Brock Lesnar? Crock Lesnar, more like
Wrestling games are weird. Outside of the Japanese classics, like Fire Pro and King Of Colosseum, they never really capture the feel of the ‘Sports Entertainment’ they’re trying to emulate. Sure, they capture the look – and never has the series aped the visual style of WWE television as accurately as this – but the in-ring content still falls short after all these years.
This is 2K’s fifth bite at the WWE apple, since it acquired the rights from THQ, and it definitely is better than last year’s release. There’s no doubt about that. The visuals are better, the menus are slicker and more user-friendly, the MyCareer and Universe modes are improved and full of extra content, but the wrestling is still a bit of a mess.
It’s a problem that has plagued games like this for years. Wrestling is actually more of a dance than a fight. Competitors work together to put on a show that, at its best, takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. But wrestling games are all about the competition. You’re trying to win, regardless of your performance or how entertaining it is. In a real match, wrestlers always go for pinfall attempts because they’re trying to build drama. In the WWE games, you’ll only go for one when you pretty much know you’re going to win.
There are so many contextual moments in the game that it’s a bit overwhelming at first. In the ring. Outside the ring. On the turnbuckle. Being pinned. In a submission hold. Climbing a ladder. The list is endless. For the most part, the core control system allows you to jump between these different aspects of a match and still have an idea as to what you can do at any one time. However, there are a few occasions where you have to take part in a mini-game, and not one of them is satisfying. The submission one, especially, as it is so easy to break out of, genuinely hinders wrestlers who have submission-hold finishers.
MyCareer mode is the highlight, where 2K pulls back the curtain and gives you the opportunity to take a custom wrestler from the training room all the way to Wrestlemania. There’s more flexibility this year, allowing you to control what your wrestler says on the mic to shape their character.
Other modes impress less than they should. The Universe mode continues to tease its true potential but Vince McMahon mode, which should be brilliant, is again riddled with some baffling oversights. Sadly, it still requires you to actually play the matches to get the result you need for your storyline, which is hugely time-consuming, or you have to rely on the CPU simulating the match, with a random roll potentially scuppering the big title win for a wrestler you’ve been building up for ages.
Ultimately, we’re left wondering what exactly 2K plans to do with this series in the future. Since the studio took it over, it has done little more than bolt on extra bits and pieces to an increasingly mouldy core. Unlike FIFA, which has Pro Evo every year to keep it honest, these games are treading water. WWE 2K’s greatest similarity to the real-life product is that it continues to be massively popular with no real competition. A reworking might be costly, but this is a series in dire need of one.
“It apes the visual style of WWE but the wrestling itself is a bit of a mess”
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