For years, wrestling games have served as an institution. Ask fans what they prefer to play on the Nintendo 64, and a good portion of them will mention something along the lines of WCW vs. NWO World Tour or WWF No Mercy. But now 2K Sports wants to raise the ante for current wrestling games, and so far it's gotten off on the right foot with WWE 2K15, which will be making its way to store shelves this October.
2K recently invited us down to Los Angeles to check the game out during WWE Summerslam weekend, and while there are still some rough edges that could be smoothed over, the engine as a whole is undergoing the kind of improvements that wrestling fans will certainly appreciate.
The roster is chock full of both current faces and legends alike. Fans of today's WWE will be able to grapple with Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and CM Punk (even though he's left the company), while legends like Hulk Hogan, the icon Sting (as a pre-order bonus) and the "Nature Boy" Ric Flair are within reach. And, yes, the Divas are back, too. You can't have a good wrestling game without A.J. Lee, after all.
WWE 2K15 is introducing a new momentum system that helps build the excitement in any given wrestling match, dubbed "chain wrestling." With it, players won't be able to execute their strong moves or finishers right away. Instead, they'll need to build upon a stamina meter in order to earn the ability to execute those moves, and then, only if their opponent is weak enough, will they be able to obtain the victory via pinfall or submission.
In addition to this, a new "hot spot" system has been introduced in the gameplay. Anytime you're in a grapple situation with an opponent, you have the option of locating a hot spot in a circular grid, using the right analog stick. Once you find it, holding the stick down in its direction will allow you the opportunity to expand upon the move and do further damage to your opponent. They can turn the tables, though, by also finding their own hot spot and escaping the move. It soon becomes a hunt for finding that lucky spot to get a break, but it's a system that works very well here.
As with any wrestling game, there are other techniques in which you'll need to master. The counter system makes a return, allowing you to turn the tables on an opponent who's striking you by hitting the coordinating button at just the right time. If you miss, the game will tell you via text, so you can practice and try harder in the future. If you're not pinned that is.
Running moves are also back, as you can launch into a run and hitting a strike on your opponent, or, better yet, launch an impressive grapple move. This is a great way to wear them down, although they can easily counter and knock you down if you aren't careful.
There are various match types that will be included in WWE 2K15, as well as the return of a character customization mode, where you can design your dream grappler and put them against some of the WWE's finer talent. 2K Sports hasn't detailed all of this just yet, so expect more information in the weeks ahead.
However, we can talk about two modes within the game. The first is 2K Showcase, which will introduce key rivalries within the WWE universe. Triple H and Shawn Michaels has already been announced, but the one we got hands-on with was John Cena versus CM Punk. This was a terrific mode, as there are certain conditions that must be met with each specific match, depending on the history of what actually happened in the WWE matches. Screw up just once and you could very well be shut out of earning extra rewards. Thankfully, you can always head back in and try again, and watch Punk walk out with the WWE championship. Deservedly so, at that.
It also includes a new career mode, in which players can get their start in the NXT (WWE's training circuit, featured prominently on the WWE Network) and eventually build their way to a superstar status in the actual league. From there, a championship run awaits, and maybe even a stop in the WWE Hall of Fame, if you're good enough.
More details will be unveiled regarding the game before its release this October, but thus far, WWE 2K15 is shaping up to be quite the contender. There are a few flaws with the announce team repeating itself (one more reason to despise Michael Cole, perhaps) and some glitches with some of the wrestlers (Goldust weaving about the ring without responding during one match, for instance), but all of this should be cleaned up in time for the game's release.
So far, so good. Follow the buzzards.