I want to start this off by saying that I really, really wanted to say great things about WWE2K15. I wanted nothing more than to love this game and to know that I’d be playing it for the next year or so and doing cool things with it. We are in a new generation now, you see. We can capture video of stuff that we do, take screenshots, broadcast gameplay and all of this can be done without a capture card. Just imagining being able to play a slightly better looking WWE2K14 with these features was a great thought. It almost felt impossible for Yukes, Visual Concepts and 2K to mess this up.
Yet that is exactly what they did.
The most important part about these games will always be the gameplay, which probably came into as close as they were ever going to get to perfection with the WWE’1X games, which bled over into WWE2K14. While I understand that making little-to-no gameplay changes would incite a lot of “more of the same, meh” responses, some of the additions that were put into this year’s title were truly inspired and incredible ideas. I really mean that.
Wrestlers gas out now after a grueling match (or if a foolish player keeps spamming moves too quickly) and the wrestlers crawl around the ring trying to pick themselves up. It’s pretty incredible to see a guy picking himself up by using the ropes for leverage or to see a guy hit a desperation finisher only to be down and out himself. Crawling to drape an arm over an opponent, just like actual wrestling? Be still, my beating heart. It’s something that I’ve wanted to see in a wrestling game for ages and it’s finally here and for the most part functions.
There are some glitches that come with it, like the fact that the character who is down might not register into the correct position. So if your character suplexes their opponent, they are now down on the ground. You’ll go over to do a ground move and press the button, but nothing happens. Your character will wait for the guy on the ground to stop whatever animation cycle he’s in, then flatten out to allow for your character to execute whatever move was pressed. It’s kind of weird.
Your character will also now automatically reset for a move, meaning that if you are both against the ropes and you press for a vertical suplex, your character will grab the opponent behind the neck, drag him to the center of the ring and then execute the move. The same can be said for ground grapples. It’s helpful, sure, but sometimes it isn’t what you want to do and the game is making the decision for you, which is mildly obnoxious.
The big, new addition to the game outside of the stamina and crawling is chain wrestling to start off singles matches. This is something that they’ve been trying to get right for years and it still isn’t right. Every match, unless you are playing as Brock Lesnar or the Undertaker (maybe a few others) will begin where for a certain period of time, every grapple initiated will result in a collar-and-elbow tie-up between the wrestlers, then you press one of three buttons to initiate a certain grapple move (hammerlock, go-behind or headlock), it’s done in classic Yukes rock-paper-scissors style of gameplay, so one will best another one, making it all pretty random as to who will be in control. Then you spin the right control stick around to find a “sweet spot” and hold it until you transition to the next position. You have the option of pushing the hold for a bit longer or to strike your opponent if they found their sweet spot to throw them off, which is nice, but at the same time, why am I doing this? If they allowed you to initiate the chain wrestling on your own, not just have it happen automatically it would be infinitely better, but alas.
The grappling itself has also been overhauled, which makes little sense considering how “right” it was before. They’ve somehow gone back in time to a worse system of “ready grapples.” This means that once you are past the chain wrestling part of the match, pressing any direction and X (A on Xbox One) will result in a move. You hold X (A on Xbone) and a direction to do a more powerful move and simply pressing the grapple button without a direction will do a front facelock clinch like in the previous games, where you have more moves at your disposal in there, including strikes, targeted moves and a submission.
I guess it’ll depend on tastes as to if you like this or WWE2K14’s grappling system better, but I think it’s very clear that WWE2K14’s system was deeper and helped create more of a match flow than the current one. This just leads to seeing the same moves over and over again throughout matches. It’ll take a savvy player to delve deeper into the moves in each match as opposed to just throwing a few ready grapples and beating down an opponent and taunting over them to race to your special and finishing moves. For me, personally, I prefer the older games to this by a lot.
