WWE 2K15 Moves Into Graphic Territory

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 20 Aug 2014 14:15
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It's an interesting idea: Using a scripted sequence to lock players into acting out the rhythms of a scripted professional match. I personally found it frustrating to get into at first, the feeling you get from an unskippable tutorial in a long-running series ("Yes, Cortana/Fi/Kenzie/Bruce Campbell, I know how to jump - this the fifth bloody sequel!") but there's a semblance of satisfaction once you get the hang of it and it's not hard to imagine devoted players taking great pride in their ability to work through the grappling "dance."

Unfortunately, I find it even easier to imagine fans more accustomed to the immediate "set your own pace" play of earlier titles to be irritated by its presence if not outright infuriated by it being mandatory (it feels, more than anything, like an option the developers are so proud of they couldn't bear to allow you to turn it off) - especially given the unwelcome reputation that scripted sequences, quick-time events and minigames often have among core gamers. I asked WWE 2K15 executive producer Mark Little (who was present for the unveiling, along with Stephanie McMahon and a variety of WWE Superstars) if the prospect of gamers looking at "chain-wrestling" as yet another QTE, he was confident that they wouldn't:

"It's not [a series of QTEs]. It's dynamic. There's no predetermined system involved. Depending on who does what when, the outcome will be different. It's truly a back and forth chain-wrestling experience, not just push a button."

In his onstage presentation earlier, though, he seemed more concerned about player reaction to the introduction of a stamina system - another mechanic roundly disliked by players in similar genres. Here, it feels less like a concession to "realism" and more like a way to incentivize players to get into the mix and stay there despite the (now) more accurate simulations of relative weight and speed removes the fighting-game style feel from a flurry of blows.

That greater adherence to the real can be seen most visibly in the game's highly touted graphics presentation - easily a high point for the series (no less than John Cena himself, speaking at a Roster Reveal press event one day earlier, acknowledged that WWE games have never been known previously for top-tier graphics) and a major selling point for 2K15. The extensive facial and motion-capture done for many of the unhand Superstars is remarkable, and coupled with staging and composition that accurately reflects the WWE's "house-style" TV presentations is really something to behold, and fires the imagination in regard to what little was to be seen/experienced of the "Showcase Mode" (which recreates famous storylines from roster-members careers) and the PS4/Xbox One-only "My Career Mode" (which promises the chance to take a player-created character from an NXT-rookie to Hall of Fame inductee.)

It looks so much like the real thing that it even makes the inclusion of retired/semi-retired "Legends" like Hulk Hogan and Sting (or the no-longer-affiliated CM Punk) in the roster almost feel like something more than a gimmick: Hell yes, I want to see Hulk Hogan, time-displaced in his physical prime to what looks for all intents of purpose a present-day Monday Night RAW broadcast, drop the leg on Bray Wyatt! ...even if it means going through a somewhat tedious minigame despite Hogan (and, it must be said, several other "Superstars" in the roster with him) never having been much for chain-grappling to begin with.

While still unfinished, WWE 2K15 appears to be a franchise sports title with genuine ambition - something we don't see too often anymore. But its ambitions may well be at odds with its subject, attempting to build a realistic sports-sim around a sport that's anything but realistic (would the "real" Randy Orton let some game dev's "rules" about a lockpicking minigame get in the way of throwing an early cheap shot?) Wrestling fandom has always been uneasily split between those who love the science and those who thrill to the spectacle, and it remains unclear that 2K15 will succeed in its lofty goal of satisfying both.

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