Another year, another leap over the top rope and into the ring with a new WWE game. But this year is supposed to be different. The teething period is over, and with long-time developer Yukes now partnered properly with 2K Games, the WWE franchise has a chance to shine again as it marries legacy with new-gen. And much like the actual TV show product, it’s a complete mess, a stale product that has no idea how to innovate and taps out before it can even reach the main event.
Instead, we’ve got a game that falls flat as an ugly transitional title between old and current-gen versions. WWE 2K15 will feel familiar to anyone who has invested time in any of the previous games that developer Yukes has had a hand in. You’re still squaring off with an opponent, utilising a selection of strikes, grapples, submissions and extreme rules in order to pummel your competition into a concussion that will keep them down for several seconds so that you can pin them and win the match.
To get into the swing of things, involves using a new grapple mini-game, that works like Rock-Paper-Scissors, if such a game were on anabolic steroids. From there, players can chain wrestle into various moves, recreating the aspect of the WWE product where wrasslers feel one another out as they court fists and leg-locks in a grotesque peacock display of alpha male machismo.
It’s a great idea, that should work well with the game. Except it doesn’t.
Instead, it quickly becomes a grating mini-game, offering no actual boosts to the game or any advantage to the wrestler who uses the mode properly. It quickly becomes a frustrating exercise and a hindrance to the flow of the game. One other new addition that does hold rather spectacularly however, is the stamina gauge.
It’s been said that a WWE superstar needs a thousand minutes of gym-time in order to last one minute in the ring. With this system in place, I can believe that. Now, your superstars expend proper energy in order to pull off death-defying slams and dives through the ropes. Smellin’ what the Rock is cookin’ takes up valuable energy, with wrestlers quickly tiring after performing a trio of German suplexes. And there’s a damn good reason for having this system in place.
Firstly, it prevents players from spamming attacks, and secondly, it helps build up momentum as superstars feed off of the crowd and get a second wind that allows them to drop a five knuckle shuffle on the faces of opponents. It gives WWE 2K15 the necessary amount of realism that it strives for, without crossing that line. Watch a player stagger back up to his feet, only to be hit by an RKO outta nowhere, is magical and in the right vein of where the franchise should be heading.
I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news!
And yes, the wrestlers look far, far better thanks to the extra grunt of console horses under the hood and 2K’s facial-scanning technology. But that all comes at a price. While John Cena, CM Punk, Bad News Barret and various other wrestlers look phenomenal, the same can’t be said for characters who haven’t been scanned in. Triple H’s current COO appearance looks uncanny, but his model from the feud with Shawn Michaels in the early 2000s looks a tad too eery. Vince McMahon looks like an automaton in a suit, while custom wrestlers veer towards the side of the uncanny valley.
Hustle, Loyalty and Respect
It’s a catch-22 situation. Yes, the you’ve got superstars that look like they’ve stepped out from the pay-per-view and onto your console. But when you create a contrast between cover stars and non-scanned wrestlers, the results look terrible. Brother. And then there are the glitches. So, so many damned glitches.
And this was after the 4.5gb patch. I’ve had numerous matches go nowhere thanks to a rival pacing the outside of the ring, unable to get in for who knows what reason. Limbs jerk and flail in a random spazz attack. Championship belts possessed by the ghosts of Eddie Guerrero and Owen Hart I assume, judging by how they hover in the air. Grapples time out thanks to the AI getting stuck in an animation loop. The excellence of execution, has yet to be found here.
And that extends to the matches themselves. While the current patch has made a difference, there are still some lingering bugs lurking under the ring.
Feed me more
Last year’s WWE 2K14 took a trip down memory lane, revisiting the great matches of Wrestlemanias past, like a wrasslin’-obsessed Charles Dickens Christmas Carol. It was a fantastic idea and mode, dripping in nostalgia that was complemented by archive footage and matches designed to emulate what had actually gone down those many years before. This year, the 2K Showcase mode focuses on two specific rivalries: John Cena vs CM punk and Triple H vs Shawn Michaels.
Whether you were a fan of Sweet Chin Music or you had bought into the cult of personality of CM Punk, there’s no denying the impact that those two rivalries created in the industry. They’re once again bookended by archival footage of the backstage slams, showdowns and Irish Whips that created those titanic contests between the best in the business, but they’re also bloated with unnecessary padding.
WWE Universe also returns, but its a former shadow of itself, much like Terry Funk every time he makes a comeback match. Rosters can be shuffled, new rivalries created and event cards set up for an evening of slams, but without any option to really create any stories, it feels like a hollow quick fix.
And then there’s MyCareer, WWE 2K15’s other new mode of note. You’re a fresh-faced rookie, a noob with muscles and a burning desire that is either athletes foot or ambition to go to the top. And you’re going to work your way up from the bottom. Unfortunately, the game mode has no intention to follow you upwards as it fails downwards.
Here comes the pain
There’s a monotonous slog that creates a sense of progression, with a lengthy grind that has few story highlights as you work yourself up from WWE’s development territory into shows such as NXT, Raw and main event pay-per-views. It takes hours and hours to get anywhere, as the mode does a terrible job in explaining itself. If there’s any one mode in the game that had me on the verge of locking a Cobra Clutch onto my TV, it had to be MyCareer.
But let’s say you’re not into that. Let’s say you just want to set up dream matches and throw a referee that vaguely resembles your boss through a table. You’re still able to have traditional matches, Extreme Rules bouts or a round of Hell In The Cell. I still think there are plenty enough options here. But looking to further specifiy what kind of match you want, results in a painfully poor selection that strips these events to a vanilla core.
At least when it came to creating a superstar, WWE games have always had a heavy hand in the options. But this year, the transition if felt more than ever with a stripped-down creation mode. You can only edit male superstars, with no options for Divas at all, showing just how little WWE thinks of that division.
The system is also slower than a Great Khali steel cage match, with loading screens popping up for every little part of the process. In fact, creating an entrance or a move-set is more detailed than creating an actual superstar. And all of these problems go even further, with the core gameplay not being up to standard either. Hit detection is poor, ringside commentary and wrestler information is clearly recycled and out of date. Matches just lack any sense of flow, due to the reversal system requiring a quicker snap than Owen Hart’s harness.
Take those problems online, and the problem with lag makes pulling off any near-escapes or reversals all but impossible.
Last Updated: December 12, 2014