WWE 2K15 Review (Xbox 360)
WWE games have always represented an odd disconnect for me. On one hand, you have a “sport” which is relatively difficult to represent virtually, since it is really more entertainment than actual competition. On the other hand, these games, while not exactly recreating their sport, are typically very fun to play.
Since acquiring the WWE license, it seems 2K Sports has strived to fix that separation, with modes that capture the history of the sport and a quicker paced product. We may see this effort come to fruition when the PS4/Xbox One versions release in a few weeks. Unfortunately, this year’s last-gen offering seems less historical and fun; worse, it seems like a less valuable use of your money.
The actual wrestling remains at the heart of WWE 2K15, and is relatively unchanged. If you’ve played any WWE games in the past few years, what’s here will seem very familiar.
The controls are the same, with buttons used for grappling, whips, counters and strikes. Strikes remain fast, and are still the most effective way to weaken your opponents. When grappling, body parts can be specifically targeted, though this system is not as intuitive as some previous offerings. Finally, the use of the timed counter system seems a bit more random this year, which can be a good thing; I didn’t see quite so many endless reversal sequences as in past games; while comical, they sort of ruin immersion.
But no real change means no real improvement. Too often I felt removed from the game, as animations play out with little interaction. Pacing also continues to be problematic, as some matches feel like epic slugfests while others end annoyingly abruptly. I get that this unpredictability is part of the appeal of real life wrestling, but in a game where actual skill is involved, it can be occasionally frustrating. This isn’t as much 2K15’s problem as one inherent to trying to recreate this type of wrestling in a game.
Gameplay quirks aside, if you liked this series in the past, you should have no trouble jumping into and enjoying WWE 2K15. While an acquired tasted, the in-game wrestling is enjoyable and can prove quite addictive.
It’s taken a while for me, but I’m at the point where these “last gen” graphics are starting to look really dated. WWE 2K15 makes the problem worse by seemingly highlighting some of its weaknesses. For instance, the crowds, which are featured during nearly every wrestler’s entrance, suffer from some obvious “cloning.” Worse, when the commentary mentions the raucous crowd, it’s in sharp contrast to the lifeless figures in the first few rows. Additionally, the wrestler models are really hit or miss, in terms of likeness to their counterparts (and sometimes human beings). Surprisingly, some of the skin textures look pretty good.
There are still some problems in the ring, though, as clipping is an occasional issue, depending on the wrestlers involved. More noticeable are ringside objects which have collision fields which don’t match their actual shape. The stairs, for instance, interact with wrestlers like they are one giant cube. Objects you can pick up also are inconsistent in their interaction.
Beyond the graphics, the audio commentary is pretty good, with the occasional repetition. Mode specific dialogue has clearly been provided, though on replays of certain matches you are guaranteed to hear the same thing over again.
The new single player mode, 2K Showcase, features some very nice contextual video packages.
Two new modes make up the large portion of single player modes, the aforementioned 2K Showcase and the last-gen exclusive Who Got NXT.
2K Showcase replaces last year’s "30 Years of Wrestlemania," and features two major feuds that have been a large part of professional wrestling for the past ten or so years: CM Punk vs. John Cena, and Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels. Again, this mode is peppered with nice high-quality footage and commentary to set up each match, and every showdown features multiple objectives in the quest to recreate history.
While the mode is fairly deep, in terms of content and matches, it does focus on those four wrestlers. If you enjoy this era of WWE, there’s a lot to like. One nice touch is the authentic commentary and staging which kicks in during certain moments. However, it does lose a bit of the variety and nostalgia present in last year’s single-player “campaign.” And pulling off all of the objective feats PLUS winning a match can be a true challenge.
Similarly, "Who Got NXT" focuses on the developmental league, but strips away all of the contextual fluff. This makes the mode seem more like a ladder and less like playing through a story. Again, the audience here is probably narrow, but hardcore fans will appreciate this mode’s inclusion.
On top of these modes are the standard WWE Universe, the creation suite, and one-off matches. Unfortunately, these have been reduced in various capacities. The ability to create a finisher is no where to be found. Likewise, the Create-a-story function from last year has been removed, with some of the functionality buried in the Universe’s menu system. Even those interested in creating custom matches will be disappointed with the updated, but smaller, roster which lacks some of the old-school wrestlers found in previous years. Additionally, an odd tiered download system restricts how much/when you can download based on how much you upload.
As someone who enjoys wrestling games as games, and not their attempt to recreate what’s ultimately a television serial, this title is a bit of a let down. Gameplay-wise, not much has changed from 2K14, the rosters a little smaller, and the focus of the single player modes falls a bit outside my interest range.
Yet, despite any inherent flaws, there is something captivating about the gameplay itself. While it doesn’t exactly represent the sport authentically, it is fun to play. And no one can deny the depth of content in both the single-player and creation modes.
Ultimately, though, fans of the series will be disappointed with what has to be viewed as a bit of a step backward.
Learning Curve: If you've never played any of these titles before, expect to dig through the menus. Too bad there's no kind of tutorial mode.
Control Scheme: Same as in the past; it works, but isn't the most intuitive system for newcomers.
Visuals: Starting to look dated, especially crowd shots. Player models are mixed, from good to really odd looking.
Audio: Solid commentary from Jerry "The King" Lawler and Michael Cole.
Online: Finding a valid player match can be difficult; otherwise, standard online options are marred by the download restrictions.
Animations: Combat looks ok, for the most part. Strange interactions between objects and wrestlers.
Score: 6.5 (Above Average)