Tag Archive: wrestling


The WWE 2K series has been trending in the wrong direction in recent years. Visual Concepts and Yuke’s have tried adding new features to the franchise to help enhance its simulation feel, but often there has been an overall lack of polish that has held them back, or just a general disinterest in how these ideas were being presented. So, the development team turned to their audience and asked for help. Thousands of posts came in with suggestions—some more helpful than others—on what future iterations of WWE 2K needed, and it appears, at least at this early point, 2K listened. I had an opportunity last week to go and visit 2K’s headquarters up in Novato, California, and sit in on a presentation from WWE 2K executive producer Mark Little on what he and his team were bringing to WWE 2K18 this year to put the series back on track.

One of the most important things Mark said right off the bat was that they are finally abandoning last-gen consoles. Working on the Xbox 360 and PS3 was holding the team back as they were concentrating on virtually two different games at the same time. Now, being able to focus on just Xbox One and PS4, the team really honed in on their presentation. Visually, their graphics engine has been completely re-written. Mark showed a short comparison video of Randy Orton’s entrance between this year and last year, and I can attest there is already a marked improvement. New lighting, and how it reacts with different materials, already gave everything a more realistic look compared to years past, trying to emulate the visual product seen over on the NBA 2K side of things. Unfortunately, the team working on WWE 2K wasn’t quite ready to show much more of the game yet beyond this, and definitely wasn’t ready to let us go hands-on. But there were other promises made that at least has me hopeful for when it does come time to step back into the squared circle.

Continuing with presentation, there is new commentary. I nearly did a backflip when Mark said that a suite of dialogue from Michael Cole, now alongside Byron Saxton and Corey Graves, was being recorded as we spoke. There were also efforts being made to try to get all the men in the same room together so that they don’t repeat last year’s effect of it sounding like JBL was off in the distance somewhere. Jojo was also confirmed to be the new ring announcer for WWE 2K18 and new crowd chants are also being added to the game.

In terms of customization, there are more base models in create-a-wrestler and better logo mapping. Create-a-video was also highlighted, as now when you want to cut your match highlight to use in your entrance video, you can use a free camera to change angles in the post-production process. Custom creations are getting improved search functionality online, and a new “create-a-match” feature is also being added where you can save stipulations on your favorite matches for easy access in local versus or Universe mode.

Gameplay was also talked about in a variety of ways. New 8-man (and woman) ladder and tag matches are being added, while the backstage areas from last year’s game are now three times larger, with more interactivity and different objects. You can now even do one-on-one backstage brawls against friends online. There’s also a new carry and drag system being implemented, so you’re not just always grabbing someone by the back of the neck when you want to steer them towards a big spot. If strong enough, you can carry someone in a variety of positions now, even holding them in a powerbomb position on top of your shoulders before walking them over to a turnbuckle for example.

In terms of game modes, a new mode called Road to Glory was announced, but no details on that were given. Returning options like Universe mode will see some tweaks, with stories now being able to carry across and past pay-per-views before concluding at a natural point, rather than just at the end of a big show. Plus, Career mode is also being revamped to offer a shorter, more serious story-driven experience.

Finally, there’s the roster. As was announced last week, Kurt Angle is the pre-order bonus for WWE 2K18 and he was the only one confirmed in the game outside of cover athlete Seth Rollins. The team is looking to continue its tradition of increasing the roster every year, however, and is aiming for more than 170 wrestlers this year—an increase of about 20 roster choices from last year’s release.

As tremendous as all this sounds, this is also a lot to add to a game year-over-year, and beyond a little bit of the new graphics engine, I must re-iterate that we weren’t able to see or play any of these things. However, the fact that Visual Concepts and Yuke’s are listening to the community, and acting on many of their suggestions, is a great sign that at the very least WWE 2K18 should make strides forward from last year’s game. Whether or not they can follow through and deliver on all these promises, we’ll have to wait for when WWE 2K18 drops on October 17 for Xbox One and PS4 to find out.

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This is my appearance on Machinima’s Spacebar back in October 2016. We talk about wrestling.

