If you’re a wrestling fan, it’s been hard to ignore 2K Sports’ constant bragging about just how revolutionary WWE 2K15 is going to be. However, while this certainly looks to be true with the PlayStation 4 version, the recycled gameplay and samey ideas present in the last-gen effort leave a lot to be desired.
When booting up the game for the first time, it’s remarkable just how little has changed since last year. Jumping into an exhibition bout reveals the same horrid character models, performing exactly the same moves and making the identical mo-capped entrances that they have done for the past few years – many of which are already out of date. While we understand that wrestlers change their ‘gimmicks’ all of the time, when Preston-born brawler Bad News Barrett is introduced by his old name of Wade Barrett – despite the name plate and character selection screen saying otherwise – it feels as though some corners may have been cut.
The combat, too, is sorely missing the strides made in the next-gen edition. Once again, all it takes to win is to constantly batter a foe with the same move until they stop moving, at which point it’s all but impossible to succeed at the ‘kicking out’ minigame. It can be particularly frustrating if you’re on the receiving end of such a beat down, because the more damage that you take, the harder it is to reverse incoming attacks, and this is anything but easy to begin with.
While it’s true that the difficulty of opponents can be tinkered with in the settings, some of the most frustrating moments that we had with the game came courtesy of the unalterable matches featured in the rivalry-focused 2K Showcase, and the grammatically incorrect Who Got NXT.
2K Showcase tells the story of two classic WWE rivalries: John Cena vs. CM Punk and Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels. Similar to last year’s 30 Years of WrestleMania mode, you get to play through the most memorable matches from the feuds, fulfilling bout specific objectives along the way. Besides making us realise quite how much we miss CM Punk, the two stories last a few hours apiece, and provide just over 30 memorable bouts to fight through.
These matches are punctuated by a number of slickly produced video packages, as well as some not-so-slick in-game cutscenes. As the latter of these features real audio from the events themselves, it’s a weird out-of-body experience to watch a blank-faced, wide-eyed, out-of-sync, and expressionless John Cena puppet, deliver a rousing speech about the ass whooping that CM Punk’s in for at this Sunday’s pay-per-view.
Thankfully, the featured objectives aren’t overly challenging, and range from performing a move in a specific place, to beating an opponent in a certain way. Some are more frustrating than others, as the computer gets very good at reversing just about everything in the more high stakes matches, but most of the irritation is reserved for the Who Got NXT mode.
This game mode is a last-gen exclusive, and features five of the talents from WWE’s developmental promotion. Each superstar has five matches that you can play through, all of which are based on real confrontations, and much like the 2K Showcase mode, you’re tasked with fulfilling specific assignments during these matches.
You’ll find no cutscenes or video packages here, but instead WWE commentators Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler provide exposition during entrances and the matches themselves, spouting insight and stats about the performers in the ring, as well as mentioning the occurrences that led up to the ongoing altercation. This increase in the quality of commentary is reflected across most of the game, with a load of new lines recorded for this year’s effort. It’s not quite as nice as, say, having a relevant video package explaining who these up-and-comers are, or even the excellent NXT commentators themselves, but it’s a welcome change nonetheless.
While it’ll no doubt please fans of the NXT starlets, though, this mode largely seems a little slap dash. Without anything connecting the five matches that you play, it often feels like you’re just going through the motions, with no real purpose for your efforts. Plus, some of the opponents that you face – often main roster talent with high stats – and objectives that you’re asked to complete are optimistic to the point of frustration.
One such match saw us face Dolph Ziggler. The two-time World Heavyweight Champion is renowned for his speed and agility, so being asked to ‘avoid receiving light damage to any limb’, as well as trying to focus on completing the other tasks, was irritation in its purest form – not to mention that if you have to try again, you’re forced to listen to the same lines of match-specific discussion from the commentators.
Should you persevere through some of the more torturous events, you’ll be rewarded with all five performers for general use, as well as another game mode called Proving Ground, in which you have to beat the self-declared face of the WWE, John Cena, within a 30-minute time limit with one of these NXT superstars. Unsurprisingly, this distraction isn’t a great deal of fun. Cena is ranked a good seven points higher than the best wrestler on offer, and 17 higher than the worst, so being pummelled into the mat by an overpowered reversal machine is nothing short of exasperating.
Mercifully, 2K15’s roster of creation options are reliably robust, with the superstar, threads, entrance, moveset, arena, championship, and logo suites on offer once again. As with previous versions, this allows you to plug the gap of any missing or outdated superstars that may be omitted, either by creating them yourself or by downloading the talented community’s efforts.
Universe mode also makes a return, allowing you to micromanage every aspect of the WWE, from the creation and editing of brands, to forming rivalries and partnerships, and creating the card for the night’s event. It’s not for everyone, and whether it’s worth it or not is ultimately what you make of it – there’s no handholding or linearity here.
WWE 2K15 on the PS3 is very much a clone of last year’s offering. There are a couple of new game modes that you can run through in a day, and it’s nice to see NXT finally represented, but its failure to evolve in spite of the PS4 edition is a kick in the teeth for last-gen players. In the immortal words of Owen Hart: “Enough is enough, and it’s time for a change.”