It’s been a month since we saw WWE 2K15’s last-gen offering – a game that we called “a kick in the teeth” – released on the PlayStation 3, but with updated visuals, an improved control scheme, and promising new game modes, is its PlayStation 4 big brother much better?
Thankfully, the power of the next-gen hardware has allowed 2K Sports to create a new engine for this year’s release, with wrestlers making their entrances in spectacularly realistic fashion thanks to the vast amounts of motion capture that was undertaken by the superstars themselves. While certain performers, including CM Punk and the Ultimate Warrior, were obviously unavailable for this process, their digital recreations are equally as impressive, setting an exciting precedent for future releases.
The combat itself, while largely familiar, has undergone a number of changes. Beginning with a chain grapple that’s meant to emulate the ‘feeling out process’ – quiet back there – both participants must first select a hold that they wish to pursue, before pushing the right analogue stick in the direction of the sweet spot, which is located by rotating the nub until the controller vibrates. Upon successfully seizing control, you can crack off a few knee and elbow strikes, or chain into a new hold.
After completing the initial grapple, normal WWE game rules apply, with X inducing a grapple and square delivering physical blows. Performing enough moves and taunts eventually earns you a signature manoeuvre, and upon hitting this, or waiting too long, you can use your combatant’s finishing move for massive damage.
Providing more of a tactical, realistic edge to proceedings, all participants now have both a stamina and health bar. Continuous running or high impact moves will take a lot out of a performer, so you may find yourself spluttering and wheezing at inopportune times if you aren’t careful enough. Equally, as the matches drag on, you may find that you and your foe are on similar levels of health, making moves much slower, but more devastating as you grapple for victory.
Pleasingly, your superstar’s level of health and stamina is reflected in their animations. If you’re low on stamina after a move, you may drop to one knee for a few seconds to catch your breath, and if you’re running out of health, you may lay on the floor for as long as your victim after a suplex. It’s little additions like these, and tweaks like being able to crawl and throw a weak punch to break up a pin after being thrown to the ground, that makes all of the difference in bringing this series alive – although a lot of the magic is lost when facing computer controlled opponents.
However, as soon as more than two people are in the ring, things very much revert back to the old style of play, with chaos reigning supreme. While many of the bugs that plagued older titles have now been squashed, artificial intelligence teammates will often still try to attack one another when their eyes lock, and the game can do a really poor job of recognising just who you wish to fight. There was one instance in particular that saw the opponent that we had been fighting leave the ring, and upon trying to attack his partner, we swung wildly at the ropes, before turning around and inadvertently kicking our own partner in the face.
Disappointingly, a number of staples from previous titles, as well as the PS3 version of the same game, are lacking too, with series mainstays such as the broad and all-encompassing creation suite being trimmed right back. You can still create a wrestler, but now it can only be male, and even then the variety of hairstyles, tattoos, and clothing have been reduced to a dozen of each. Create a title, arena, and move have been victims of the cuts as well, but perhaps most disappointingly, the match types on offer have also suffered; even events as popular as Tornado Tag matches are now gone, despite being readily available on the PS3 version and previous series entries.
Universe mode is back once again, and is all but identical to the version featured in the PS3 edition, as is 2K Showcase mode. Consisting of two rivalries – Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H and CM Punk vs. John Cena – the latter tasks you with playing through signature matches, fulfilling objectives as you go. Other than seeing a graphical upgrade and slightly slower gameplay, this game mode is indistinguishable from the last-gen version, although the in-game cutscenes still look a little rough around the edges.
The centrepiece of this year’s game is My Career mode, which sees you starting as a rookie in NXT, and working your way up to championships, before eventually headlining pay-per-views. After creating your character, and working a few test matches at the WWE’s performance centre where you’re taught the controls, your journey begins when you debut on NXT.
Your matches are rated out of five stars, depending on how varied and interesting your performance is; the better the quality of the match, the higher the rating – and the bigger the social media following. The more social media followers that you have, the more popular you become, and the more likely you are to be called up to the big leagues. After each match you are rewarded with SP and VC, which can be spent from your My Career home.
SP is used to level up a broad range of attributes, from durability of limbs to strike speed and strength. It can also be used to purchase abilities. These include increased manager interference, being able to escape the ring while lying next to the ropes, and using an opponent’s own finishing manoeuvre on them. However, as your character’s very weak to begin with, you won’t pay any attention to these until later on.
VC can be spent on additional moves, managers that will accompany you to the ring to distract the referee, and skills. Some skills cannot be equipped in conjunction with others, but allow for special, OMG moments, like spearing people through the ringside barricade, performing special moves on the top of ladders, and hitting a DDT on the ring apron. As well as serving as a base from which to spend your SP and VC, your My Career home allows you to visit the performance centre once a week to take part in an extra match to earn additional SP, although it becomes quickly obvious that this distraction provides very little reward for the time that you put in.
Unfortunately, My Career is an agonisingly drawn out and uneventful affair. In our 17 hour torturous playthrough, we would go for hours without ever encountering a single piece of narrative content, and we never got the opportunity to make a meaningful decision. Each week, we’d receive a post-match message from the general manager saying that there was nothing available for us yet, and when there finally was, the entirety of the story progression took place via voiceover-less text messages. This would result in a match that we would win, and then it would be another couple of hours of winning boring, story-less matches before something else came up.