WWE 2K16 Universe Mode Gameplay

I play WWE Universe mode in WWE 2K16 on Xbox One. Sounds like we still were having a couple of audio issues, but it was far better than my Transformers: Devastation video. Thanks everyone for watching and don’t forget to subscribe!

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A mid-card contender

The Attitude Era, a time period that engulfed wrestling in the late 90s through early 2000s, is widely considered to be the pinnacle of modern sports entertainment. Never before had WWE’s brand reached such a wide audience, and many of the television ratings records set back then remain standing today. So, it is no wonder that when wrestling video games need a pick-me-up, they look back to that era for inspiration to put themselves back on track—and WWE 2K16 is no exception.

After a down debut on current-gen consoles last year, the annual WWE 2K franchise looked to one of the greatest faces of the Attitude Era—Stone Cold Steve Austin—as a reason to inject some much-needed edge back into the series. The Texas Rattlesnake was a beast for WWE starting with his meteoric rise in 1997 through to his retirement in 2003, so it’s no surprise that they’d model this year’s 2K Showcase mode after him.

Letting players relive many of Austin’s best matches from his time with WWE is a concentrated shot of nostalgia that any child of the Attitude Era can’t help but enjoy, as classic footage is spliced with recreated in-game cutscenes. Making things even more enticing are Bonus Matches. After completing certain bouts, some of Stone Cold’s best pre-WWE moments—like when he was “Stunning” Steve Austin in WCW—are unlocked, letting you take on the likes of Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and many others.

While the 2K Showcase mode is great for a walk down memory lane, where the WWE 2K series usually shines is when it lets gamers play wrestling god and create different matches, wrestlers, arenas, and more to satiate whatever their heart may desire to see inside the squared circle. Or, if they’d prefer, they can walk the path of a superstar themselves and see what it takes to win major gold in the world’s premiere wrestling promotion.

For those micromanagers out there, WWE Universe returns, letting players pit their favorite wrestlers of the past and present from the WWE series’ largest roster yet (120 superstars and divas combined) against each other. If you want, you can create major wrestling shows for every day of the week, cultivating made-up arenas with the returning Create-an-Arena feature, and then watch as matches play out. You can also step in, if you’d prefer, and influence the direction of your WWE over the course of several years on the calendar. There are even adjustable sliders that can affect a wrestler’s personality this year, influencing how they will or won’t act in the ring, and injuries can now occur, drastically shifting storylines at times just like the real-world WWE. The only knock against WWE Universe is the inability to create more detailed storylines, but seeing as how much you are able to customize here, filling in the gaps for the usually impressive AI isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Sometimes the best part of the WWE games aren’t just playing as your favorite wrestlers from TV, but inserting yourself, or some crazy cockamamie monstrosity, into the action. Create-a-Wrestler is far deeper than it was last year, bolstered by the fact that you can upload your own personal designs quickly and easily via the WWE 2K16 website to put on your wrestler or their clothes. You can even upload your own face—like I did to create super-journalist Murrow Thompson—and really feel like you’re getting into the game (quality of results will vary).

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You can also customize your wrestler’s moveset, with thousands of attacks and abilities available to you. My only disappointment here is the lack of Create-a-Finisher, as nothing makes your wrestler feel more like your own than piecing together a finishing move that no one else in the world has, even if it borrows parts from already existing moves. I think a pop-up DDT would’ve been just what Murrow needed to enlighten the masses; instead I settled for Dean Ambrose’s Dirty Deeds.

Once you have a created wrestler, you can then import them (or a different superstar made from scratch) and enter the revamped MyCareer mode. Looking to add a stronger sports simulation aspect to the traditionally arcade-inspired WWE series, last year’s MyCareer mode was the worst kind of grind that culminated in a single Wrestlemania match. This year is different.

Starting off in NXT, your mission is to one day make the WWE Hall of Fame. By wrestling in highly regarded matches, you can build your character up to more easily achieve a series of possible career goals that will lead to guaranteed enshrinement. What goals you pursue are entirely up to you, however. You can dominate at the mid-card level, winning the US and Intercontinental titles multiple times. Or, if you’d prefer, you can try to hold every title once and get the career Grand Slam. Wrestling in certain kinds of matches at certain venues as well as a multitude of other paths can also catapult you to the desired stardom you require. Although, I will warn that if you choose to focus on tag team gold, the AI for your partner may make you want to go the way of The Rockers sooner rather later. You also get to actually play an entire career, instead of flash forwarding to your retirement match upon completion of certain objectives (unless you choose to retire, which is entirely up to you)—giving the mode much needed longevity and replayability.

