With the release of WWE’s yearly franchise heading to our shelves soon for 2016, I thought this an opportune time to retrospectively take a look at the previous year’s release and how it weighed in. To provide some context, I’ve been a wrestling fan since the tail-end of the Attitude era – with some of my favorite games in the genre being Smackdown 2 and Here Comes the Pain on PSX and PS2 exclusively. Admittedly having not been a wrestling fan since my mid-teens, recently I’ve rediscovered my passion for all things sports entertainment and as such wanted to try out the latest game that was on offer. Let’s take a look!
While conveniently having free play to just jump in and throw together random matches if you’d like to kill some time, the core focus of the game centers around two particular story modes – My Career and 2K Showcase. Having been the first wrestling game I’d played in over ten years, I was excited at the prospect of seeing how the story mode in wrestling games had developed since my early days as a fresh faced youngster hunkered down in my bedroom.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I was not impressed with the My Career mode at all. While I liked the touch of having you start off in the development branch of WWE (NXT) and working your way up to the main roster – the My Career mode really features no dynamic storylines, meaning it ends up feeling like you’re just pointlessly wrestling matches in a mode that should be focused around story. As somewhat of an eclectic gamer with varied tastes, it almost feels like the WWE 2K15 creative team lifted the blueprint that the NBA 2K series has been using for many years now and copied that. While perhaps being graphically inferior, my preference still goes to older wrestling games in this department – regardless if the storylines were static, it still made your actions and matches seem more meaningful and convince you to be invested the first time through.
Mechanically, WWE 2K15 also offered little excitement due to the way the gameplay system had clearly been developed. At the start of every match, you’re essentially forced to chain wrestle for the first few moves in order to then achieve anything outside of that – meaning that after multiple games in a row, this function became incredibly boring and tiresome to play through. While I can appreciate the structure that the developers were trying to provide, it lacks the tangible quality and understanding of what televised wrestling is capable of in terms of variation and makes gameplay seem very railed and restricted. This was also not helped by the graphics and flow of the game, as it just seemed clunky and awkward at points where TV wrestling would be lively and fluid – such as wrestler entrances.
Coming away from the My Career mode, I eventually moved across to checking out the 2K showcase mode – with the choice between the ‘Hustle, Loyalty, Disrespect’ showcase of John Cena and CM Punk, or the ‘Best Friends, Bitter Enemies’ showcase between Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Having already watched or been aware of much of the chronicled history between HHH and HBK, I instead decided to check out the John Cena/CM Punk showcase which I knew nothing about. What I was treated to was essentially a video package highlighting the length of the feud between the two wrestlers, where I would play as either one of them at specific pivotal matches during their rivalry. As a reward for completing certain objectives during the match, it would unlock all sorts of additional items in game such as alternative clothing for wrestlers, and other arena set-ups from specific pay per view events.
As someone who hadn’t watched WWE at that particular point, it was an incredibly handy way of being caught up with their history without having to actually physically go and research it outside the parameters of the game. Primarily for this reason, I believe that the 2K showcase was by far the one redeeming feature to what was otherwise a fairly average game from Yuke’s and Visual Concepts.
In closing, while I’d like to say that there was a particular stand out feature for WWE 2K15 – there really wasn’t. While I enjoyed the showcase mode, it doesn’t excuse what I find otherwise to be an incredibly sparse game in terms of variety and re-playability – especially when you’re paying release money for the title! Unfortunately, this hasn’t exactly lifted my spirits or expectations for the 2K16 release which means I’ll be holding on to my money this time before making the purchase and letting others do the judging for me.