This repetitiveness might have proven a little more bearable if the gameplay didn’t get so stagnant after the first dozen matches. While facing a human opponent may prove to be a challenging and exciting affair, fighting against the AI is far less entertaining. Most of the challenge and fun that we encountered at the start of our career came courtesy of our very weak character overcoming the odds and beating significantly more powerful opponents, but after winning your first pay-per-view match, you’re showered with an inexplicably large amount of SP, making all future matches a complete piece of cake.
Monotonous gameplay issues also lie at the feet of the smallest roster in the series’ recent history. The developer has included a few hastily assembled created foes to flesh the lineup out, but you’ll be fighting the same guys week in and week out. This issue is then compounded when you make it to the bigger shows, where you’ll regularly be facing, and beating in convincing fashion, the main event stars, rendering any potential story-based matches completely meaningless and devoid of anything that would make them feel special.
Infuriatingly, when you do finally reach the final bout, and whip the champion that you’ll have already beaten several times before, a post-credits sequence has the nerve to inform you – via a text box, no less – that your wrestler went on to have an incredible career. We only wished that we could have actually, y’know, seen ours, as this feels like an excruciatingly slow tale of rags to riches, where instead of riches, you’ll get slightly nicer rags – and by rags, we obviously mean spandex.
Despite great advances in graphical fidelity and core gameplay, there’s not enough here to make up for WWE 2K15’s stripped back features, teensy roster, and mind numbing My Career mode. The series’ PS4 debut is very much a case of one step forward, two steps back – and while it lays the groundwork for a great game, 2K Sports has a lot of work to do to unlock it.
Great review, Ben. Such a shame this didn't work out, as I know you were giddy about it at EGX. Sounds like the basis for a great game is there — it just needs to be populated with content.
I can't believe they left out so much from the creation suite... That is the bread and better of these games for alot of people.
I really thought 2K was going to hit this one out of the park.
I truly believe the yearly release schedule is a massive part of the problem with this series. They need to take 2 or 3 years like they did on PS1 & 2 when the games were good.
You know, I'd like to play a wrestling game where you have to be an ACTUAL pro-wrestler. Like, you have to remember your spots, and 'perform' a match according to the script - with grades awarded based on your work rate.
Then, you have to go backstage and shake everyone's hand, before having to play the 'political game' via multi-choice conversations that have you making friends and enemies...
...I thought way too long about this.
Pre order now, and receive the 'On the Road Forever' DLC, which sees you trying to juggle your wrestler's private and professional lives! Drink coffee to stay awake as you travel to the next city at 4am! Take pain pills to dull the nagging injuries that won't go away! Push away smarky fans who call you by your real name (a big no no in this sport)! Engage in Twitter wars with no-name MMA fighters!
Pre order now!!!
@Kage_88 You just blew my mind. I need this game.
I like it, but I can agree with the score, though i'd give it a solid 7, let's hope 2k16 has more content.
I cant say I disagree with the rating. I specifically bought the PS4 for this game & I was expecting alot better... I DO play this game more than anything else but the game feels very unfinished. They pretty much did exactly what PS4 did.. Improved the look, but took out key things that made us a big fan.
That's a shame I had high hopes for this game. Hopefully 2k can get it right next year.
I will more then likely still end getting it when I get a PS4 but I have removed it from my must have list.
"Unfortunately, My Career is an agonisingly drawn out and uneventful affair. In our 17 hour torturous playthrough, we would go for hours without ever encountering a single piece of narrative content, and we never got the opportunity to make a meaningful decision. "
Now you too can see how Cesaro or Heath Slater feels.
@RawShark It's probably the most realistic element of the game, especially being told by management that they've got "nothing for you at the moment".
@MikoTruStar What exactly did the PS4 take out? I feel the exact opposite, it feels so wierd to go back to PS3, which I am because i'm playing Kingdom hearts 1.5.
@Shellybird27 The freedom to add & play any MP3's we want. I know they're supposed to be compatible with PS4 now but I dont feel that way since I cant play them. With WWE 2K14 on PS3 I was able to update theme songs, entrances, ect.. Now its limited compared to what im use to on last gen.... Dont get me wrong I still love PS4.. But until im able to put my own person songs on it, update theme songs whwhenever I want, ect.. then I'll always feel a bit shorted.
@Splat Depending on what you enjoy most about WWE Games, you still may enjoy it... I was the type to be able to spend all day in just universe mode, building my own brand, having 100 CAWS.. Now we're limited to 25, PLUS customizing superstars in the game takes a CAW slot unlike last year... But I still enjoy it because the matches are much more realistic & really challenging sometimes. When you get it, I hope you enjoy it still. I think within 2yrs we'll have theee game we wanted out of WWE 2K.
"PLUS customizing superstars in the game takes a CAW slot unlike last year..."
That's awful... I normally would spend hours and hours customizing superstars every year.
I could live with only 25 CAWS slots but losing spots to superstars all ready on the game? That is ridiculous.
I don't think 2K understands the wrestling fan base at all... That is coming from someone that is normally a big fan of 2K.
@Splat: Agree it just seems that 2K just made the deal with WWE to be able to make another sports game right along NBA 2K, and with EA gobbling up all the licenses like UFC and NFL it was all they could do.
@Confused_Dude - In My Career mode can you be a heel or do you come across as a face regardless?
@Splat There's a Face/Heel bar, but I never got the choice to affect it in any way. Being a "face", it seems, is just turning up and having matches each week.
@Confused_Dude - They should give you some choices like in the inFAMOUS games. After a match your opponent could offer to shake your hand and you have the option to shake his hand or give him a low blow.
I really don't understand why they have a Face/Heel bar if you can't really affect it?
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