There are also more ways to play to the crowd and develop your wrestler’s personality. By participating in Extreme Rules matches and the like, and using weapons and tables, your aggression and other personality traits will adjust. The most important personality factor, however, comes from your post-match interview with Renee Young. From here, depending on your answers, you can start rivalries, change alliance, or turn face or heel. What decisions you make there can in turn gives you more options, like participating in a new feature that allows you to interfere with your rival’s matches.

The biggest addition to MyCareer mode is the in-match feedback on how your match is going. Move variety, hitting signature and finishing moves, and sprinkling in some “OMG! Moments” will help result in a 5-star match. Repeating moves, never countering, or quick matches will result in lower stars and less progress for your character. This emphasis on move variety helps each and every match feel genuinely like something you’d see from the real life WWE.

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Even with all these modes and the additions made to them, though, it would all be for naught if the in-ring product did not make advancements from last year’s game—and in a fair amount of ways it did. A slew of new mechanics have been added to WWE 2K16’s gameplay, and most of them work very well. A new, slowly refilling reversal meter finally nerfs players who know how to perfectly time every move, with each wrestler only having three-to-five reversals to start a match, and you’re never allowed to hold more than whatever you started with. You can also now slow the pace of matches down with Working Holds. Just like in real life, these allow wrestlers to catch their breath while also draining the stamina of their opponents. These two changes alone greatly expand the strategic depth you now carry into the ring, especially when combined with the chain wrestling and stamina meters added last year.

One gameplay addition misses the mark, though, and that’s the new submission system. The button mashing minigame of yesterday is thankfully dead, but in its place is an overlay system where you must try to get your bar to consistently overlap an opposing wrestler’s. The more tired they are—or if it’s a finishing submission like a Sharpshooter—the easier it will be to make them tap, but controlling the bar makes it feel like you’re wrestling the controller as much as your opponent.

WWE 2K16’s in-ring product has also seen its fair share of polishing. While the occasional glitch still pops up, it’s nowhere as bad as last year. Many character models also look much better—especially impressive considering the 120-person roster—but there are still a few examples where wrestlers look like they were being pulled from games that are two or three years older than this. While she never steps in the ring, I feel it necessary to point out the aforementioned Renee Young looks particularly stiff and frightening during your MyCareer interview segments.

It also needs to be said that, unlike the look of the game, the commentary has not come very far. Some new lines have thankfully been recorded to avoid as much repetition as last year, but too often Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler talk about subjects irrelevant to the match, making you think at times the dialogue has glitched. Oh, and it sounded like JBL, who was added to mark the first time we have a three-man commentary team in the game, had a cold when he recorded his lines.

Some minor annoyances aside, WWE 2K16 has taken a step largely in the right direction. Many, but not all, features missing from last year’s game return. Online functionality was questionable on the first day of launch, but seems to have stabilized over the weekend from what I’ve seen. A fully realized MyCareer mode and reliving the glory days of Stone Cold Steve Austin highlight an improved in-ring experience and the largest roster in the series’ history. While not ready to hog the spotlight like a main eventer, WWE 2K16 should find a nice spot on any wrestling fans’ roster of fall games.

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Developer: Yuke’s/Visual Concepts • Publisher: 2K Sports • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 10.27.15
8.0
A big step forward for the series, WWE 2K16 is still some polishing and a new submission system away from being Hall of Fame material, but should make a nice living as a stop gap in your library before hopefully bridging the gap to a bigger and better game next year.
The Good The fleshing out of MyCareer. Reliving Stone Cold Steve Austin’s glory days. The long-awaited balancing of reversals. Return of many match variations.
The Bad Submission system still misses the mark. I miss Create-a-Finisher. Tag team AI needs work. Awful announcing.
The Ugly The haunting robot that claims to be Renee Young when it comes time for your MyCareer interviews.
WWE 2K16 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by 2K Sports for the benefit of this review.

