WWE has made inroads in the mobile space with the Mortal Kombat-inspired WWE Immortals and trading card title WWE Supercard. But the company hasn't made a straight-up wrestling game until today's release on iOS and Android, WWE 2K. Is it worth the $7.99 price tag? Depends on your expectations.
[Updated with more screens. Originally published April 16 2015 07:50 AM]
If you're hoping for the all the bells and whistles of the console games, you're going to be highly disappointed. A lot is missing from this package, but if you're looking for a traditional wrestling game with touchscreen controls and your favorite stars, it holds up on the basics.
The roster includes most of the the big names of today, though women aren't included as of yet. (The complete list: Bad News Barrett, Batista, Big Show, Bray Wyatt, Brock Lesnar, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Kane, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Rusev, Seth Rollins, Sheamus, Sting, Triple H, and Undertaker) The character models are actually pretty close to the real wrestlers. Entrances are a truncated approximation of the real thing, though Sting's is outdated and Batista doesn't do his trademark machine gun squat.
In-ring combat options are drastically slimmed down in favor of a more arcade feel. You tap on your opponent to mode toward them, peck at it to do a strike combo, pinch to grapple, swipe to choose a maneuver, and so on. Irish whips, jumping from the turnbuckle, counters, submission, signatures, and finishers are all accounted for. Most of the basics are there and I felt in control of what I was doing despite the strange control scheme. You won't find any body-part focused attacks, you can't leave the ring, and when you pin a guy you realize, "Oh yeah, there's no ref in this game at all."
Match types are limited to standard, no DQ, and cage variants. And the venue changes are the same ring with signage swapped out for Raw, Smackdown, Main Event, and Superstars. It would probably be a nightmare to control, but it's still a bummer that there are no modes featuring more than two characters at a time. Kiss your dreams of mobile tag teams, triple threats, and battle royals goodbye. Online multiplayer is included, but I didn't get the opportunity to play against anyone before the game's release.
You can create your own wrestler, but, as is the recurring theme, the options are extremely limited. Just like NES Ice Hockey, characters can be fat, muscular, or skinny (the game's label's, not mine). You get three height options, four skin tones, five hair types, etc. It's hard not to look completely generic right out of the gate. As you play through the career, however, you'll unlock more options in most categories and can swap them out as much as you like. This helps make your character feel like less of a tool over time if that's what you're going for. You get four fighting styles to choose from, and that's it. The best part about character customization is that there is no name censoring at launch so you can call your guy whatever awful word you want.
The career is extremely bare bones. You start at the bottom of a 29-man ranking list and slowly rise to the top as you beat people week to week. Completing checklists like beating a certain wrestler or refraining from using a finisher will unlock new customization options, and certain matches have a specific side-goal to reach (strike 20 times, jump off all four turnbuckles) for added stat boosts. You earn respect points with each victory with the goal to retire with enough to go into the Hall of Fame. Stat increases are doled out randomly with each victory so you unfortunately never have direct control to invest in what you actually want to improve.
With no rivalries or story to speak of, it doesn't take long for the career to feel like a thankless grind. Matches take a couple minutes tops to account for quick mobile play. There are no recreations of big moments or a flow of spots to accomplish. You just beat up guy after guy over and over again. This is only made worse by the jobbers you fight early on all having the exact same generic "soft rock" entrance.
In the end, WWE 2K is a bare-bones, yet mechanically functional mobile title. If you want to be able to fire up your phone while waiting in line at the bank and beat up John Cena as Rusev you can do that without problems. If you're expecting depth anywhere close to WWE 2K15, then just keep walking. Though the fact that there isn't a year attached to this game makes me think that we'll see more improvements and add-ons over time. If that happens, WWE 2K might become more universally recommendable. As of now, most should take a wait and see approach.