2K’s acquisition of the WWE license for gaming was met with resounding excitement, as gamers, and even some wrestling fans, know that they put out quality franchises. Most notable is their NBA series, which wins much praise thanks to photorealistic graphics, lifelike gameplay and a very in-depth career mode.
So, here we finally are with 2K’s first professional wrestling outing in WWE 2K15, which, as far as wrestling games go, is three steps forward, five steps backward, eight step sideways and one step to the moon. Where to even begin with this review is tricky, but 2K has highly promoted the game’s career mode, so that isn’t a bad starting point.
Naturally, the first thing you’re prompted to do is to create your wrestler. The only problem is, that the customization is severely gimped from previous iterations of the franchise. Probably the most baffling omission is the ability to create a Diva. Now, I understand career mode is new and that the developers might not have been able to properly iron everything out so that it works for female performers, but to not be able to create them at all is pitiful. There are very few options for faces, hairstyles, attires, and just about anything you can think of. Also gone is the ability to create a finisher, which is honestly one of the most enjoyable parts of putting together a superstar.
While creating your hopeful legend, you’ll begin to realize that the loading times to simply view how any selectable item looks on your character are embarrassingly long. We’re talking roughly 10 seconds just to see an attribute that you probably aren’t even sure you want. Keep in mind, WWE 2K15 also contains one of the worst licensed soundtracks known to mankind, featuring the very worst of dubstep, rap, and country. It will make your ears bleed, seriously.
Anyways, after putting the finishing touches on your superstar, you’ll be taught the basics of the game by real-life trainer Bill Demott at WWE’s Performance Center. And, right off the bat, it’s clear that this version of the game plays much more differently from any WWE game ever released. Whereas past games took an arcade approach, WWE 2K15 is putting all its eggs into one basket and attempting to create a simulation experience. Truthfully, they have come damn close to perfection in the gameplay department.
Before even getting into new features and gameplay mechanics, every single move in WWE 2K15 has an aura of realism surrounding it that developers had never been able to attain due to technical limitations. We know that the majority of the moves have been motion captured this time around, and the game has benefited from that.
No longer do moves look janky or sped up; they simply look like how they would be delivered in real life. There are also a myriad of extra little details that go a long way into making this simulation a success, like the actual ring ropes having physics attached to them. Essentially, if you perform a move near the ropes you will sometimes see a superstar’s foot get caught up in them or rest on the lower rung. Sometimes wrestlers will actually lean on them for support when trying to bring themselves to their feet, because they have little stamina left ten plus minutes into a gruelling match.
Speaking of stamina, while it is something that will most definitely annoy those that prefer to just endlessly pound on people, it’s really hard to deny that the system works and adds heightened drama to each and every battle. During one of the first matches I played, I actually hit my finisher, but in doing so completely drained what I had left. This left me crawling around the ring and able to drape one shoulder across the body of my opponent for the three count; it’s basically your typical overblown WWE climax. It’s even more intense when you or your opponent are able to successfully kick out of these pinfall attempts and keep a match going with no health and no stamina.
There are ways to rebuild your stamina (taunting or standing around doing nothing), but for the most part, when you are spent, the match becomes a desperate struggle for survival that truthfully isn’t getting old no matter how much I play the game. Also, if you go one step further and tweak sliders around, it’s possible to make matches feel even more lifelike.
The problem with WWE 2K15, though, is that all of its modes feel incomplete and poorly thought out. Yes, the game is fun, but career mode is quite literally nothing more than matches strung together until you win the WWE Championship, which you must retire after obtaining. I guess 2K assumed we didn’t want to be fighting champions.
The Road to the Championship mode isn’t that fun either and is full of useless features, like a social media tracker that you cannot do a single thing with. Upgrading your statistics, buying abilities, and hiring managers is amusing, but 2K ultimately needs to look at their NBA franchise and creatively look for ways to bring stories, choices, objectives, and more into the mode to spice it up.
There is also 2K Showcase mode, which is your traditional documentary-reminiscent story mode from the past few games. This time the focus is on playing out historical matches between the classic feuds of Shawn Michaels/Triple H and CM Punk/John Cena. As usual, the mode has amazing production values along with actual WWE footage in between matches to set the stage. It is a lot shorter than what can be found in previous instalments, but that’s because there are additional rivalries being added as DLC. Whether or not 2K is justified in stripping away content from the game like that is up to you, but I will say that I was quite satisfied with the 6-8 hours of playtime that the mode gave me.
Universe Mode also returns and is as silly as ever. If you want to meticulously book every single show yourself and simulate matches then it’s fun, but those that just let the dice fall where they may will notice some truly bizarre rivalries and odd championship holders. The mode isn’t necessarily good or bad, it’s just the same nonsense that it has always been.
Before wrapping up this review. there are some notable, head-scratching things absent from this game that should be mentioned, like 1v1 Ladder Matches, Handicap Matches, and more from the exhibition menus. What makes their absence truly baffling is that these match types do exist in the game inside of other modes, but for some reason cannot be played of the player’s own free will. It’s pure laziness on the part of the developers and more proof that while this game is extraordinarily fun, it simply wasn’t ready to be released.
2K has given themselves a fantastic template to work with here, and something to improve upon yearly in order to create even better wrestling games. WWE 2K15 is a very enjoyable game to play, but feels like a tech demo of things to come. There simply isn’t a lot to do in the game, mostly because highly-touted features like career mode fall massively short of their lofty expectations. You’ll likely get bored very quickly with what’s offered here, but it’s still reassuring to know that the studio now has a solid foundation to build upon for future outings.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game.
WWE 2K15 successfully shifts the franchise into a highly fun simulation experience, but is severely lacking in content. It is, however, a fantastic template to build upon for future instalments.