Developer: Visual Concepts/Yuke’s
Publisher: 2K Sports
Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Install Size: 21.78GB
Release Date: Out Now
Price: AU$99.95 – Available Here
WWE 2K15 for new-gen consoles is the first title Visual Concepts have actually had any first-hand input in since 2K Games purchased the rights to the IP from a bankrupt THQ back in February, 2013. The last-gen version is more or less the same game as last year, whilst the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions have been overhauled in both the presentation and gameplay department. Is that necessarily a good thing? You would think so but, ultimately, WWE 2K15 falls flat in multiple areas (Hey, at least we got Sting playable in a WWE game!) The old adage of “one step forward, two steps back” may just apply here; read on to find out why.
WWE 2K15 has been slowed down drastically in many aspects of the core gameplay, mostly due to the introduced Stamina system. Initially, however, unless you are a super-heavyweight facing a cruiser-weight, the first addition to the core gameplay is Chain Wrestling. From the get-go, grapple moves are not achievable, instead automatically entering into a collar-and-elbow tie-up when attempted (these engagements are broken out of after four attempts maximum). From here, the player three options: a wrist-lock, headlock or waist-lock, mapped to three face buttons on the controller. Essentially, this is a game of scissors, paper, rock. Once in dominant position, you must find the hot spot with the right thumbstick and can also attack with ‘X’ to interrupt your opponent’s rhythm if they are on the cusp on escaping. This is slightly intuitive given the fact that every involved button is on the right side of the controller; assigning the rotational input to the left thumbstick is just more practical and common sense, especially since it is isn’t being used for anything else in those moments. Nonetheless, what these encounters do is deal slight damage as well as build momentum for the player who comes out on top, getting them closer to using their signatures and finishers.
Every move and motion takes Stamina. Staying still or simply walking will replete it ever so slightly, but managing it becomes an integral element in succeeding. Finishers and OMG! Moments (of which there are many more), in particular, require a set amount of Stamina. When tired, your character will delay in getting up, crawl to the ropes or even the pin in what is dubbed a “Desperation Pin”. You can even break up the count/submission in a tag match from the crawling state. Weight detection is back too, which means the player can assign weight-specific manoeuvres as a contingency for when they may have to fight the Big Show, for instance. Carrying on from the mentioned OMG! Moments, Skills have been introduced in 2K15, which governs your ability to pull off such dramatic moves, or even climb the top rope, dive to the outside, etc. Abilities also shape each wrestler’s fight-style, determining if they can store up to three finishers at a time, steal the opponents finisher, roll escape to the outside and more. Finally, outside of the enhanced rope physics and new positions (you can execute a low dropkick and send the opponent into the second rope now), dragging will be done automatically when the opponent is too close to the ropes for certain moves, although this can become frustrating when it’s not truly necessary, yet your character does so anyway, wasting several seconds.
A sticking point in the craw of many fans has been the omission of match types in Exhibition mode, such as Handicap, I Quit and Tornado Tag. This is extremely annoying, and confusing in equal parts, when you observe their inclusion in MyUniverse mode. Whaaa? Okaay… [See: Ryback’s entrance below]. Multi-man matches became frustrating for me personally at any rate, thanks to the ability for anyone to interrupt a grapple mid-animation. I know the alternative isn’t exactly realistic, but I spent a whole minute in a fatal four-way once trying to execute a single grapple move, but couldn’t due to constant interruptions from stupid A.I. who couldn’t just fight each other meanwhile? The frustrations continued as the game proceeded to stutter, and this wasn’t just during 4-6 man matches where the load might be high. That aside, I did find myself playing MyUniverse mode a lot more than I expected, with Story archetypes unlockable by playing specific scenarios and finding “clues” for recreating them appealing to my collector’s personality. 2K Showcase is where most of the effort was obviously placed, however. The objective-based gameplay is much more appetising and can present an actual challenge when difficulty is bumped up to Hard or Legend. It’s also where nostalgia kicks in, most of the unlockables are hidden, and most new commentary lives. Expect to unlock a myriad of alternate CM Punk outfits.
