WWE games always come with an air of anticipation. Sometimes that anticipation leads to disappointment, other times vindication. With WWE 2K15, the first WWE game to arrive on
next current-gen consoles, comes with a whole Madison Square Garden-sized load of anticipation.
Developer: Visual Concepts/Yuke’s
Publisher: 2K Sports
Previewed on: PlayStation 4
Also Available On: Xbox One/PlayStation 3/Xbox 360
Release Date: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 – 28th October 14 (US)/31st October 14 (Europe) Playstation 4/Xbox One – 18th November 14 (US)/21st November 14 (Europe)
From the moment it was announced, 2K15 has raised hopes around the world. After seeing what the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles are capable of, wrestling fans around the world started salivating at the thought of what they could be getting. And when its presence was confirmed for EGX, I allowed myself to become immersed in that same feeling. We had seen the screenshots and trailers, we had read and heard about just how much work had gone into the game to make it look and play as well as it appeared to. Of all the games I would be playing over the weekend, this was one I was really looking forward to.
Unfortunately, hopes were brought down to earth somewhat on my first day at the show. I heard rumblings that the previous day had seen reports of WWE 2K15 experience lag and general lethargy. Maybe it was connection issues, maybe it was – somehow – the gamers, but whatever it was, something was off. With this ringing around my head, I sat myself down in front of the adequately-sized TV screen, picked up the PS4 controller and started to play
You start with the options of either a standard singles match or a no-holds barred match. The limited options also extend to the wrestlers on offer, with only cover star John Cena, Randy Orton, Cesaro and Goldust up for selection. I heard some around me question the roster choice available, but this didn’t bother me too much. Given Cena and Orton’s presence in the early marketing releases and Cesaro’s deep level of involvement in the motion capture work that went into the title, their positions were largely obvious. And Goldust? Well, I guess his attire looks good in current-gen graphics.
Speaking of which, you immediately notice the difference between the usual PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 offerings and what the newer consoles are capable of bringing. Everything is sharper and more crisp; the pyrotechnics and arenas look more defined and explosive, the visual quality of the crowd has been massively upgraded, while the wrestlers themselves look better than any game that has come previous can offer. The early screenshots are no Photoshopped-tomfoolery, this looks exceptional. The attention to detail put into this is of the highest order and nothing has seemingly been missed out. Whether it’s Orton’s baby oil-adorned torso or Cena’s gaudy merchandise, it’s here and looks the part. And yes, Goldust does look very good in current-gen graphics.
But enough about the look of the game, what about the game itself? Well here, unfortunately, is the return of the rumblings. Those lag issues? Yeah, they were a thing. For a game that delivered a crisp, shiny look, it’s handling and playing were far from it. Positional glitches and delays, slow gameplay, things that experienced WWE gamers were used to in the past had returned. This was not supposed to happen on current-gen consoles. Especially a game that is due out in two months.
And then things became more clear. A short while after leaving the 2K15 stand more than underwhelmed, I found out that the game I had found myself frustrated by was a build at least six months old. Suddenly things made sense; this was why it didn’t feel like the polished article I expected, why it wasn’t the blow-away current-gen game I was expecting. The recent announcement of delays to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game were rumoured to be down to production issues, and this demo would go more than some way to explaining it. I could I have accepted that and left it there, but I wanted to come away from EGX knowing I gave it the best possible chance I could. So the next day, fresh and ready to take on more games, I went back and picked up that PS4 controller.
This time it was a no holds barred match option I chose. Again, the game looked magnificent. Even for a (rumoured) 6-month old build, the look was there. When this game is finally released, no-one will have any complaints about the its aesthetic appeal. But I had not returned to marvel again at how crisp the crowd looked, or how sharp Cena’s jorts looked. I wanted to play the holly blue-Hell out of this game and see exactly how it was. And it was a lot better.
Sure, in some cases the animations had not changed from previous WWE outings, except they just looked better but overall it handled better. Action was a lot tighter, the moves looked good and flowed well. Positional issues with the wrestlers wasn’t apparent. The lag that frustrated greatly the day before now seemed, as the very least, minimal and tolerable. The wrestlers moved better, more realistic. It was a much more enjoyable experience than that which I encountered the previous day.
My main issue with the demo matches I had was a new addition to the game, in the form of the chain wrestling mini-game that accompanies every collar-and-elbow tie-up. I understand it’s inclusion as a way to add another layer of realism to the game, but I found it broke up the flow a little. I’m sure it will become second nature after playing the game for a period of time though.
Regrettably, we did not get a chance to hear the improvements apparently made in the commentary. Headphones were not made available for the demo, which was a shame as by all accounts the developers went to greater efforts this year to provide a more realistic audio representation. Lead commentators Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler actually recorded their lines together for the first time in a WWE game, and recorded five times more commentary than any other WWE game to date. There was also no opportunity to try out the much-talked about Career mode that will feature NXT talents. Although given the dated nature of the demo, that was no major surprise.
Bearing in mind that it was an old build and nowhere near the finished article, I finished my final session with WWE 2K15 optimistic about its future. I am keen to try out the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 versions to see what differences – other than the more defined and sharper graphics, of course – there are. For now though, despite the issues early on and minimal game mode or wrestler choices on offer, there is enough to suggest that on their first foray into current-gen WWE action, 2K Sports will strike championship gold.