Last year marked the first WWE title to be released under the publisher 2K and following my multiple playthroughs, it had shown more of the same – a truly immersive Sports Entertainment simulator. Well now, it’s a new year and, of course, a whole new platform for the WWE 2K series to lay the smackdown upon, so like many fans attending this year’s EGX event at Earls Court… I could not wait to get my hands on WWE 2K15.
• Developer: Visual Concepts / Yuke’s
• Publisher: 2K Sports
• Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
• Also Available On: Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
• Release Date: Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3 – October 28 (US) & October 31 (Europe) / Xbox One & PlayStation 4 – November 18 (US) & November 21 (Europe)
First thing I’d noticed when approached the WWE 2K15 stand was that although it was being carried under the PlayStation bracket of games on offer at EGX, it was hidden pretty far back from the majority of new titles and in amongst other current releases. Secondly was the signs displaying “No Photography or Filming” – not an uncommon sight for a games expo as this is usually to keep spoilers, secrets and less than perfect builds from public eyes. However, at an event open to all and for a fighting title with such a small roster on offer? This was something new to me. I wondered if this meant that my first impressions of this new entry to my favorite videogame could be somewhat a disappointment?
I set up my fist match and was presented with two 1-on-1 match choices – Normal or No Holds Barred (No rules with weapons allowed), which of course I chose the latter. Far from the full game’s bulging roter of 60+ characters to choose from, this demo comes with only four superstars to try and wet your appetite with. Faced with a choice of now veteran big boys John Cena & Randy Orton, the even longer mainstay of Goldust (used to show of the graphical power of the PlayStation 4) and my obvious choice – Cesaro. Picking the Swiss Superman, I decided to take on the Apex Predator Orton and waited for the most impressive part of any new WWE title… the entrance.
In comparison to its predecessor, 2K15 looks absolutely fantastic. Superstars that have had issues with either their builds or faces have been cleaned up to look more accurate than ever before. By far these are some of the best looking models from any of the previous WWE titles. Even the walk-in intros have been updated to look more appealing with the lighting playing a pivotal role. Along with the visuals are the new and smoothed out animations that are also looking great. be it Cesaro’s Body hair, Orton’s tattoos or Cena’s bright clothing, everything just looks incredibly impressive (and yes, Goldust’s super shiny attire is incredible). However, make something realistic enough and the Uncanny Valley will soon show it’s head. In this case I found that each character to make their way towards the squared circle had – what I refer to as, dead eyes. That said, truly this has to be the most realistic looking Wrestling simulation to date.
While the game looks amazing, gameplay does seem to be on the lacklustre side. New controls – for example, are interesting but can confuse players who are used to the older set up. As for the mechanics, the addition of mini-games hos once again occurred and on first appearance can frustrate the average fan. For example; tie-ups bring a prompt to either play a type of rock-paper-scissors system, where players select either Square, Triangle or Circle and hope that they’ve picked the correct selection over their opponent (replacing skill with luck). Then there is a move similar to that of EA’s recent UFC, where you must circle around the R3 stick and locate its sweet spot (highlighted by a red meter) and keep the stick there for the required amount of time. Though this is an interesting mechanic that can turn the tide of situations, it unfortunately slows down the flow of matches way too much.
Grappling opponents on the ground and fighting them in the corner have been improved upon from the former games. Signatures, Finishers and normal moves on a downed opponent will move them away from the ropes and closer to the middle of the ring if the move requires more space. Turnbuckle fighting is also improved by allowing players to fight whilst perched on the top rope. This will give you the time to perform an aerial manoeuvre on a standing opponent as they failed to take you down.
Recovery has also had a bit of an overhaul as gone is the mash button to get up system, which has been replaced with simply holding the R3. On one hand I can agree with avoiding breaking a controller that cost around £50, but at the same time I am going to miss the idea off hitting buttons faster to recover quicker – I grew up with arcade machines and it just feels right dammit! If you’ve taken on a rather hefty amount of damage then you may find yourself getting up to a sitting or crouched position, giving the opponent another chance to attack and the player a chance to counter (I imagine some Hulk Hoganesque animation will be in play here).
Unfortunately for all of 2K15’s innovations to the series, the demo build I got to play at EGX had more than its fair share of problems. Sure with every WWE title there appears to be issues with glitches (such as move snapping and random animations) and this was no different, but it was the inconsistencies with the game’s frame rate and response times. Often I’d find that the controls would lag and see my player throw a punch a second or two after pressing the attack button, others I’d try to hit a suplex only to be meet by incredibly slow animations as the console would struggle to keep up. These issues were most noticeable during my first playthrough of the demo and I fully blamed them for losing to an AI opponent (yes I am a true sportsman), but after multiple playthroughs didn’t seem to suffer such crushing defeats to the CPU Viper – playing against actual human opposition struggling with the same flaws.
Desperate to still enjoy the series I look forward to playing each year, I found myself going back again and again to not only get a hands on of all four characters but also see if the same issues would occur. Fortunately I found that the demo’s performance problems would vary and for now I’m going to chalk it up to an old build.
I’ve now gotten a good idea what to expect with WWE 2K15 and also why the PlayStation 4/Xbox One builds had been delayed an extra month. I will however reserve my judgement until I get some alone time with the full game, checked out more of its huge roster, other changes to the controls and the new modes. But remember dear reader that when I’ve once again stepped in the ring with WWE 2K15, I will return just like Shawn Michaels in 2002 (Wrestling reference).