Over the years the WWE wrestling games have been both good and bad. Deciding to walk further and further away from the arcade style of combat, like in Here Comes the Pain on PS2, the series has been focusing more on a realistic experience. I like to think of these new titles as wrestling simulators as you play the superstars, gain fatigue, go from one move to transition into another etc. So with a more simulative approach to the genre, how well has 2K’s games done with their second instalment in the series? Let us strap on our boots and find out.
Similar to 2K14, 2K15 this time around brings back the 2K showcase which allows you to play through two great wrestling feuds. Although it isn’t quite the same as Road to Wrestlemania’s mode, this will have you taking the reins of some great matches. First is the rivalry between long enemies and friends Triple H and ‘HBK’ Shawn Michaels. The second is a more recent battle between John Cena and the voice of the voiceless CM Punk. From face value you may think that these will require you to play the said superstars, fighting against one another again and again. However you will in fact be battling the same matches that the real life feuds had to contend with. These include the great Last Man Standing match from Royal Rumble 2004 and the now historic Champion vs Champion match at SummerSlam 2011. There will be cases where you will be battling the same superstars over and over, but these are made interesting with iconic moments.
Some great moments with some iconic matches and superstars
Iconic moments during the showcase matches will have you achieve certain goals. By completing these you unlock superstars, alternate attires, arenas and managers. These make the mode more challenging as achieving 100% will give you a lot more to play around with. However this will make the matches drag out much longer than they would. So make sure you have the patience to complete the challenges before taking them on, you may be stuck there for a while. Through the Showcase mode you realise how challenging the AI is this time around. The counter system is as precise as ever with every reversal counting for a lot more. On the harder difficulties you may end up going through entire matches not even able to pull off a single reversal. This will challenge you to become the ultimate wrestling star with precise timings and move usage.
The gameplay is smoother than ever before. Animations look great as you transition from move to move. A new mechanic brought in this time around is chain wrestling. The mechanic will have you go into a struggle hold with your opponent as you battle in a mini-game to decide who gets the advantage in the opening segments of a match. Doing these moves as well as battling and reversing your opponent will give you momentum, which determines when you will be able to use your Signature and Finisher moves. Just remember, landing these moves may not necessarily be enough to win the match. Mix up your move variety, store the power moves for later and at the right moment strike for the three count or the submission. A mechanic returning that not a lot of people will be fond of is Stamina. This bar below your durability will show how much stamina you have during the match. Big moves will require more of stamina in order to be used, in some cases your finishers may finish with you falling to the mat making you to crawl towards your foe. The mechanic makes the matches more realistic in both their execution and look but in the later stages it will slow fights down, which may annoy some people who wanted a fast paced fun match throughout.
Sadly the Diva of the Year, AJ Lee, is not the best looking
Character models in WWE 2K15 are some of the best I have ever seen. The development team went all over the states to find the superstars and take pictures of them so that they can be made as in-depth as possible. Some stars such as John Cena, The Ultimate Warrior, Damien Sandow and even the DLC legend Sting look fantastic. However there are some wrestlers that look very bad. Shawn Michaels for example looks great from a side angle, but from the front he looks to have huge cheeks which almost makes him look like the legendary Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake. Other superstars may have their body and face look great but their hairstyles completely wrong. 2003’s Triple H for example has very dark hair when in fact he should be dawning the blonde cut that he had from back in the time. Small issues such as these can make some confrontations look way too gimmicky and cartoony when they should be at high realistic standard like the majority of the roster. The models for the crowd look better than previous instalments but still look very past gen. I understand the focus isn’t on the audience but a good looking audience with their own variety of animations can make a match more engaging and thrilling. Models for the commentators Micheal Cole and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, although are good, look very last generation. It is a shame these two don’t look great as the wrestling shows are made by their commentary.
Speaking of commentary, this time it is more fluid and story driven. Throughout Showcase mode you will be listening to the duo talk about past matches, title reigns, tag teams and rivalries. Even bringing in memorable moments from the matches themselves such as talking about how John Cena has been learning Mandarin. It is great to listen to as it is much better than any instalment from the past. Although some of the commentary when playing in MyCareer or standard Play mode may differ in depth pending on superstar choice, it is great to hear Cole and King doing what they do best.
Cena Learning Mandarin? Who would have though it.
My favourite mode in WWE 2K15 has to be the new MyCareer mode. Taking inspiration from the NBA series, this mode allows you to make a new custom superstar that will start from the WWE Training Centre and end up possibly becoming the new biggest thing in the company. Throughout your training you will have the legendary Bill DeMott, who is renowned as one of the best and toughest trainers in the WWE. When you get noticed, you will be taken under the wing of William Regal the GM of NXT. Here you will truly start your journey as you work your way through the roster to becoming number one. You will battle custom made superstars and real stars a like during the mode with rivalries and epic confrontations to keep you busy along the way. There will also be plenty of chances to unlock more stuff for your character to wear and even new managers for you to purchase the use of. MyCareer is the mode where I can see a lot of people truly enjoying the game.
With all the good that seems to be in the title however, WWE 2K15 does come with its faults. The biggest problem being the lack of variety. There is a big lack of match types, customisation options and even alternate animations for you to choose from. Want to do a Fatal Four Way TLC match with friends? Can’t do it. Want to have a Triple Threat Match in a steel cage? Can’t do it. Want to rein act the legendary six man Armageddon Hell in a Cell Match? Guess what, can’t do it. It is a shame to be missing some of these matches as they are incredibly fun to play as by yourself or with a group of friends. As for the character creation there is a huge lack of variety. Whilst there are improvements such as individual layering and an easy to use system that allows you to switch between entrance and in-ring attire editing, the clothing and design options are severely lacking. It is a shame to see all this almost stripped bare leaving you to rely heavily on the online Community Creations, which is fantastic.
Not the most electrifying game, but close
Even worse for those who love creating their own superstars, there is no longer any custom intro videos, ring designs, championship belts, finishers or theme music. The losses will make your customising experience seem very lack lustre and it is very upsetting to see. Just when we were getting the ultimate experience alongside the chance to literally create your own shows, rosters and superstars, it has all been taken away. This is a huge shame to see and I hope that in future instalments from 2K, they will look into adding more and more customisation options for fans of the games.
With everything the game has to offer, WWE 2K15 has some of the best improvements to the series to date with also some of the biggest things removed from the game entirely. Although I am very displeased with seeing a lot of the match variety and customisation options removed, I am still very much having fun with this game. You will spend hours playing Showcase and MyCareer mode with your own superstar and some of the best wrestlers in history. You will have a great time with friends online and offline, although some of the matches from previous titles are missing. A great step forward for WWE games under 2K’s ownership. I hope that future instalments keep building on this incredibly solid base and make the series a force to be reckoned with once again. A wrestling fans dream game.
What do you think of WWE 2K15? Does it deserve the championship gold or is it simply trying too hard? Let us know what you think in the comments and be sure to check out our Livestreaming series ‘Road to the Gold’ every Monday on our Twitch channel with the highlights posted on YouTube.