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What we learned from playing WWE 2K15

If you know your marks from your smarks you’ll know that each match in the WWE is pretty much decided before the wrestlers make their entrance. This isn’t a sport, it’s a violent pantomime and it’s more about storylines than actual physical competitions.

That’s not the case with the WWE tie-in games. There are no pre-scribed outcomes in any match and the roar of the crowd isn’t something players need to concern themselves with unless they’re trying to prepare a finishing manoeuvre on their opponent. In WWE 2K15, it’s all about being the star of the show, wherever you appear on the match card.

This is the idea behind WWE 2K15’s brand new MyCareer Mode. In it, players can take a wrestler they’ve crafted in the in-game Creation Suite and take them all the way to the holding WWE championship belt. Along the way they can start rivalries with other wrestlers, turn heel or face and build up a following of fans on the in-game social media platform.

They can even get their friends involved; players can download a version of any wrestler their friends have created and shared with them and they can either build a rivalry with them or team up. Players can’t just invade one another’s games, however, so it’s all up to each individual how they interact with their mate’s creations.

The visual jump in graphics is very impressive indeed. The facial and motion capture for WWE 2K15 this year is being handled by Visual Concepts, the developer behind the visuals in the eye-wateringly beautiful NBA 2K franchise. Wrestlers now look more lifelike than ever before; everything from skin textures to sweat droplets look stunningly realistic. There are none of the visual tics and inconsistencies that have plagued earlier versions of the game and according to the developers, WWE 2K15 contains five times the variation in animation that its predecessor did.

Visual Concepts is also handling the game’s audio and the play by play from the commentary table from Jerry “The King” Lawler and Michael Cole. Given the fact the pair have recorded around 35 hours worth of commentary, the ring announcers never sound flat or repetitive.

The visual and soundtrack improvements, though, are most evident on the Xbox One and PS4 consoles. Since we didn’t have a hands-on with a last generation console, we don’t know if the presentational polish has been carried over the Xbox 360 or the PS3.

We do know, however, that the wrestling engine has also been slightly changed. Opening grapples take place in the Chain Wrestling mini-game, in which players take a Rock, Paper, Scissors approach when locking up with an opponent. There’s still a premium on counters – which are mapped to the right trigger – even finishing moves can be reversed provided you get the timing right, causing momentum to swing back and forth between players.

WWE 2K15 looks the part, handles better than its predecessors and heaps of fun to play. Here’s hoping the finished game lives up to its preview hype.