I used to think that it was just nostalgia, screwing with my memory. But when I did a side-by-side comparison, there's was no competition at all.
I've been playing WWE games for close to 15 years now, and although the graphics have gotten crisper and more realistic (they actually do motion capture on the wrestlers now, to ensure complete authenticity), the games have lost some of their soul and overall excitement. Let's take a look at four different iterations of Shawn Michaels' Sweet Chin Music, starting with the real one:
Hot damn! No matter how many times you watch it, it doesn't get old. Half the excitement of a WWE finisher is the buildup before the payoff, and Mr. Wrestlemania does this masterfully, with multiple stomps that "tune up the band." Also notice how the WWE camera crew frames the shot, to make it most impactful. They start with the camera in Shawn's corner, to show him zeroing in. Then they switch to the opposite camera behind JBL, so that he falls towards the player. And of course, JBL sells the bump like a champ — the kick just snatches the life out of him.
Now here's the one from WWE 2K15:
It's got the look, and the body movements, and the great sell by the victim, but there's little excitement in this delivery. The camera stays at a single, static position. The audience has a non-existent build of noise and activity. A couple of flashbulbs go off when the kick hits, but not as many as what goes off in a live show. There's no editing, no dramatic cuts to make this exciting and theatrical.
Now here's one from Smackdown versus Raw 2008:
That's a little more like it! The camera circles around to multiple angles. The audience has a noticeable uptick in energy. And the kick itself is replayed and slowed down in multiple cuts from multiple angles. Maybe a bit over the top, but it gets the job done.
And finally, here's one from WWE Smackdown - Here Comes The Pain:
Now that's a proper Sweet Chin Music! Feel that electricity? The crowd roars, and a sea of flashbulbs fire off spontaneously. It's also got the shot/reverse shot angle, and Shawn mugging for the camera at the very end.
When 2K got the WWE franchise, there was a sigh of relief in some circles — that finally WWE would be treated like a 'real sport.'
But there's also a certain degree of carny theatricality to wrestling, and it would be nice if 2K Games remembered that more. I don't want them to pull a a WWE All-Stars, which went way over the top:
But they should put a little more fun in it, and stop taking it so damn seriously. Oversell the moves a bit, and make these guys a bit larger than life. After all, none of it is 'real,' right?
Kevin is an AP English Language teacher and freelance writer from Queens, NY. His focus is on video games, American pop culture, and Asian American issues. Kevin has also been published in VIBE, Complex, Joystiq, Salon, PopMatters, WhatCulture, and Racialicious. You can email him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @kevinjameswong.