For the last 14 years, Yuke's has been responsible for the vast majority of WWE video games, starting with the first WWF Smackdown! For their first 8th generation release of their franchise, they decided to collaborate with Visual Concepts "“ the team most currently renowned for their visual achievements with NBA 2K15. This marks the series' first tag team effort for collaborative development; their goal is to rebuild the franchise with significant improvements over the coming years.
With WWE 2K15, they certainly sought after improving the main controls of the game with some much needed additions and tweaks. Significant changes to the overall presentation, animations, new gameplay minigames that change the flow of the game along with a new single player campaign mode are among the highlights. However like other sports games debuting on the next gen consoles, features were cut and characters were missing. Read on to find out if the number of positive changes outweighs the omissions.
In WWE 2K15, the two development studios used proprietary facial and body scanning technology to deliver some of the most realistic WWE Superstars. Animations can still seem robotic, but intros for every match are really well done. Stages are nicely designed and the audience at least looks volumetric, but the crowds still have that monotone motion that can take you out of it at times. I remember trying Hulkmania Hulk Hogan in a simple 1 on 1 match, and everyone in the front crowd repeated the same awkward praying animation. Outside of that, attacking animations look very fluid. Players will notice more interactivity with the ring, and also a proportionally correct ring.
On top of this there are several environmental interactions, such as a Superstar using the ropes when heavily fatigued. Playing as Bray Wyatt really showcased these added animations. After Dean Ambrose threw me to the ground a number of times, Wyatt was struggling to get up and eventually needed the ropes to climb up. This added realism does come at the cost of having faster moves; since there is a more realistic sense of movement and weight, players will notice slower looking punches and kicks than in previous games. This is the double edged sword with having more realistic movements in sports games, and other titles like NHL or UFC were panned for making gameplay feel slower for the sake of authenticity. I'm of the opinion that such a choice in design can prove very beneficial. With NHL, movement felt slower but the resulting impact of players had me really feeling the hits. With WWE, the controls work moderately well; animations can get caught with other animations, but the impacts feel more devastating than before. Another positive thing to note is that Jerry "The King" Lawler and Michael Cole return with amazing commentary, with more than five times the recorded lines in any previous game.
Gameplay for WWE 2K15 received its biggest overhaul with the addition of the chain wrestling mechanic. Its aim is to offer a more fluid "back and forth" between competitors. It's essentially a mini-game of Rock, Paper, and Scissors; Y beats X, X beats B and B beats Y. The point is to just make a quick decision and hope that the AI or human competitor hasn't pre-emptively countered your choice. Sticking to wanting to make each WWE Superstar feel unique, they've designed it so that some Superstars will take advantage of the technical skills in chain wrestling to gain an early lead while others like Brock Lesnar do not utilize chain wrestling at all. Strike attacks now have the ability to cancel WWE Superstar animations. Additionally, players will get different reactions from punches based on the Superstar's stature.
As previously mentioned, Visual Concepts and Yuke's have introduced 2K Showcase "“ a new single player campaign that has players reliving the popular WWE Rivalries of John Cena with CM Punk, and Triple H with Shawn Michaels. Each rivalry is told using documentary-styled video packages of classic footage, authentic Superstar commentary and cinematic cut scenes. There are 33 matches available for both rivalries, and players will try to fulfill historical objectives that unlock new WWE Superstars, Championship titles and alternate attire. It's great to see so much care put into two rivalries, but I wish there were other rivalries highlighted with the same documentary style. Undertaker vs Mankind, or Edge/Christian vs The Hardy Boys vs Dudley Boyz, or even Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant could have all had great coverage, and footage from classic matches, and especially considering last year paid a tribute to 30 years of Wrestlemania, you'd expect a similar trend of historical homages in the newer instalment. Sadly, what we get is a fantastic feature that isn't quite fully there yet. There's loads of coverage for two specific rivalries, but there are so many more that could have been used. They do allow players to create their own rivalries using characters in game, but the presentation just isn't the same.
Another new single player experience that was added is MyCareer, and for the first time in franchise history, allows players a career driven mode that will be used as a foundation for future titles. This all starts with their character creation suite. It offers an impressive wealth of content for character customization and from there your created character will head to the WWE Performance Center hosted by your head coach, Bill DeMott. Players are then lead through a series of requirements in order to compete at NXT level. Successful careers will then allow you to bump up to the WWE roster, and a chance at the championship.
As previously mentioned, there is a slew of missing content ranging from modes to characters. Create-a-championship is no longer available, multiple match types did not appear, story creator is absent, and they've taken out the custom soundtrack option in favour of their curated soundtrack, by John Cena. Yes, the soundtrack features 12 tracks mixing hip-hop, rock and country. They're a decent selection, but it won't replace the freedom of choosing your own playlist.
The character roster is much smaller than fans previously expected. Not only are classics like Edge and Christian missing, but even current Superstars like Sin Cara, Stardust, Zack Ryder, and others do not have their appearance. This could be issues with rights to likeness, planned character DLC; whatever the reason, it's weird to see some of the omissions especially when they appeared in last year's title. You can also tell who was available for the incredible motion capturing, as some players like Randy Orton and Cesaro look spectacular, while others stick out in comparison. CM Punk and The Rock were slightly improved over last year's due to the Superstars' unavailability. One of the more exciting announcements in this year's instalment is the inclusion of Sting to match his 2014 debut in the WWE ring, having been a TNA Hall of Fame inductee in 2012.
Performance for both the Xbox One and PS4 are largely similar, with both running the game at 1080p and 60 frames per second. The biggest difference is that the Xbox One version can support up to 6 human players while the PS4 only offers 4. Beyond that, both platforms perform identically, with the occasional screen-tear in intro videos, and the humorous animation glitches.
Overall WWE 2K15 is a fairly good debut on the next gen consoles. While some modes were axed or missing, the new MyCareer and Showcase offer a wealth of content for players, even if Showcase doesn't offers the sheer number of rivalries, Yuke's and Creative Concepts have put enough care into the retelling of two of the biggest rivalries in WWE. The roster is missing key figures both new and old, and the difference in detail between characters can be extremely apparent at times. Hopefully with next year's instalment more Superstars are made available for more accurate facial and bodily representation. The new chain wrestling mechanic isn't a game changer, but offers a fun tactical mini-game that can allow the more technical characters to have a boost in momentum. 2K15 comes recommended to the fans so long as they're okay with some of the missing content, and those simply looking for a decent brawler to play with your buddies on a night in.
|Great character models for a select number of Superstars|
|2K Showcase offers extensive detail and content about some famous WWE rivalries.|
|Stingâ€™s WWE debut!|
|Missing modes and characters.|
|Iâ€™d like Showcase toâ€¦showcase more of Wrestlingâ€™s famous rivalries.|
|You can really notice the characters that werenâ€™t around for the impressive face/body scanning.|