The WWE is the biggest provider of wrestling entertainment in the world. It generates the most revenue; it employs the most talent, behind and in-front of the camera, it creates more hours of any weekly episodic television ever. It also continues to reap the glory of countless endorsements as it attempts to entertain millions of fans worldwide. With that, the WWE is arguably in the worst creative shape it’s ever been in. Enter WWE2K15, the latest installment from 2K games, a love letter to fans in hopes to start the healing and give them everything they’ve ever wanted from their favorite “federation”. Since the WWE is creatively bankrupt right now, the 2K Sports team decided to stay away from that shit and concentrate on what works, the old stuff. What did work was last year’s feature that let you relive some of the best “Wrestlemaina Moments”, which was fun and really worked. So much so that they are doing it again with Showcase mode that pits The Best in the World, CM Punk against The Gold Boy John Cena in the 2011 Money in the Bank feud. Remember the “pipe bomb” promo Punk dropped? Well so does 2k. So you play that angle taking turns controlling Cena, Punk, ADR , Big Show and so on. The other Showcase is the break up and downfall of DX founders Triple H and Shawn Michaels. While both showcases are entertaining and presented very well due to the fact that they will smarten you up on your WWE history but there’s just something about them doesn’t quite hit the overall satisfaction of the “Wrestlemaina Moments” from last year.
The real disappointment is the My Career. There was so much excitement when the announcement of NXT, the WWE developmental system, would make its appearance in the game. This was what the create-a-wrestler mode needed, a real match in video game heaven. Alas it was too good to be true because the time you spend in NXT is laughable. With the massively stripped down “create a wrestler” options, you’ll create the saddest looking jabroni in video game wrestling history with the lamest ring entrance. Just thank the wrestling Gods for the community uploads so you can add some flare to your wrestler. While in NXT you have Bill “I never drew any money but I teach the future of the WWE” DeMott scream at you to not suck in the worst voice acting ever recorded for a video game. The time you spend in NXT is short as your social media fans dictate how fast you move up shows. You gain more followers by putting on better matches. From there you can get SP and VC to level up your jabroni so quality matches can be obtainable. At first it takes forever to see any improvements and then you’re swimming with tons of points, leveling up like a mofo. From WWE Superstars to Raw with PPV in between you fight in match after match with very little to no interaction from the GMs or any other Superstar, making the whole experience of My Career mode daunting. When you do finish a match, you’re rewarded with a dialogue box with Vickie Guerrero and/or Triple H saying that they don’t have anything for you this week. You will read this close to a million times in your career mode. So much so that you might take you and your wrestler and both walk into traffic. I’m not kidding, it’s that annoying. In all reality the GM’s boxes should just read, “Creative has nothing for you.”
Game play wise the biggest stand out is the new “collar-and-elbow lock-up” system which feels broken. It’s supposed to create this chain wrestling effect but it fails miserably because when you tie up with your opponent you attempt to beat them in the lock up by selecting the superior tie-up in a mini-game. Then you rotate the analog stick to beat them to the control of the grab. There are tons of reasons why this sucks but the main one is that there’s no worthwhile benefit to it. Sure you can do a little bit of damage and drain their stamina. It’s slow, it destroys the moment of the match and comes off like a chore and you can’t perform anything exciting from controlling the match up. I get that 2K didn’t want the title to come off like a simple fighting game and they wanted to add more wrestling depth, in an attempt to evolve the combat experience but it failed. Also they need to tweak the game’s reversal system; it is so damn easy to counter EVERYTHING. Once you get the timing down the player is damn near untouchable.
The real crime in this installment of WWE2k is the lack of customization. The disappointment hits hard in the My Career mode but it rears its ugly head again in the game play modes. You get all of the classic TLC matches and the Rumble but when it comes to changing the stipulations of the matches to something that you like, you’re out of luck. The standard match offerings are all they give you. Want to play say, a Tornado Tag match with no disqualification? Nope. Not happening. Want a guest referee? Well you’re not getting one. Basically you are not getting anything worth a damn when it comes to creating anything. I won’t even get into the online as it was so riddled with lag and latency issues I couldn’t do anything.
On the plus side of things that you will notice is this game looks great. The graphics really give you a glimpse into what the next generation of hardware can do. The faces and animations really capture the respective Superstars, minus CM Punk due to the fact he had already left the company by the time the face scanning went down. The audio is okay effect-wise but the soundtrack itself becomes instantly repetitive as there are only eight songs. The color commentary by Cole and King are as crap-happy as you would think. It’s almost a little too real, if you know what I mean...it's bad. The real thing that hurts is the fact that there is little to no voice work other than the scattered play-by-play. Then there’s the WWE Universe aka the audience, with wrestling fans being the best fans for anything due to their sheer passion for the product. They are a large part of the show and to not have them participate by chanting more often is damn near criminal. Where’s the “let’s go Cena, Cena sucks” chants at? It’s not a WWE experience without that.
On a side note, I pre-ordered to get the man called Sting. Being a huge fan of Sting it was a no-brainer for me. But unfortunately he is simply a downloadable character and nothing more. There is no Showcase mode for the Icon, no special gameplay mode ala the Undertaker Streak in WWE2K14, nada, nothing. A missed opportunity if there ever was one. As a side note, at the time of this review there’s a bug in the game that caused save data to “disappear”. 2K is aware of the problem and is working on a fix.
In a lot of ways the WWE is the only game in town. Sure there are indie promotions and games but when you want to play a major release you have to keep your fingers crossed that 2K & Yuke’s won't let you down. Unfortunately for wrestling fans it puts us in a “you’ll get what you get” category and that’s not what’s best for business unless you’re 2K.
Rated: Teen Developer: Yuke’s Publisher: 2K Price: $59.99 USD Release Date: 11/18/14 Platform Reviewed: X-Box One