Preview: WWE 2K15

March 24, 1991. Los Angeles, California. WrestleMania VII.

“No word as of yet as to any permanent scarring or disfigurement.”

This was my first memory and exposure to professional wrestling. Hulk Hogan defeated Sgt. Slaughter in an epic battle of Good vs Evil in the squared circle. I was eight years old and remember being up late to watch my favourite win the World Title. Whilst rejoicing with the Hulkster, witnessed along with the millions watching around the world, a fireball launched into Hogan’s face backstage from the dastardly Slaughter, leaving him potentially blinded.

From this point on, I have been a big wrestling fan. Every year I buy the games, ranging from the good (Day of Reckoning), to the bad (WCW/nWo Thunder) to the excellent (WWF No Mercy and WWE 2K14). Something about these games grabs me like none other, and whether it is reliving classic battles or creating all new ones, a latest release with new roster and all is always on my watch list.

So WWE 2K15 is the first title formed in-house under 2K Sports, and the first to appear on current gen machines. Building on the popular inclusion of footage and matches based around history of the WWE, rather than Eras or Wrestlemania the focus this time is on rivalries. Reliving some of the famous feuds in WWE history gives a lot of potential, supported by video packages and commentary like only the WWE could do, this is a good way to explore the epic battles we would remember when we were younger, but also not be restricted to just Wrestlemania’s like 2K14.

The visuals on PS4 and Xbox One are looking to be as you would expect – stunning. Aiming for 1080p and 60 frames a second, this is looking very smooth and even more realistic than before. But the most striking aspect is not the character visuals, it is the ring. And not just the how it looks, but the way it looks. Long have wrestling games had oversized rings to compensate the gameplay. 2K15 is having a more realistic sized ring and rope height which initially makes it look small, but actually better represents the TV presentation and really makes the WWE Superstars look like hulking giants.

The realism won’t just be limited to just the visuals, with a more methodical match pacing approach taken. You won’t be able to go straight to powerbombs and german suplexes but must start with lighter more simple moves to wear your opponent down. This series has always been heading towards a more ‘wrestling sim’ than the other games in the genre, but this is expected to take a giant leap in that direction.

Character creation is set to be advanced again, although always pretty good has been seriously underdeveloped in the last few years. Along with this, new motion capture and audio has been recorded which should also freshen the series up considerably.

One of the most often talked about element is the roster. Most of the expected favourites are already in there, however there are some odd exclusions, although the roster isn’t fully revealed yet. It is expected that some of the missing regulars are expected to be unveiled through DLC but there are two quite surprising inclusions. The first is Sting (this may not be that surprising if you are a fan following the will he/won’t he join WWE news). One of the biggest stars in the world never to wrestle in WWE will do so in a WWE game. As a preorder bonus this is probably as big a one as they could have. The second is CM Punk who notoriously ‘took his ball and went home’ earlier this year, walking out from his WWE contract and consequently was ‘forgotten’ from WWE programming. Expect the remaining surprises to fill out the rivalries and there should be some classic names from history joining Hulk Hogan who once again appears in a WWE game.

So, I am excited. I am sure I will enjoy it regardless but the new changes and direction may not be enough to hook the more casual fan often put off by in-depth controls and pacing required. That said, the rivalry mode will be the most important aspect to entice fans of old into buying the game – I just hope there is a Hogan vs Slaughter one!

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