Review: WWE 2K15 (PS4)

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Title: WWE 2K15
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (21.6 GB)
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts / Yuke’s
Original MSRP: $59.99 / $99.99 (Hulkamania Edition)
ESRB Rating: T
WWE 2K15 is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The last couple of iterations of games to come from the WWE and Yukes team have shown signs of brilliance, but they always appeared to hit a graphical wall mostly limited by the last generation of consoles. Now with new consoles that wall may not be broken down, but the WWE 2K series may have at least begun to chip away and crack that wall.

Gameplay for the most part sees little change with that being one of the strongest parts in past versions. The striking has been given more power and weight to it so that it feels less flimsy than it had before. Now strikes feel and look to have more of an impact with each blow. Stamina is given more importance this year which adds some extra drama and only sometimes makes the game feel slower than it should be. So now if the player does not pace themselves they will see their wrestler stumble and stop to catch their breath or climb the top ropes slower giving their opponent more time to recover. This will probably be jarring to some players and make it appear to be a slower game but it is a nice added element of strategy that parallels the real life product.

You won’t see The Big Show or Mark Henry running around in a match like a Sami Zayn or Rey Mysterio Jr, those are bigger heavier guys so they tend to take it slower and this is reflected in the game to a good effect and builds needed tension to a matches. In terms of overall gameplay the striking and grappling in the game does an excellent job for fun even with the slower tone. This allows the player time to think about each move and help build more entertaining and intense matches.

The biggest addition to the gameplay mechanics is the chain wrestling at the start of every match. Chain wrestling is the opening grapple or tie up seen at the beginning of most real life wrestling matches. This scenario is played out through what breaks down to a game of rock, paper, scissors, where you lock-up your opponent in a grapple and choose between Square, Triangle and Circle to see who will receive the upper hand. Once a wrestler takes control the game turns to a lock picking mini game where the player must rotate the Right Stick to find a hot spot and hold the stick there till the meter fills up. This whole process happens two to three times in a row until a wrestler wins the upper hand and the momentum at the start of a match.

Most matches begin this way in real life and rarely start with a quick running melee or power moves from the get-go unless it is a squash match to build a powerful persona. Ostensibly this particular mini game makes sense in terms of finding a way to start a match and replicate the feel of a live action match but it just is not that fun to play. It feels repetitive and more chore like after the first few instances. In fact it can be so slow that the AI crowd will chant “boring” due to the lack of action. It is a nice idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired. There could be a better way to capture the feel of an actual match, but this might not be it.

This year’s anchor gameplay mode in WWE 2K15 is the “2K Showcase” which features two rivalries, CM Punk vs. John Cena and Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H. As in years past this mode combines WWE’s wonderful video packages and the marquee matches that go along with that particular rivalry. With that said, these two particular rivalries just do not compare to the “30 Years of Wrestlemania” from WWE 2K14 or “The Attitude Era Mode” from WWE ’13 as these covered a huge chunk of wrestling history and have years of nostalgia to build upon for fans. So let us take a look at these two rivalries featured in WWE 2K15.

CM Punk vs. John Cena from 2011: This rivalry, while it had its big moments, just felt like it fumbled towards the end which is not the game’s fault but the fault of WWE’s storytelling ability from that period of time. It starts with a bang when CM Punk drops his infamous “pipebomb” speech when his contract with the company was running out. This moment is considered one of the most shocking and historical moments in recent memory and is followed by an amazing match in CM Punk’s hometown of Chicago at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. This speech is only mildly brushed upon in the game’s video package and the game does a decent job of recreating the atmosphere in Chicago. This is the start of this storyline for the game but it is followed by some mediocre and less important moments to lengthen the rivalry with head scratching match-up choices for you to play through for the sake of filling out the mode with matches. So while 2K picked an interesting rivalry from recent memory it is hindered by the marquee moment being the start with little payoff happening throughout the rivalry.

The other feud is between Shawn Michaels and Triple H during 2002: This rivalry began when Shawn Michaels made his return to wrestling only to betrayed by his former best friend Triple H who was out to prove he had grown bigger than Michaels during his time away from the ring. Unlike the other rivalry this one is a little more even though it has its fair share of dud matches added to lengthen it as well. In terms of entertainment this one being slightly shorter helps keep it exciting and with it being from the early 2000s it has a little bit of nostalgia to work off of for wrestling fans from that era. In the end the “2K Showcase” is fine for what it is and it’s an enjoyable experience that is only hurt when comparing it to the past two games in the franchise. With that said, if you have not played the previous two games this mode is fine and will appeal to fans of the WWE from the last decade or so.

In addition to “2K Showcase”, WWE 2K15 includes a My Career mode. In this mode you create a wrestler and begin your career at the WWE Performance Center and NXT. For those not familiar with wrestling, NXT is a smaller show the WWE puts on dedicated to their up and coming wrestlers, basically equivalent to the minor leagues in baseball. While in NXT you will be placed in a lot of matches against generic wrestlers before fighting actual superstars. This mode, while it showed promise, is a complete letdown in terms of variety, story, and just overall entertainment. There is little to no story building with most of it being told through social media messages and the occasional cutscene. Basically William Regal and Vicki Guerrero spit out tweets telling you that you better win your matches and inform you of your next opponent as you go through the ranks of NXT scrub to a main roster superstar. It feels absolutely lackluster and is a shame that it could not deliver a compelling story which is arguably the appeal of professional wrestling. Instead you just have match after match with most story context being the equivalent of Twitter banter.

