How does the last-gen version of 2K’s wrestling series shape-up to it’s bigger, better next-gen opponent?

Photo courtesy 2K Sports.
Photo courtesy 2K Sports.

As a huge wrestling fan—and an even bigger wrestling video games fan—I’m eagerly looking forward to WWE 2K15 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The next generation of wrestling games looks promising and in the hands of 2K Sports, Visual Concepts and Yukes, something truly special is in store for those of us who enjoy stepping into the virtual squared circle.

When I heard the next-gen version was being pushed back from Oct. 28 to Nov. 18, I felt frustrated and annoyed. I wait all year for these games so to have to wait longer is more than a little annoying. Fans of Madden or other yearly sports games will understand this better than anyone.

But I decided I’d pick up the last-gen version of the game to hold me over until the next-gen version hits store shelves. This was a solid plan until I actually played WWE 2K15 on PlayStation 3. In my 16 years or so of playing wrestling games, I’ve never sold one after playing it. I’ve kept them all. I have just about every wrestling game released in the U.S. over that time frame and some older ones too. I even have multiple copies (on different systems) of a few of them. But WWE 2K15 was bought on Oct. 28 and sold on Oct. 28.

First off, let me say I wasn’t expecting much. Obviously 2K was focused mainly on the next-gen iteration of the game, but I still expected a solid offering for last-gen gamers considering that NBA 2K14 wasn’t all that different on last-gen and current-gen.

Boy was I wrong.

Aside from slightly smoother gameplay (none of the new next-gen version gameplay elements like the chain grappling, stamina system, new submission system, crawling on the mat or crawling for pins, etc. are present in the last-gen system; it’s just a smoother version of last year’s gameplay), better sound and commentary, an updated roster (which is missing a couple of superstars who will appear in the next-gen versions), very slight visual upgrades (countered by some downright terrible character models for several wrestlers including Vince McMahon, Kofi Kingston, Sting and Curtis Axel to name a few) and an exclusive last-gen mode, there just isn’t much there.

In fact, a lot was removed. Story designer and Create-A-Finisher modes were removed, custom superstars and in-game stars can no longer use custom entrance music (the feature was completely removed, even for menus), preset movesets (that is, the ones from past wrestlers, not the ones for in-game characters) are missing and a few other things have also been removed.

Aside from that—I’ll get to the exclusive mode in a bit—everything else is the same as last year’s installment. The creation suite is identical to WWE 2K14, the match types are the same, the menus, modes and options are the same, the belts are the same, match options, online modes, etc. Everything is the same aside from what I mentioned above and aside from the removed elements.

Of course, the MyCareer mode is also not here, but we knew that was next-gen exclusive a long time ago. Also, the 30 Years of WrestleMania mode and Defeat/Defend the Streak have been replaced with the exclusive mode, again, more on that in a minute.

When not considering the exclusive mode, WWE 2K15 on last-gen equivocates down to this equation: An updated roster + smoother gameplay + a new coat of paint and audio assets + WWE 2K14 – several modes, superstars and features = WWE 2K15 (last-gen). I don’t know how to better explain it. It’s not even an update, it’s more like five steps back from last year.

Now that I’m done ranting on that, let’s get to the new modes. The only real new modes here are 2K Showcase and “Who Got NXT” mode. Now, I won’t get into 2K Showcase because admittedly I only played two matches in the Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels rivalry, but what I played was very-well done. It took me back to Raw 2002 and though 2002 Kane looked like he’d been out in the sun too long (seriously, his skin is orange) it was, overall, a great experience. I just decided I’d like to play through the Showcases when I pick up the PS4 game since the gameplay will be better and the visuals too.

“Who Got NXT” mode is essentially another Showcase (or 30 Years of WrestleMania or Attitude Era mode) but focusing on the five newly-added NXT superstars: Bo Dallas, Rusev, Adrian Neville, Corey Graves and Sami Zayn. You play through 4 matches as each superstar in order to unlock them. There are no cutscenes, though you do earn points for the leaderboards by performing all of the objectives successfully and for putting on a good match.

When the 20 matches are done, you unlock the five superstars and a new mode called “Proving Ground”. This new mode is just “Defeat the Streak” from 2K14 but now you’re using the NXT guys to defeat John Cena. According to 2K (I didn’t bother to finish it), after defeating Cena with all five NXT hopefuls, the player unlocks the NXT Championship, NXT Tag Team Championships, the NXT arena and NXT Arrival PPV arena (exclusive to last-gen). From there, players can face John Cena with anyone on the roster.

That’s it. That’s the whole “Who Got NXT” mode. Next-gen gets MyCareer, a long-lasting career mode that takes a created superstar from the WWE Performance Center all the way to the WrestleMania main event and championship glory, but last-gen gets a stripped down “relive” mode to unlock NXT wrestlers (which can be unlocked via the Accelerator DLC for $1.99 or as part of the $24.99 Showcase Season Pass anyway) and a mode that was in last year but against John Cena instead of Undertaker.

There are also some trophies/achievements attached to “Who Got NXT” mode that won’t be obtainable on next-gen systems since that mode won’t be in that version of the game. Though the same is true for trophies/achievements for MyCareer not being obtainable on last-gen since that mode isn’t present there. “Who Got NXT” mode really is not a great consolation for how stripped down and simplistic this game turned out to be.

WWE 2K15 is not a bad game by any means. In fact, the gameplay, sound and lighting are excellent. The gameplay is much smoother than last year and the new moves are excellently motion captured. But it’s just not enough. Understandably, the next-gen version was 2K’s focus this year, but the last-gen version should have either been a budget title (See: $29.99) or canceled altogether.

Not only is WWE 2K15 a ripoff at $59.99, for those who want to “upgrade” from WWE 2K14, it’s a game that offers nothing new, has a smaller roster than last year’s game and just isn’t worth the money, time or effort.

To answer the question we posed in the subhead of this article: In keeping with the wrestling match analogy, It’s not a bad match, but it’s one of those that you get up for a snack or bathroom break and when you see who won, you really don’t care. In other words, it loses. Our advice is to either upgrade to a next-gen console or skip the game this year and stick with WWE 2K14. It really isn’t even worth renting unless you love getting trophies/achievements.

Sac City Gamer will have a full review (including a breakdown of graphics, sound, gameplay, etc.) of WWE 2K15 for PlayStation 4 shortly after it arrives on store shelves this Nov. 18. Stay tuned for that and much more!

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