Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll have seen the massive disappointment surrounding the recent release of the latest game in 2K’s wrestling series, WWE 2K20. By anyone’s standards, the overall experience appears to be severely lacking, but let’s forget about it for now because that’s not the focus of my attention here. Instead, I want us to cast our minds back to another year when things weren’t so good for WWE fans either; 2014 to be exact and the arrival of WWE 2K15. In hindsight, the warning signs were present then, but the majority of players just hoped that it’d get better and all Visual Concepts – in collaboration with Yuke’s – needed was time.
Surprisingly the build-up to WWE 2K15 was strong, with many wanting to find out if CM Punk had made the roster cut, despite walking out on the business months prior – given he was a major part of a 2K Showcase story, there was no other choice but to keep him in. News of his inclusion, alongside an entire panel on the weekend of SummerSlam 2014 dedicated to unveiling a huge portion of the playable roster, really got the hype train running. And then the moment of truth came on 31st October for Xbox 360 and PS3 players, then slightly later on 21st November for Xbox One and PS4, as WWE 2K15 launched.
If those on the last generation thought they had it bad with the exclusion of the MyCareer offering – available only on the next-gen versions – they weren’t missing out on much. Despite being a story-based mode, everything came across as basic in the narrative department and the cutscenes were slim pickings. Granted, the rise from a lowly NXT performer to participating at PPV events gave plenty to think about in terms of investing in the different attribute categories to improve your created character’s overall rating, but the rest of MyCareer lacked substance.
That left a lot of weight on 2K Showcase’s metaphorical shoulders to carry the burden of delivering a worthwhile experience. Choosing to focus their attention on two rivalries, the developers went for CM Punk vs John Cena and Triple H vs Shawn Michaels. Four hugely popular characters, a selection of cracking matches to play through that continued their feuds and a whole load of memories worth reliving. It helped that the video packages used to set the scene were of the high quality you’d expect from anything seen on WWE’s TV shows.
Whilst the Universe mode could’ve been a viable outlet to enable playing for hours and letting your creative ideas flow, the sad fact was that no matter what the game modes presented, the gameplay was always going to let it down. Describing it as a buggy mess would be polite, with the collision mechanics lending themselves to all sorts of weird occurrences; not least some issues that meant Superstars couldn’t even climb the ropes or exit and enter the ring – absolute basics in the grand scheme of proceedings. Even the introduction of Chain Wrestling as a novel way to kick-start matches didn’t provide enough longevity, thus ensuring that when there weren’t any glitches or bugs, it just grew tiresome repeating the same segment over and over.
WWE 2K15 even saw a form of ‘lag’ occurring offline, which as you can imagine meant the online was also going to be plagued with lag too – albeit for different reasons, of course. To make matters worse, trying to actually get a match was a bloody nightmare and you’d often be left waiting an age to be thrown into the action. In all fairness though, the match types available for private sessions online offered plenty of selection to have a scuffle with a few pals. So that’s something, right?
Since then, the quality of the instalments in the WWE 2K franchise has fluctuated dramatically, with WWE 2K16 actually raising the bar due to a much more in-depth MyCareer and a terrific Showcase featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin’s illustrious career. Issues with the gameplay were perhaps the only major worry; unlike WWE 2K17 and WWE 2K18 that took their foot off the gas, putting the entire series in reverse. Removing the likes of Showcase put additional pressure on MyCareer, which grew increasingly stagnant. Despite freshening up the career mode for WWE 2K19 by incorporating a full-on narrative that included many twists and turns, it seems the developers care little about fixing the technical problems.
For years now, the WWE 2K series has seen release after release filled to the brim with bugs and glitches – some of which eventually get patched out, but not all of them. Is it a case of too much work to do to meet the demands of the scheduled yearly launch? If so, then maybe it’s time for Visual Concepts, who are currently the sole development team on the project, to take a step back and perhaps propose a longer period between games. You see, the good faith of wrestling fans is diminishing rapidly and five years after the mediocrity found in WWE 2K15, it doesn’t seem like 2K have learnt anything. The time for change is now.
Do you remember playing WWE 2K15 and laying the smack down on everyone who stepped in your squared circle back in the day? Be sure to leave us your thoughts and memories – good or bad – by getting in touch via the comments section below or on social media.