This August should be an exciting month for WWE fans. Not only will we see Brock Lesnar completely destroy John Cena at Summerslam, we will also witness the next-generation of wrestling games courtesy of WWE 2K15. A full game reveal is expected in the coming days, but until then I thought I’d share my thoughts on what I’d like to see improved in Yuke’s latest attempt at making a great WWE game.
WWE is essentially a sport and the main things that most fans want from sports games is authenticity. As a WWE fan, I want my favourite Superstars to look, sound and behave like their real-life counterparts otherwise all sense of emersion is immediately lost. Over the past few years fans have ridiculed WWE games for having sup-par graphics and choppy animations but with the recent release of next-generation consoles this really needs to change. The good news is Visual Concepts (of the NBA 2K fame) are co-developing the game alongside Yukes, so I’m extremely hopeful that WWE 2K15 will be visually stunning and feature fluid gameplay. When the game’s reveal trailer is released I want to jump out of my seat and squeal like CM Punk has returned with Vince McMahon’s head on a platter!
But bad graphics is just one of problems associated with WWE games; a bigger problem is the way the games sound. On TV, the crowd (or “WWE Universe”) and their reactions have the power to make or break a match or even an entire career. When The Rock’s music hits, stadiums erupt, arm skyrockets and grown men weep tears of joy however no wrestling game has been able to accurately replicate this electricity. In previous games, Randy Orton could “RKO” Stone Cold Steve Austin through a table but the crowd would sit on their hands as if Brie Bella just closelined Alicia Fox. This is unacceptable. If the crowd refuses to pop for major entrances, “OMG Moments” and finishing moves this goes against a core element that WWE feel special. Another issue that needs addressing is in-game commentary. I could write 1000 pages about how terrible the commentary in WWE games has been as of late but in the interest of time I’ll just say that it isn’t the best. The real-life WWE commentators aren’t exactly setting great examples to follow but even Jerry Lawler on his worst day does more than spew out generic phrases (such as “he just planted him!”) and repeat the same tidbits of trivia in every single match.
Even if all the issues mentioned above were addressed, WWE 2K15 still wouldn’t be a great game. For Yukes to reclaim the same reverence they earned during the PSone Era, the gameplay system used in the last three WWE games needs to be completely overhauled. The current counter-heavy fighting system makes each bout look like a theatrical performance rather than a WWE match. Matches should be methodically paced with momentum shifting back and forth before coming to a head with a devastating finishing move. Of course it’s quite easy to create this dynamic on TV because (cover your ears children!) wrestling isn’t real, but Yukes really needs to figure out how to replicate this formula in-game if they want us to believe the wrestlers in their wrestling games are actually wrestling.
Developing a great story mode for a wrestling game shouldn’t be too difficult as the WWE already has a progression structure in place. You start off as an NXT rookie earning your stripes in gymnasiums, trying to make a name for yourself (slap!). 8 hours of gameplay later, you’re headlining Wrestlemania against John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Throughout your journey you’ll gain enemies, win titles, earn respect, get screwed over, make out with AJ Lee and get injured by Jack Swagger. It would be perfect! With the right level of polish and production values, such a mode could make WWE 2K15 an appealing prospect even for those who don’t know what a “Smackdown” or “Skull Crushing Finale” is.
Unlike most other sports, WWE has the ability to make dramatic changes on a weekly basis. A wrestler who is loved today could be the most hated person in the company tomorrow and the games need to adapt quickly to reflect this. When WWE 2K14 was released last year, Daniel Bryan was a huge fan favourite who bounced to the ring with infectious enthusiasm chanting, “YES! YES! YES!” However in the game he would storm out amidst a sea of boos and aphetically mutter “No, No, No”. To be fair, the game does have extensive creations tools allowing players to change this but these changes really should be rolled out automatically. Yukes and 2K should work to ensure that every WWE game is up-to-date for at least one year. I don’t expect them to release a patch every time a wrestler gets a new haircut, but if someone gets new theme song, wins a championship or undergoes a drastic change (like Cody Rhodes becomes Stardust) I want my game to reflect this. Monthly updates after every televised Pay-Per-View would be ideal and shouldn’t be too taxing on the developers.
Concise Roster and Modes
When it comes to fighting games, sometimes less is more. Yukes are notorious for releasing games with extremely large rosters but as a result, it’s hard for any individual to feel unique or fleshed out. WWE 2K14 launched with a staggering 84 superstars but what if Yukes chopped that number down to 30 so they could fully focus on the wrestlers who actually matter today? I would hate for Zack Ryder to miss out on a paycheck but if him being axed from the game allows for someone like Randy Orton to look and perform more like Randy Orton then I’m all for it. Simply put, wrestlers who aren’t frequently seen on RAW and hardly appear on Pay-Per-Views don’t belong in this year’s game. Exceptions can be made for active part-timers such as Chris Jericho, The Rock and Brock Lesnar but jobbers like the aforementioned Zack Ryder just aren’t worth the development time. The same method of thought can be applied to match types. Each year WWE games are filled with an array of stipulation matches including Ladder, Cage and Inferno matches but these modes are often underdeveloped and prove to be more frustrating than fun (isn’t that right Cody Rhodes?). I’m not saying that Yukes should ship a game that feels incomplete, but they’re ultimate goal for WWE 2K15 should be to fix the game’s foundation. All of the extra bells and whistles can wait until WWE 2K16.