Although last year’s WWE 2K14 was 2K Games’ first foray into the professional wrestling world, it didn’t quite feel like the publishing giant left its stamp on the game. With a development cycle that was no doubt hindered by previous license holder THQ’s bankruptcy proceedings, 2K14 was certainly a good game that satisfied the majority of professional wrestling fans. But it was more of the same; an evolution of a tried-and-tested formula rather than a revolution.
It is fitting, therefore, that as WWE arrives on new-generation consoles for the first time, the franchise seems set for its first major upheaval in a number of years. Mainstay Japanese developers Yuke’s remain at the helm, though 2K’s own Visual Concepts studio have had plenty of time to have a more hands-on input on this occasion; hopefully bringing a fresh perspective to the highly successful series.
WWE 2K15 drops on October 28 in North America, with pre-release information trickling out in dribs and drabs over the past few weeks, and a lot more to follow. But as of right now, what do we actually know about the title?
The series’ graphics have begun to feel somewhat stale in recent years, and thankfully, that all looks set to change. It should go without saying that WWE 2K15 will come complete with a complete aesthetical overhaul, as the developers are able to utilise the increased power of the Xbox One and PS4 architectures. Perhaps more significant, however, is the news that Visual Concepts have brought their much-lauded head- and body-scanning technology over from their NBA series to ensure the likenesses of the vast majority wrestlers in-game are ultra realistic (exceptions obviously include those who are deceased or simply dead to WWE management, ala CM Punk). We’ve only seen a small number of superstars so far – including John Cena, Randy Orton, Cesaro and Goldust – but if these initial models are anything to go by, gamers are surely not going to be disappointed. Unfortunately, the technology has not been utilised for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game – though they will make use of higher quality textures and an improved lighting system.
Two of the most significant additions to the series this year are the 2K Showcase and MyCareer modes, respectively. The former is similar in premise to last year’s 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode, and is the game’s principal story mode. This time, rather than Wrestlemania moments, players will be able to relive some of the most intense rivalries in WWE history. The two main feuds highlighted in 2K15 are John Cena vs. CM Punk which took place between 2011 and 2013, and the Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels rivalry which began in 2002. Players will be able to relive a total of 33 matches across the feuds, where key historical objectives must be completed in order to progress. As with last year’s game, high-quality documentary packages will accompany each rivalry. In addition, WWE and 2K haven’t ruled out introducing additional scenarios via DLC at a later date.
MyCareer mode, meanwhile, is already a staple of the NBA 2K franchise, and will be repurposed here in the world of professional wrestling. Players will be able to follow their own created superstar’s journey all the way from the WWE training facility in Florida; to developmental territory NXT; to being called up to the main roster and receiving world championship opportunities; to ultimately, being inducted in the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, this entire mode will be exclusive to the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game. Coupled with the lack of face scans, we’re already getting Fifa Vita vibes for the last-gen ‘legacy’ release of 2K15.
The initial word coming from those lucky enough to get a hands-on with a preview build of 2K15 was that the core gameplay mechanics of 2K15 had been shaken up considerably; a fact confirmed a couple of weeks ago in leaked Gamescom videos which surfaced on YouTube. The balance and pacing of matches this year has been tuned to be more authentic and in keeping with an actual WWE contest; running-move spammers be forewarned!
The most significant change to the game’s core gameplay mechanics is the introduction of an all-new grappling system. Rather than having their wrestler’s complete arsenal of moves at their disposal from the outset of a match, players will have to unlock more high impact manoeuvres by overpowering their opponent and wrestling control in a new rock-paper-scissors style chain grappling game during the early-going. The developers have also done away with the ‘set up’ grapples featured in the past couple of games, which often led to frustrating reversal-fests and the killing of a match’s authenticity – especially when two players of equal skill squared off against each other.
Additionally, the stamina system has undergone a complete transformation, aimed again at making the gameplay closer to its real-life counterpart. The more tired a wrestler becomes during the course of a match, the harder it becomes for them to pull off effective offence, and the more vulnerable they become to their opponent’s attacks. A number of ‘tired’ variations of finishing and signature moves have also been touted as being included this year, which should lead to more realistic and dramatic climaxes to matches. Yuke’s and Visual Concepts definitely seem to have opted for a simulation over arcade approach this time around, and it should make for an intriguing change.
To date, 62 WWE Superstars and Divas have been announced for the game; the majority of whom were confirmed during the official 2K15 roster reveal prior to the Summerslam pay-per-view, though some have come via announcements on the 2K and WWE websites. The most significant confirmation so far is undoubtedly the inclusion of Sting as a pre-order incentive, who makes his first ever appearance in a WWE game. The full roster (at least, as confirmed so far) is as follows:
Alberto Del Rio
Bad News Barrett
Hulk Hogan (Current)
Hulk Hogan (Hollywood)
Rob Van Dam
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin
WWE 2K15 will also be available in a limited Hulkamania edition, which has a print run of 25,000 copies. These packages will include: a collectible art card with a personally-signed Hulk Hogan autograph, a Funko vinyl action figure, a piece of the ring canvas from the Hulkster’s March 10 appearance on Raw, as well as two playable versions of the man himself and of his long-time WCW nemesis, Sting, in DLC form.