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"Both superstars are down. Randy Orton has just hit John Cena with an RKO, but he’s so exhausted he’s unable to fully take advantage of the situation. Orton regains a little composure and crawls over in an attempt to pin the 15 time world champion… one…two…th… No! John Cena kicks out! Both superstars are still down on the mat. They both eventually start to make their way up, John Cena suddenly recomposes himself and out of no-where hits the Attitude adjustment and it’s all over. Oh for fu… if that’s not a realistic representation of the WWE then I don’t know what is.

Welcome to WWE2k15. We recently got the opportunity to play an early build of the game and we played it for seven hours straight. That’s right, despite the fact we only had a handful of Superstars to play as (John Cena, Randy Orton, Goldust, Cesaro and CM Punk) we wanted to get every ounce of information from the game we possibly could.

The first thing that will hit you when playing WWE2k15 on Playstation 4 and Xbox one isn’t a Cesaro uppercut, but rather the impressive high resolution details. The game looks absolutely stunning, with superstars such as Randy Orton and John Cena being so detailed you could almost believe it’s the real thing if you squint just a little bit. The crowd has been improved too. You can even see kids and people wearing hats. They even get up and all excited when someone performs their finishing move.

The last title in the series, WWE2K14 was an enjoyable experience. But what can be fun for some isn’t so much for others. For example, some people may prefer a more arcade-like action packed game. A game with faster punches, characters not staying down for long periods of time when damaged and over the top antics you wouldn’t necessarily expect every WWE superstar to perform. Others on the other hand, may prefer a more realistic simulation style of gameplay. To illustrate, it used to drive me absolutely insane when you hit a finishing move on someone, for them to kick out at two and get straight back up. What? Look, unless you’re Hulk Hogan you just don’t do that. WWE 2k15 is not an arcade like experience. After kicking out of a finisher a character will not get straight up. They will stay down for a while, before they slowly get back up. This might mean you need to crawl to the ropes to do it! Whilst this new realistic simulation style gameplay might irk some, it creates a much more realistic representation of the WWE product and in my view it makes it all the much better for it. But I guess it depends on what you want from a WWE game.

So a more realistic experience is the main focus. The key component which makes this work is the new stamina system. Amongst all the new changes, such as the slower gameplay, the new chain grapple system and the new visuals, it’s the stamina system which is the real driving force of WWE2K15. Everything you do in a match with one of the WWE superstars has a consequence. Going for a flurry of punches? It’ll cost you stamina. Want to perform a suplex? It’s going to use your stamina. Want to reverse your opponents move? Yes, that will cost you stamina too. Stamina has an impact on everything you can think of. Whilst some people may find this irritating, we found that it works really well, as you need to think about each next move without just mind numbingly doing whatever comes to mind like you might have in the past. Ignore this at your peril. You’ll soon find that if you don’t think about your actions that it might have adverse consequences in a match. For example, if you’ve working on your opponent but not giving yourself an opportunity for your stamina to refill, you might find you don’t even have enough left to perform a finisher. That could leave you very vulnerable if you’re opponent has one (or more) stored.

Another way in which WWE2K15 helps to make the experience more realistic is by giving the superstars abilities. These have changed from what they were previously in WWE2k14. Each superstar has a number of abilities which has three different levels and each has a different impact on the gameplay. Some of these have an impact on stamina, some impact the kick-out gauge and others impact the amount of damage you can inflict on your opponent. For example, Randy Orton has an ability called ‘Ruthless aggression lvl 2′ which means that when fighting at ringside, damage from grapple and environmental attacks are increased by 11% and this is always active when ringside. One of John Cena’s abilities is ‘Fan favourite lvl 3′ which gives you 21 seconds to complete his comeback sequence (lvl 2 only gives you 16 seconds). One of the more interesting abilities is one which Cesaro has (although we did not see this in action) called ‘Mouthpiece lvl 2′. This means during matches where a manager is present, the superstar’s manager can distract the referee for a brief time to help increase their stamina (which could be very useful indeed). However, if they distract the referee too many times they will be ejected from the ring.

As well as the reformed abilities, each superstar has their own skill list. As enjoyable as WWE2k14 was, aside from having different move sets and looks, the characters all generally played the same. They could all do pretty much the same things whether they were Rey Mysterio or the Big Show. However, the introduction of superstars having a skill list helps makes each superstar feel that much more unique and even more like their real life counterpart. For example, you wouldn’t expect John Cena to be able to remove the turnbuckle pad as that’s generally a heel tactic. As a result, in WWEk15 this is not one of his attributes. However, one of his skills is to be able to perform a double attitude adjustment (on two superstars at the same time). In fact, John Cena has 16 of these different skills. Some of these skills include ‘second finisher’, ‘leverage pin’, ‘top rope diver’, ‘fired up (being able to store up to three finishers) and ladder finisher (being able to perform a finisher off the top of a ladder). These changes are the type of thing that some people will not be keen to see. It’s understandable that people don’t like feeling restricted. But it’s understandable that in order to create a more realistic experience, these skill lists will help to achieve that. You can climb to the second rope by pressing R1 (on PS4). But you won’t necessarily see all superstars climbing the top rope. That means it’s unlikely you’ll see Big Show doing a moonsault off the top rope. Although if that’s your thing you’ll probably be able to edit the skills anyway, and then you can have your spot where Big Show moonsaults off a ladder should you wish.