Even after a relatively weak showing last year, I had hope that the second new-gen outing for the WWE’s annual wrestling franchise would be able to right the last game’s wrongs and bring the series to a new level. After all, it’s very common that yearly sports releases require an extra year or two before they hit their stride with new technology. Unfortunately, if everything I saw at the hands-on reveal of the game at SummerSlam this year was any indicator, WWE 2K16 is still a ways away from being a main event attraction in gaming’s always crowded fall season.

The demo we were given had access to two modes. The first is your standard Exhibition, which allowed us to tussle with a dozen or so revealed wrestlers from the company’s massive roster. We could do your standard one-on-one face-off, or wrestle as a tag team. I quickly set up a match between current WWE World Heavyweight and US Champion Seth Rollins (who I controlled) and Brock Lesnar, creating a rematch of sorts from the WWE Battleground PPV from a few weeks ago.

As soon as Brock started making his way to the ring, I was able to try out one of the new features the game touts—which gives wrestlers the option to run out during their opponent’s entrance to sneak attack them. With the element of surprise on my side, I began pounding on Brock as we slowly fought our way down the steel ramp. To my chagrin, after a couple of minutes the referee called off the match, much like he would on Monday Night RAW, and the match was declared a no-contest.

When offered a rematch I took it. This time, when I jumped Brock (again, not mandatory, but I was embracing my heel nature), I ran into the ring after clotheslining him, and Brock followed suit. After a quick, but very awkward cutscene that automatically positioned each wrestler on their starting marks—and which suddenly changed Seth’s clothes from his pre-match attire to what he more traditionally wears in the ring after a series of oddly timed cuts—the match started, with Brock at a slight disadvantage.

The idea of being able to run out during another wrestler’s entrance is a good one. It adds an element of unpredictability when playing with friends, and a sense of authenticity when compared to the product we see on TV every week. I think players need a better sense of when the referee is about to call the match off, because had I known that at first, I would have run into the ring much sooner in my first match—but otherwise this is a welcome addition.

Once the action got going in the right, however, I noticed an alarming problem: all the wrestlers felt particularly sluggish. In every match I played over the course of the evening, with different wrestlers from Wade Barrett to Daniel Bryan, it felt like they all had cement shoes on. This wasn’t just a problem in terms of speed, but also in how fights flowed. Gameplay was relatively unresponsive, with most matches devolving into the counter-fests that had plagued previous iterations of the game. We can only hope that everything is tightened up in the two months before launch, but this was disappointing to see to say the least.

Another issue that has troubled the WWE series is glitches, and this demo was chock full of them. The awkward resetting of the wrestlers at their starting marks was just the beginning; clipping issues, broken animation and ragdoll effects, and awkward cutscenes and replays happening in inopportune moments—like when I was going for a pinfall against my opponent—were all prominent throughout my playtime. While all of these are things that will hopefully be fixed by the final version, with 120 wrestlers on the roster, it’d be shocking if they all could be cleaned up by October’s launch. Even some of the wrestlers themselves seemed unfinished, with the quality difference between characters models for guys like Wade Barrett and Brock Lesnar being extremely evident.

Once a given match gets underway, whether you jump your opponent or not, the combat is the same as it has been in years past. Last year’s stamina meter returns, along with three health bars. You still use the face buttons on your controller to perform a series of strikes, grapples, Irish whips, and finally the pin. The only difference I noticed immediately in the ring is the quicktime grapples that started matches last year have been removed. It’s unclear whether or not they can be turned back on in options, but they were clearly missing from the demo we had.

There is also a brand new pinning and submission system, with the latter being similar to what was seen in EA Sports UFC, where each person has a bar in a circular icon. The hold applier is trying to overlap the defender’s bar, and if they do so for a long enough time, the defender will tap out. It’s a nice change from the button mashing system of years past but definitely takes a few attempts to get used to.

The pinning system is still a timing-based mechanic similar to previous games, but instead of holding a button and then releasing it when a meter fills into a “sweet spot” (resulting in a kick out), there’s now a spinning bar in a circle that only requires a tap of the button in hopes of landing in the target area. The more health you have, the bigger that sweet spot is, but both myself and my opponents found it easier to kick out with this method. In fact, I was kicking out of pinfalls even after three of Brock Lesnar’s F5s, and the other player after two Pedigrees from me.