The bright side is that the customization is rather deep as you make your own wrestler or possibly recreate your favorite wrestler that did not make the game’s roster. You have your skills, attributes, and abilities which are upgraded through SP (Skill Points) and VC (Virtual Currency) earned through matches. It is a grind to get your wrestler to be a force but the matches are fun enough even with the lack of story and it does not take too much time to go through a bunch of them. Without a story though, you only have building your character’s abilities as motivation. There is a Heel or Face meter which intrigued me but there is no real explanation on how to sway the meter from one side to the other which is a shame because that could be really interesting making your character evil or good. With the lack of a real story it would have been for nothing anyway. The My Career mode had the potential to make the game interesting, but its hollow attempt just leaves much to be desired.

The creation tools have been cut down tremendously in WWE 2K15 with the user created arena, belts, and storylines not part of this game. So the VGCW (Video Game Championship Wrestling) community will be unable to extend the lifespan of this title with all the creations they make every year. This comes across as a huge bummer since the user created content was dumb but really enjoyable. You can still create your own wrestlers and share them online with everyone which is a nice way to add wrestlers not on the roster or create wrestlers based on random properties, but it is a shame the rest of the creation tools were not included in this game. So fans of those features will want to take note of those missing elements.

One thing that might sour one’s experience with WWE 2K15 is the lack of a compelling roster. Unlike the past couple of games this roster is lacking due to it staying mostly with current. Last year’s game had the deepest roster by having most of the current wrestlers in addition to a ton of legends for the “30 Years of Wrestlemania” mode. While this game does have some legends like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, and the biggest get – Sting, it lacks the depth you would want from the franchise. Speaking of which, it is a bummer that when the WWE has finally been able to sign the legend that is Sting and is able to get him in a videogame that he is restricted to just a pre-order DLC character and has no story mode or anything special to welcome him to the WWE. He is a legend of WCW and there is nothing to celebrate that in this game. Some of his key rivals have been featured in the game before so it is odd they didn’t give him a rivalry for the “2K Showcase” or something.

Visuals:
The WWE franchise finally looks good with the assistance of the current generation consoles. The game is not perfect, but when it wants to show off it is really great. Most of the character models are excellent as the 2K Sports scanning process makes them look lifelike in some instances. The key word in that last sentence is “most”. That is because not every wrestler was able to get the detailing other wrestlers were given. CM Punk stands out quite a bit as his face just looks off compared to other wrestlers and that may have something to do with the fact that he left the company in early 2014. This is a shame that he lacks the facial detail of others especially since he is featured heavily in the “2K Showcase” mode. He is also not the only wrestler that lacks detail or comes across “off’ compared to the rest of the wrestlers.

WWE 2K15 does a nice job of capturing a good chunk of the roster with only a few characters standing out as not being as well done as others. The animations are solid and this year’s game really cuts down on model clipping or finicky player movements that plagued the series in the past. So the game in my own experience ran smooth with a steady frame rate and few buggy instances. Overall this is a major improvement and a refreshing overhaul that was much needed.

Audio:
Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole are still the commentators as they are in the real life so it is hard to criticize that part of the sound design without going on a rant about how annoying they are in real life and in video game form. Unfortunately what they say during matches is uninteresting and the play-by-play commentary sounds tired and feels uninspired. They do an okay job in “2K Showcase” telling story bits needed for the matches. It’s a nice way to give more context to the storyline for the match but some of the performance feels phoned in.

The crowd seems to have more of a pop to them this year which is nice since the crowd plays an important part in live shows. They will react when the action is slow with boos and a “boring” chant but when the action is flowing they’ll show their excitement. In terms of capturing the crowd the sound design does an excellent job. The fighting sound effects are also done well. Overall the sound design of the crowd and matches is a good mix for capturing those particular aspects of a live WWE match.

Online/Multiplayer:
Online matches run smooth in my experience and the create-a-wrestler suite is still solid. You are sadly limited to only twenty custom wrestler spots which limits downloading user created characters. The community so far has turned out some nice and fun stuff in terms of random characters i.e. from other non wrestling properties or wrestlers from non WWE organizations. The online community will be limited with the character cap and the lack of story creator hurts this title from having longevity.

Conclusion:
WWE 2K15 finally improves on the franchise’s graphical fidelity but the lack of features and content really hinders this game from being a good to great game. It definitely feels like a sports game from a console’s launch as it is just flat out missing features that are/were included in the last generation version either this year or last year. The game features solid gameplay that while it is a little bit slower does a better job mirroring the real life product seen on television.

The lack of features and depth of the present features makes the game feel incomplete in a lot of respects. Fun can be had if you like the current on TV roster, but if you are looking for more from the current generation debut do not expect it. This does however leave some feeling of optimism for next year since the technical foundation has been set, though at the end of the day that does not make up for the lack of content this year.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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