The build we got to play included normal matches, no holds barred matches and one match from the showcase mode (which is essentially this years 30 years of Wrestlemania mode). It focuses on the rivalry between CM Punk and John Cena after CM Punk’s infamous pipe bomb promo on raw. After an impressive visual video package with highlights of the aforementioned pipe bomb, we get an opportunity to play as CM Punk in the Money in the Bank match against John Cena. For those interested, yes CM Punk does have the ‘This fire burns’ entrance music. One thing that needs to be addressed is the CM Punk model. There has been a lot of talk that it doesn’t look visually impressive, but we do not agree with that sentiment. We thought that CM Punk looked absolutely fine. To be fair, graphically, the bar has been set pretty high with Visual Concepts doing a great job of scanning superstars such as John Cena and Randy Orton and replicating them in the game. CM Punk was not one of the superstars who was scanned, therefore whilst he’s not as visually impressive as the others, he’s still no way near as bad as some others have mentioned. I will say however, that it’s obvious that Vince McMahon was not scanned by visual concepts as his model is the worst in the game by far, almost like he’s had an allergic reaction to the next-gen consoles. His face is very bloated and it isn’t a great representation of the legend that is Mr McMahon.

The showcase mode also has brand new commentary from the commentary team of Michael Cole and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler. The commentary does a great job of bringing you back into the moment and highlighting the impact the match could have if CM Punk wins the match and leaves the WWE for good in possession of the WWE championship. The match plays out just like it did in the Money in the Bank match itself and in the same order. (On one occasion we did find a way to alter the order by performing CM Punk’s ‘Go to sleep’earlier, but that was because we ignored the objectives). One thing to mention is that when you complete one of the objectives (perform a top rope signature move) you go into a cut scene which leads on to a Quick Time Event (QTE). If you fail the QTE, then you lose the match. Playing through on one occasion, during the QTE we wanted to see what would happen if we pressed the wrong button whilst Cena had CM Punk in the STF, and he tapped out. A little harsh to be honest. If you manage to complete all the objectives then the match plays out just like it did. You see Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis (who looks great by the way) trying to end the match, Cena knocks down Laurinaitis and you’ll need to perform a GTS on Cena to win the match. We then got to see a brief glimpse of Alberto Del Rio unsuccessfully getting an opportunity to cash in on CM Punk, as CM Punk kicked him and then kissed Vince McMahon and the WWE goodbye on his way out the arena. A great moment in the history of WWE and a lot of fun to play.

One of the newer features in the game is the charged finisher which replaces the wake up taunts. One issue we had with this is the fact we found a way to guarantee a reversal of these finishers. This could cause a number of problems in multiplayer matches against friends as it essentially makes the charged finishers redundant. Essentially, by watching your opponents stamina bar you can easily press the reversal button as their bar changes colour. Keep in mind it was an early build, but irrespective of that we passed the information back to 2K and we hope it’s something that if not already changed, is something which will be.

It is still possible to do a finisher at any other time of course. Randy Orton’s new RKO looks absolutely wonderful indeed. John Cena has a new Attitude adjustment with pin combo. Punk has a faster GTS which is also great. But the superstar who absolutely steals the build we played is Cesaro. As we said earlier, thanks to the abilities, skill sets and the way in the game plays all the superstars feel more like the actual superstar than ever before. With that mind, what can be better than the one who did a whole bunch of motion-capping for the game? Playing as Cesaro was a lot of fun. He has two of his own ‘OMG moments’. This includes the Cesaro swing (which has eight revolutions by the way). With one finisher stored and at least 50% stamina you can make your way to your opponent’s legs and watch the Swiss superman do his thing. The other OMG moment that Cesaro has exclusively to himself, is the apron superplex (which for Cesaro replaces the apron DDT OMG). The apron superplex sees Cesaro climb to the second rope and lift his opponent up over the ropes from the apron. It’s just awesome.

There’s a whole bunch of other changes too, including the new chain grapple system. There’s already a lot of information out there about it so we won’t bang on about it too much. It’s another thing which can affect your stamina, so you’re going to want to try and get control if you can. When you’re in the initial stages you need to press either the triangle, square or circle buttons in a rock, paper and scissors style mini-game. You’ll then go into a headlock, waistlock or wristlock depending on which of the face buttons you pressed, and if you win then you’ll have control. It’s then a race to see who can use the right analogue stick to hit the sweet spot first (the on screen circle meter will fill up red). Alternatively you can hit your opponent by pressing square, tighten your grip by pressing triangle or press circle to Irish-whip your opponent out of the mini game (as long as you’re in control). If your opponent is filling up their meter quicker, you could hit them by pressing square then they’d need to find the sweet spot again (although it keeps what has already been built up in the meter thus far) and you can only do this three times.

There are a lot of changes to WWE2K15 then. It was probably to be expected as well as this is the first time that 2K have properly got to grips with the WWE game franchise. It seems their approach is to create a WWE game which is more of a realistic representation than we’ve been used to. For me, this is the type of WWE game experience I’ve coveted for a long, long time. If someone kicks out in WWE2K15, they stay down until they have enough in them to start making their way up. Just like a WWE match. No longer shall I have someone completely no-sell my finishing moves. Well, apart from Cena that is. Hmmm, on second thoughts… maybe it’s too realistic."

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