What is it? The long-awaited PC debut of WWE’s ever-popular console series once known (and still warmly regarded) as Smackdown.
Reviewed on: Core i5, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, 8GB RAM
Play it on: Core i5-3550, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570/Radeon HD 6970
Copy protection: Steam
Release date: Out now
Publisher: 2K Games
Multiplayer: Co-op/competitive, up to 6 players
Link: Official site (opens in new tab)
Wrestling fans cherish the past to a degree that any outsider would find mawkish. How else to explain their (actually, as a man who still owns every issue of WWF Magazine from 1991 to 1994, I should say ‘our’) acceptance of the awful Bushwhackers in WWE’s Hall Of Fame? Sadly, this information seems to have done strange things to Japanese developer Yuke’s. After a 15-year wait, the veteran grap-masters have finally delivered to PC a terrific wrestling game… so long as you’ve a DeLorean on hand to whisk you back to last summer.
When WWE 2K15 landed on consoles in November, my chief criticism was that its roster felt months out of date. So it’s simply staggering that this port is identical to the PS4 and Xbox One versions, both in and out of the ring. Case in point: current hot property Seth Rollins. His outfit, theme, and entrance video all stem from his days in tag team The Shield—which split on June 2 last year, all of 11 months ago. This perhaps could fly under radar were it not for the fact that Rollins is the company’s reigning world champion.
Dean Ambrose is similarly kitted out in outdated Shield garb with old Shield music. Fandango sashays down the aisle with blonde dance partner Summer Rae in tow, despite the pair breaking up half a year ago. Stardust is still called Cody Rhodes. And on I could go. The bottom line is that no matter how great the wrestling itself—and for the most part, it’s a load of fun—you never feel like you’re playing a game that matches the current WWE product. And after a decade-and-a-half spent clamouring for this series to hit PC, that’s a Brock-Lesnar-weighty blow.
It’s especially grating because inside the squared circle, the attention to detail longed for in all areas of 2K15 is abundant. Wrestlers move and grapple with pleasing heft, seamlessly obeying your commands to transition between holds and reversals. Attempt a move near the ropes and your grappler moves his foe closer to the centre of the ring to make a follow-up pin attempt easier; ascend the turnbuckles and your opponent subtly moves himself into position to take your move, in an intelligent and deliberate nod to the choreographed ballet of bruises that is ‘real’ WWE. Bell to bell, the in-ring action feels refreshingly authentic.
King of swing
Not ideal are the chain wrestling mini-games which open each match and go from clever to cloying by your dozenth contest, and a clumsy pin mechanic that leads to too many bouts ended prematurely. But for the most part, this strikes a welcome balance between win-at-all-costs brawler and put-on-a-show-in-the-process grappler. Smartly weighted stamina and momentum systems bring layers of nuance to a genre which for so many years centred on button-hammering, and many wrestlers—most notably Cesaro, John Cena, and Randy Orton—feel brilliantly unique to handle thanks to individual character traits.
It runs buttery smooth for me with a Core i5 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970. However, others report problems with lesser specs and have had to reduce the number of members in the crowd to achieve a respectable frame rate, so it’s worth a little research in this area before purchase. Also noticeable is a bizarre bug in which wrestlers (and referees!) play dead during replays. One would assume this’ll be patched imminently, but it’s an almost comical oversight on the dev’s part.
You may have spotted a theme in the accompanying screenshots to this review: Summer Rae aside, they’re unmistakably man-tastic. This isn’t me trying to pretend that female grapplers don’t exist; instead, it’s because your options to play as WWE Divas are extremely limited. Paige is omitted despite all other console DLC being included in the price (some yet to be released), and you can’t create female characters at all. Fancy playing out the Stephanie McMahon vs. Ronda Rousey feud teased at WrestleMania 31? ‘Course you do. But you won’t be doing it here.
Again, this lack of attention to detail outside of the ring is what holds WWE 2K15 back from ‘must-buy’ status. 2K has welcomed modding and no doubt the oversights regarding Rollins and company will be rectified by the community, but it shouldn’t be up to you and me to bring it up to snuff. There’s plenty of promise in this PC debut, yet it’s impossible to play it without constantly thinking that the number 15 in the title is exactly a year out of date.