WWE 2K15 is making it's way to the new generation of consoles this fall and with it there are a number of changes coming to the franchise. I recently got a chance to see a full presentation by gameplay producer Mark Little who highlighted a number of changes. The Visual Concepts team is now essentially the lead developer for the game with assistance from long time developer Yukes. With that, you can feel the 2K influence in the game right away.
Visual Concepts has redone the entire lighting, crowd and arenas. You can see the improvements immediately when you first fire the game up. The crowd now has kids in it, you'll see people taking pictures with their cellphones, as well as multiple other lighting improvements making the game look like a WWE broadcast.
The wrestlers have not only been face scanned but also fully body scanned. I asked Mark Little about what was done to wrestlers they were unable to scan for whatever reason and he responded with they were done the old fashioned day with photo reference when putting a wrestler in the game, adding "We are able to borrow some of the information from scan data even on to people who don't scan".
Little went on to say that 90% of the roster on the game was full body scanned, which is great news. I followed up asking about the roster models for some characters who recently had recent changes and I used the former Shield members Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, he didn't answer the question at this time but left me with, "Obviously we do our best to keep everyone up to date".
I did ask if John Cena gets a new shirt can we see that in an update a week or so later. Mark stated that it's in the plans, maybe not for 2K15 but "It's in 2K's DNA" to have roster updates to match TV.
The development team has spent more time on commentary than any previous cycle, as WWE 2K15 now has five times the amount of commentary as any previous WWE game. Most of the commentary had Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler in the booth together to create more fluid commentary. In my limited time of gameplay, I didn't notice any new commentary outside of the 2K Showcase but that could also just be a demo detail at this point, my build only had John Cena, Goldust, Randy Orton and Cesaro in the build.
For the team to capture gameplay at the most realistic level to date, WWE actually shipped 2K Sports an authentic size WWE ring for the mo-cap studio. Motion capturing was done over 40 days and the result is WWE 2K15 has five times the animation data over any previous WWE game. It really shows when you see the entrances of the superstars as all of them looked stunning in person and in HD. Then to see little things in the ring with new moves and animations I've never seen before, like a downed wrestler using the ropes to get up or getting up on one knee due to being tired.
There are real physics now which affect you when you collide with the ropes as well instead of them just being there and moving. The game really looks good in person. Another new animation I noticed was you can go to the inside 2nd turnbuckle now to do a move, such as Bret Hart's diving elbow.
A stamina meter has been added to the game as well. It's a blue bar that as you run, do moves, get beat up, etc slowly drains down to the point when you are just tired out. I was concerned about it as I've felt it's never truly worked correctly in previous games but after playing the game I really had no issues with it.
The stamina meter is not nearly as drastic as I feared and actually helps add the realism to the game that 2K is striving for. I asked if the stamina meter can be turned off, and the answer is no. The reason for that decision is that there is animation data which occurs, especially with long matches, that can only be seen with lower stamina to add to the realism. There will be a slider to tweak stamina for users though.
A big feature that we've all wanted for a long time is true weight detection. Now Rey Mysterio is unable to body slam Big Show or toss him around the ring. All of the wrestlers have more of a weight to them now in the ring and 2K wants every character to feel unique and different. This is a big move that will help this game feel like a WWE event each time we play it.
The biggest change you feel right away is the chain wrestling which starts most matches. It limits you out of doing big moves right at the start and getting into a natural flow of gameplay. I know this was a big concern out there for many fans of the game but rest assured that after I played it, I was in love with the new mechanic. The game gives a nice tutorial at the start (which can be turned off, as can the entire HUD if you want) to ease you into the new gameplay.
When you do the collar and elbow tie up to start the match you have one of three button presses to make, which then determine which true lock up you do and these are set up like rock, paper, scissors where you basically hope your pick is better than your opponents. If you then get the upper hand, it's your turn to chain it into the next move. You simply move the right stick in a circular motion until you find the sweet spot and you hold it there. You know when you have it as the controller vibrates and the meter fills up red. It's very much the same feel of the lock picking mini-game in Skyrim. This works both ways as the opponent is also trying to find their sweet spot. Whoever does it first gets the advantage for the next string. Now if you are the offensive wrestler to start, you can punch or wrench down on the opponent to break up their sweet spot and have it reset. Once this happens 1 or 2 times the match moves on as normal and we would expect it, just a more realistic start to the match. Wrestlers like the Big Show won't even do a chain grapple however and will start off without it as it's not their style. This further adds to roster feeling very unique between each wrestler.
Another new change is now R1 or RB switches between signature move and finisher if you have both stored up, something we've all wanted for a long time. Along with that, you may have noticed from the leaked videos a percentage for each wrestler displayed, that is their momentum. A signature move requires 100% and 150% is your finisher. Momentum does reset during the match but grows quicker as matches wear on. It's basically what we had before in the WWE series but now with an actual number to see how close you are to getting your big moves.
If you were a fan of the breaking point submissions, well, I have some bad news. They are gone, replaced with a whole new meter which I didn't really get to play around with much. Hopefully this explained in future previews of how it's fully working. Another change is the wake up taunt has been replaced with a charged finisher, it essentially works the same except now you hold down the finisher button to have your wrestler get in position to do their finisher when your opponent gets up. It flows much better than it did in previous games. And never fear, catapault finishers are still in and fully working in tact. Also, I did the big swing with Cesaro in his match and yes, it's an OMG moment. Which tells me that we will see more OMG moments in this year's iteration as well. Excited to see what other moves could be an OMG moment, Roman Reigns jumping boot outside maybe?
The 2K Showcase was very impressive, and has the same production values as the previous Wrestlemania storylines we saw in WWE 2K14. I got to play the CM Punk vs. John Cena feud which had a great opening video laying out the feud. The first match is Money in the Bank in 2011 beginning the Summer of Punk where Punk was trying to win the WWE Championship and then leave the company with the belt. If you remember the match, it plays out and looks exactly as it did back then. Was a lot of fun to play through and my only disappointment falls into the CM Punk model as you can fully tell that he wasn't full body scanned like the other wrestlers shown in this demo. Either way, it doesn't take away from the game in any way and they have plenty of time to improve upon Punk's model.
In the coming weeks we will hear about My Career (which was teased briefly with taking your wrestler from NXT to WWE to eventual Hall of Fame), Universe Mode, and the Creation Suite. This is the first full cycle that 2K/Visual Concepts has got with the game after the short cycle for 2K14 and then running into the XB1/PS4 console releases shortly after it's release
The 2K/VC dev team is pushing the tag line of "What story will you tell in WWE 2K15" because every match tells a story. This is evident right when you pick up the controller for the first time and dive into the matches. I came into the event skeptical of the changes but left very optimistic and excited to see what is coming next.
WWE 2K15 releases October 28th on PS3/PS4 and Xbox 360/Xbox One