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WWE 2K15

Score: 56%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Yukes
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Wrestling)/ Fighting/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Itís hard to not see a few parallels between the WWE Network and WWE 2K15. One held the promise of free Pay Per Views and instant access to the WWEís back catalog of wrestling content all for a low monthly fee. The other looks amazing and looked like a major step up for WWE games similar to other games in 2K Sportsís lineup. While the potential was there for both, neither lives up to it.

WWE 2K15 nails the pageantry and presentation expected from the WWE. Ring entrances are ripped straight from WWE programming. Pyro, loud "YES!" cheers from the crowd, Fandango dancing with Summer Rae, Roman Reignsís entrance through the crowd, Brayís "Weíre Here" video and eerie cell phone lit stroll down the aisleÖ you name it and WWE 2K15 gets it down perfectly. Even the crowds, camera angles, and show-specific arenas look great. Like any good sports title, there are moments where you could fool someone into thinking they were watching WWE programmingÖ almost.

Character models are a clear signal WWE 2K15 is a game (well, other than the button prompts and life bars). Some superstars, like Randy Orton or Dean Ambrose, look amazing. Unfortunately, this level of quality doesnít carry over through the entire roster. For every Dolf Ziggler or Bray Wyatt, thereís a monster like Summer Rae or, surprisingly, John Cena. Some issues, like Daniel Bryanís beard or C.M. Punk, are simply due to technology limits or because the performer is no longer with the company, so there is some leeway. However, it is clear there are still some kinks to work out with the scanning process, especially since some of the non-scanned performers, or even your created character, look slightly better.

Entrance themes, as far as I could tell, are all present, as is ringside commentary from Jerry "The King" Lawler and Michael Cole. In fact, it is clear the duo spent a lot more time recording than in past games. Each has more to say and there are even some planned bits between the two, breaking up the usually mechanical flow of commentary. At the same time, more recorded dialogue also means more commentary to repeat.


Gameplay:

WWE 2K15 is a game still very much in transition. Not just between publishers, but console generations. If you compared WWE 2K15ís feature list with last yearís, this yearís version is clearly lacking. Nearly all of the "Create-a-" Modes are gone, as are many of the things that made last yearís game a fun experience. Not all of the cuts are bad; I liked the paired down roster quite a bit. However, many of the missing pieces, such as the story-driven Career Mode, are also reasons people watch WWE in the first place.

Quick Play and WWE Universe Modes are still around for players who want a quick game. The former mode lets you set up any sort of match you want, while WWE Universe presents you with a TV-schedule of match-ups leading to a Pay Per View. You can choose which matches you want to play through and simulate the others. However, most players will likely gravitate towards either MyCareer or Showcase. Neither mode is necessarily better than the other, though I enjoyed Showcase much more than MyCareer.

Although I still keep up with what is happening in the WWE, I am mostly a nostalgic fan who grew up during the "Attitude Era" and briefly had a hardcore relapse right before the start of the "Reality Era." So, while I like some current stuff, I love looking back at older matches and seeing how storylines were developed over time. Showcase follows two of the biggest rivalries in recent memory: Shawn Michaels versus Triple H and C.M. Punk versus John Cena. Michaels and Triple H are two of my all-time favorites, so seeing their epic feud play out in matches and short video vignettes was a lot of fun. There are a few obvious filler matches, but I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, especially since some matches featured special mechanics on top of the normal gameplay.

MyCareer is a shell of what it has been in the past. Starting your career as a developmental talent in NXT, you work your way through the ranks in hopes of headlining Wrestlemania. Itís a standard career match, but it is missing a lot of content. When you first start out, thereís a short video package introducing you to NXT, but after that youíre mostly playing through random filler matches without much context. Every once in a while, youíre placed into a major feud, but even then most rivalries play out via boxes of text with little context or build-up. Most of the time, your only motivation is earning money and skill points for upgrades.


Difficulty:

I canít think of a more frustrating game to get into than WWE 2K15. My first few hours with the game was a little more than a series of loses dotted with the occasional victory, most of which involved some sort of outside interference or a folding chair. There are a number of smaller tweaks in WWE 2K15, few of which are for the better. The fighting system is clumsy and based more around timed button-prompts than any sort of real strategy. Moves are canned animations and cause all sorts of weird situations where you clearly make contact, but because of their animation, nothing registers.

Worse still are the aforementioned timed button-prompts. You are given little-to-no time to react to the prompt. If you donít react within a split-second of the prompt appearing, you have little chance of hitting them. Once you miss one prompt, youíre likely to miss a couple more after, placing you in a tough spot for a comeback victory. After a couple of hours, I finally got to the point where I could get button presses in quickly, but the journey was excruciating and not recommended.

Some parameters can be adjusted, though the differences werenít incredibly noticeable.


Game Mechanics:

The biggest changes to WWE 2K15 involve the core gameplay. While change is welcome and needed, this yearís changes are under-developed. The first major change is the return of the stamina meter. Every move, from the simplest grapple to a splash off the top rope, uses stamina. As the meter drops, movement and recovery times slow down, putting you at risk in the ring. The idea is to keep players from button-mashing through matches and attempting to replicate the normal flow of a match. For the most part, the system works. You canít come out spamming big kicks and special moves; you have to bide your time and wait for opportunities.

At the same time, waiting isnít much fun and it seems that in their zeal to replicate a real match, 2K Sports and Yukes have sucked out some of the fun. While a purely arcade-like game wouldnít be much fun, neither is a game that veers too much towards realism. The system isnít very forgiving and requires near perfect management of your stamina reserve to the point it is possible to land a finisher and lack the stamina to pin your opponent. A.I.-controlled opponents are, of course, masters of the meter and take every opportunity to punish you for missteps. Thankfully, you can tweak stamina settings.

The other addition is Chain Wrestling. I am not a fan of the system at all. While I can accept some of the missing play modes, Chain Wrestling completely ruined WWE 2K15 for me. At the start of a match, both wrestlers lock up, kicking off a rock-paper-scissors game using the face buttons. The system is supposed to help set the tempo for the rest of the match, but I never felt comfortable using the system.

Once the initial part is completed, the system transitions into a circle gauge where youíre required to find the right spot on the circle and hold the stick in position as a red dot fills. The first person to fill the dot gets the advantage, setting off a move or two before the entire system starts again. Although I see, and appreciate, the tactical opportunities the system offers, it isnít very interesting. I also found it incredibly hard to fill the red gauge before A.I. opponents. You can turn the system off, though only in certain modes.

As previously mentioned, WWE 2K15 is clearly a game in transition, so hopefully this year is just a small bump in the road for the series. WWE fans will enjoy Showcase, and may even find some enjoyment with the new gameplay mechanics. I wasnít a fan and recommend fans stick with last yearís game or wait for next year.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated