Thursday, April 2, 2015

WWE 2K15 review

    Professional wrestling is my guilty pleasure. I don't watch much of it anymore, having quit roughly two decades ago when I watched my last pay-per-view with the so-called Montreal Screwjob between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in 1997. For those who have no love of "athletic theater", that is an interesting story in and of itself.

    While wrestling may, itself, be faked, it is a fabulous display of choreographed maneuvers and over-the-top fighting moves. The storytelling is cheesy fun, creating good guys ("faces") and bad guys ("heels") who duke it out in exaggerated melodramas. The energy is intense and, most of all, it is fun.

    So why was I hesitant about purchasing this game?

The motion-capture is staggeringly realistic for most, I repeat most, wrestlers.
    Well, again, two decades of absence means that I was unfamiliar with a lot of the characters as well as the changes in the industry. Likewise, a lot of the appeal of professional wrestling is, bizarrely enough, the storytelling. Matches between on-screen characters are charged with emotional energy which is difficult to translate across mediums. If this was just a fighting game re-skin, it would be hard to justify the purchase cost.

    So is it worth it?

    Surprisingly, I'll say yes, with a caveat that it drops the ball in places it could have been awesome in. The final result is WWE 2K15 is a very fun game that has a lot going for it but it could have been much-much better with just a few tweaks.

    The gameplay is, really, what anyone who purchases this game should be looking at and it's incredibly fun and addictive. Even if you don't know these characters from Adam, I think you'll find this a worthwhile purchase. Just beware about the game's very obvious flaws.

The in-ring close-ups show a great attention to detail. This is a very pretty game.
    The heart of the game is simulating whatever kind of wrestling match you want. There's tag-team matches, elimination matches, submission matches, battle royales, ladder matches, cage matches, and more. There's also "Universe mode" which takes you through a year in the WWE with weekly events, pay-per-view events, and so on with a variety of characters.

    Getting to play a variety of characters and listening to the announcer's commentary throughout is greatly enjoyable. I found myself really enjoying certain characters like Bryan Daniels, John Cena, and Nikki Bella for their varied but easy-to-learn fighting styles.

    As you progress through the story, you also get "secrets" about the WWE and this is where the game falls short. Much like Batman: Arkham Asylum, they should have given us biographies of these characters so we knew who they were and their histories. I love that stuff. Here, they just give very short notes about them and their feuds.

In more ways than one.
    The gameplay is extremely well-designed with combat requiring a mixture of grapples, reversals, kicks, punches, signature moves, and finishers. The grappling mini-game took me out of the "reality" on display for a time but, once I mastered it, it became quite enjoyable. I was stunned to realize I'd played almost forty-hours of this game with minimal story by the time I started checking the clock.

    Unfortunately, knowing exactly HOW TO PLAY THE GAME is difficult to figure out. The game gives a "tutorial" which is a complete joke as they don't give you any insight into how to do anything. You have to figure out how to play the game yourself and while this isn't a problem when you're playing WWE Superstars, the My Career Mode is a nightmare. Players should be warned NOT to start with that or they're just asking for trouble.

    Speaking of "My Career Mode", it is a joke. Many-many fans would love to simulate creating their own professional wrestler and taking him through a career in the WWE to becoming World Champion. Theoretically, My Career Mode allows you the Punch-Out!-esque experience of doing just that.


There's a pretty big roster but, surprisingly, I understand this is a downgrade from previous editions.

    The problem is the game assumes you have familiarity with how to play the game from either previous editions or the other modes rather than something you're starting out with. Its storytelling is shockingly weak, too, having the vaguest hint of a rivalry with a character named Barron Blade (the misspelling is deliberate) who forces you to tap out at WWE's tryouts.

    Yes, the game starts your power-fantasy character submitting to another's badassitude. Great decision there. There's almost no real story, character interaction, or the colorful personalities from the rest of the game. The game could have easily worked around a silent protagonist but it chooses not to.

    It's still fun getting the chance to squash superstars in a match at Wrestlemania but even this is undermined by having to fight the same wrestlers you should be facing at big events in regular matches. Defeating John Cena at Wrestlemania isn't as cool as it could be since you've defeated him a half-dozen times before.

At the end of the day, it's all about the matches. If that appeals to you, go for it.
    The game is, however, beautiful and this cannot be understated. Motion-capture of the performers has made them incredibly life-like. The music in the game is enjoyable if you like a pop R&B sort of sound but I found it strange it used the wrestler's intro music in-game but not at its sometimes too-long loading screens. The ring announcers can also get a little repetitive but there's enough variety in their commentary that there's still new sound bytes I'm hearing for the first time dozens of hours in.