The tag match I played with Tyson Kidd and Cesaro versus the Lucha Dragons played out similarly, but the one observation I made there is that the AI for your partner is much smarter than it used to be. Whenever I went for a pinfall, my teammate would often intercept the opponent’s tag partner and prevent the pinfall from being broken up—whereas, in last year’s game, I often had to take out both opponents before I could attempt a pinfall. As long as I went for the pin closer to my corner than the opponent’s, there was a great chance my partner was going to jump into the ring and make sure we got the win.

The other mode I got to go hands-on with was 2K’s Showcase mode, which this year follows the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Besides tapping into that nostalgia factor for those of us who grew up in the Attitude Era, Austin had some of WWE’s best matches in the late 90s and early 2000s. The first of the mode’s sixteen chapters sees Austin in the finals of the 1997 King of the Ring against a hobbled Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who was reeling after receiving a Vader Bomb in the semi-finals. Just like previous years, meeting each match stipulation results in a full cutscene, and rewards that would be fitting for the Texas Rattlesnake, before unlocking the next chapter.

The new aspects that are trying to be added to WWE 2K16 this year seem like steps forward, but with foundational elements—like how the wrestlers feel and look when you play—still needing to be fixed before the game launches, I’m admittedly worried about this year’s entry. With a couple of months still before release, I’m hopeful the bumps can be smoothed out and that we’ll see a higher level of quality in the game modes we’ve yet to encounter. If not, WWE 2K may need to take a long look at itself as a franchise before being sent back down to a developmental territory to work on its gimmick.

WWE Legend Stone Cold Steve Austin is turning WWE 2K16 into WWE 2K 3:16.

Stone Cold Steve Austin, a six-time WWE Champion, three-time Royal Rumble winner, and 2009 inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame will officially grace the cover of WWE 2K16 this year. Looking to raise some hell in video game form, the official announcement came via trailer this morning showcasing Stone Cold digging up a key aspect of his past, the Smoking Skulls WWE Championship belt.

Austin was one of WWE’s most celebrated superstars during the Attitude Era of the late 90s, cementing his status as an icon with classic rivalries against Bret “The Hitman” Hart, The Rock, and especially WWE CEO Vince McMahon.

WWE 2K16 will be available for Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3 on October 27.

Best for business

Back in August, when I got to go hands-on for the first time with WWE 2K15, 2K revealed that the series would fall more in line with NBA 2K and feature a career mode for the first time. This past week, I was able to go hands-on with MyCareer mode for WWE 2K15 for about 45 minutes and take a look at life in the squared circle at three separate stages.

First, however, I must say that I was a bit disappointed I wasn’t allowed to play at all with the customization features for which the series is known. Of course, you’ll be able to do this in the final game, but “my” wrestler was pre-made. Although the couple of created characters we played with gave a nice overview of different hair colors, body types, and luchador masks, it wasn’t really the same as actually being able to dig through the creative options.

Beyond this, though, WWE 2K15’s MyCareer mode impressed me in a lot of ways. I began my journey as a wet-behind-the-ears rookie with a 55 overall rating. Without any pomp and circumstance, I was thrown into one of the seven rings available at a digital re-creation of the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, the company’s new home for training up-and-coming superstars.

And who was there, immediately barking orders and telling me how awful I was? WWE head trainer Bill DeMott. Now, Mr. DeMott is a very nice person, and I was fortunate enough to actually meet him at the Performance Center last week. But when you’re one of his students and you step into one of his rings, things change, and my created wrestler had Bill’s ire fall upon his head several times—and it was awesome.

As I worked matches in the ring, I received a one-to-five-star rating based on how I did in the and the show I put on for the crowd (if there’d been an audience besides good ol’ Bill). A match’s ebb and flow is also taken into consideration, so dominating against a jobber might not be best for business when you’re trying to tell a story in the ring. This made the new stamina bar (which I’ve now confirmed cannot be turned off) make a lot more sense, since it allowed my opponent a chance to get in a few strikes and provide at least a little bit of offense as I tried to catch my breath to perform my finisher. After the match, I got points to spend on my wrestler and level up his in-ring abilities, such as arm strength, speed, and stamina.

