Even though 2K Sports picked up the World Wrestling Entertainment license last year, it's already done a good job, starting with last year's well-received WWE 2K14 and this year's edition, WWE 2K15. Indeed, when it comes to wrestling games, the champ could very well be here.
For this go-around, 2K combined the efforts of long-time WWE developer Yukes to work alongside its sports squad at Visual Concepts, to create the most unrivaled wrestling experience to date. Judging by what we played, it's certainly living up to the hype, even if a few minor things need tweaking.
WWE 2K15 benefits from a new chain wrestling system. Momentum builds over the course of a match, so wresters don't use their power moves right away and automatically dominate. Instead, you can slowly build strength through a series of smaller moves and counters, and eventually gain the stamina needed to unleash a special move.
As part of the gameplay, there's a new hot spot system. This usually begins with grapples, and also works in some ways with submission moves. A wrestler grabs his or her opponent to begin the chain of attacks that follow. They can either hit a button to strike them quickly and temporarily throw them off, or find a hot spot using the right analog stick to strengthen the move or chain into something like a body slam or similar technique.
However, with this same system, the opponent can power out as well if they find and hold the right analog stick in the proper spot, gaining the advantage over them and creating their own move. On top of the counter system, which was introduced with WWE games a few years ago, it provides the opportunity for anyone to win the match, even if they're behind in terms of strength and stamina.
Counters play a big part in a match, as you can easily turn the crowd in your favor if you execute enough of them the right way, building up your likelihood of having enough strength to deliver a special move or finisher. However, the timing has to be perfect, as you must hit the button at just the right time to counter. If you don't, the screen indications will tell you if you pressed the button too early or too late. It takes a while to master, but once you grapple in a few matches, you'll get the hang of it.
You can also run around the ring during a match, sliding in and out in case you want to take the action to the mat, or even climbing up the corners to execute a high-risk diving move. This is only suggested if your opponent is flat on his or her back, however. Otherwise, they're likely to hit you and perhaps even launch a strong counter-move, such as a superplex off the top rope. Wrestling fans already know how much a move like this hurts.
The wrestling controls play a big part in WWE 2K15, but they're easy enough for players to get into and eventually master, even if the wrestlers themselves are different. For example, Rey Mysterio and Daniel Bryan have a much quicker style than powerhouses like The Big Show and Brock Lesnar, and may need to devise a better strategy in terms of keeping them on the mat, much less trying to score that miraculous pinball.
As with previous games, Create a Wrestler will make a return, and you'll have the option to take your favorite grappler through an all-new Career Mode. You'll start from the lower ranks of WWE's internal NXT division, where the best and brightest earn their place, and eventually work your way up to superstardom. If you're good enough, you may even earn a championship run, followed by a stop in the WWE Hall of Fame.
If you prefer something more personable, a new 2K Showcase mode introduces classic rivalries in the game. The one we were able to get our hands on featured CM Punk and John Cena, battling at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. In this mode, certain conditions must be met if you want to win the match the right way, such as tiring out John Cena's energy level or getting a critical hit when the situation calls for it.
There are a number of great wrestlers to choose from in WWE 2K15, from current favorites like Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns to classic faces such as Hulk Hogan and the icon Sting, who is available as a pre-order bonus in the game. More will be added via DLC following the game's release as well.
More information should be revealed for WWE 2K15 in the weeks ahead, but 2K is wasting no time building a wrestling powerhouse for the future. We'll provide information on wrestlers and strategies closer to the game's release on October 28th.