Preview: WWE 2K15

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If there’s one thing that’s never been more true, it’s that World Wrestling Entertainment doesn’t do things by halves. In a theatre in LA, with walls plastered with WWE Superstars standing 15 feet tall, they sure know how to present a product. After a fantastic introduction by the ‘Billion Dollar Baroness’, Chief Brand Officer of WWE and recent SummerSlam match winner, Stephanie McMahon, we were able to get some hands-on time with WWE 2K15. The game’s Executive Producer, Mark Little, was also on hand as we took part in a two player game and a match from the new 2K Showcase mode, playing out great rivalries from the WWE history books.

If video games were a beauty pageant, WWE 2K15 would be in the running for a crown this year. Simply put, its visuals are a major advancement on last year’s offering. We did get to see the entrance video for WWE Superstar Goldust and, although it sounds awfully cliché, you really would swear you were watching RAW or SmackDown on TV. According to Little, much time was spent on making the beards in the game look good. This was pleasing to bearded Superstars Daniel Bryan, Bad News Barrett, Damien Sandow who were in attendance at the presentation. Little sports quite an impressive facial specimen himself.

https://youtu.be/G_sKY1YufEA

Earlier in the day we were present for the WWE 2K15 roster reveal, which was hosted by the WWE’s Renee Young and Hall of Famer ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. Also were in attendance were Roman Reigns, Cesaro, Shaemus, John Cena, Hulk Hogan and for the first time ever in a WWE game, Sting. All were given opportunities to give their thoughts on the game, dream match-ups and discuss their careers. There were some glaring omissions from the roster, but during the evening’s presentation Little leaned to that fact that it was not the complete list, nor were the two WWE Showdown campaigns. To twist a catchphrase: can you smell the DLC 2K and WWE are cooking?

There is a big change to the grappling system, with a rock-paper-scissors type scenario implemented after the initial tie-up. This is also accompanied by what could be likened to a lock-pick or safe-crack function with the thumbsticks; rotate them until you find the hotspot and hold. This is a much welcome improvement on last year’s Breaking Point actions. The ability to complete a reversal by hitting your trigger button is still available, as is hitting the mark to kick out of a pin situation (like a golf swing in a game). Year by year button mashing is being slowly eliminated and this is a good thing, not only for the game but controller life expectancy as well.

The physics with the surrounding environment have improved slightly, with the ring ropes responding and interacting well with collisions from Superstars, bending as they should. This wasn’t always the case though as collisions with ringside announcers left some interesting clipping and imagery. Another low point spotted was when a fan in the crowd wearing a Cena was cheering for Cena’s opponent as he made his way to the ring. We should all be supportive of what these guys and girls do in the ring, but if you don’t hate a bad guy, well then he’s not doing his job properly, is he?

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Characters in a game like this will never be as free-flowing as fans would like them to be, but in comparison to WWE 2K14 there is a definite improvement in flow. Superstars didn’t seem to be as jerky, and moved well when ascending turnbuckles and exiting or entering the ring.

Although the WWE Showcase mode seems to lend slightly on games of the past, it will be WWE Career mode, combined with the new button system and a bit of spit and polish that will breathe much needed life into the WWE product. Taking notes from NBA 2K, players will start out on the bottom rung of the WWE ladder, making their way through the WWE Performance Centre, then to climb the ranks of NXT and regular weekly programming, like RAW and SmackDown, with a target of landing themselves championship gold and ultimately a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame. It will surely depend of the length of this journey as to how well it will be received by fans. However those fans true to wrestling and gaming will buy this either way, due to the inclusion of former World Championship Wrestling star Sting. No more need to spend hours perfecting him in Create a Superstar mode. That means more time playing and less time creating.

WWE 2K15 will be available from 30 October on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.