Once I was done messing around with my rookie, I flashed forward in my career and made it to the main RAW roster. At this point, I’d only been on the show a few weeks. It was immediately evident that no matter whether I won or lost, MyCareer mode would carry on and adjust accordingly. If I was in the midst of a rivalry, matches against other wrestlers weren’t as important, but they helped set up the story—a rival might interfere with our match or try to get in a cheap shot when I wasn’t looking. And even if I lost the match against my rival, I could still elevate my status in WWE and try to become a main-eventer.

Since the WWE had clearly invested a lot in me, though, in order to help elevate my brand, they wanted me to start a feud with an established star—and, in my case, I drew Daniel Bryan. I had the choice of shaking his hand to start a friendly rivalry or giving him a low blow. I gave him the low blow, which promptly started a “No!” chant led by my character.

I then flashed forward one more time to almost seven years into my career. By this point, I’d won a few titles, including the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and main-evented some pay-per-views. I was still wrestling at a high clip, but then Brock Lesnar decided to show up and demonstrate what he thought of me by F5’ing me in the middle of the ring. This prompted a Twitter feud between Brock’s advocate, Paul Heyman, and me, where I could choose to respond to Heyman via a couple of options—much like I had the choice on how to kick off my feud with Bryan. Meanwhile, in the ring, over the course of several weeks, Brock and I continued getting in each other’s faces—until finally, Heyman said the two of us would meet in a no-disqualification match at the next PPV.

Though I only saw a brief glimpse of MyCareer mode, it definitely feels like something that I could play again and again just to see how my superstar’s career could change each time based on decisions I made. Also, storylines you might see in real life started to unfold organically, which made it feel like I was watching actual WWE programming and not just playing a game. If MyCareer can give me this feeling for hours on end, WWE 2K15 now has a mode to elevate the franchise to the next level—and I can’t wait to really dig into it on the new generation of consoles.

It’s time to play the game…

Even though 2K bought the rights to the WWE franchise last year during THQ’s liquidation, longtime developer Yuke’s had already done a lot of the heavy lifting for WWE 2K14 by the time the deal had been finalized. This year would be a different story, however: NBA 2K developer Visual Concepts had the chance to bring a few of their tricks to the table and elevate the bar for the franchise alongside Yuke’s. So, it was with great anticipation that I got a chance to go hands-on with WWE 2K15 at the annual SummerSlam preview event.

Right from the get-go, I got the sense that 2K is trying to bring WWE in line with its other major sports franchise by giving players something the series has never had before: a career mode. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play this mode, but here’s the way 2K outlined it: To begin with, you’ll create a wrestler via the same celebrated customization system we’ve seen for many years now. From there, you’ll work your way up from the WWE training facility in Florida to the developmental territory of NXT to undercards on shows like RAW and SmackDown to winning lower belts to main-eventing PPVs—and finally, with some luck, end up a WWE Hall of Famer.

Longtime fans of the series should be happy to know that this is all in addition to WWE Universe mode, where you get to be the all-powerful GM of WWE programming and put who you want in whatever kind of matches you want. Both these experiences side by side could offer the WWE franchise the one-two single-player punch it’s desperately needed over the years.

But that’s not all we’re getting. I got a chance to get some hands-on time with the new 2K Signature mode, which follows in the footsteps of previous years where we learned about the Monday Night Wars or the Attitude Era. This year’s incarnation will tell the stories of celebrated WWE rivalries, including Triple H versus Shawn Michaels and John Cena squaring off against CM Punk—and I got to play the first match of that latter rivalry. As with previous years, classic WWE footage will help set up the matches that you’ll relive in the ring.

Once I was actually able to step into the ring in 2K Signature and Exhibition is when things got most interesting with WWE 2K15. The first major change fans will notice? The visuals. While some models were clearly placeholders (CM Punk, for example, looked like someone just put a wig on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in Create a Superstar), and parts of the arenas still need some touching up, the elements that were fully rendered and ready to go looked great. Cena, Cesaro, Randy Orton, and even Goldust looked unbelievably lifelike and animated as smoothly as the NBA players do in NBA 2K, so I can’t wait to see how everything looks in the final product.

