Another year, another WWE game. But with the first game in the franchise coming out for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and a full year of development for 2K, is this game an improvement on those that came before or just another yearly title with little improvement?
After a two week delay, the current gen version of WWE 2K15 is finally here. Early reviews see the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 version as underwhelming and even considered a step back from last years impressive 2K14, but thankfully the Xbox One and Playstation 4 version of 2K15 is a step in the right direction, sort of. Some stripped down modes, missing match types and lacking roster are just a few of the issues in this game, but what it does have is something incredibly fun and as close to the real thing as you can get without stripping down to your underpants and stepping into the squared circle.
If you’ve played a WWE game before, there isn’t that much new to learn here. But what systems they’ve added to the gameplay make a whole lot of difference. A stamina system is now a core part of the gameplay, making everything you do drain a portion of your stamina bar so you always need to be cautious. No more spamming of running moves and flying around the ring like some kind of Daniel Bryan wannabe. Not only does the stamina system slow the match pace down, it also makes the game a lot similar to what you’d see on television. The first time I hit an RKO with no stamina and had to crawl into a pin, I was genuinely impressed. Never before had I seen something like that in a wrestling game and it adds so much more to the drama of the match.
Another new gameplay addition is the use of a mini-game collar and elbow tie up used in the early goings of the match. It’s basically a rock-paper-scissors type deal, three different holds, winning the mini-game you gives the advantageous hold. From here you rotate the right analogue stick until you find the “sweet spot”, which will ever help you reverse your opponents hold, or put you into a better position to cause damage to him/her. It’s an entirely optional part of the game that can be turned off, but I enjoyed it and once again thought it was something that added to the realism.
Something that really impressed me was how the wrestlers position themselves in the correct position before they perform a move. About to deliver a suplex too close to the ropes? You’re wrestler will drag his opponent into the middle of the ring so he doesn’t get caught up. A similar thing happens when you go to the top rope to deliver some high-flying pain. Ever notice how in real wrestling, if the guy lay on the mat is slightly out of position, he’ll roll or shuffle into place? Same thing happens here, making it so much easier to land those diving headbutts and moonsaults.
So I’ve spoken about gameplay, but what do we have to do in the game this year? Universe mode is back, though largely unchanged. I do like that you can now choose what type of stories your rivalries play out in and I’m sure I noticed more cut scenes playing compared to last year, but it’s definitely more of the same.
Aside from Universe, this year we’re given Showcase mode. Similar to last years 30 Years of Wrestlemania and WWE 13’s Attitude Era Mode, Showcase mode sees you through two long time WWE rivalries. In this case it’s HHH and Shawn Michaels back in 2002, as well as the more recent CM Punk and John Cena, from 2011-1013. 2K did a good job of recreating these famous rivalries, with specific objectives given through the match, which in turn unlocks a whole host of different unlockables.
Finally we have MyCareer mode. This was touted as a brand new mode where you take a created wrestler and rise him through the ranks, from the WWE performance centre, to NXT and beyond. The idea is a good one, do you want to be face or heel? Go after the United States or Intercontinental title? Unfortunately the execution is far from excellent.
As you rise from NXT to Raw, various storylines play out that seem to be reused scenes from the now absent create-a-story mode. You’re never really given much choice, for example I wanted to build up my created wrestler on NXT as champion for a while before heading to Smackdown. Unfortunately I was told I was too good and I had the belt stripped from me. Odd choices and limited freedom stop this mode from being something truly great.
One thing that confused me was when I won the WWE championship; it skipped the rest of my career to my retirement match. What? I spend the whole of this mode working my way up to being top dog, then when I finally achieve the boyhood dream, it’s game over? A continuation of the full 15 years would have been a more logical choice.
If you’re a fan of all the creation modes featured over the last few years, here’s the bad news. Almost all of the creation tools have gone from 2K15. What you have now is the ability to create a superstar (Sadly no diva creation), edit someones entrance and create a moveset. Gone are the created arenas, paint tool, created finishers and all the other goodies we were given in last years game. However, all is not lost. What we do get is actually quite impressive. You can update the attire of any superstar in the game. Since Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins still wear their SHIELD attire, it’s actually possible to change what they wear. Fancy giving Ryback a luchador mask and bright pink trunks? You can absolutely do that (It’s actually pretty amusing). If you’re similar to me and prefer playing with actual wrestler over creating your own, you’ll be happy with what 2K have given us, but if you’re someone who hates the thought of a limit of 25 created wrestlers, as opposed to last years 100, you may want to think twice about picking up this year’s version.
Graphically, 2K15 shines bright. Some wrestlers like Triple H and Randy Orton look incredible. Everything looks like it should, with excellent arena lighting and animated crowd. It’s a shame, then, that the visual detail didn’t transfer over to the sounds. Once again, commentary is sub-par. Not much different from last year’s game, except Cole and King like to go off on a tangent talking about specific matches a superstar had years ago. It’s very out of context and feels very forced. The absence of JBL on commentary is also a downside, but as with all yearly sports titles “maybe next year!”
All in all, WWE 2K15 is a decent first attempt for a wrestling game on next gen. Some missing features and limited modes stop it from reaching its full potential, but it’s certainly enough to keep me occupied until next years installment.