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WWE 2K15 hands-on: 2K adds crucial visual upgrades & immersive gameplay elements

Ready for 2K15?
Ready for 2K15?
Permission given to use photo by 2K Games

The glass breaks, a guitar rifts and a church bell sounds; all of these iconic sounds invoke the spine-chilling screams of joy from thousands of WWE fans around the world. From the pre-match entrances to the progression of a match that ends with the dramatic climax a WWE match can only deliver, WWE 2K15 is getting real.

Ready for WWE 2K15?
Permission to use photo given by 2K Games

WWE 2K15 finally arriving on the PS4 and Xbox One means gamers are getting treated to a dramatically improved experience. Sure, there are still tweaks to be made prior to launch, but that is to be expected with an early version of the game being shown off.

The presentation in WWE 2K15 has been dramatically improved from a visual standpoint. Superstar entrances from wrestlers like Randy Orton look dramatically more realistic, and during a few moments over the course of his entrance, I momentarily thought I was watching a version of RAW on TV.

Developer Yukes and Visual Concepts are on an extremely promising path with the game’s lighting system. It truly helps bring out more authenticity and realism in a superstar’s entrance, from their skin to their facial expressions. Surprisingly enough, I found the crowd to be delightfully good-looking in the game and a terrific compliment to the overall presentation. Crowds can always be animated more effectively in all sports games, but that’s like saying the croutons in my Caesar Salad could taste better. They are a topping, and not as important as the main salad.

Moving toward the in-ring action, a number of phenomenal improvements in gameplay have been made. First and foremost is the progression of a match. When you are watching a WWE match on TV or in-person, you know there is the beginning part of a match where each wrestler is jockeying for position over the other. You never see a match start with a finisher, unless we’re talking about the “Finger Poke of Doom.”

When grappling with your opponent, you battle through a short mini-game (for lack of a better term) where each player uses the right stick to try and find the rumble direction, and then when they do, hold that direction until the circle has filled up completely red. While this seems simple at first, it’s a very tactical and strategic feature. If your opponent seems to have found the sweet spot first, you can strike them to break it up and then that sweet spot moves to a different part of the right stick.

It’s one of the more brilliant, subtle features implemented into the WWE 2K series, and fits perfectly into the pacing emphasis Visual Concepts has put into WWE 2K15.

From the slow, methodical beginnings of each match, to the faster paced middle parts, WWE 2K15 makes a smooth, organic transition. Once players have passed a certain point in the match, grapple moves become available to players.

Moves like suplexes, back breakers, belly-to-belly slams help open the match up into the faster style of wrestling WWE is famous for. This is when you really begin to see a wrestler’s arsenal open-up. More and more damage begins to be dealt to each character, and the natural transition of gaining a small advantage on your opponent to beating him down slam after slam has been complete.

Players will need to build up their momentum meter to earn themselves a finisher, and when they finally get to 100% or more, each superstar’s finisher becomes available.

As someone who has been wanting WWE games to take a more definitive step toward simulation or arcade and not be so stuck in the middle, it’s great to see 2K go in the simulation direction. Some people are definitely not going to like this move, but personally, I love it.

Those who are wondering if OMG Moments are back in WWE 2K15, yes indeed they are. Cesaro’s Swing is a new addition to this year’s slew of OMG Moments and more are sure to be announced. One OMG Moment in particular I was able to sample in WWE 2K15 was the move that allows you to plow your opponent through the outside guardrails.

We were only given a chance to go hands-on with John Cena, Cesaro, Randy Orton and Goldust, and out of those four, I must say they absolutely nailed the look of Goldust. They did such a masterful job of depicting Goldust, that if they could replicate the work they did on him for every other character in WWE 2K15, they wouldn’t need to change a thing for years. Goldust was that impressive, and how many times have you heard someone say that about him?

WWE 2K15 brings the new Showcase mode where players will be able to relive memorable rivalries of years past. We know CM Punk vs. John Cena and Shawn Michaels vs. HHH will be in the game, but no others were disclosed. It’s safe to assume a lengthy one featuring Austin and McMahon will be in the game.

Showcase mode allows fans to relive historic moments in WWE history through footage from past RAWs, Smackdowns and Pay-Per-Views. Each video helps provide context to the matches players will experience.

Over the course of each match, players will have various objectives to complete to help setup certain situations for a cutscene in the match to carry out. For example, during the CM Punk vs. Cena match at Money in the Bank a few years back, Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis came out to try to interfere and Cena stopped them, but then lost. The events in the game were carried out just like they happened in 2011.

From what we’ve seen and what we’ve yet to see, we are very excited to see what all 2K Games has in store for WWE 2K15. It’s undoubtedly the best looking game we’ve ever seen in the series and I think will certainly find a more in-depth, immersive game than ever before. WWE 2K15 launches for the PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360 on Oct. 28.