Last year's WWE 2K14 was too far along when 2K Games took on the license from THQ for it to make many big changes, but now there's no holding back.
WWE 2K15 will be the new-gen debut of the series on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (in addition to PS3 and 360). Developer Visual Concepts is taking on a much bigger role this time around alongside longtime developer Yukes. Visual Concepts is incorporating its impressive scanning tech made famous in its NBA 2K games. The team has hounded WWE's roster of wrestlers during their nonstop travel schedule and already has 90 percent of the in-game roster scanned in. Interestingly, I saw a photo of Hulk Hogan getting scanned. While a classic version of him is in the game (alongside announced wrestlers John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, and Cesaro), it's unclear what role today's older Hulk would serve. Maybe he shows up for a hosting role as he did for the recent Wrestlemania XXX.
This new tech is already showing impressive results. I saw side-by-side character models for wrestlers like John Cena, A.J. Lee, and Daniel Bryan, and they all looked leaps and bounds closer to their real-life counterparts. Hair, skin, faces, and ring gear are all majorly upgraded. VC is capturing a variety of facial expressions so that wrestlers will express more realistic emotions in the ring. A John Cena facial rig demo showed off lifelike expressions of pain, excitement, and exertion.
The ultimate goal of all this is to closer match WWE's TV presentation. I couldn't get any specifics on actual game mechanic changes, but Visual Concepts is working toward more realistic match pacing and flow. The key to all of this is a new mo-cap studio that contains an actual WWE ring set up by a real WWE ring technician. This will result in five times the number of animations than 2K14. A new months-later cutoff date for inclusion of the latest WWE content will help ensure that the game is that much closer to the latest roster and storylines.
Audio is getting a complete overhaul as well, with five times the sound of last year's game. For the very first time announcers Jerry "The King" Lawler and Michael Cole will be recorded in tandem, creating more natural conversation threads. I heard a sample clip of the two discussing Undertaker's Hell's Gate submission and it already sounds much improved. There will be a massive 30 to 35 hours of commentary per announcer to keep things fresh and prevent hearing constant repeats.
2K is not discussing what the overall theme of the game is this year (previous years included Wrestlemania and the Attitude Era), nor did it show the full game in action. All of the details I heard sound promising, but it's tough to fully accept without further along footage. WWE 2K15 is set to launch on October 28, which doesn't leave a whole lot of time for all of the ambitious advances the team is planning. Despite these reservations, I'm looking forward to the next 2K15 reveal to see how the total package comes together.