WWE 2K15 Review (PlayStation 4)
What young fan of the WWE doesn't want to be a wrestler when they grow up? Who didn't watch Hulk Hogan do battle with the Ultimate Warrior and wish they too could achieve that greatness? I sure did when I was little, and even today a small part of me wants it, but I'm not 6'4'' and built like a brick house. Instead I have WWE 2K15, the flagship video game of the professional wrestling giant, to let me live out my dreams of the squared circle. Is it a total paradise of wrestling? Not exactly, but for the franchise's first match in a new ring it's certainly not bad.
The biggest advance in the game is clearly the graphics, which are truly a sight to behold. Most wrestlers look exactly as they do on television, right down to the slightest detail. Simulating a match between Randy Orton and John Cena may make causal observers think I'm actually watching 'RAW'. I say "most" because it's abundantly clear which wrestlers were available in the development process and which ones were not. John Cena looks incredible, as does his rival Randy Orton. A few others, like CM Punk and the Ultimate Warrior, don't quite fit the bill next to their real life counterparts. While even these look much better than anything in the last generation, when placed next to the ultra-detailed scanned characters the disparity quickly becomes apparent.
The enhanced power behind the new look also allows for other minor touches that couldn't be done before, making WWE 2K15 the closest in the series to bringing the full WWE experience home. The entire Usos entrance, tribal war chants and crowd pandering included, made the cut. Rusev is introduced to the ring by Lana, who I didn't even know was in the game until I selected Rusev in a match. The most impressive entrance is a tie between Bray Wyatt (thanks to the awesome lantern effects) and The Undertaker because he's The Undertaker. No matter which wrestler I chose, the entrances were replicated with detail ripped right out of the television broadcasts, making me feel like I was sitting at ringside.
While visuals and atmosphere are great, neither of them mean a thing if the game doesn't handle well, and I'm happy to report that the new control changes actually find ways to enhance the overall feel. Each match flows just like an ordinary WWE match, starting with strikes and the new chain wrestling technique and eventually leading to stronger attacks and grapples. The new chain wrestling system turns the early going into rock-paper-scissors with its quick-time event approach, which in honestly makes a lot of sense in practice. Two wrestlers chaining up are always on equal ground to take the advantage just as two fresh wrestlers should at the start, and the holds and locks executed further down the chain are straight out of Wrestling 101. Someone at 2K definitely did his homework.
As I inflict more damage on my hapless opponent I start to perform stronger moves without expecting them, a byproduct of the increased focus on match flow. I can't pull off the big bruising moves until his health bar is red, but the moves I am doing feel big and strong. This is where the slogan "Feel It" makes the most sense, WWE 2K15 brings an incredible sense of atmosphere and feeling into each match. I'll never feel like I'm playing alone.
Of course this new prospect is not without its weaknesses, and the biggest one is a lack of some cool features. Create-a-Belt? Gone. Create-a-Diva? See you later. Create-a-Finisher? Gone, and I should dock points just for that. However, every franchise sacrifices playable modes for improved overall feel, so I can understand what's going on. I imagine some modes will return soon, either via DLC or next year's bonanza.
The modes the game does have, however, excel in every way and bring many different ways to experience the game. MyCareer walks me through the life of a wrestler, starting with the Performance Center training facility to headlining Wrestlemania. I spent hours just creating a character in my visage, so you can imagine how much time I sank into actual matches. WWE Universe mode is back too, this time letting me assign rivalries and unlocking clues to the next rivalry. The showcase here (heh) is WWE Showcase, which takes me into the time machine and lets me relive two of the biggest rivalries in my era, Cena versus Punk and Triple H versus Shawn Michaels. There are wonderfully edited vignettes between most missions, and playing the matches is both awesome and infuriating thanks to the hidden challenges. More modes like this in the future (and the inclusion of some of my old favorites back, thank you) would make me a happy guy.
The WWE barges its way onto the PS4 with WWE 2K15, which isn't the most perfect wrestling game ever invented, but certainly lays the groundwork for future installments. This game brings the look and feel of being in the arena watching top names do battle right to the home, and wrestling fans will marvel at the level of details in each characters' model. I wasn't sure how WWE was going to hold up during its first year in the current gen world, but 2K15 builds a nice foundation for wrestling fans, visual artists, and game players alike. The champ is now here, and the only way to continue is up.
This review was completed using a retail copy of WWE 2K15 provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.