WWE 2K15 review: poor pedigree

Game Info
Box Art N/A
Platform 360, PS3, Win, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher 2K Sports
Developer Yuke's
Release Date Nov 18, 2014

WWE 2K15 is an awkward transition to a new generation of consoles.

Features included in previous games missing from this one? Check. Long-standing issues from the last generation that linger on? You bet. Some half-baked experimentation with new concepts? Uh-huh.

WWE 2K15's developers — Japanese studio Yuke's and its new American partner, 2K subsidiary Visual Concepts — carried over the foundation of the franchise from the previous generation, rather than starting fresh for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. That's WWE 2K15's ultimate downfall: A pervasive staleness stymies the game's progress. Chain wrestling is a well-intentioned idea

WWE 2K15 will feel familiar if you've played one of the last few titles, although it changes some things up. A new "chain wrestling" system attempts to introduce some realism to the game, forcing combatants to tussle in tie-ups during the opening of a match. It's a well-intentioned idea, since much of the theatricality of real WWE matches comes from a gradual escalation of hostilities as the fighters feel each other out.

wwe 2k15

But chain wrestling in WWE 2K15 isn't fun. It's a rock-paper-scissors minigame with analog stick twirling, and it became a nuisance instead of a welcome mechanic. After a few holds, it peters out, rather than, say, giving the wrestler who comes out on top the ability to transition directly into a new move.

WWE 2K15's new stamina system fares much better in realistically slowing down the action in the ring. Almost everything you do drains your stamina bar, which makes it much tougher to spam your way to victory. This brings the tense, thrilling late-match sequences of real WWE action into WWE 2K15, where exhausted fighters can barely stagger to their feet. It's terrific, forcing players to pace themselves so they won't end up winded when they need that energy the most.

triple h current
triple h old

The series' first new-generation entry offers significantly better character and crowd models than ever before as well. The developers did facial scans for much of the roster, which produced stunning virtual models of individuals like cover athlete John Cena.

But there's a downside: Non-scanned wrestlers look much worse by contrast. Just compare the face for present-day Triple H, scanned in with his buzz cut and close-cropped beard, with his long-haired, clean-shaven appearance in the 2K Showcase mode.

That's to say nothing of just how glitchy WWE 2K15 is

Aside from those new elements, WWE 2K15 matches play out much as they have for years — and the developers still haven't fixed issues that have plagued the series for ages. Collision detection between bodies and the ropes is much better, but there's no rhyme or reason to positioning. I've seen wrestlers roll over prone bodies toward the ring apron, even when they're up right against the ropes. I've seen wrestlers drag people a short distance in a seemingly random direction before performing a grapple attack, for no apparent reason.

It was always frustrating when a grapple failed because my opponent was stuck in an animation, which forced me to wait while they finished reacting to the previous attack. WWE 2K15's poor animation blending also warps limbs and bodies unnaturally in too-quick transitions.

That's to say nothing of just how glitchy WWE 2K15 is. I've seen CPU-controlled characters throw me into a corner and then stand there doing nothing. I once saw a championship belt float into the ring on its own (technically carried by an invisible Ric Flair).

While those glitches made me laugh, not all of WWE 2K15's bugs were funny. I had a match end in a count-out when my wrestler got caught in a running animation on the barricade outside the ring. I had to quit a match when I got stuck in a submission animation without the submission minigame meter appearing. 2K says it's still working on a solution for the nasty MyCareer bug I ran into, which crashed the game during character creation.

MyCareer is WWE 2K15's most notable new mode. MyCareer has you create a wrestler who evolves on his journey from the WWE's training division all the way to Raw, the organization's top-tier live show.

MyCareer doesn't explain itself well

This type of mode works in sports games because players can invest in the growth of their created athlete. That progression exists in WWE 2K15, but it's a monotonous, repetitive slog, interrupted on too few occasions by entertaining story developments. You can't simulate any part of the mode to get past the lengthy grinding through unremarkable matches with no overarching storyline. It was 11 hours before something remotely interesting happened in my playthrough, when I became embroiled in a minor feud with CM Punk and Curtis Axel.

What's more, MyCareer doesn't explain itself well. There's a meter saying how much of a face or heel you are, but it's not clear if that status has any effect at all. I also couldn't figure out how to move the needle one way or the other — I started out as a face, but apparently made a heel turn at some point and never had any idea how I caused it. And even all the way at the heel end of the bar, the crowd cheered me during every arena entrance.

wwe 2k15

WWE 2K15 also revisits the well of WWE nostalgia with 2K Showcase, but the overall package doesn't match the corresponding modes in WWE '13 or WWE 2K14. That's largely because some of the bouts in WWE 2K15's rivalries feel like they're there to pad out the mode. Understanding feuds requires more context than the two participants' matches. But I found myself wondering why I was spending so much time with ancillary characters like Batista and Rob Van Dam.

WWE Universe returns as well, and players can still rearrange event cards, shuffle rosters and set up rivalries to see how it all plays out. But the create-a-story mode from previous games is gone, a travesty for the people behind Video Game Championship Wrestling.

In fact, WWE 2K15's suite of creation tools is far inferior to the expansive options traditionally available in the series. You can't create female wrestlers, and WWE 2K15 also lacks the ability to create titles, finishing moves and arenas.

Even the remaining creation options are notably pared down from previous games, with fewer choices for clothing, ring entrances and other customization. It doesn't help that the creation process is excruciatingly slow, especially on Xbox One, with load times lasting a few seconds for trying on every new tattoo or item of clothing. Numerous match types are gone too, and not just rarely used gimmicks like Inferno and "I Quit" matches — the elimination of all handicap matches is bewildering.

Even remaining options are pared down from previous games

People looking to play specific match types online will have to contend with WWE 2K15's baffling new interface and "background matchmaking" system. The game forces you to set preferences for wrestlers, arenas, matches and more, as opposed to matching you with others and allowing you to make those choices at that point.

Wrap Up:

WWE 2K15 is prettier, but not much smarter than its predecessors

WWE 2K15 does offer more than merely a better-looking version of its last-generation counterpart. But it fails to fix legacy problems, and its efforts to try something new are largely unsuccessful. This package might have been acceptable, or at least understandable, as a new-generation launch title. But one year into the new console generation, WWE 2K15 is a disappointing effort that makes for a shaky foundation going forward.

WWE 2K15 was reviewed using retail Xbox One and PS4 copies provided by 2K Sports. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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