I ended my review of WWE 2K14 with high hopes for a next-generation wrestling game. I was super excited to see what was possible on more powerful hardware, and while WWE 2K15 manages to get a lot right, it drops the ball far too often.
2K15 really shines in its gameplay. It feels real and looks real. While the pace is slower than before, any wrestling fan will absolutely adore how everything feels, from running to submission holds and top rope moves. There are also new mechanics introduced here. Each wrestler has a stamina bar below the multi-layered health bar. Both bars are linked so if you lose a health bar, that stamina bar is taken away. This ensures that wrestlers that have taken a huge beating feel sluggish and dilapidated. The stamina system implementation is one of the biggest contributors to the realness of the gameplay. You regain stamina by resting and taunting to some extent and won’t be able to perform signature moves or finishers without a certain amount of stamina.
Early on you get to experience the new chain wrestling system. This lets you interact with your opponent through a rock-paper-scissors-esque mini game that has you moving the right analog stick to identify the sweet spot to progress through it. This ranges from an arm bar to a waist lock, and so on. This chain system decides who has the stamina advantage for the rest of the game and losing stamina early on can easily cost you the match. If you’re used to and love the arcade-style fun elements of the PS2 games, 2K15’s main draw will disappoint you, but true wrestling fans will adore it.
The big story mode from last year has been replaced with a new mode called 2K Showcase. This focuses on two rivalries: John Cena and CM Punk, and Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Both rivalries feature a good amount of matches and the story build up is surprisingly good. The problem with both of these rivalries is how forgettable most of the matches are. Coming from The Attitude Era in WWE ’13 and 30 Years of Wrestlemania in 2K14, 2K Showcase is a huge disappointment. It did however get me to appreciate CM Punk a lot more than I already did.
Visuals are mostly great. Most wrestlers look phenomenal. Very few, like Shawn Michaels, look completely out of place in the game. The detailing is great and the models are better than ever before. Animations in arenas are fluid and the decor is great overall. My big complaint for almost every arena is how bland the area near the titantron feels. Some of the visuals for the backgrounds and floor areas feel completely lazy. It almost feels like you’re playing on a current generation system with last-gen environments. The actual wrestling looks great though. It has never been this real looking and feeling. I really wish 2K15 had a photo mode. I would use the heck out of it.
The soundtrack – hand-picked by John Cena – is easily the worst I’ve heard in a long time. He should stick to just wrestling. Commentary is still annoying and repetitive. In some cases, King and Cole were just being vague with commentary like “Nice move” when I performed a suplex. You still end up hearing them say “He’s putting his educated feet to good use” way too often. You would think the major complaints from last year’s game would be addressed, but 2K15 continues to disappoint in this area. Commentary is only good during the 2K Showcase mode, with comments that actually reflect the history between the wrestlers in the ring.
MyCareer mode is exclusive to the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game. It aims to take you, as a new wrestler, through the process of getting into NXT tryouts and eventually making it big in the WWE. It starts off really poorly, with Bill DeMott annoying me more than car reverse horns, with repeated dialogue during training matches. The experience is mostly inconsistent pacing-wise and you will have a title shot before you know it. I wish the developers had put in more effort here since the actual wrestling gameplay is so good and it would have made the experience great overall. MyCareer mode is mostly filled with absolutely boring matches; the interesting ones are few and far between.
WWE 2K15 introduces background matchmaking for online. You get a popup wherever you are in-game, notifying you of an opponent and can directly move to the online match without wasting any time. Performance online was hit or miss. I managed to play two games without lag, but many matches were unplayable, with almost a two-second latency. This is surprising considering Persona 4 Arena online worked fine on a slower internet connection. Reversals were borderline impossible online thanks to these issues.
The biggest shock of WWE 2K15 on current generation hardware is the amount of content that’s been cut out. Basic matches like one-on-one ladder matches, two-on-two tornado tag matches, and all forms of backstage brawls have been cut from the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game. Create modes have been watered down as well. Prepare to be disappointed if you expected any form of creation for arenas, titles or even finishers. Diva creation has been completely cut as well. I can understand not improving upon something in a new game, but why completely cut off basic things fans have enjoyed? Speaking of creation modes, what’s the use of displaying attire and accessories on generic faces or bodies in a preview and not on the actual wrestler you are creating? It baffles me how much they’ve ruined in the creation suite.
The bugs and glitches are fewer in number than 2K14, but they are still beyond annoying. In a triple threat hell in a cell match, my character got frozen outside the ring and the AI opponents were just using the same moves on each other in a loop. I had to close the game using the PlayStation menu because nothing was responding. You notice more of the visual bugs while using weapons or interacting outside the ring.
I came in expecting a great game, given the new hardware, but it is clear that WWE 2K15 is a lazy attempt at cashing in on being the first “next-gen wrestling game”. It’s disappointing because there was so much potential. It is unbelievable how real they have made wrestlers look and feel in the ring, but cutting content out is plain stupid. Maybe next year we will get a true wrestling game that is glitch-free and that doesn’t have commentary that annoys you more than the horrible soundtrack. I can’t recommend WWE 2K15 at full price unless you really love wrestling games and buy them all. Stay away and wait for either a price drop or for WWE 2K16.