Hogan body slammed Andre at Wrestlemania III, when Bret Hart won back the WWE Championship against Yokozuna at Wrestlemania X, or when Stone Cold stunned the Rock twice at Wrestlemania XV. And if you forgot (shame on you!), there is a short 2-3 minute montage highlighting the development of the rivalry between the opponents before each match which can be reviewed anytime you like in the movie gallery. The opportunity to play through “Relive” mode for these great matches is one of the key selling points of the game and if you are a fan of wrestling then you don’t need much more than that.

But wait! There’s more! Along with the “Relive” mode for all those great matches, there are also “Rewrite”, “Redefine”, and “Legend Killer” modes. “Rewrite” mode has you take on the role of the loser of some of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history and has you complete objectives to “rewrite” history like Junkyard Dog vs. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine in Wrestlemania I for the Intercontinental Championship.

“Redefine” mode adds new stipulations to classic matches from Wrestlemania lore like turning the Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy in Wrestlemania XI into a No Disqualification Match or Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka vs. Rick “Ravishing” Rude at Wrestlemania VI into a Steel Cage Match. It’s a great way for the game to introduce different match dynamics, from climbing ladders and steel cages to throwing your opponent around the arena for some hardcore action, without forcing you to sit through a tedious tutorial; or reading what should be an instruction booklet, but what looks more like an instruction novel.

Then there is the “Legend Killer” mode, which has you use the expansive “Create a Wrestler” feature and put your fictional wrestler up to the test as he takes on a random stable of legends in 10-man gauntlet matches. If you win all the 10-man gauntlet matches, you can also test your mettle by taking on the ultimate gauntlet match, a 38-man gauntlet comprised of the entire roster of Legends of Wrestlemania.

There were only a couple of things I found this game lacking. Some really great legends were excluded and the fact that there are no special unlockable wrestlers also takes away from the time you can spend playing the game. No “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “Mankind” Mick Foley, or George “The Animal” Steele is a real disappointment.

There were also no female wrestlers in the game. Being a geek who watches wrestling, one of the major drawing factors is the divas in the WWE (sex, violence, and humor sells what can I say?). I understand that there weren’t as many lady wrestlers as there were guys 25 years ago, it’s just the way the business was, but a handful in their primes might’ve been a nice touch.

Another problem was that the A.I. is beyond simple. I would run through gauntlet matches with nary a punch being landed on me. Only a handful of the objective based “rewrite” matches gave me any difficulty and even then it only took the second or third try before victory was again within my grasp.

Aside from a lackluster A.I. and dearth of wrestler choices, this game delivers everywhere else. Gameplay was as solid as it can be for a wrestling game, with only a minimum of physics problems and glitches (wrestlers falling through one another when missing a clothesline, for example). The attack/counter system is easy to pick up and the new “chain” attack system for certain grapples is a true test of reflexes where you have to punch in button combos to execute moves or counters. When playing in the standard-equipped multiplayer mode, this is a great safety mechanism to prevent relentless friends or online opponents from bashing you into submission.

Graphics were solid for a wrestling game and the audio was as good as could be, with “Good Ol’ J.R.” and Jerry “the King” Lawler doing ringside commentary, and with original entrance themes as the soundtrack for the game. Authentic entrances are always nice to see and having ones like the movable mini-ring to escort the wrestlers through the crowd at Wrestlemania III with accurate character graphics introducing each wrestler was a great touch and shows the meticulous detail that went into this game to make it feel like you were watching the moments live all over again.

Another nice detail is that wrestlers who traditionally had managers, also have them in the game and they make certain matches even more difficult. It isn’t easy trying to avoid Mr. Fuji’s white powder AND wrestle Yokozuna; or how about Bobby “the Brain” Heenan jumping onto the ring apron, when you wrestle Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, distracting you just enough for Valentine to apply the Figure-Four Leg Lock. Jimmy Hart isn’t a picnic when you wrestle Honky Tonk Man either and Paul Bearer wielding that damn golden urn is especially a nuisance when wrestling the Undertaker.

This game delivers for the most part on every front you would want from a game highlighting the greatest matches in wrestling history. The few minor complaints aside, if you are a fan of wrestling or are just getting into it and need a history lesson, then this is a must-have game.

Ratings are based on a system of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.

Graphics: 7.5: This has the standard graphics for a wrestling game on this generation of consoles. The only real unique effect is that when you make someone bleed, the blood will usually stain the mat like in real life, which has been a complaint for years. Still though, audience members look only good in the distance, for when you get close shots of them in an entrance or a match that ends up around different parts of the arena, they look like polygon zombies. That’ll shock you back to reality.

Audio: 8.5: All the original entrance themes for the wrestling roster serve as the soundtrack (I forgot how much I loved “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes’ theme). Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler is a great touch as the legendary ringside commentators for the WWE, but their limited phrase track begins to get tiresome quickly and is a major factor for me taking points away.

Plot/Plot Development: 5.0: There isn’t an original plot to the game, but that is also part of the appeal. If you picked this game up, it is because you most likely remember the storylines and matches when they happened live and you want to be a part of those historic moments. Still, the plots and development were great on weekly TV 20+ years ago, a 2-3 minute montage fills in the necessary gaps, but doesn’t give all the details you would want as a wrestling fan, and for that the score has to suffer.

Gameplay: 8.0: A sub-par A.I. takes key points away from the greatness of the game. The physics system has a couple of glitches, but that is to be expected with most wrestling games considering the complexity of many maneuvers and this game is fairly smooth compared with those that have come before.

Replay Value: 6.5: After beating all the gauntlets and individual matches and their variations, this game doesn’t have a real lasting appeal. It has a standard multiplayer mode with online capabilities that you can get in any wrestling game. It barely gets a passing score.

Overall (not an average): 7.5:
This is a game devoted to the hardcore wrestling fan and that is all. It does not pull any punches by trying to deviate towards any other audience and it is that single-minded focus that makes it so great and yet so flawed. Only the lack of a broad appeal takes it down a notch. The bottom line is: If you’re a wrestling fan, this is a must have.

Legends of Wrestlemania is out now for the PS3 and XBOX360.

-Ray Carsillo