Wrestling games have been around through multiple generations with WWF No Mercy and Fire Pro Wrestling Returns as two of the appreciated titles in the subgenre. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been the biggest name in sports entertainment throughout these aforementioned console generations and has over 15 games that bear the notable license. In recent years, 2K Sports and Take Two Interactive have had the rights to make games for the WWE franchise, and wrestling fans have been eagerly anticipating tremendous growth for the series which has been rebranded to include 2K in the title, in the same vein as the publisher’s NBA series. As a former wrestling fan who is still a huge fan of wrestling video games, I know fans have been waiting with baited breath to experience a wrestling game which authentically captures the spectacle of the wrestling events, the charisma of the performers, and the choreographed action that takes place in the ring. Unfortunately, I regret to inform everyone that the latest iteration in the series fails to meet those expectations. Despite that disappointment, WWE 2K15 does a few things well and creates a foundation to build a stronger franchise in the future.
Like previous editions of the WWE games franchise, WWE 2K15 includes popular current superstars like John Cena, Randy Orton, and Daniel Bryan, as well as legends like Ultimate Warrior and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Developers Yuke’s and Visual Concepts demonstrate their understanding that wrestling history is just as important to fans as the present. This is particularly evident with the game’s 2K Showcase mode. In 2K Showcase, players get the opportunity to play though two important feuds from WWE’s past, John Cena vs. CM Punk and Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels. Matches played in this mode require specific criteria in order to push the story forward and include actions that took place in the actual matches from years ago. Between matches, each feud’s story is told through old footage and documentary-style commentary. When it comes to faithfully recreating these matches, WWE 2K15 does a fantastic job; unfortunately, multiple times, the videos in-between matches lagged and stuttered so frequently that they were impossible to watch. When the videos do not work, a mode like 2K Showcase serves absolutely no purpose.
The WWE games franchise has always been beloved because of its robust creation features. Players have been able develop realistic versions of themselves, pop culture icons, and beloved wrestlers not included in the game. In years past, these created wrestlers could then be outfitted with unique entrances and finishing moves designed by the player. Unfortunately, WWE 2K15 has removed a number of the created entrance options, and created finishers are not included in the game. Additionally, players cannot create female wrestlers. These missing features are enough for some people to skip WWE 2K15 entirely; a stripped down, new-generation title is not something that would appeal to many wrestling game fans. On a positive note, what WWE 2K15 does provide gives players in create-a-wrestler is something to be excited about; the game allows players to upload images of their face or anyone else’s to be scanned onto a created wrestler. In addition to faces: logos, shirt designs, and nearly anything else players can think of can be added to their character, and it is all conducted through the WWE 2K15 community creations servers. Players will be happy to know this function works far better than NBA 2K15’s face scan feature.
Created Wrestlers are used in WWE 2K15’s MyCareer mode, which bears a strong resemblance to NBA 2K15’s career mode. The created wrestler starts out in a WWE training facility, and players can work their way onto the NXT and eventually the Smackdown and Raw rosters. MyCareer uses branching storylines based on decisions that the player makes, as well as match outcomes. More importantly, MyCareer recognizes that wrestlers are performers, and putting on a good match based on provided criteria has a great deal to do with moving up to the main event on major WWE events. Meaning beating your opponent from the opening bell to a quick ending will not receive a good match rating. Additionally, players have an RPG-esque morality feature which allows players to decide whether they want their character to be good guy or a bad guy, referred to as a face or heel respectively.
In the ring, WWE 2K15 takes a “realistic” step forward by including a chain wrestling function at the beginning of nearly every match. The function plays out a lot like the combination of Rock, Paper, Scissors and a QuickTime event. This addition will please pro wrestling purists, but for some, it will get old fast. Fortunately for those who are uninterested in this function, it can be turned off in the game’s options. Moving past the chain wrestling, the action within the ring has been slowed to a more realistic speed. Online players will be happy to know that cheap tactics such as running around and repeatedly clotheslining an opponent are rendered basically useless by the slower speed and the inclusion of a new stamina system. The combination of these two changes makes wrestling matches more deliberate and methodical. By the end of nearly every match, both competitors are tired and need to pull off a key move in desperation in order to capture victory. This change is something longtime fans of pro wrestling will enjoy but might not be a welcome modification to everyone, as matches now last longer than they have before, which will prevent some from being able to pick up and play a quick match. WWE 2K15 features most of the match types players enjoy, including: Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank, and Falls Count Anywhere matches. Unfortunately, some infamous types such as Casket and Three Stages of Hell matches are only available in 2K Showcase.
Graphically, WWE 2K15 looks better than any wrestling game before it. Nearly every male wrestler is a faithful recreation of his/her real life counterpart, with notable exceptions being CM Punk and The Rock, as neither of them were available to receive the improved face and body scanning tech which is also featured in NBA 2K15. Wrestler entrances come with an exciting amount of pyrotechnics, and the whole visual display captures that television and pay-per-view feeling. Female wrestlers are not depicted as well as their male counterparts and are put on the backburner in the same way women’s wrestling has been in the WWE’s television programming for years.
WWE 2K15’s soundtrack features music from rappers Wiz Khalifa, B.O.B, and Flo Rida as well as other musicians. Unfortunately, many of the songs have absolutely nothing to do with wrestling and feel tacked on, which was never the case in previous releases when the game’s menus played current and former wrestler’s entrance theme music. The in-ring commentary has been improved, with Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler providing additional audio, which in some cases is more specific and detailed than it has ever been, but too often the pair repeat statements from previous iterations that never felt right in the game. As a positive, the crowd sounds seem to correctly follow the action as they cheer and boo when appropriate, but sometimes hearing them chant “Boring” after one of the chain wrestling segments at the beginning of a match almost seems like the game is critiquing its own feature.
Lastly, WWE 2K15 includes Universe mode, which allows gamers to play both wrestler and general manager by setting the WWE roster, choosing feuds, and playing matches at their leisure. Universe mode continues to be a solid depiction of the WWE schedule from week-to-week, but missing options like create-an-arena or create-a-title affect the customization options and, thereby, this mode’s replay value. Truthfully, everything mentioned about Universe mode can be mentioned for the game as a whole. What WWE 2K15 provides is a solid and strong foundation for the franchise to grow upon, but stripped out items affect customization, which is extremely important for a wrestling game. Additionally, the game’s replay value is negatively affected as well.
+ Good Graphics
+ Faithful recreation of in-ring action
+ Face and logo import works great
– Too many missing options
– Commentary still needs improvement
– Videos crash in 2K Showcase