The world of pro-wrestling is a fast-moving one where yesterday’s champs can be today’s chumps. WWE 2K15 on Xbox 360 is emblematic of that. Just one year removed from 2K14, which delivered the most comprehensive roster, the deepest history, and the biggest creation suite to date, 2K15’s old-gen version takes significant steps backwards in each of those areas.
The old-gen version of 2K15 doesn’t have most of the new-gen additions you may have heard about. The revamped, more realistic match pacing is nowhere to be found here. The addition of a momentum meter is much appreciated though, removing the guesswork as to when signatures become available and when the window is closing to pull one off before it becomes a finisher. Aside from that, it’s the same standard high-speed action that’s become commonplace for the franchise over the last few years. The old combat engine isn’t inherently bad, mind you. When it comes to standard matches with two to four combatants it’s certainly enjoyable, though a bit too reliant on mastering reversals or spamming the unnaturally quick strikes. But get into five or six-man everything-goes matches however, and the fast-paced fighting ceases to approximate anything resembling an actual wrestling match.
The 2K Showcase mode is the biggest chunk of new content in 2K15, and while it isn’t quite the nostalgia farm that 2K14’s 30 Years of WrestleMania was, it does provide a mostly comprehensive look at two major feuds; the Triple H-Shawn Michaels rivalry that ran from 2002 to 2004, and the CM Punk-John Cena feud that kicked off the modern “Reality Era” in 2011. There’s a handful of throwaway DQ and no-contest finishes from Raw and Smackdown that probably didn’t need to be included though, and the complete lack of WrestleMania bouts like Punk vs Undertaker, or Triple H vs Booker T is sad. Still, Showcase ultimately lands a little closer to the “every match matters” feel of last year’s 30 Years of WrestleMania than the slew of forgettable recreations peppered throughout WWE ’13’s Attitude Era mode.
Unfortunately, the Who Got NXT mode is little more than filler. It’s basically a list of four historical matches for each of the five NXT roster members in WWE 2K15. That’s already a bit of a letdown, but more luster is lost when you consider that only two of the group are still in the developmental league. Additionally, none of the talent in their standout women’s division are highlighted, nor are NXT favorites like Tyler Breeze and Aiden English.
Where 2K Showcase managed to shine a light on matches I’d never seen with cutscenes and in-depth commentary, Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole’s commentary fails to provide proper insight into NXT history, to the extent that I couldn’t even remember matches in the mode that I’d seen on TV less than a year ago. It’s partially because Who Got NXT doesn’t give each feud a proper video package or even an in-engine cinematic during matches, but Lawler and Cole also lack the authoritative voice that the actual NXT announcers would have brought to the mode.
The bigger issue, however is the mode’s difficulty spikes. There’s no set difficulty for Who Got NXT, so some trickier objectives like winning a ladder match without letting your opponent touch the title, winning by submission without using a finisher, or pulling off a move that requires three stored finishers are tougher than they have any right to be. While it’s nice that you’re given more context than ever before when it comes to performing specific objective, both Showcase and NXT modes occasionally fail to acknowledge when you’ve completed them, which adds to the frustration.
With 63 Superstars, eight Divas, and three managers, 2K15’s roster is WWE’s smallest and least diverse in years. What new characters have been added generally look pretty good; particularly Goldust, Bray Wyatt, and the NXT Superstars. Little has been done to fix older characters, though, so Santino still looks like he’s just come back from root canal surgery, and Dolph Ziggler’s mouth remains twice the size of a normal human one. Collision detection is worse than ever, so expect even more physics-defying limbs, weapons, and ropes. In particular, every single time I picked up the ring bell to clock an opponent, it seemed to be grafted into the holder’s wrist.
On the bright side, the announcing outside of Who Got NXT is quite well-done. You can really tell that Lawler and Cole recorded a lot of new commentary lines together. In particular, their discussions at the beginning of Showcase mode matches show off their good back-and-forth chemistry, which wasn’t really apparent in previous WWE games. Still, there is a fair amount of repetition due to dialogue from previous WWE installments. Prepare to hear “he’s putting his educated feet to good use” a few hundred times more this year.
Characters aren’t the only absentees this year – whole modes are missing. While the create-a-special-move is a slight omission, there’s a bigger cut feature sure to rankle fans of VGCW: you can’t create stories anymore. The WWE Universe mode does have expanded story options that you can assign to rivalries, but it’s tough to figure out the parameters to unlock them. It’s barely worth the effort since they’re still pantomimed, and rarely personalized to specific wrestlers. It’s really a poor alternative to community creations.