The Creation suite has seen some significant cut backs just like the match offerings, with no Create-An-Arena, Create-A-Title, Create-A-Finisher or Diva caws. There’s also less new items, animated moves and other parts than in previous years. Custom themes are not supported either, although the ability to upload your own logos is a nice touch…if only there wasn’t such restrictive caps on the quantity you can upload and download per day. Overall, with this feature aside, the Creation Suite is disappointingly bare. Finally, MyCareer is nothing like what we were promised. I played more than 20 hours building my Social Media follower numbers (which does nothing but take you to the next biggest show), progressing from NXT to Raw, and never got a U.S., Tag Team or Intercontinental title shot. Very few cutscenes are found, with 95% of the critical information given via text. The options can only be changed on a match-by-match basis, and that precludes difficulty, which stays at “Normal”, resulting in an extremely easy and therefore boring slog through your career, where nothing seems to happen outside of three PPV’s a year (of your choosing). I miss the days of WWE SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth where you could roam backstage and interact with wrestlers, creating branching story lines. How did we revert backwards so much? Hopefully Visual Concepts implement a managerial mode and deep MyCareer next year like they have in NBA 2K.
Visuals & Audio
It goes without saying that WWE 2K15 on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is the best looking title in the series yet. The facial scans, for the most part, capture the Superstars in almost life-like detail. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the entire Divas roster. For some strange reason, they all look bloated, with fat lips and puffy cheeks. Also, in terms of physique, there is very little accuracy; Brie is the same size as Nikki, for instance. And, ahem…we’re all aware of the massive differences between the twins. It’s also quite clear which superstars were not scanned, such as The Rock, CM Punk and Vince McMahon. Across all of the inaccurate facial representations (except for Bray Wyatt, who has plainly been done an unflattering injustice in his model), the common thread of unfaithfulness lies in the dead eyes and oddly misshapen brows. A perfect example of the development team’s inconsistent work is that, facially, CM Punk 13-14′ is absolutely faithful, while CM Punk 11′-12′ looks like chopped liver. It’s the same guy! He just changed his hairstyle! Why does the actual model look so damn different?! …Sorry, didn’t mean to get so hot about it. It’s just mind-boggling.
Speaking of mind-boggling, Ryback is given a 100% up-to-date entrance in WWE 2K Showcase, while, if you play him in any other mode, he doesn’t even do his “it’s feeding time!” line or usual gestures; it’s entirely generic. Moving that over into his default entrance is the equivalent of a cut-and-paste job in Word. Baffling. Also, screen-tearing at every integration of real-life video footage – even the championship title cards – will aggravate you if you hate screen-tearing as much as I (with a passion). Additionally in the visual department, while the completely 3D audience looks great, every arena is exactly the same size; Wrestlemania 30’s set, for example, is not even close to 1:1 scale, with a short ramp and 15k crowd attendance. Also baffling is the reported 30 hours of new, recorded commentary from Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler, each…where is it? Because, outside of 2K Showcase mode, 90% of what I heard during any given match was stripped directly from WWE 2K14 and even beyond. Not only that, but the commentary is still as bland as ever in those instances, with lots of “dead air” and lines unrelated to the action in-ring (King calling a “series of strikes” when you land one super kick). The soundtrack is missing John Cena’s two exclusive tracks with Wiz Khalifa, which I guess is a business decision made to help sales of the physical soundtrack. Regardless, there’s only 12 songs on-disc, which is somewhat paltry in comparison to other sports games.
This is what happens when you rush a title to meet a pre-determined schedule. Visual Concepts stays busy enough with yearly iterations of NBA 2K, and then having to take on-board a new IP in the WWE, being tasked with revamping it for a new-generation of consoles, results in a half-baked entry in the franchise. Expect WWE 2K16 to be radically improved, as the development team should have a better established understanding of the product and how to utilise the development tools to their best advantage. All that said, die-hard WWE fans will still find merit and enjoyment in WWE 2K15, although the polished, quintessential wrestling sim this is not…by a long shot.
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