New-gen wrestling, old-gen problems.
It has been a fair while since I have paid attention to the goings on in the world of wrestling, or since I have played a wrestling videogame as the last one I looked at heralded the death of my super large TV. It traumatized me.
But still, facing this trauma head on, I jumped into the latest WWE game from 2K Sports, WWE 2K15, with as much enthusiasm as your average, leotard-wearing wrestler. The first thing I noticed was just how many of the wrestlers I didn’t actually know, and the second thing was how damn good looking the game was. Had I really been gone for that long?
The problem with near annual releases of any game is that the changes made between one entry and the next may be so small that they simply don’t seem worth paying out for to all but the most avid fan. The complaints that I hear most about WWE 2K15 are that features have been cut since the previous entries in the series, leaving the regular players somewhat cheated. Apparently multiple match types have been dropped for this latest version of the game, along with many of the customization options and even the ability to create female wrestlers.
But these are all issues that a newcomer to the series, or one who has been away for a while, won’t really notice. There are some issues that seem to have traveled through even from the first wrestling game I played, and more on them in a moment, but for the most part, I am quite pleased with how the series is progressing.
As the first entry on the new-gen consoles, I was expecting a visual feast. WWE 2K15 is not disappointing in that respect, with the wrestlers themselves and the crowd-filled stadiums all looking marvelous. A new scanning technique has been used on some of the wrestlers to make them look and move in a much more realistic way, and there are some obvious differences between the characters that have taken advantage of this new technology and those who haven’t. But even those wrestlers who haven’t undergone the transformation still look very good in comparison to what I remember a few years ago.
When it comes to the content included in WWE 2K15, there is certainly no shortage. There are a wealth of different match types for different numbers of wrestlers, many of which are staples of the series and enjoyable to take part in. I couldn’t say what was missing from the line up, the list seemed pretty complete to me.
Beyond just jumping in to wrestle, WWE 2K15 offers some other modes including the Showcase which allows players to indulge in some of the classic rivalries from wrestling history, and WWE Universe which allows the player to set up shows and rivalries for a bit of fun.
However, beyond just jumping from one match to another, the MyCareer mode is where I spent the majority of my time. Here, the player creates their own wrestling star from the, some would say limited, options available. They earn points to improve their character and rise through the ranks to become a true superstar, knocking heads with many of the current of stock of famous wrestlers along the way. This is a fairly chunky mode but, whilst it does introduce some rivalries along the way, will still mostly find the players simply moving from one match to the next. Either way, it is still quite satisfying to watch your wrestler rise through the ranks.
But that rise to stardom will, in some ways, rely on a certain amount of wrestling skill from the player, and that is where things get a bit more blurry.
Wrestling games have never been the most precise when it comes to sport simulation, and it seems that nothing has changed whilst I have been away. I was quite excited to see how the combat mechanics have changed over the last few years. Well, they have definitely changed, but I am not sure if it is for the better.
Everything seems much slower and more considered than the wrestling games I remembered. Although that is perhaps not a bad thing, the high speed games I remember were chaotic and very unrealistic, it still feels as though the game is more pot luck than anything else. But now it is slow pot luck.
Matches start with a grapple, which launches a rock/paper/scissors mini-game to see which wrestler gets the advantage. Then right sticks get twiddled to find a hot spot. What the hell! Once the opponent has you in a lock, it is just a matter of waiting for the animation to finish before trying to counter or reverse the move with a quick press of the right trigger. However, catching that right trigger press at the right time is almost impossible, with too early or too late notifiers appearing on the screen whilst waiting for yet another animation to finish so your wrestler can actually do something.
I will happily admit that I am not very good at the game, but it just seemed too slow. Even a simple slap seemed to take an age, and half the time was blocked or resulted in my wrestler caught in a hold. Special moves failed to materialize no matter how much I spammed the button, and then my wrestler would get tired from all of the exertion. The stamina bar is an interesting idea that should make wrestling more realistic, but until the player gets used to the slow pace of the game, it will be an absolute pain as the wrestler slows down even more.
And speaking of slow, what’s with all of the loading? Creating my wrestler took an age because there was loading between each and every option on the Xbox One version. The game just constantly seemed to need to load something, and I have to admit it was frustrating.
Getting to grips with the way the game works will certainly see players getting much more from WWE 2K15. But it really isn’t a very friendly game in that respect. For anyone who has been away from wrestling games for a while, picking up how to play takes a really long time, which spoils the party-like nature of having buddies over for a quick match or two, unless they also own the game and have put the required time in.
WWE 2K15 is the nicest looking wrestling game so far, and so it should be on the new-gen consoles. But it is also frustratingly slow and will take an age to reach any level of competence, let alone mastery. For those who indulge in each year’s game, the general consensus is that WWE 2K15 is lacking and may not be worth picking up. For the newcomers, or returning players, WWE 2K15 is good if you put the time in. Otherwise, hopefully next year’s entry will be more inviting for the new player.