I like to reminisce in the memories of wrestling from when I was a kid. I remember playing WWE (or WWF as it was then called) at school. We had a ‘desk’ match. I was always Henry Godwin. Things got messy, desks got broken and it always ended up with one or two of us having to go get plasters (and a mother being called). It was awesome.
It was a bunch of friends recreating the spectacle of what we thought was awesome entertainment. It was mad fun and something you look back on with nothing but smiles. The WWE games at that time and later on were as enjoyable. Smackdown and Smackdown 2 were phenomenal games that provided lots of fun, even though it lacked depth.
As we got older, WWE fell by the wayside as it often does, but the games were still fun to play. The thing is, have the games fallen by the wayside too, or does WWE 2K15 recreate the spectacle once more?
This is not your beautiful ring
There’s an easy answer to my question above, and that’s a no. WWE 2K15 seems to lack any kind of spark that once existed in the real life WWE. The excitement, speed and power of what the professionals are able to do seems completely lost in this year’s game.
That is partly understandable considering that 2K are in a bit of a transition phase having taken over from THQ, but perhaps they should take a year extra with the next game to ensure it is actually worthy of the paying price.
One thing WWE 2K does have is lots of modes. WWE Universe has you in control of the WWE franchise. You can create weekly events as you see fit, decide on rivalries, tag teams and types of matches. It pretty much makes you the Vince McMahon of your very own WWE playground. It’s great way to customise the games, but the actual gameplay is the same as any of the other modes which makes it a little empty inside.
Then you have WWE Showcase, which is probably the best mode in the game. This lets you re-enact two great rivalries in WWE history. One between John Cena and CM Punk, and the other between Shawn Michaels and Triple H. The mode takes you through a number of events that took place in the real WWE and allows you to relive those moments yourself.
Showcase is limited to a few matches which fit into the rivalry story, and others which seem there just because’. It’s broken up with some videos of what actually happened to create the rivalry and the production value is pretty awesome. It even includes little triggers in matches which sets off a cutscene of some of the action that happened in the fight. Showcase is good, but even that has its frustrations in that it can only really be played through once before getting boring.
Career Mode is the big mode included from 2K and something they have clearly been focusing on. Ever since I started playing WWE games I remember wanting a career mode blending with a story that had all sorts of twists and turns that you could be part of. Of course with the main aim becoming the number one in the WWE.
Career Mode does this to a degree. It’s pretty cool starting in the lower ranks in the performance centre with your created player and working yourself up, creating tag teams with other characters, taking part in tournaments and other random events. You then build your way up to the top shows and hope to make it to the number one challenger and go for that belt.
Career mode does vary quite a bit in terms of the match ups, and there is a nice little drama-filled story that goes with it, but it just doesn’t feel like it has the weight behind it to make it feel that amazing. It’s fun but gets boring once you progress further and realize that nothing ever really changes. It’s got a great shell, but the experience is a tad hollow.
Other than those main modes you can play any number of quick matches or online games and set the rules however you want. Coffin matches, ladder matches, Royal Rumbles… you name it and it is in there, but it’s all a bit synthetic, to be completely honest, and while there are extra touches based on the mode type nothing ever really feels dynamic in any way.
The roster is an important part of any fighting game, and indeed Wrestling games. I am glad to say that WWE 2K15 has a more than substantial roster with all your favourites in there. There are also a few that need to be unlocked which keeps things exciting and will have you busy for a while. Despite some nice surprises, the only complaint can be that there could have been a couple more classic options in the roster.
The visuals in WWE 2K15 are very hit and miss. The production value is pretty good outside the ring with some easy to navigate menus. Once you get to the ring the crowd looks great and the atmosphere is recreated very well. The downfall is definitely with the wrestlers themselves. Some look excellent, like Goldust and Kane, but others just look terrible. The women characters look so awkward that I shuddered when I saw the plastic like faces in-game. My first impression was of Batista (who I instantly chose following watching Guardians of the Galaxy). His face card looks like him, but get into the game and he suddenly has black hair and a black beard and it just looks nothing like him.
The ring also seems a bit out of proportion. Perhaps it is the camera angle used but it just does not look right. The graphics are extended to animations which are also not great. Everything feels a bit static and broken and will leave you frustrated. Things like climbing to the top rope use a specific animation which feels as though it takes about 10 minutes too long (slight exaggeration). The graphics overall have some great bits, but overall it’s kind of a letdown in terms of what you might expect from the new-gen capabilities.
As always in these types of games it all comes down to the gameplay, which can be the ultimate downfall, or a saving grace. Sad to say, but in WWE 2K15 it’s most definitely a downfall. The gameplay just feels off in so many ways.
The controls don’t feel intuitive at all making it a bit of a struggle to get through. You are limited in terms of what you can do and your types of moves and so much of it just feels like the AI deciding what move to do for you. The combat totally lacks any fluidity and annoying things like your character getting stuck after missing a simple punch feels unnatural and frustrating. Special moves at least look cool but doing them doesn’t take any kind of real skill and so it becomes a dull experience overall. The worst bit is the way you counter which is done by perfectly timing the RT button, but it feels like a lottery more than anything else.
The game throws in a new rock, paper, scissors type QTE when you get into a grapple. Picking one type of grapple move over another will get you an advantage before you have to hold the right stick in a certain position to administer the move. It adds almost nothing to the game and doesn’t even make sense half the time.
I could do a lot more complaining about the game, but I would need a lot more words. Briefly, things like tagging in a teammate sometimes just doesn’t work, the AI is completely unnatural making it feel synthetic again, there was a save issue on career (which is patched now hopefully) and frustration levels increase when you run back into the ring from outside and your character lies on the floor as if he has been hit with a chair. I’d like to hit him with a chair.
It seems as though 2K have a lot of work to do with WWE. There is very definitely a great platform that they have going here, but everything that is built upon that platform at the moment just does not feel like it contains much quality. If the NBA series is anything to go by I would presume that in a couple of years WWE will be at the same level of quality, but for now it’s hard to recommend getting the game. It just doesn’t have any spark to it at all and spark is everything in the spectacle of WWE. Rather go play a desk match in your school classroom for an hour, it will be more fun and rewarding.