Wrestling games get a rough time of it. And yet, I've had some of the most fun ever with this genre, one that's boasted some tactical masterpieces alongside games that perfectly capture the pageantry and insanity of wrestling - without neglecting the person holding the pad.
WWE 2K15 is, sadly, not one of those games. It's not quite a travesty, but it's also certainly not the game wrestling fans were hoping for.
This isn't a shock really, seeing as there hasn't been a great game in this series for around a decade. What is annoying, though, is that this year's effort promised to be so much more - the first new generation outing, and perhaps the first where 2K Sports could really get on board and help guide development stalwarts Yuke's back towards the genre's heyday.
It looks fantastic, at least. WWE 2K15 is another game that makes great use of head-scanning technology, meaning every fighter looks exactly as they do in real life. Well, exactly as they did in real life about nine months ago. A tumultuous year for WWE, in which there have been redundancies and big name departures, means that the roster feels frustratingly out of date. Wrestlers such as CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio and Rey Mysterio are present, despite all of them having walked out of the sport months ago.
They're just the first in a long line of clues that WWE's new custodians don't care quite as much about the product as its forebear did. Goldust doesn't have his trademark entrance, despite it having been in wrestling games for years now. You can't hold a submission move on after a rope break, in classic heel fashion, even though you could in the past. Bad News Barrett is announced as hailing from Preston, then in commentary referred to as coming from Manchester, showing that old voice-over work has been reused without a second thought. These little things belie the fact that there is a lack of attention paid, a lack of care taken, an air of laziness to WWE 2K15.
The action has been slowed down compared to recent years, with animations reworked with new motion capture and better transitions. It doesn't work, though.
Wrestling games before have looked stupid, with your grappler flailing at nothing then falling over their feet, but they were at least fun. WWE 2K15 plays like a series of animations that you trigger - and often it hardly feels like you're triggering them. There are blind spots, too, places where it can be hard to grab or punch from, or angles you can't return to the ring from. That's bad, and it makes it no fun to play for any extended period.
What's really disappointing is that none of these are the results of new features - it's all stuff that's been handled perfectly well in past iterations of this very series. It's the fact that so much has been crocked and crippled that irks - and that's without even getting into how much has been outright cut.
There are additions, admittedly. WWE 2K15 brings back season mode in the form of My Career. One of the best timesinks in Smackdown's past was to put hours into building up your character, taking them through storylines and making them into a world-conquering champion. It's a simple formula, and the soap opera dramatics of wrestling makes for something that translates perfectly to the a video game.
But it's gone really wrong. Inconsistencies and irritations abound - like being told you've lost your belt when you haven't, or Vickie Guerrero getting fired by Triple H but not actually getting fired. There are very few storylines to get involved in; instead most of the action is inane matches with irrelevant opponents. It barely even mixes up what style of match they are - my entire career saw a grand total of about 10 bouts that weren't basic one-on-ones. It is, as with so much else, an area where WWE 2K15 feels half-baked.
Creation mode, what once was a staple of wrestling games, also falls short. There's no ability to create female wrestlers - so sod the legacy of Mae Young, the Fabulous Moolah, Alundra Blayze, Lita, Trish Stratus and the ongoing efforts of women like Amazing Kong, Charlotte Flair and Bayley. They're clearly irrelevant. You're also unable to make the kind of bizarre character that's made previous games such a hoot - a petty issue, maybe, but player creativity matters in a game like this.
Credit where it's due, there's clear effort gone into some elements, such as 2K Showcase mode. In it you get to take part in two of the WWE's biggest feuds this century: Triple H vs Shawn Michaels and John Cena vs. CM Punk. They're well presented, some of the in-match objectives are fun - as you'll know if you played WWE 13 or WWE 2K14, which included thematically similar modes - and it's always good to go on a trip down memory lane.
There's also fun to be had in multiplayer. Just so long as you aren't playing online, that is. A small but noticeable amount of lag means that any of the matches you have against online opponents - ones that mean very little thanks to the very basic online setup - are incredibly difficult to play properly. Counters are tricky to time correctly, and the 'hold X and release it at the right moment' system for kicking out of pins is near-enough impossible with that slight mistiming.
WWE 2K15 is a kick in the teeth, then. Graphically assured as it is, almost every other element of the 15-year-old series has been cut back, tampered with pointlessly or outright ruined. The series hasn't been good for a long time now, but this year is the first it's been actively bad. The wait for a great new WWE game continues .