WWE 2K15 Review (PS4)
Incredibly lifelike character models. Completely retooled, much more true-to-life combat and stamina systems. Smooth, realistic animations. 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second. No doubt about it, 2K’s WWE 2K15 feels like a next-gen wrestling game – most of the time. The impressive presentation goes a long way towards making the game feel fresh, but the main issue here is consistency. While WWE 2K15’s eerily accurate face scans and polished, exciting gameplay are welcome improvements, cut features, a pared-down roster, and numerous glitches bring the experience down a bit.
The first thing you’ll notice upon booting up WWE 2K15 is the dramatically slower pace. Whereas in previous entries matches went from 0-60 at the opening bell and stayed there for the entire bout, here matches have a much more deliberate and realistic pace. Remember how in previous titles players could spam running DDTs and aerial assaults right from the outset? Remember opponents no-selling finishers and bouncing right back to their feet as you struggled to climb the ladder in a title match? All of that is gone — and good riddance.
In WWE 2K15, most wrestlers, apart from brawlers like Brock Lesnar, will grapple in a collar-and-elbow tie-up at the beginning of a match. This new system, similar in many ways to Rock, Paper, Scissors, has players using the right analog stick in attempt to overpower their opponent and gain control. These chain-wrestling segments do a good job of setting the pace of a match-up, and feel more like a game of skill than both players throwing their wrestler’s body through the air and hoping the collision detection rules in their favor. While the chain-wrestling can be turned off in the options menu, I never felt the need as I found these sequences enjoyable and true to the feel of an actual WWE match.
In addition to the new chain-wrestling system, WWE 2K15 also features a new stamina system (finally) and overhauled animations for most of the move sets. Punches and kicks feel heavy and powerful, and the sound design backs this up. Since the entire game feels a bit slower, strikes are a little easier to counter — once again discouraging the spamming of cheap moves by inexperienced players.
The stamina system makes it so that all moves — running, grappling, striking, even walking — deplete your wrestler’s energy. While this meter can be built back up by standing still for a bit, by the end of a match both wrestlers will be completely spent. You’ll feel their tiredness in their animations, as they fall to one knee after pulling off a big move, struggle to climb the turnbuckle, and slowly crawl toward their opponent and use their last bit of strength to throw their arm over them for the pin.
One of my biggest complaints about previous WWE games was that wrestlers never seemed to get truly injured or tired, no matter how much offense you threw at them — making ladder matches and Fatal 4-Ways extremely frustrating. In WWE 2K15, every victory is hard-fought, and almost every match feels epic. Whenever I was defeated, it never felt like bad game design or a cheap CPU opponent – the better man won, and that was that.
The PS4/ Xbox One exclusive MyCareer mode is an interesting concept, as you create a wrestler (or download one from the huge user-created online library) and have them work their way through the ranks. You’ll begin at the WWE Performance Center, having just arrived with a number of fresh recruits, and work through a series of sparring matches with no-name opponents as trainer Bill DeMott berates you about how no one would ever pay to watch you wrestle.
Soon enough, you’ll begin taking on NXT opponents, before getting calls from Vickie Guerrero and William Regal about setting up RAW and Smackdown appearances. Keep up the hard work and soon enough you’ll have a championship around your waist, which you’ll defend as you climb the ladder to bigger and better things. While this mode can be fun, there is a large amount of filler material here as well, with lots of dark matches and sparring matches that net you ability points to level up, but become rather tedious after an hour or so.
The 2K Showcase mode fares much better. Similar to previous modes like Attitude Era or 30 Years of WrestleMania, this mode focuses on two memorable feuds from WWE history – John Cena Vs. CM Punk and Triple H VS. Shawn Michaels. Each Showcase features 15-20 matches, and playing through both and completing every historical objective (which is worth doing, as it unlocks a wealth of content) will take some time. Some of the most enjoyable moments within WWE 2K15 can be found here, as 2K has gone to great lengths to ensure historical accuracy — with correct attires for every single match, meticulously re-created spots (in the form of exciting QTE events) and commentary and Superstar voices lifted straight from the live broadcasts.
The overhauled graphics on the next-gen systems add to the feeling of realism, with 2K’s facial scanning technology making many of the Superstars and Divas eerily accurate. Modern-day Triple H, The Rock, Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, and Randy Orton are just a few of the wrestlers who look absolutely spot-on. Combined with the drastically improved crowd, and the spectacular lighting, motion blur and depth of field effects, at times the game can look damn near photorealistic.
Unfortunately, quite a few look pretty off, as well, as if 2K couldn’t get them in front of their scanner and had to draw them in from scratch. Vince McMahon, CM Punk, Summer Rae, AJ Lee, Alberto Del Rio and others look either completely wrong or just plain creepy. A few, like Del Rio and Punk, look great from certain angles but unrecognizable from the front.
One thing 2K really needs to work on for next year’s game is smiles, as every single person who smiles during their entrance looks slightly horrific — such as Summer Rae, Alberto Del Rio, Chris Jericho and AJ Lee. And hair, while definitely better than last year, still looks pretty bad. Triple H’s modern character model, with the shaved head, looks just about perfect; meanwhile the long hair on the 2002-era model somehow makes the entire likeness look off.
The audio work has seen improvements, as well. The commentary for this year’s game had Jerry “The King” Lawler and Michael Cole recording in the same room, which lends a more authentic broadcast feel to the proceedings. Their back-and-forth feels realistic, but it makes the re-used commentary from previous entries stick out like a sore thumb. You’ll still hear plenty of tired phrases like “Look at the emotion!” and “He’s putting his educated feet to good use!”
The creation suite, while still quite robust compared to most other sports titles, has been pared down pretty significantly this year. Create-A-Wrestler is present, but you no longer have the ability to create a Diva, which is kind of a slap in the face to all the female fans. You can no longer create your own arenas, belts, storylines, etc. Another notable omission is the complete absence of backstage areas to battle in. Hopefully these features will be back next year, since it seems the game was rushed a bit to make its deadline, even releasing a month after its last-gen brethren.
Overall, WWE 2K15 on next-gen features a very impressive coat of paint, with meticulously recreated animations, entrances, character models, and 2K Showcase matches. The new stamina system and slower match pace give this year’s iteration a completely different, more realistic feel, more akin to classics like the N64’s No Mercy than recent entries. All of these improvements do a good job of masking the cut features and pared-down roster, though it must be said that WWE 2K15 has a respectable amount of content regardless. Hopefully next year’s entry can improve upon the great framework created by 2K for this game.