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WWE 2K15 Review

 Low blow

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As the second instalment under the stewardship of 2K Games, WWE 2K15 was supposed to represent a significant evolution of the franchise. Choppy waters were to have been cleared as changes of both publisher and console generation came and went. Sadly, rather than a streamlining of the formula, WWE 2K15 is most noteworthy for the backwards steps it takes.

Let’s start with some pragmatic number crunching, shall we? There’s less stuff. Gone are the following: arena creation, belt creation, finishing move creation, and, most notably, the series’ long-established and wonderfully janky story creation mode (bizzarly, arena and belt creation are still in the old-gen versions).

There’s less game modes, too. Where in WWE ’13 (the last under the watch of THQ) there were 44 variations of quick play, now there are 29.

Twenty-nine might still sound like a lot, but if you’re a fan of any of the absent modes (for example triple threat ladder matches), then the included match types will be of little consolation. Entrance creation is still present but only allows you to pick from pre-existing wrestler templates, instead of the more customisable options of old.

Of course, move-sets can still be customised, but, as is standard for 2K15, you’ll be choosing from a comparatively limited selection.

The roster is somewhat out of date, too. For example, notable tag team The Shield is still together, Cody Rhodes transformation into Stardust is missing, and on-off WWE Divas champion, Paige, (Norwich, represent) is absent. Of course, wrestling storylines are closely guarded and Yuke’s can’t be entirely held at fault, but the omissions are disappointing nonetheless.

Annoyingly, Paige is set to be included as part of 2K15‘s season pass. Having already worn the strap a couple of times since her arrival earlier this year, placing her as premium DLC seems a little stingy.

There’s certainly less content compared to previous years, but WWE 2K15‘s problems don’t stop with what isn’t included.

In attempting to simulate the televised product more closely, 2K15 moves at a slower pace than its predecessors. While the control mechanism is essentially the same as in recent years, the game takes steps to slow the initial pace with the introduction of a new chain wrestling mechanic.

You’re presented with a rock, paper, scissors mini game (literally described as such during the mode’s tutorial). This establishes control of a series of head and body locks not dissimilar to what you might see on TV. As each series of grapples progresses, you’re tasked with matching on-screen prompts to retain control and do damage.

The system can be quite effective if you manage to keep control, but entering into two minutes of slow-paced grappling at the start of each match isn’t ideal. Worse still are the occasions that the AI leaves you no chance to succeed. Handily enough, I found that running at your opponent straight away and kicking them in the face works well in bypassing the experience.

Once you’ve grappled, or face-kicked, your way through the opening exchanges, 2K15 feels similar to recent iterations. You work through a series of light and heavy strikes and grapples, all the while building towards situational signature, and ultimately finisher, moves. Of course, the new measured pace feels more natural with time, but a quick trip back to WWE ’13 or 2K14 makes 2K15 feel cumbersome by comparison.

As before, 2K15 relies on reversals to dictate the flow of a match, asking you to hit RT/R2 during the briefest of windows. Oftentimes these reversals are impossible to time without a detailed knowledge of a given wrestler’s animations. This certainly helps maintain a realistic back-and-forth, but frustrates greatly as you’re left to take extended beatings until you get lucky with your timing. It’s in these situations that 2K15‘s sluggish pace is most dispiriting.

If, on the other hand, you haven’t dipped your toe into chokeslam creek in the last few years, 2K15‘s stoic nature might not irk you quite so much. As has become commonplace in the franchise, 2K15 is a well-presented affair. The better character models are among the best-looking yet, although Chris Jericho looks a bit like Jeff Daniels from Dumb and Dumber.

Collision detection is among the most improved facets. Wrestling, in fairness, must be among the more complicated sports to replicate without everything looking a mess, and characters generally intertwine well without glitching through one-another. That said, as it always has, everything falls apart when you introduce three or more wrestlers into a match.

Real-life wrestling, of course, requires the absolute co-operation of all parties involved, something obviously lacking in 2K’s virtual counterpart. It’s a long-standing problem for the genre that hasn’t been fixed this year.

By far the most impressive element of WWE 2K15 is the game’s new Showcase mode. In it, you compete in one of two infamous feuds through a total of 33 matches with unlockable bonuses for completing certain objectives. As always, the accompanying video packages are well produced and key events from the real-life matches are faithfully recreated almost shot for shot.

Commentary has been re-recorded for the Showcase content, but still stays close to the original analysis. It’s all put together well but the feuds in question perhaps fall a little short when compared to the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode from last year and the Attitude Era showpiece from WWE ’13.

Nonetheless, it’s by far the best paced and most entertaining content on offer, even taking previous gameplay gripes into account. It’s worth noting that 2K15‘s season pass primarily consists of additional Showcase modes. Given how much content has been ripped out of 2K15, charging a further premium on the game’s most worthwhile mode is pretty classless.

New to 2K15 is MyCareer mode, focusing on your created Superstar’s rise from WWE’s developmental league, NXT, to main event status, title shots, and the like. Given the continued presence of WWE Universe mode and the previous games’ editing tools, it’s hard to understand how Yuke’s has managed to make MyCareer so dull. But they have.

The initial pursuit of the NXT title is interesting enough (in part due to its brevity). After making your way to WWE proper, though, MyCareer turns into the most repetitive and inconsequential slog the franchise has ever seen.

My first title shot came after between twelve and fourteen hours of MyCareer mode. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the content in the interim is at least somewhat engaging, but, alas, it isn’t.

It’s particularly deflating in that there’s no tangible progression. You’ll spend the first few hours (understandably) fighting low-card jobbers. Then you’ll do the same for a few more hours. You might be told that you’re in line for a title shot with a win, only for all trace of that conversation to disappear without explanation.

Every time it feels as though your matches are building towards something, inevitably you’re walked down a dead end. I ran through a series of four cruiserweight matches, with varying stipulations, only to go back to fighting the same low-ranked opponents from the start of my career. Over ten hours with nothing but standard one-on-one and tag team matches is, to say the least, trying.

Of course, you earn experience and apply it to improve your character’s attributes. A key flaw, though, is that XP is awarded based on the overall rating of a match, rather than how effectively you perform. You might destroy an opponent in under two minutes but receive diminished bonuses as the match didn’t include enough back-and-forth.

It’s a noble enough conceit that you might engage with realistic, entertaining matches, but real-world wrestling is co-operative, not competitive. As such, forcing you to try and effectively collaborate with an AI opponent bent on smashing your face in harms 2K15 massively.

If you’re of the opinion that WWE games are in need of a facelift then 2K15 was never likely to be a panacea to the genre’s ills. With its debut on current-gen hardware WWE 2K15 is admittedly prettier than ever. Into the bargain, though, it’s stripped down and stodgy, and only diminished by its latest tweaks.

TheGamersHub Score
Reviewer: Leo McCloskey
+ Pros

- Best looking character models in the series

- Improved collision detection

- Less buggy than before

- Showcase mode is typically well-presented

- Cons

- Lacking in atmosphere

- Dull MyCareer mode

- Creation options reduced significantly

- Sluggish combat

- Awful reversals

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