“Finally, the WWE has come back, to PC!”. From first glance it’s looking damn good on the surface of all these oiled up sweaty wrestlers. But what lies beneath this? Is it all a wonderland and amazing gameplay, or is there a flaw in the core than shocks the whole system to a grinding halt?
The gameplay in a wrestling game isn’t going to change much, and it hasn’t here. It plays much like every other version, buttons dedicated to grappling, striking and running around etc. You win when the conditions of the match are met, whether that be a pin fall, a submission or grabbing the case from high above the ring from a ladder. The core gameplay for the most part has not changed and it doesn’t need to, as with franchises like FIFA and Madden, you have a strong core, and then build out with new features or changes to make people buy the latest iteration.
And this is where we encounter the biggest issue about this entire game, and it’s encountered almost immediately. The changed grappling mechanics. Before I go on a rant about this new feature they added to “create momentum”, I’ll preface it by saying you are actually able to turn it off in the options, but it is forced on for the Career and Rivalries mode, so if you’re going to play this you HAVE to use it.
So, do you like playing rock, paper scissors? Cool. How about moving an analog stick round to find a point? Okay, works for lock picking in games. Well, how about doing both every minute or so in a wrestling ring!? Cause that’s what you’re getting! Whenever a grapple is instigated, a mini game plays out. You press, X Y or B to select an option, and your opponent does the same. X beats Y, Y beats B, B beats X. I can’t honestly remember the specifics as to what each button did because it didn’t really matter.
Whoever wins this, it then goes onto a find the spot mini game with the analogue stick, whereby you need to find wherever the icon turns red and then hold it there for the grab to either be released or pulled off correctly. Now I can see where they wanted to go with this whole mode, as in the shows there are lock-ups of wrestlers going toe to toe all the time, and then they transition into some sort of throw or grappling move. But when you make a silly mini game of it, have it take around 30 seconds or so a time and have it happen CONSTANTLY, you can’t help but wonder what they were thinking with this. It kills any sort of momentum.
Thankfully, the game does have some good things going for it, as career mode is by far the best feature on the game. You do get your usual royal rumble, table, tam team matches which you can play with friends or by yourself, but the meat of this game is single player. You start off career mode by creating your superstar and begin training with the no longer WWE employee Bill Demott. You learn the ropes and eventually move up to NXT, which is the WWE’s developmental branch for the wrestlers. From there you are put in matches and your aim isn’t just to win, it’s also to impress.
After the match you score points based on different things you did. Were you adventurous? Did you have any big moves like rope dives, moves from the turnbuckle, or did you put someone through a table?. So if you go through matches using the same one move and then a finisher you will gain XP points but at a slower rate and you won’t get noticed. Being adventurous gets you noticed quicker and eventually William Regal comes knocking and offers you bigger matches including an NXT title shot. Eventually the idea is you move up to Smackdown, then onto Raw and hopefully onto the PPV’s. It adds a different element to the career mode and keeps it interesting for longer than previous instalments takes on single player content, something which casual players and die hard wrestling fans will both appreciate.
You do get more single player content than your rise through the ranks. You get two stories/rivalries that have brewed within the WWE; Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels, and John Cena vs. CM Punk. This is good for wrestling fans as you get to play through some of the biggest moments throughout their rivalries. It contains a lot of video footage from WWE programming itself and is a fun little mode which has about 20 matches in each rivalry. This mode works much like the Attitude Era mode from WWE 2K13 whereby you fulfil certain in match objectives to complete the match and also unlock extras.
Now, this is the first licensed wrestling game on PC since WWE Raw back in 2002, so we have to go over how the port fares. The port uses the Xbox One as a base I assume, judging by the button prompts within the game when you’re using a Xbox 360 controller. What this means is that it looks as good as your current gen console versions right off the bat, but with added graphical options on the PC version, you can really crank it up and make the game look damn pretty. A side note though, audience density, something you can adjust, can cripple your frame rate on max when the initial crowd sweeps happen before the matches.
As with the grappling system, the game is not without issues sadly.The main thing that bothers me is that it does rely too much on reversals I believe. If you can master the timing required then you can beat the career on every setting. The AI on anything higher than normal will pretty much reverse every action you do to them and leave you in a crumpled up pile. It’s unfair AI in a fighting style game once again. Granted it’s no SNK boss difficulty but it’s still pretty damn annoying. From a wrestling fan perspective, the character ratings are kind of annoying. Every wrestler has a high rating, which doesn’t really make sense. You have your top flight guys like John Cena, Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan who should be a lot higher than people like Santino Marella and Darren Young. Now having them as a lower rating doesn’t mean they are bad wrestlers, it just means that they aren’t the very best, and WWE 2K15 doesn’t seem to get that.
Overall, everything else is pretty average and it works. But the ‘Rock, Paper, Scissor’ format completely drains momentum and it’s actually been introduced to help create momentum and make it have more of a real match feel, and it does the polar opposite. Collision detection issues and janky animations are also still an issue which they haven’t ironed out yet, even with their new engine. It’s really nice to have a wrestling game that looks and handles well on a PC unlike some games, Mortal Kombat X I’m looking at you, but it’s just a shame that the core gameplay is such a turn off, as there’s a lot to enjoy within the game for casual players, as well as fans of the entertainment franchise.