Thankfully the sliders are still in the game, meaning that if you don’t like how something is working, there is probably a slider to make it better. By default these games are kind of “broken” and I urge you to play around a bit and explore what makes for the best kinds of matches that you’ll enjoy by fixing the sliders. I find that turning down ground strike reversals, lowering the momentum meter that builds to specials and finishers and tinkering with a few other things makes for a more enjoyable experience overall, but you might just enjoy things right out of the box and see no need to mess around. I’m glad that at least one part of the game still has this level of customization available to the user, though. Because man did they strip a lot out of this game.
In the previous games you had the ability to select a match type, then to further customize the options. You want there to be no count outs, but still be disqualifications? You got it. You want it to be a first blood match? You got it. In this game you don’t have those options, in fact, you have less options for match types than ever before. This is partially a reflection on WWE’s current product and that this game is supposed to be built in the image of the product, but damn if it just doesn’t feel like laziness. Triple Threats are now limited to single match, Hell in the Cell and Extreme Rules. It almost feels like in their attempt to streamline the menus they just messed up and forgot to add more options in because there was no way that a 3-way ladder match didn’t work but a 6-way ladder match does.
Sure, you won’t miss dumb gimmick matches like the Inferno match or the Casket match, but it’s weird that some of these dumber gimmick matches that you can’t choose in the game are included in the 2K Showcase mode, isn’t it? A part of me would like to think that this all could be patched up and fixed, but another part of me doesn’t see that happening at all.
The online is just weird and not fun. There is a Street Fighter-esque “background matchmaking” mode where you can turn it on and if you are playing a singles match offline you’ll have the option to allow someone else to magically pop in and challenge you. Seeing as though this is a wrestling game and not a competitive fighting game this strikes me as really, really stupid, but then again, so do ranked wrestling matches online. Private matches are still [thankfully] there, but you are incredibly limited in what you can play, what options you can change and how the matches are displayed.
There didn’t seem to be a way to have entrances on, for example, which is downright weird considering that it’s a big part of wrestling and some fans are way into seeing their custom guy walk to the ring before the match. You can’t play Royal Rumbles online anymore, which is another bummer, considering that was one of the more fun things to do with a few friends to kill some time. The lack of three-way options becomes more glaring online, though, because you aren’t always playing with only one other friend or five other friends, there needs to be some serious variations to keep things fun.
So, while we are on the topic of things being stripped down, it’s impossible not to mention the creation modes in the game. Seriously, it is impossible. At first it felt like an outrage that there are only 25 save slots, especially considering that in the previous generation there were 100 slots. I don’t care if it takes up hard drive space, let the player manage that. There should be unlimited slots, only limited by hard drive space at this point. But that doesn’t really matter now that the game is out, though, because the creation modes stink. They just stink.
It’s sad when you can look back at a previous generation game made by the same company and marvel at how many more options there were and how the characters looked better in said game. How is that even possible? WELCOME TO THE NEW GENERATION, WHERE THERE ARE ONLY A FEW HAIRSTYLES TO CHOOSE FROM, YOU CAN’T CREATE FEMALE CHARACTERS, WHERE SLIDERS DO NOT EXIST ANYMORE AND YOU CAN IMPORT TEXTURES THAT DON’T BLEND WITH THE GAME. Yes, that’s right, welcome to hell.
The texture importing feature feels like a consolation prize by 2K because of how much stuff just isn’t in the game at all. The problem with it is that sure, it works really well to import a texture and to slap it onto a t-shirt, some trunks or use it as a tattoo. That’s cool. The problem is that they touted it as a way to import faces into the game, which sounded revolutionary at the time. Now that it’s out there are a lot of “well, duh” moments where you remember that any photo of a person’s face is going to be impacted by the lighting conditions and that slapping it onto a character model that will then be hit by the game’s lighting will make it look weird.
That means that matching up skin tone is nearly impossible to do, because the skin color will be slightly different in some places, usually on the edges. Then there is the fact that the imported face textures sometimes get glitchy and start turning weird colors and you feel like Buffalo Bill wearing someone else’s face. The sad thing is, if you want your character to look different than the default faces, your only real option is to bring in a texture, considering that the options to modify faces are very, very scaled back this year. This also means that stuff like adding age and wrinkles to a character isn’t in the game at all. This, on top of a lack of hair, facial hair and other options, makes for an incredibly shallow experience that makes something like EA Sports UFC’s scaled-back creation mode look deep and engaging in comparison.
