Maybe NXT year
SRP: £49.99Another year, another attempt at bringing the magic of Vince McMahon’s Sports Entertainment to the videogame-friendly living room. Much like the last three efforts and the myriad entries in the Smackdown series beforehand, WWE 2K15 trades primarily on its roster of wrestling talent and authentic movesets, along with the ability to create your own superstar from scratch or recreate golden moments from WWE history. Unfortunately, despite the transition to a new generation of hardware, this is a game that also exhibits the same rough edges as it has done for years. True progression will have to wait, or so it seems.
How does WWE 2K15 play?WWE 2K15 plays a familiar game, albeit one with a spectacular lick of high-resolution paint. The complicated button mappings and timing-specific setups of yore are now reduced to a context-sensitive system of grapples, strikes, reversals and the old faithful Irish Whip, with a single stab of a button and yank of an analogue stick taking body position into account before producing an appropriate move. The full range of animations and more complex routines are still in here, but they’re just easier to access than ever before.
Unfortunately, for a sport that’s entirely dependant on the concept of “flow”, WWE 2K15’s robotic animations and jarring transitions undermine much of its authenticity and atmosphere. Sure, it’s better than before; there are fewer teleportations, a greater range of idle animations and even a hint of a physics-based limb here and there, but for the most part this is still a staccato, weirdly slow and floaty experience that lurches from smooth interactions to wooden marionettes within moments.
It’s a shame, and still there aren’t many pointers as to how the team intend to address things going forwards. For too long this has been a series that feels as if you’re just triggering one canned animation to the next, with breakpoints and opportunities few and far between. Watching a good wrestling match is just as much about rhythm as it is witnessing two athletes performing to clinical efficiency, and while WWE 2K15 has to be praised for the sheer repertoire of moves included in its depiction of the spectacle, it hardly ever feels right in motion.
There is at least some attempt to mix things up. On top of triple-layer health and stamina bars designed to keep players from launching into attack after attack (which largely succeed) 2K15’s most notable addition comes in the guise of a new “chain-wrestling” system that mimics the tepid early stages of many matches with a series of neutral grapples, reversals and light-power moves as each wrestler sizes up the other.
That’s a good idea in principle, but not when implemented like this. It manifests as a series of rock-paper-scissors mini-games to determine the dominant party at the start of each bout, followed by a “find the hotspot” swirl of an analogue stick to lock home a grapple move. It is, for want of a better description, completely naff, and utterly boring.
But at least it looks good. The transition to 2K Sports' custodianship is felt most keenly in the newly-crisp and colourful arenas, bringing some of the technical wizardry from their flagship NBA series to bear on the world of WWE. Each of the high-profile wrestlers is also now more accurately depicted than ever, thanks to the same head-scanning technology that powers the basketball franchise, although some weird outliers still exist where folks have comically large features or are no longer part of the company. CM Punk and The Miz, I’m looking at you. And you look weird.
What about 2K15's modes?Wrestling is obsessed with history, and with good reason. Many of the feuds and matches beloved by fans are rarely recognised as classic when they actually air, but are instead moulded and shaped into the stuff of legend via carefully edited TV packages that cut out any hint of filler. Somewhat unsurprisingly then, Showcase mode marks the very core of WWE 2K15, focusing entirely on recreating a selection of matches from CM Punk and John Cena’s Money in the Bank saga from 2011, and also Triple H’s gigantic feud with Shawn Michaels.
It’s good stuff, and much like previous games that feature a similar retreading of old ground, this is a mode that’s thoroughly well designed. Each of the storyline matches is given a bit of colour with video packages that set the scene beforehand, followed by individual goals during each bout that match those of their real-world inspiration. It’s fun to play WWE 2K15 this way, trying to nail a specific move to set up a swing in momentum, or given tasks that rely on carefully selected set-ups and changes in emphasis throughout the bout. It forces you to learn the intricacies of the various gameplay mechanics, and although the traditionally frustrating reversal timing does still occasionally ruin things, Showcase is still the best mode on offer by far.
As the other stalwart entry for single-player, 2K15’s career mode is sadly lacking this year. The attention lavished on NBA’s similarly user-created superstar rags-to-riches storyline is nowhere to be found, instead replaced by a series of matches from WWE NXT that transition into a WWE career that’s full of the humdrum. Part of the problem is presentation, or the lack thereof. Storyline sequences are largely delivered by text and a few weak cut-scenes, while rivalries are interspersed with too many bouts that only serve as filler. One for next year then.
And it’s also disappointing, if somewhat unsurprising, to see an array of content and modes go missing in the transition to a new generation of consoles. You can only create male characters now, while the create-a-storyline and create-a-finisher modes are nowhere to be seen. The roster, while still fleshed out to a good degree, also feels a little weak in comparison to past years.
Elsewhere, online gameplay still suffers from an annoying degree of input lag, and while the community is still hugely active in terms of filling in the roster for missing faces, it’s a little less busy and impressive than years past.
- Crisp visuals
- Excellent likenesses
- New stamina and health
- Context-sensitive moves
- Boring career mode
- Robotic animation
- Jarring transitions
- Lack of content
WWE 2K15 PlayStation 4 ReviewWhere WWE 2K15 impresses is in its encyclopaedic roster of moves and individual wrestler likenesses, but there’s still little here - besides the HD visuals - that wasn’t being done (and some might argue being done better) back in the PlayStation 2 era of Smackdown. Showcase mode brings out the best of the franchise with authentic storylines, in-match objectives and TV footage that sets the tone, however that’s not enough to sustain a full-priced game. Or at least, it isn’t enough in this quantity.
But despite its well-documented failings, it’s also worth noting that WWE 2K’s underlying wrestling engine certainly has its moments, and it can still conjure matches with satisfying reverses or changes in fortune. Local multiplayer shines in that regard, and the glitches that become so frustrating in single-player are largely rendered hilarious.
Regardless, it’s high time this series made a change and tried something altogether different. The visuals might give the impression that this is a new generation of gameplay, but don’t be fooled; the beating heart of videogame WWE remains out of sync.
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