For some time now we have had an annual foray into the world of Pro Wrestling on consoles. From the heady days of WWF War Zone and Attitude for the Playstation 1, the over the top superstars of the WWE have grunted and grappled and battled their way to glory on our screens.
Things though took a quantum leap forward when THQ took the reigns, they sharpened up the graphics, tweaked the gameplay and controls and over the years dominated that corner of the beat 'em up market.
But then THQ sadly went under. Who would step up and take up the task now? Various names were banded about, some said EA who had dabbled in the market before with mixed results it has to be said, with games licensed by the now sadly defunct WCW promotion, Insomniac games was one vague whisper I heard but perhaps to most people's surprise 2K announced it was going to be them. After making rivals to the NBA and NHL games manufactured by the dominant EA, they have held their own against them. But can they now dominate the virtual wrestling game market?
They officially took over last year but it was clear that the game engine and mechanics were still fueled by the remnants of the THQ development queue. This year though they could wipe the slate clean and rebuild the game from the ground up.
Question is though, did they succeed?
Well let's just say that it's with mixed results and though I do not want to go into comparisons and get into a virtual one sided argument, there are winners and losers here.
Most of the time, when we get a game for both generations of consoles, we may get the same features and modes but obviously with a change in graphical quality etc etc.
Sure the graphical quality of the PS4 version shines, (I cannot compare to PS3, not seen it 'in the flesh' so to speak) but we lost and gained.
We lost the ability for some reason to create our own arenas and belts. They are there on the 360 and PS3 versions. Sad face.
We gained the NXT roster (well some of them) and a RPG style career mode. Sad to say the 360/PS3 players did not get that and we got the showcase mode which can and will be expanded by DLC (and already has been with the recent One More Match pack), this like the historical match mode will unlock extra video footage, alternative looks for the superstars etc etc, 360/PS3 have an alternative version.
What both versions have gained though is the new control system, enabling you to stitch together a smooth mix of grapple and counter grapple moves, once you have the hang of it that is. It's not easy to master but once you do well things will flow fairly smoothly and will give matches a more 'realistic' feel and look.
This is done when you lock up with an opponent (though some stars seem reluctant to do so, more on that in a bit), once you have you will be presented with an on screen display that tells you that by inputting a button press, you can change the style of lock up. Triangle switches to a stronger position (side headlock), square button gives you a more up close and personal style and O button, gives you the go behind position. Think of this as being like a wager system.
Once successful or not, you then get the chance to add to your attack or escape from the grapple by rotating the right stick. The pad will rumble to indicate how close you are to doing either, as will the on screen display. This is shown as a blue spot in the middle of a circle, and as you get closer to the right point, the circle becomes red and grows in size, once it fills the circle, bingo!
Some wrestlers are better at this then others, Daniel Bryan and Cesaro and Swagger are prime examples; being grapple style wrestlers this is logical and makes a lot of sense. Your opponent will react accordingly, however some guys....well let's just say some of the big guys you would think would want to try and dominate and overpower you in a grapple but frustratingly this may not be the case.
Kane and Big Show sometimes refuse to lock up and will simply shove you away. Frustrating to say the least though I deduct this may be down to the weight detection option. You may not be able to grapple them because of the size/weight factor? Not sure, but it can be a frustrating factor.
There are a few other tweaks I could go into but you will soon discover these for yourself.
Career mode is fun and perhaps for me, is the best thing about this game. Sure you can play universe mode, add and change shows to your hearts content, but the RPG element to this is fun, frustrating at times, but F-U-N! Create your own guy OR use a fan created wrestler from the online community creations and take him through the NXT rankings to the main shows over what could be a 15 year contract!!
Why we cannot create a Diva for this mode is a mystery and a disappointment. Maybe that will get rectified with DLC somewhere down the road? (I hear you can create diva's on 360/PS3 though). There is more to discover but we don't do spoilers!
On the flip side....
Well I have already stated we cannot create arena's or belts, but there are other shortcomings that they still have not fully addressed.
Targeting opponents can still be tricky and I have come close to hitting the ref a few times.
The counter system is still a bit of a hit and miss affair, sure follow the on screen prompt but then swear at the TV as it says too late or too fast...how much warning DO we need for Pete's sake!
Kicking out of pin falls can be a problem too. A sliding meter along a bar, hit X at the right time, sometimes easy but sometimes almost impossibly hard to do so.
Opponent A.I can be lacking as well, especially in tag team modes and well, the Ref seems to take a bit of time to get down for the 3 count at certain times.
It's not all bad!!
No it's not. This game is as said fun and online play is smooth, with little or no lag that I have encountered so far, and the servers are a darned sight more stable than last years (that would NOT be difficult!).
Graphics are sharp and smooth, physics are well handled and crowd animation and reactions are much better than last year.
It's still not perhaps, a sharp as fan favourite Smackdown VS Raw, Here Comes the Pain, it may lack the ability to walk around backstage and the arena, but heck it's better than last years.
Is it perfect? No, but 2K are showing us that they ARE on the right path. Looks like the WWE games are in pretty safe hands. I am intrigued to see what WWE 2K16 will offer, but until then I am going to lace up my boots and show part time champ Brock Lesnar the true meaning of PAIN!.
"Devon, get the tables!!"