The other major in-ring changes, though, came in terms of gameplay, with two new features that could rub longtime WWE fans the wrong way. The first of these is a new rock-paper-scissors-style early grapple system. In order to try to tell a more accurate story like those seen every Monday on RAW or at a monthly PPV, early grapples will be met with a minigame that starts with a button press, which signifies one of three hold attempts you’ll go for. Whoever picks the superior hold will have the advantage, and then both players will use the right stick to try to find the “sweet spot” and further progress in this new quicktime event. If you progress fully, you either escape the hold if you picked the inferior selection at the beginning, or you’ll do a minimal-damage move like an arm wrench.

The idea is that every WWE match doesn’t start off with a bunch of power moves (unless you’re Brock Lesnar). There’s a slow buildup to the moments that make us start chanting “This is awesome!” After two or three of these early grapples, business will pick up, and the action will progress like players are used to, with the full array of moves available to do damage. Personally, I didn’t mind the new minigame mechanic, but I could see how after dozens of matches, it would start to grind on some people. Thankfully, there’s an option to turn them off, though they’ll be set “on” as the default option.

The other new mechanic ties into the interface, which has also seen some changes. Wrestlers now have three lifebars, which drop from green to yellow to red—the last of which represents the best time to try to pin your opponent. You also have a percentage meter that dictates when you can use Signatures and Finishers. At 100 percent, you can bank a Signature. At 150 percent, you can bank a Finisher. You can have a Signature and three Finishers banked at any given time, though I’m sure there’ll be options to modify that as well. The last—and easily most controversial—addition is a default stamina meter that’s now included in the UI.

The issue with the stamina meter is that by the time you get to the latter stages of a match and are ready to finally use your Signature moves, perform an OMG! Moment like throwing someone through a barricade, or finally hit your Finisher and win, the stamina meter won’t let you do it. You need at least half a stamina bar alone to perform a given Finisher. And every regular move, counter, or just running around the ring depletes it. While it’s unknown if the stamina meter can be turned off, I sure hope it can, because it really ruined the pacing of all the matches I played. Yes, it does seem to fall more in line with the simulation style 2K wants to achieve, but I just don’t know if WWE fans want a pure simulation when it comes to wrestling. After all, the sport itself has the over-the-top quality of an arcade game. Moving the needle too far in the “simulation” direction could have unintended consequences, and many of my personal frustrations centered on that damned stamina meter.

There was nothing worse during my hands-on time than having three Finishers banked in the 2K Signature match between Punk and Cena—and then not being able to hit any of them because Punk was worn down. I’d have to leave the ring and walk laps around it—with the dunderheaded AI-controlled Cena slowly following behind me—until my stamina returned and I could get back in the ring, perform a GTS, and win the match. And in Exhibition mode, my opponent and I were just taking knees and catching our breath, yelling at the meter to fill up faster and helpless to do anything in the ring to further our cause.

Even with the ill-advised addition of the stamina meter, I’m more excited than not about WWE 2K15. Once all the models have a full coat of polish, the game will look better than ever before, and I’m particularly excited about the career mode. But the minor gameplay tweaks seem to give the game too many simulation aspects, and that could hurt the overall experience come October.

Ray Carsillo gives his final prediction for the Super Bowl, talks about the possible Ryan Callahan trade between the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues, and discusses the recent events in the WWE. Welcome to Ray’s Man Cave!

Mick Foley has to make some changes to his Survivor Series team, CM Punk finds himself between a rock and a hard place, and the King returns in this week’s Sleeper Hold!

Main Plot Overview:

Long time no talk recap folks. Sorry for the delay, but it’s been a crazy time here at EGM with the insane rush of games coming in for the holidays. Things are settling down a bit now though and so I was able to relax and watch a little Monday Night RAW.

