Listen up, you pencil-necked geeks! I recently got my hands the PS4 version of Take Two Interactive’s WWE 2K15, the first iteration of the annual WWE wrestling simulation game since THQ finally bit the big one last year. Considering how much hype this game has received, and the brutally stripped-down inferior version that was released on last-gen consoles a month before it came out, I went in with my defenses up, cautiously optimistic. Thankfully, WWE 2K15 (mostly) holds up to its many praises, though it’s a long way off from being the perfect wrestling game.
Visually, the game is stunning. The power of the PS4’s shiny hardware is on full display here and 2K’s scanning technology perfectly captures the essence of many of the WWE Superstars, right down to muscle definition and skin creases. Not all of the scans are flawless, though.
While guys like John Cena, Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan are damn near carbon copies of their real-life counterparts, other wrestlers didn’t fare quite as well. Bray Wyatt’s cheeks are just a little too chubby, and the chipmunkian-appearance of his face is pretty much the only thing that takes away from his ring entrance with the Wyatt Family, which (in my opinion) is the coolest one in the game.
WWE 2K15 runs at a smooth 60 FPS and the animations are a sight to behold. Dozens of new animations have been added to the game and pre-existing ones have been given the next-gen touch up they deserve. If a damaged wrestler is near the ropes when he or she is stirring on the mat, they’ll grab onto the ropes and use them to pull themselves up. Little things like that go a long way in making 2K15 more of a wrestling sim and less a fighting game.
The sound effects have also been overhauled. Again, it seems like such a small detail, but it was one I appreciated. It’s a lot easier to appreciate an awesome slam to the mat when it doesn’t sound like a bag of socks being gently tossed across the living room.
I can’t say enough about MyCareer mode. In bringing over the much-lauded gameplay mode from their NBA 2K franchise, Take-Two brings a fresh and much needed overhaul to using created characters. In WWE 2K15, MyCareer is the lifeblood of custom wrestlers. You can live your dream of making it into WWE and working your way up, from rookie noob getting screamed at by Bill DeMott in the Performance Center to battling John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
MyCareer brings something desperately needed to the game in the form of an interactive player-driven experience solely focused on the player’s personal creation.
Still, as much fun as MyCareer is, the RPG style grinding does wear thin after awhile. Everything, from abilities to skills to which moves you can assign to your created wrestler, is locked and must be unlocked through playing the matches and purchasing things with VC (virtual currency) and SP (Superstar Points). The concept works well in the NBA games but here, it just feels like a long grind.
It’s realistic, almost to a fault. Your character really isn’t anything more than a no-nothing rookie. You’re laughably weak, far weaker than even the Divas (which is a little unrealistic but I get what they were going for) and unlocking things take a lot of time. While the storylines and dialogue are dynamic and exciting, at the end of the day, it’s still just “wrestle, earn some points, slowly bring up one of your numerous stats, maybe buy a skill once in awhile if you have enough SP, repeat”.
Skipping over the once-again dragged over Universe mode (aside from unlockable story options for rivalries, it’s the same damn thing we’ve had for several years now) we have 2K Showcase rounding out the gameplay modes. In 2K Showcase mode, players can relive two legendary rivalries in CM Punk/John Cena and Shawn Michaels/Triple H. It’s in this mode that players will unlock all of the attires and hidden wrestlers and an awesome series of video packages, coupled with dynamic gameplay and individual match objectives make this mode fun and an awesome trip down memory lane.
It’s not all shiny, though. The game speed takes a lot of getting used to, as part of the transition to superior hardware means that 2K15 is attempting to distance itself from the near-comical nature of the previous games in the series. Unlike the rapid-fire pace of 2K14, 2K15 is slow and methodical. Each move needs to be planned out carefully and you can’t simply win a match by spamming knife-edge chops and running spears. The creation suite is also sorely lacking in comparison to years past. There are only 18 hairstyles to pick from and virtually every category of clothing has been whittled down greatly, though the game does allow you to pick from pre-made Superstar attire, a feature I’ve been waiting years for.
The stamina system has been overhauled and plays a major role in what goes on in the ring. It’s functional but very unforgiving, and even on the most generous game setting, it still doesn’t lend itself to any 45 minute bloodbaths with your buddies. I appreciate the way my character has to take a breather in between throwing around other wrestlers and running the ropes but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten fired up, hit a signature and a finisher and then couldn’t capitalize because my wrestler collapsed to the mat like a hooker in heat afterwards.
Finally, we come to reversals. This is where Bo Dallas comes into play, as seen in the title of the review. I made it through training at the Performance Center, rose through the ranks of NXT (while making sure to diligently participate in the optional once-a-week training matches at the PC for the extra experience points) and beat Adrian Neville for the NXT Championship with a German Suplex.
All cool beans. Then I get to Bo Dallas. GM William Regal tells me that he wants the title as bad as I do. He sure as hell wasn’t lying. It was probably my difficulty adapting to the slower and more methodical style of gameplay, coupled with my inability to figure out how to time the damn reversals, but Bo Dallas ate my lunch. And I rage-quit, because exiting to the PS4 menu prior to the autosave is the only way to “undo” an undesired match result in MyCareer since restarting the match isn’t an option. And so on and so forth.
Basically, Bo Dallas can suck a fat one. As an experienced WWE games player, I figured out a long time ago that none of these games ever has any sort of consistency as it relates to the reversal system. Each year, the experience is different. In 2K15, the timing is unholy. As of this writing, I still can only occasionally time a perfect reversal and I spend much of the rest of my match time attacking or running away.
To simplify, if you can’t figure out reversal timing, expect your match to end as soon as you get knocked down because once you’re on the mat, the CPU will start throwing grapples and strikes like you owe it money and it won’t stop until you’re laying in a broken humiliated heap. Or until you counter.
Finally, a nifty side-note: New for the first time in the WWE games franchise, players can finally have full customization control over pre-existing WWE Superstar appearance. Rather than downloading a CAW every time Kane or Seth Rollins undergoes an attire change, you can simply go into the create-mode, edit the clothing to your heart’s content and save and use that as an “alternate attire”. In about one hour, I was able to update Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns all to (close) representations of their current gear and turn both Miz and Damien Sandow into puffed-up identical Hollywood douchetacos.
After pouring hours into the game and fawning over this and getting mad over that, 2K15 is a worthy investment, if only just for the experience of creating a wrestler and taking him through the MyCareer mode. It’s far from a perfect game and Take Two Interactive will assuredly have their hands full fleshing out things that were left mysteriously bare-bones this year, but if you’re a fan of WWE, the game is worth the money you drop on it.