I can’t remember a time that I liked and disliked a game so much as I do right now with WWE 2k15. This is 2K Sports first (official) take on the WWE license, an acquisition made from the now defunct publisher THQ. Although last year’s entry was a “2K” title, it had very little influence from what players have come to expect from the team at Visual Concepts, known mostly for their work with their NBA 2K series.
So now that they’ve had a full development cycle with the license, how much of a difference has one year made? Read on to find out.
The first thing you’ll notice on the PS4 and Xbox One versions of WWE 2K15 are the visuals. At its best, (mostly during entrances) this game looks really, really good. As it should considering that the team at Visual Concepts utilized the same face scanning technology they’ve brought to their NBA series of games.
All main event wrestlers like John Cena, Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan look as good as you’d expect them to. At certain points we’re talking a truly uncanny resemblance here.
However, with the good comes the bad, and the character models who will draw the most attention unfortunately are the ones that were obviously not scanned in time for this year’s entry. Wrestlers who made the jump from NXT such as Bo Dallas and Rusev simply do not look as good as others and it can take some points away from the overall experience.
Then there’s CM Punk who, for his own reasons, wasn’t around to be scanned. For traditional sports-sims I can understand how it can be hard to get everyone scanned into the game, but considering that the active WWE (television) roster is probably not in the triple digits, it’s a shame that it couldn’t be completed for this year’s entry.
Like years prior, the big draw for many in 2K15 will be the MyCareer mode. This is where players create their own wrestler and take him from try-outs all the way to WWE Heavyweight Championship. Along the way, you’ll encounter familiar WWE faces who act as the voices of authority of the company as you battle your way from NXT to Main Event to Raw to Pay Per View shows in hopes of catching some championship glory.
If you’re looking to make an immediate impact in the WWE with your created character you should check your expectations at the door. When creating a superstar you’re at a serious disadvantage as your character is rated somewhere around 50 (out of a possible 99), essentially making you become an NXT jobber until you’ve accrued enough skill points to build out your character’s attributes.
It can easily take upwards of six hours before your created superstar can hold their own against the average WWE mid-card talent, turning much of the early part of the game into a grind-fest.
Unfortunately none of the MyCareer stuff plays out in an actual story. Instead you’re stuck in stale menu purgatory where you can see what’s going on around the promotion, check on your social media followers (seriously), and at times, select opponents for your next match. And that’s the first place where 2K15‘s flaws really start to show as it represents what the issue at the core is. This game is all visuals and not much more.
In terms of gameplay, the team at Yukes and Visual Concepts took into consideration much of the feedback received from last year’s speedier title, which has transformed into slower gameplay that gives the WWE superstars some added weight and oomph. It’s certainly a trade off that makes the game come down to a speed and seem more controllable. Unfortunately characters getting stuck or caught between animations is a problem that shows its face far too many times.
All matches begin with an elbow and collar tie up mini game that allows players to get some early damage in before the match turns into the usual back and forth affair. It basically turns this part of the match into a game of rock, paper, scissors, using the face buttons on the controller and then locating a sweet spot using the right analog stick.
It’s cool the first couple of times, and can definitely help accrue some damage early when you’re created Superstar can use all the help he can get. However, after 10 hours in it gets old. Luckily, this can be turned off in the settings.
The game’s reversal system has also received some tweaking. And by tweaking I mean it works about a quarter of the time. Seriously, this is by far the biggest boon in the gameplay design.
Reversals are accomplished by hitting the R2/RT button when the icon is displayed on screen, but it has to be done in an unpredictable window of time that turns reversals into a frustrating cycle of trial and error. There is no rhyme or reason as to why it works or doesn’t work; the game opts to instead tell you whether your click was early or late but it never feels consistent.
I must say however, janky control issues aside, the gameplay can be fun and satisfying, especially towards the end of the match. There’s something special about volleying for position when both you and your opponent have a signature or finisher move ready to fire off at any moment. Coincidentally, reversing these bigger moves is actually much easier than reversing anything else in the game — which makes no sense — but helps add to the in-match drama.
In terms of extras, Visual Concepts includes the 2K Showcase which features a pair of popular feuds: CM Punk-John Cena and Triple H-Sean Michaels. Both carry some significance from each of their respective eras but somehow fall short of last year’s 30 years of Wrestlemania.
The biggest highlight in each of these modes are the video promos that are cut at the very beginning that give some foreshadowing on the feuds and providing an awesome trip down memory lane for fans of the WWE.
If I had to compare WWE 2K15 to the current in-ring product, I would call it the Roman Reigns of wrestling games. It has the visuals and the feel of what you expect a powerhouse to have but when you take a closer look, you realize that it’s mostly just potential for the future, as it only has a handful of moves that truly set it apart. But like Roman Reigns, WWE 2K — as a series — is headed in the right direction. It’s just waiting for its big push which (again, like Roman Reigns) will probably come next year.
By this time, real fans of WWE have already picked up this game or will probably do so by the holidays. And I wouldn’t knock them for it. For anyone else on the fence who may not have the same level of investment in the WWE product, recommending this game is a lot more difficult.