And boy, did a lot happen on RAW last night. Ryback got his revenge on the rogue referee that cost him the title at Hell in a Cell and decimated the poor fool. AJ Lee confronted Vickie Guerrero once again about her supposed affair with John Cena. And leading up the triple-threat Survivor Series main event where John Cena, CM Punk, and Ryback will face off for the WWE Championship, last night’s main event put Cena and Punk against each other in a singles non-title match that saw both men give it their all. At least until Punk tried to run away and then met Ryback, who was still very hungry after his short match with the rogue ref, halfway up the ramp. As Punk began to backtrack away from Ryback, he attempted to escape into the crowd, However, Cena caught him and brought Punk back into the ring to get the win before Cena and Punk then both grabbed the WWE title in a moment dripping with tension and obvious symbolism.

I don’t know who is going to win the WWE Title on Sunday, but I’d love for it to be Punk one more time to cap off his full year as the champ and move into sole possession of the 8th longest title reign in history. I’d also like to see what Ryback would do as champ and maybe even set him up to take on some other unstoppable monsters like The Big Show or Kane down the line. Basically, as long as it’s not John Cena because he’s actually been developing well over the past few months into someone I can at least stand and I think giving him the title now would unravel this all again.

Match of the Night:

There has been a heavy focus in recent months on the tag team division. And to help show off this resurgence, the first 8-man tag match I can remember seeing in quite some time took place as the teams of Rey Mysterio/Sin Cara and Justin Gabriel/Tyson Kidd took on the Primetime Players and Primo/Epico, showing off all four teams’ interesting styles of offense in the match.

The match started off at a normal pace with the heels in control, but once a couple of hot tags were made by the faces, business picked up. With as many high fliers as there were in the ring, it was no surprise to see guys like Sin Cara leap off the top turnbuckle to the outside or for Tyson Kidd to hit a hurricanrana when they got their chance, but the moves all seemed to happen one right after another and so the match had the fastest pacing I’ve seen in some time, especially from Rey Mysterio who many thought might have lost a step, once everyone got into a rhythm. The big highlight of the match, however, was back-to-back finishers with Mysterio’s 619 and Gabriel’s 450 splash on Darren Young to end the bout. All things considered, the quick pace, tight maneuvers, and over-the-top finish made this an easy choice for Match of the Night.

Promo of the Night:

In an outpouring of emotion from everyone in ring and from the WWE Universe, it was great when Jerry “The King” Lawler came down the ramp in hour two to take his headset back from Good Ol’ JR (Although it was great hearing JR again for these past nine weeks. I really wish Michael Cole would go away).

To hear Jerry talk about how his experience was like It’s a Wonderful Life and how much he appreciated the outpouring of love from everyone in the locker room and the WWE Universe was a special moment and I for one am thrilled King pulled through. Of course, the whole moment would go sour when CM Punk would crash the party and Paul Heyman would fake his own heart attack right in the middle of the ring.

But this special promo wasn’t done for then Mick Foley came shambling down to the ring to belittle Punk about how special it was that Jerry was okay. How it was a damn miracle he was there and that for a short period of time he was dead. It was the most emotional I had ever seen Mick Foley and I think even Punk was a little stunned, but he kept his cool and turned it back on Mick as he always does. As a whole though, this was easily the best moment of the night on RAW.

Shocker of the Night:

With the main event at Survivor Series changed to a triple threat match between Punk, Cena, and Ryback, Mick Foley had a gap in his Survivor Series team that needed to be filled. Leaving it up the WWE Universe, Santino Marella, Zack Ryder, and late ballot entry The Miz, who defected from Team Ziggler, the Universe decided shockingly for The Miz by a landslide. Miz admitted that he didn’t like Mick and Mick admitted he didn’t like Miz, but they both hated Ziggler more.

It also led to an interesting storyline developing with the Miz being forced to partner with Kane later that night in a tag match against Rhodes Scholars and Daniel Bryan becoming jealous. Where that may lead, I don’t know, but the whole scheme stinks of turning the Miz into a face with him teaming up with other faces for Survivor Series.

Cheap Pop of the Night:

The emotional rant of Mick Foley about how it was a miracle Jerry Lawler was there in Columbus was not a moment that I felt was cheap in any way. But it needs to be said that it would be a Foley moment if he didn’t shout out the location of RAW at least once an evening and before Mick started preaching to Punk, he couldn’t help but mention last night’s venue in Columbus, Ohio. Mick is nothing if not consistent and we love him for it, but he also gets the Cheap Pop of the Night.