WWE 2K14 was 2K’s first game with the WWE license, though that is a bit of a stretch. The game was already in development by Yuke’s as THQ went under. With WWE 2K15, Yuke’s and 2K have worked hard to create the next leap forward for the series. While this sounds like a good thing since WWE games can get stuck in neutral for years, the payoff isn’t one that impresses. It is kind of like waiting for the reveal of the anonymous Raw General Manager only to have it end up being a midget.

There is no way to say that WWE 2K15 is not a good looking game. It is far and away better than anything we have had on past consoles. Superstars had their likeness scanned to bring a new level of reality to the squared circle. I almost expected to see Ryback’s pink eye the first time he came out. Some obvious roster members (CM Punk, Stone Cold) did not get scanned so they look like prettied up version of last-gen models, but for the ones who were scanned, there is almost a photo-realism when they make their entrances. Goldust, Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler come to mind as prime examples.

The roster is on the lean side. That is really a minor complaint when it runs 60 wrestlers deep. Maybe it says a lot about the current state of WWE when you only use over half the roster for exhibition “jobber” matches. The legends selection is slim with Hogan, Sting, Stone Cold and Ultimate Warrior being the main attractions. There are more coming in DLC, though that doesn’t help now.

I do love the inclusion of NXT guys like Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville. In fact, Zayn is my most played wrestler after my own created, rotund self. 2K would be wise to include more in next year’s version.

WWE 2K15 takes after its NBA brethren with MyCareer. You will take your created character through tryouts, joining the NXT roster culminating in a call up to the big time. It sounds really great when you read it, it is just a shame that it is as exciting as a three hour Slammy broadcast.

You will take your created wrestler through the ranks of WWE, from trying out at the performance center, to Full Sail University, home of NXT, and finally, to the main roster of WWE. Between matches you will practice at the performance center while Bill DeMott yells how shitty you are even as you are beating everyone in the ring. Your time in NXT is brief and once you make it to the WWE roster, you will wrestle match after match while Vicki Guerrero and HHH tell you how they think you are awesome, but don’t have anything for you at the moment. So you wrestle on Superstars and Main Event. A lot. Raw and Smackdown are in your future and PPV matches also. Every now and then you will have a match against a superstar that is “better” than you and you will feel like you are playing the computer in the fourth quarter of NBA Jam. You will not be winning. Wish someone would have told me as I stood at gorilla for my match.

Reading that over again makes me realize that 2K has created the perfect WWE simulator. Good job?

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Remember when you could spend hours making a created character before even getting around to the move set and entrance? If you are looking for that with WWE 2K15, you will be better off keeping last year’s game. The Create A Wrestler has been neutered into something that is embarrassing. It is like 2K wanted to mimic the current state of WWE and only give you the ability to make the most generic of performers. It is like Vince is telling you to grab the brass ring and all you have to work with is a grey tank top, some shorts and leftover music from three years ago.

The biggest kick in the boys is the loss of custom music. Apparently 2K was too busy adding features no one wanted or that don’t work properly that we can’t have an important feature we have become accustomed to on “lesser” systems. You can’t even select music from the shitty soundtrack! Just existing themes and the generic ones that have hung around since THQ.

Speaking of WWE 2K15’s soundtrack.

I know 2K likes to get famous musicians to curate music on their NBA series and they did the same thing on WWE 2K15. Now by curate I mean pay someone that already has a lot of money a lot of money to look through their iPod, hit shuffle and go “that one” about a dozen times.

Wiz Khalifa and John Cena joined forces to create the worst soundtrack in video game history. Basically, it amounts to raping your ears while telling you to ask for more like Kevin Bacon in Animal House. You have the option to mute any track you want in the loosely titled “jukebox”, but you will grow tired of hearing the same Avenged Sevenfold and Rise Against songs on repeat. John Cena has done enough to make me loathe wrestling, now he has me growing tired of two bands I love. His evil knows no bounds.

What I am trying to say is: John Cena should never curate anything having to do with music EVER AGAIN.

If the only way we could talk to aliens was to have him pick out songs and play them with bright light panels like in Close Encounters, I would just let them fly away taking the secrets of the universe with them.

I keep waiting for a ransom note for all the features kidnapped out of this game. Besides the low amount of clothing options there is no Create A Finisher, Title, Arena or Diva. God forbid you are a female wrestling fan who games. If you want to create yourself this year you better want to look like Nicole Bass.

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If these AWOL components were lost in favor of something worthwhile that furthered the series, it would be forgivable. To lose them with no recompense seems harsh, especially for fans that expect plenty of options every year.

WWE 2K15 wants to make in-ring action more realistic by slowing things down, but uses the same animation for moves we have had for past games which makes timing your input on the controller an exercise in frustration. In trying to create more “realism” in a wrestling game, 2K has hindered more than helped.

I do appreciate the small nuances like climbing the ropes to get up or crawling over to make a pin when you are low on health, but the new set up makes you feel like you have no control at times. The reversal system, always a point of contention every year, feel worse than ever. Changing the opening window for them in your options menu makes no difference. It is more of a guessing game than learning curve.

Commentary is a mixed bag. When you are doing anything outside of 2K Showcase it is the same, repetitive Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler we are used to in past games and on TV. So, in its sadness, it is actually as close to real as it gets. That’s a win? It is a different story in 2K Showcase. Special commentary was recorded for each match which comes across as slightly engaging since what they are talking about pertains to the feuds and feels natural in delivery.

The most fun I had with WWE 2K15 was not even an original idea from 2K. The 2K Showcase is a rebranding of the “Attitude Era” mode from WWE 13 and “30 Years of WrestleMania” in WWE 2K14. This years version focuses on historic rivalries in WWE history. You get two to begin with and more later on with DLC.

Shawn Michaels and HHH’s rivalry from 2002-2004 is told through various matches that go from HBK’s return match at Summerslam 2002 to their hour long bloodbath in the Hell in a Cell at Bad Blood 2004. It is weird to think about how I thought Raw was horrible back then and now I am playing matches and thinking “ I wish it was like this again”. That is how far the current product has dropped. It is also weird to hear Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler talking about the “Katie Vick” angle during a match. I had pretty much thought WWE had swept that cluster (casket) f*** under the rug.

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I was not looking forward to the CM Punk/John Cena side that much. That was until listening to Punk’s podcast with Colt Cabana. Now I could play the matches that led to Punk becoming bitter enough to walk out forever. That adds a whole new layer to this section of the game. Punk’s inexplicable loss to HHH at Night of Champions 2011, his two PPV matches with Ryback in 2012 and his title match with The Rock at Royal Rumble 2013. Hearing the podcast first makes these have a lot more weight to them when you think about it is only a videogame, but you are also playing Punk’s most hated portion of his career.

This review doesn’t come from a place of disdain for the WWE series. I buy the game every year. I am a lifelong wrestling fan and wanted WWE 2K15 to be the next big step in the franchise. With the stripped down create modes, sluggish controls and lackluster MyCareer it just isn’t the game I was waiting on. Looking beautiful only gets you so far. In the case of WWE 2K15, looks take a step forward only to have the rest of the game blow out its quad right after just like Kevin Nash.

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