This is pretty much everything in the character creation mode right now. Everything feels missing. You might scoff at the whole “there is no chest hair” thing at first, but when you realize that not having a few chest hair options and a few mullets makes for recreating older wrestling stars nearly impossible. N64 games had more options than this. If you look in Community Creations you’ll see some users trying to be creative, but despite their best efforts of importing textures for everything, it looks really, really bad. Last night Gary downloaded a Razor Ramon that looked amazing in certain lights, but when the light hit it in every other way you knew that you were looking at a photo of the real Razor Ramon’s chest imported into the game (which is really, really strange) and that it doesn’t match up to the model, then there is also the fact that it looks like someone killed Scott Hall, cut his face off and was wearing it in the ring. It was horrifying, if not really, really funny. It wasn’t funny in the end, though, because that was probably the best that anyone will be able to do with the game’s creation modes and that is really, really sad.
It really doesn’t matter that there aren’t that many slots, you see, because you can only make crappy characters. If you can’t make characters, who cares about having custom arenas and other stuff, right? Those omissions almost feel like a godsend because if they were in, they’d be just as messed up as the player creation, which means it would be a giant letdown.
The 2K Showcase modes barely need any attention, I feel. If you’ve played the previous games you should know what to expect of lots of videos, replaying older matches (note I’m not saying classic matches) and having a lot of random QTEs to make the matches somewhat true-to-history. The two ones included are just awful, awful examples of the WWE and proof that they’ve run out of ideas. Playing the Attitude Era felt awesome and fresh when it came out and 30 Years of Wrestlemania was pretty cool. Now playing the CM Punk/John Cena feud, which was literally an example of how poorly WWE booked during that period, or playing the feud between Shawn Michaels and Triple H just feels confusing. These weren’t great examples of WWE history, they jump around a lot and there is nothing new over the previous games to make them worth playing. Now we have to pay for DLC for this mode? Oh my god.
This means that MyCareer should be our lord and savior, right? Not really. It sounded like a great idea, an exciting new mode, a management mode for a character just like we’ve always wanted. Instead it is about creating a character with no stats, gaining points along the way and having to simply win matches to advance. There is no replay value whatsoever in this and it feels more like a slog to just go out and win matches to advance. I almost don’t mind that it ends up being so short (fifteen in-game years, which sounds like a lot until you are playing it) because there is nothing dynamic or interesting about it.
It sounded really cool to come up through the training center, then to NXT before breaking out into the main roster, but it’s just a series of matches against characters with no real story or reason to care. From there you end up on the main roster and it’s more of the same. There are some small storylines in there, but this whole mode just feels slapped together and like yet another consolation prize and for a bullet point on a list of features to make you feel better about investing so much money into the game.
At a certain point, if you are still reading this, you are going to wonder if I just outright hate this game. I don’t. In fact, I love parts of it, but so much about this game is unforgivable. We shouldn’t have to say, “well, it’s the first game on a new generation, we should expect this.” No, we shouldn’t. Consumers shouldn’t be expected to pay $60 for a game, then buy a season pass, then buy the ancillary DLC that comes out independent of said season pass (in this case, the character and move packs are not included in the season pass) and be given a game that was so clearly rushed to market.
Seriously, if there was any other wrestling game on this level on the market right now I’d point you in that direction, but the sad reality is that no independent wrestling game is near this level just yet and there is really only one horse in town, so if you want a current generation (PS4/Xbox One) wrestling game, you are stuck with WWE2K15. You’ll have fun with it if you love wrestling games and you might even grow to begrudgingly love it, but you’ll always be left with this empty feeling like you should be getting more out of it, like you deserve better.
You do deserve better. A lot better.