The Problem with WWE’s Games

The next game in the WWE franchise, WWE 2K15, is due for release on 28th October in the US, and 31st October in the EU. Oh great, more turgid drivel for us to get our sweaty, muscle-bound mitts on. You’ll have to forgive me for not sounding all that enthusiastic about this title, and it’s not because I dislike the games. I’ve been a fan of WWE games ever since Smackdown burst its way onto the scene on the PS1 in 2000 with all the subtlety of a hippo driving a monster truck. I was OK with this “no airs and graces” approach however, and played it to death. As I did with Smackdown 2: Know Your Role, Just Bring it, etc. etc. and so on and so forth, each new game being a marked improvement in my eyes on the previous outings. Things continued in this way until the Smackdown series transitioned into the Smackdown vs Raw series.

At first everything went well; Smackdown vs Raw was released, fans of the brand bought it, played it, thanked Yuke’s and THQ for creating another great wrestling game while they sat in their ivory tower counting their millions (or possibly swimming in it a lá Donald Duck in Uncle Scrooge, who knows), and everyone was happy. Then the next instalment came along. Smackdown vs Raw 2006. Now, in an ideal world, we would have noticed these early warning signs: developers losing the ability to come up with interesting game titles and merely adding the year onto the end of the previous iteration is generally as well-received as being told that a mad axe murderer is going to be attending your next dinner party as your friend’s “plus one”. And he’s bringing his friend too; Choppy. It doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence.

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A typical scene from Smackdown vs Raw 2011. Or 2010. Or was it 2008? Seriously, a little help here?!

Still, we gave them the benefit of the doubt, and Smackdown vs Raw 2006 was released. The only differences being a new picture of WWE’s most popular overgrown meatheads on the front cover, and the number 2006, added in such a generic font that I’m genuinely surprised people didn’t look at the case and die of boredom. It didn’t improve much when you got into the actual game either. The roster had been updated, but apart from that, to the untrained eye it was almost indistinguishable from the previous game. I would like to say it stopped there but sadly it didn’t; by 2009’s release (no prizes for guessing the name), I was sick of pulling an infinite supply of steel folding chairs from beneath the ring and clobbering my opponent out of his stereotypical boots with them. I just wanted to plonk one of them down in the middle of the ring, sit on it and wonder exactly what the point of all this was, while my opponent stood there looking politely bemused by the whole situation. My worst fears had been realised. The Smackdown games were doing a “FIFA”. The mere mention of the word is making me shudder slightly.

Recent iterations of the games have been slightly better however, but not enough to make me consider going back. They’ve also hopped on the DLC bandwagon now as well, giving you the option to purchase additional sweaty men to knock seven virtual bells out of each other with. At least they’ve not got the cheek of Bethesda though, who somehow deem it appropriate to charge twenty quid for an extra quest line. At this moment, time can only tell what redeeming features WWE 2K15 may or may not have. What we do know however is that you can unlock Sting as a bonus wrestler for pre-purchasing the game. Sadly there isn’t enough information available on the game for us to make an informed decision as to whether or not this will actually be worth it. Still, only 3 months to go – all aboard the hype train!