With the move to the next generation platforms and the first official WWE game under the 2K direction, WWE 2k15 had impressive showings with some stellar looking screenshots and fantastically produced commercials. The last two games were some of the best wrestling games in years so with iteration and a graphics overhaul, it was safe to think that this would be the best wrestling game ever conceived. Unfortunately what we got was the best LOOKING wrestling game that beautifully wraps around a hollow final product.
This could have been a love letter to WWE games but instead, it is held back by a questionable roster, baffling design choices, and a boggy pace. And yet, you cans till have fun as long as you get used to the movement animations. Animation priority changes the way you have to play, which is weird considering they nailed the design in the last game. This year, Yukes added a rock, paper, scissors style grapple system that starts off the first minutes of a match. It's pointless and doesn't really add anything to the game, making me wonder how they thought the inclusion of a guessing game would be any fun.
One good addition to the game though is the stamina system. As you progress through a match and perform more powerful moves, you use up your stamina. With low stamina, your character will move slowly and have trouble climbing the ropes. You might fall to a knee after a finisher and have to crawl your way to a pin. It helps with the realism and really makes you have to play a smarter wrestler than ever before.
While Yukes came up with a lot of great ideas for this year’s game, most of them just seem half realized. The game looks incredible and closer to real wrestling than any other WWE game before it. However, the gameplay just feels a little sluggish. With animation quality at a new all-time high, the extra steps in the movement makes every action take longer than necessary and interferes with the pace of a match. This year, simulation was priority over arcade action and while the animation is mind blowing and amazing looking, it just feels like a step backwards with how much it affects the gameplay.
Now I will stress that I am still addicted to this game and still have a lot of fun wrestling opponents and even feel extremely satisfied with my good matches, but it feels like a first step that just needed a lot more attention. Can you still have fun with 2k15? Absolutely, but at a cost. There's a lot missing from the package that was a mainstay in previous generations. The creative suite is incredibly limited. I used to spend many hours creating and downloading custom wrestlers but now I feel less compelled to spend time doing so because they removed so many options. There are also long load times each time you make a decision on what you want to put on your wrestler, and guess what, after you see the preview of the hair you just gave them and don't like it, you get another long load to back out of it. There's also a lack of create a story and create a ring, which were some of my favorite modes. Past the games had a slew of custom entrances and move sets (usually based on wrestlers from other promotions) this year you can only pick entrances from the in game roster, and some aren't even included. Hope you didn't want to give a custom wrestler the Undertaker’s entrance.
If you are sitting over there saying "Hey, I don't care about creating my own wrestlers I just want to play as my favorites!" Fair enough but this year’s roster may disappoint you. The last two games had very deep nostalgic hooks. WWE 13 had an Attitude era roster and WWE 2k14 looked back at classic WrestleMania characters and legends. This year pretty much sticks to the current TV roster with a few from the '02 era, which are just different versions of already existing characters like Kane, Triple H, and Chris Jericho. You really have to love the current TV product to fall in love with this roster. The game offers some NXT wrestlers, which is awesome, but even then you only get some of the main wrestlers (no divas) and it just leaves you wanting more. There are DLC plans that will supple decent additions to the list and I'm left scratching my head at some omissions. There are legends that, in my opinion, should almost always be featured in a WWE game depending on how important they are to the company history, and after what we've come to expect and how spoiled we were the last two years, it seems like short sided thinking to exclude them this year.
If you want different ways to play WWE 2k15, you have plenty of options beyond exhibition matches. The universe mode, amazing as always, returns with many new additions. The rivalry system has been completely rehauled allowing pick your superstars to fight and the storylines that affect what events will take place during the rivalry. There's also the new career mode I was excited about at first only to be left feeling a little disappointed. It's a great idea for the game and could evolve into something revolutionary but this first attempt is a little bare and too transparent. Your whole goal is moving from NXT to RAW and eventually the main event of WrestleMania and the only thing you have to do is fill up a social media bar by engaging in the specific matches they tell you to and clicking through repetitive text bubbles from bosses William Regal and Vickie Guerrero who often say "We have nothing for you, I'll let you know when we will line you up for a push." So, I guess it's EXACTLY like real wrestling.
Yukes discussed the mode saying that sometimes it's good to lose to affect the story but I saw no benefit. All that matters is hitting "OMG" moments and finishing moves because even defeat, you'll get five star matches. The rating system is the most satisfying part of the whole mode. It still had me hooked but just left me thinking on how it could be improved. The least interesting mode is Showcase, which is just a rehashed idea of the Attitude Era mode and 30 Years of WrestleMania mode from the last two games. Those two modes were great and follows a "If it isn't broke, don't fix it" mentality. The mode showcases two major rivalries, the Cm Punk and John Cena feud from 2011 to 2013 and the 2002 Triple H and Shawn Michaels feud. Both are well realized with objectives that you have to complete in each match to earn unlockables for the rest of the game (characters, outfits, and arenas) but it just needs some kind of life breathed into it to keep it fresh and prevent it from growing stale.
Is the game fun to play? For me, yes. I still have a great time wrestling my favorite superstars and I was addicted to the career mode even if it was lackluster. The game looks beautiful and I'm a sucker for the new animation quality and stamina system. Is this game better than last years? Definitely not and if you have a PlayStation 3 and are still enjoying 2k14 then I wouldn’t bother upgrading for this. If you already have a PlayStation 4 and want a wrestling game, WWE 2k15 will satisfy your wrestling urges, although next year's game might be worth waiting for.