THE latest WWE game has had a spruce up, although players will have to grapple with some curious omissions
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3
LAST year’s entry in the ever expanding canon of WWE games, while by no means a classic, represented a fun and proudly vacuous return to form for the series. That title only graced the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, meaning that wrestling fans have had a wait a year to take to the ring in the new generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony. The result is a game that looks and feels better, but shoots itself in the foot by emitting an array of features and customisation options that players have come to expect of the annualised franchise.
The most obvious improvement as a result of the extra processing power is the graphical overhaul. Characters now move more naturally thanks to extensive motion capture work and the improved animation actively helps the gameplay, allowing you to judge when to strike, evade or launch a counter. Overall, the presentation - a key factor for many who wish to recreate matches in the comfort of their living room - is of a very high standard, with the enjoyably preposterous pomp and circumstance of Vince McMahon’s cash cow well realised.
Strategy is encouraged in a tweaked combat system
Play a little, however, and you soon become aware of deeper changes to the wrestling experience. The combat system has veered away from an arcade style to one where strategy is encouraged. Momentum can be built early on in matches thanks to a new chain grapple, with the right thumbstick used to find a sweet spot. The series has also rolled out a stamina meter meaning that anyone hoping to triumph with a headless chicken approach will quickly be punished as their wrestler tires and becomes vulnerable. The mechanics are still familiar to anyone who has played previous games but the tweaks are undoubted for the better.
Curiously, however, the improvements are offset by the seemingly inexplicable decision not to include certain game modes and options. Four player table and ladder matches - a good number, given that any more players tend to result in a frenzied encounter - are notable by their absence; the engaging if frivolous ability to create your own storylines and over the top narratives has been taken away; and the roster is smaller than last year. These are minor omissions, granted, but suggest a rushed development cycle is to blame.
It is an admirable game in places but the whole thing is inconsistent
Any WWE game is an acquired taste and while 2K Sports have done an admirable job in places with this year’s edition, the gaps and inconsistencies show that they have much yet to do to produce the definitive wrestling experience. Its next aim should not be about improving graphics that are already of a very high standard, but tinkering with a flawed, restrictive game design that looks positively outdated by comparison.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
The new chain grapple at the start of matches can give you a good advantage if mastered. Aim for the sweet spot quickly with the right thumbstick.
A stamina meter adds a new element of strategy to the game, but if you prefer a more arcade style you can tinker with it in the options.
The roster is far from generous, although putting in the hours gradually unlocks more characters to choose from.