    For wrestling fans of the past ten years, there's also a simulation of the feud between CM Punk and John Cena as well as Shawn Michaels with Triple H. I wasn't aware of either but the cutscenes and storytelling in these segments is pretty good. You basically have a dozen+ matches where you re-enact the feud, switching between various wrestlers in it and getting rewards for re-enacting the events.

The fact the crowds lift customized signs to your superstar is one of the elements I like about this game.
    Unfortunately, there's a number of bugs which affect the game and cause me to lower my score. The most annoying is for causal/hardcore gamers as both the Showcase and My Career Modes cannot have their difficulty lowered or raised. The option for both is present, you just can't access it, which is asinine. There's also no sign this being patched and I find this severely annoying. Likewise, Career Mode ends if you defeat the Undertaker for the WWE World Championship. This means you never get a chance to enjoy being at the top of the game even though you get plenty of title-defenses for other modes.

    As flawed as the game is, it manages to capture some of the energy which is inherent to pro-wrestling. My Career Mode was deeply disappointing, though, and I think it would have been better to remove it entirely than do it half-assed the way they did. The quality of the graphics makes up for a lot as does the varied and fun gameplay. For those who just want pure entertainment from their video games, WWE 2K15 is surprisingly addictive. I just wish they'd provided a decent tutorial.   

    In conclusion, this is very much an acquired taste gameplay-wise but I can't help but admit I've played the crap out of it.

    Hell, I even hurt my wrist.


  1. Hey no shame in being a wrestling fan, I myself am one. More so in the past than today, not because I think it ain't as good as it used to be. But mainly cause WWE doesn't put in the effort like it did in the past because it has no direct competition per say, well direct enough for them to think.

    Wrestling in a lot of ways is like a magic show, its scripted, set up way in advance and one wrong move can cripple or kill someone. As the recent incident in Mexico has shown.

    Interesting how you mention storytelling for wrestling, something I agree on, wrestling can teach you a lot of ways of how to do storytelling and not how to do it. I.e. Vince Russo's is an excellent example of how not to do storytelling in general.

    Wrestling these days lacks for the most part the right type of storytelling, namely due to I feel a real lack of ideas and too much scripting to allow the wrestlers to stand out. I mean look at the great's, they got to where they were by craving out their own gimmick, image or brand of wrestling, they didn't for the most part need some writer to do it for them. This goes for the commentators as well, compare Michel Cole and Jerries team commentary to Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenans, they are leagues apart in terms of chemistry, natural flowing and in general actually calling the match.

    the former two aren't bad, but they are limited by the scripted nature, no chemistry, bickering about nothing and not the match. and Lawyer phoning it in as he has admitted himself he does it for the money these days.

    In regards to the game, all your points I agree on, the graphic's superb, motion capturing great, moves look natural, gameplay once I got my head round it smooth enough.

    But no proper creation modes to tinker with, Career mode real let-down no voice overs, cut scenes, just nothing to invest me in. I hope this gets fixed for the next game, as I only buy the games to create my own wrestler and entrances etc. Yeah they really need to put some Biography in so people can know more about the wrestlers etc.

    Hopefully 2K fix these flaws in future editions, it's been too long since we last had a brilliant wwe game.

    1. As I said to a friend, Rambo isn't really killing people so there's no need to worry about the fact the matches are scripted in wrestling. They're basically an endless never-ending television adaptation of Rocky, for lack of a better term, chronicling various athletes in their silly crowd pleasing matches to the top. In a real way, professional wrestling was reality-television before there was reality television. So, I'm not ashamed of my fandom by any means, but I do love to roll my eyes at some of the gimmicks they do.

      Amusingly, my review for this video game accompanies my wife trying to get me into reality television with Total Divas, a show she figured would have crossover appeal. Which, honestly, I might review in the future once I'm down from Batman and other works. If nothing else, it's got a delightful kitschy silliness to it. The WWE Network also is a great idea as the idea of Netflixing the massive libraries of the ECW, WCW, and WWE means there's an endless amount of content to go over and I've subscribed. I'm currently using it as my "workout" watching as I exercise.

      Anyway, WWE 2K15 is something I've been playing 30+ hours of so I'm tempted to raise up its score. The only reason I might not is because there's quite a few annoying bugs like the fact you can't adjust the difficulty in Career and Showcase modes. Which is RIDICULOUS given those would be the best times to do so.

  2. WWE network has just come to the UK recently. It's something I am considering signing up to, £9.99 a month for what you can get is good value I think, especially considering how much sky can charge for WWE stuff, though compared to us it's peanuts.

    I think I have ploughed around 60+ hours into the game, not too bad overall I think.

    1. Well, since getting it, I've watched a half-dozen Wrestlemanias and a few documentaries all for the price of ten bucks so I definitely recommend it for the price it gets. I used to pay 30 bucks for one pay-per-view and see now reason not to pay a third of that for years worth of content.