WWE 2K15 Review
Wrestlers used to bleed. They cut themselves with hidden razor blades and dripped blood endlessly on a lightly colored mat to sell an illusion.
Pro wrestling has certainly changed. We are amidst the PG-era, a time when WWE has turned away from steel chairs colliding with skulls and blood is greeted with panic. Referees need medically correct rubber gloves if fluids begin to spurt.
Replacing that old school violence is a modern obsession with social interaction. Creating a character in WWE 2K15 is more than monitoring eye lines, sizing up eyebrows, and playing dress up. Your make believe Twitter handle is of equal importance.
It's all inescapably meta - “fake” sport blending with a “fake” video game creating “fake” social media presence. Beginning in the basement drama of WWE Network's grappling goldmine NXT, created superstars rank up with wins, as if a loss isn't determined by corporate mandates or the ebbs and flows of soap opera storytelling.
So much of this celebrates WWE's power. It's a vision of capitalism from the titanic capitalist Vince McMahon: Fans are drenched in overpriced neon shirts decorated with wrestler phrases, they chant in unison, become part of the show, and sit enthralled as razzle dazzle video packages burn onto a projected video screen larger than some small countries - which in turn touts real world sponsors. It's just like TV, only here you pay $60 to simulate the simulation.
Reality in the fiction is almost grotesque. Why are DLC season passes available if WWE 2K15 is linked to advertisers like Redbox and Twitter? Why, even in interactive form, are hashtags burned into virtual HD broadcasts, luring users into conducting ad promotions? Those ad dollars appear to go everywhere other than reduced content prices. Tagline: “Buy more content while selling ours.”
John Cena represents modern sports entertainment. A bulky, neon-band wearing brute in outmoded jean shorts who has commendably turned into a Make-a-Wish celebrity icon. He's perfect. That's what WWE wants. Perfect sells.
But, perfection is not what WWE is receiving here. Cena stands postured as 2K15's cover star, promising cleanliness and good natured battles. Then WWE Divas enter the ring as sexcapade fodder, with broken ringside commentary routines gawking at their mere existence. It happens on cable too, as if that is any reasonable excuse. WWE's treatment of “family friendly” is odd and not particularly progressive anywhere other than they're finance-sucking abilities. They're on top of that; WWE 2K15 is proof.
Slightly Disputed Intercontinental Champ
WWE 2K15 is still awkward, even unmanageable. Baby steps, apparently. Frequent collisions are wonky, freshly introduced grappling systems are tiring, and a reduction in modes is catastrophic to WWE 2K15's outward facing value.
New publisher 2K used to be the wise ones; NBA and former NHL franchises were notably complete upon console arrivals. The streak has ended.
WWE 2K15 is not untouched, rather lightly tweaked. Yukes has massaged and matured an engine once laughably phony into one which obeys gravity. Five hundred pound athletes no longer pinball bounce on the mat when thrown and new found stability grounds the totally not steroid laced (but totally steroid laced) combatants to the mat. Punches are heavy, movements are deliberate, and speed is likewise reduced. Suddenly, WWE 2K15 is lingering ever nearer to the vaunted pace of Nintendo 64 giant No Mercy.
Since No Mercy, the label of “sports entertainment” has dissolved the moniker “pro wrestling.” Part of it is a change in perception. Pro wrestling, the terminology, forever holds the negative connotations of a stereotypical hillbilly diversion. WWE 2K15, artificial sport or not, is part of a new line. If it's sport, it can be sold as such - yearly - at full price with minimal upkeep. Those higher-ups are long term thinkers, and WWE 2K15 is just a short term gain.