Continuing with the annual theme, it’s time for 2K Sports to unleash their next game in the franchise, WWE 2K15. After successes in the past, can they once again raise the belt above their heads and claim victory?
First of all, there are a few things of note to point out, the copy of the game I’m reviewing here, is the PS3 version, meaning all the most talked about features that might have you interested, are mysteriously absent. In place of all the new mechanics and shine, we get a couple of recycled game modes, but more on that later.
If you’re partial to the odd powerslam or suplex, chances are, you’ve played a wrestling game before, and if you’re especially partial, then you may well have played last year’s offering. If you have, it’s probably best to stop reading this and just go play on that instead. The lack of changes between this and last year’s WWE game are shockingly sparse. Not only do the mechanics remain almost identical, so much so that you’d be forgiven to not notice any difference, but on top of this, despite boasting a new lighting system and some improved clothing, it doesn’t look any better either.
It’s not all bad news however, instead of the facial and body scanning tech, larger roster and extra, more interesting modes, the lowly last gen version does manage to swipe a couple of exclusive titbits from its younger, more powerful brother. Two game modes make their private appearance here, the first being ‘2K Showcase’, a replacement for the previous game’s 30 Years of Wrestlemania; the second being ‘Who Got NXT’.
2K Showcase is the only real highlight of the package, focusing on two of the largest rivalries in the last decade. CM Punk and John Cena of the 2010’s and Triple H and Shawn Michaels feud during the naughty noughties. Much like similar modes of the past, you’ll follow significant matches during the timelines and experience all the thrills and spills of some of the most epic bouts of the era. During said bouts, you’ll often be presented with objectives to pursue that relate to the actual outcomes of the matches; some of these can be great fun, especially when you don’t know what’s coming next. The mid-match cutscenes further emphasize the immersion too, with introducing classic, cinematic style footage from the moment.
As opposed to the 2K Showcase offering countless videos explaining the backstories and adding background filler, the ‘Who Got NXT’ mode pales in comparison. The five up and coming wrestlers: Rusev, Bo Dallas, Corey Graves, Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn that are featured from the development league are each given little action and are not represented by any real life videos. The bouts you enter with them feel little more than exceptionally infuriating challenge matches with ridiculous objectives to complete. Commentators Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole try their best to inject some backstory and excitement to each match, pulling up relevant information for each newcomer, but it’s not enough to really warrant an entirely dedicated mode. If you really feel like punishing yourself, you’ll be glad to know that once you’ve cleared each fighter’s path in ‘Who Got NXT’, you get to go up against an obscenely powerful John Cena, who will repeatedly wipe the mat with you. Again, it’s essentially a renamed and reskinned version of beating the Undertakers streak from previous games, but it’s there to infuriate you, should you wish.
Mechanically, the game plays out incredibly similarly to last year’s edition; those who’ve had some previous experience will be right at home, except you won’t really want to be. You’ll still need some training from Neo to work on the counters and you’ll likely focus on spamming the quick strikes due to the AI having less of a chance to brush you aside with its lightning accurate counters of its own. The addition of a momentum bar is useful this time around and is one of the only new features that are noticeable. Becoming more of a blessing than you’d ever realise, it’s nice to finally see how far off losing your special you were, and being able to accurately gauge when to use them is always useful.
Content is where WWE 2K125 (on the PS3 and Xbox 360 at least) will lose most of its fans. Taking unnecessary gouges out of the Create a Wrestler aspect will upset some, as will the lack of create-a-finisher, create a story and the absence of custom soundtracks to be used for entrances. Possessing a roster of 63 might sound like a lot in comparison to other fighting games, but it is in fact less than several of the previous games in the franchise; not counting the fact that several tiles are simply repeats of wrestlers sporting a different tunic.
Visually, WWE 2K15 won’t do much to overheat your PS3 either, looking more or less the same as last year’s game. Some of the newer character models look better than others, but the theme of recycling has been further emphasised, so much so that it’s even dragged along some of the technical issues from WWE 2K14 too. Clipping through the ropes, hilarious lip synching and characters jittering on the spot are all things that should be sorted out by now and drastically rip the immersion from you. Something that does seem to have taken a step forward however is the commentary track from Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole. With a much more varied bank of phrases to rely upon, their banter and general back and forth won’t start to grate for a fair amount longer than usual.
Finding redeeming features in WWE 2K15 is difficult, mainly in part due to last year’s iteration and its more expansive content. The PS4 and Xbox One versions might well drag the franchise up a gear with refreshing changes in mechanics and fidelity, but for now, even for the hardcore fans, I’d recommend sticking with the undoubtedly cheaper WWE 2K14.