Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One (Reviewed),
Release Date: October 27, 2014
Price: $49.99 USD – Available Here $99.95 AUD – Available Here
So where should I start? I guess I should begin this review by explaining a bit of my history with what is now 2K Games’ WWE franchise. I first found this little wrestling game by the name of SmackDown 2: Know Your Role on the Playstation years ago. I was already a big wrestling fan at the time and fell in love with the easy to learn gameplay as well as the deep customization for the creation modes. There were just so many unlockables that the game’s season mode seemed limitless. I recall spending hours going through cutscenes just to unlock Scott Hall’s moveset. Days to find the proper “Unknown” template so I could create Rob Van Dam. Yes, I was in love and for about a year, and played the game every single night.
Since then I have purchased every installment in the franchise. There have been ups and downs, with terrible releases coming out the door such as Smackdown vs Raw 2008 and WWE ’12, as well as brilliant ones with the likes of Here Comes the Pain and WWE ’13. I guess as a fan I expect two steps forward and one step back as that is what we usually get, but last year the fans were given a demo, and not a game – so it wasn’t just a step. The developers got in a car and drove backwards at 90 miles per hour, slamming into every great thing that fans had come back for time and time again with WWE 2K15. I lost a lot of faith in the brand, but things always can change. WWE 2K16 promises to have the largest roster to date with a newly revamped creation system, a few new modes, and more. With low expectations I put my disc into the console, and well – I guess here are the results from a passionate fan who loves his wrestling games and virtual thrills.
I feel that the best place to start with WWE 2K16 is to tell you about the gameplay. If you played 2K15 you probably noticed that the gameplay was revamped, but the rest of the game was mostly gutted. Well, that has completely changed as this title is a complete product this time around, maintaining the improved mechanics and building around them to create a much better experience. It isn’t all rainbows, but we will get to the flaws in a second. Grappling, striking, and the general in-ring fare all feel great this year, with smarter AI taking part in the overall flow of a match, allowing the player to tell a story with their actions. I guess this is due to the small touches that were applied. I was in a match early on and was fighting Seth Rollins in a simple exhibition match. It was a back and forth contest that lasted around ten minutes – with my character dominating for most of the show. Rollins eventually gets frustrated and gets out of the ring, attempting to be counted out, like the heel he is on television. This is just one of many minor improvements that allow for those going in solo to have unique matches and create moments just about every time the game is played. Exhibition matches are actually the strongest part of the game as a whole, as with the large roster, players can use their imagination and create some truly “edge-of-your-seat” matches with the decently varied line-up that Yukes/WWE Games have offered this year.
There is Hell in a Cell, Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, and many other specialty bouts that both the men and women are allowed to participate in (albeit not together aside from management fare). I do need to take a pause to say its time we lift the gender restrictions as well. I understand that Divas should not bleed, but for a game that tries to wear heritage on its sleeve, not being able to do inter-gender match-ups is something that needs to be lifted. It doesn’t kill the game to ensure someone like a Bella fights The Miz, but it does restrict some of the wonder that WWE has created with the likes of Chyna, Jacqueline, and Beth Phoenix in the past. That rant aside, I honestly like most of the general match types. Table matches feel balanced and require actual ringwork to complete, ladder matches now have the belts instead of a briefcase if that is the prize, and Falls Count Anywhere are definitely wild experiences that could go on for hours between two players. That said, 2K needed to fix the Royal Rumble. I do not like playing Dance Dance Revolution to knock someone out of the ring. It doesn’t feel realistic to see Big Show fighting Simon Gotch like crazy just to tip him over the rope. Make some exclusive moves or finishers that work away from the rope or just go back to not having a mini-game to knock someone out, I’d say. I think I speak for a large group of people when I say that even though we as the fans see the point of having a stalling mini-game, we would much rather see this important bout handled with more fluidity that an annoying quick-time event.
Speaking of mini-games, I cannot even finish the topic without speaking of the amount of mini-games that are in this title. Pins. Submissions. Anyway to win a match is some sort of quick-time event that requires you to suffer through a tedious motion to either kick out of or execute a finish. The submission system this year is an incredible joke. I know that fans have complained about button tapping to get out of a lock, but having to play cops and robbers in a circle with two colors is just fucking stupid. Yes, I apologize I have to be so blunt, but come on, you literally have to run from the other color to not tap. The pinning is still a frustrating time release fare, but I feel like the circle allows for more precision, and while I am still not in love with the gesture, it doesn’t bother me near as bad as it did during the past few years. I do like a lot of the little touches that were put in to show some faith to the product when it comes to those match-ending memories. It takes a long time to get up sometimes as…well – we will get there, but when you and your opponent are out of stamina and drained, you can throw your arm over them to end the match. It makes for an incredible end result when all goes right, and there are a lot of other little tweaks that have never been seen before in this franchise also worthy of praise. I haven’t seen the ability to interrupt entrances since Raw 2, but WWE 2K16 nails it as you can catch your opponent in mid-taunt and wail them as the audience looks on in horror. The core game, despite its frustrations works very well. I just wish the modes could be a bit sharper.
My Career is something we saw last year. You remember when you turned it on to Bill DeMott yelling at you for the first few matches and then went to something else? Well, its better this time as while the same NXT to WWE Champion approach is still forefront to the experience, we get Albert to warm us up to what is at least a more organized card. This mode works almost exactly like WWE Universe mode, but with you using your created character to move up the ranks and eventually retire after leaving a legacy of great matches. This mode actually is interesting, but has a few drawbacks that hold it back entirely. The first is the card. I like NXT as much as the next guy, but starting in a federation that has less than 15 participants most of the time gets a bit stale after a while. I know everything about Tyler Breeze, Hideo, and so on more-so now than ever – so I guess that is a plus, but I had the same type of feud repeat three times – and these are no week to week feuds but instead rivalries that last for a month or two at a time.
The next flaw is the way the “new reversal system” works into the game mode. Ok, I get it. We need to make sure chain reversals don’t happen and limiting reversals in matches in theory works. The problem is that reversing an opponent is tough work when the inputs don’t read correctly. No, I am not bad at it as I have perfected the art of timed reversals in past games. These inputs literally do not register half the time, even when you still have a bar of reversal up. It doesn’t help that you start with a lower attribute for all stats, including reversal – and have to BUY A $10 DLC “STARTER PACK” IN ORDER TO BE AS BALANCED AS THE NXT SUPERSTARS! I was absolutely appalled by this as I lost a lot for hours before being able to stand up against minor opponents. I was not able to springboard, I was not able to dive off a rope as a high-flyer I created, because of a DLC wall. Sure, you get better after around seven or eight months of story, but who loves to lose for that long aside from a lucky bout here and there? This DLC is not even in the season pass either, and is absolutely sickening as it killed my mood for a mode that could have made this game a must have instantly. Its not cute on the iPhone and it isn’t cute here, 2K.
Moving on, I do need to speak a bit about the WWE Showcase, which this year focuses on the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin. I will be honest, I have never bought into the Showcase all that much as sure, I liked it as a one-off during the Attitude Era themed WWE ’13, but in the end you are just doing objectives to “relive” moments while video footage is pasted in-between the situations. It really isn’t any different here, but a lot of detail did go into making this mode as we get to see so many minor and more forgettable aspects of Steve Austin’s career celebrated that normally we would not see otherwise. If you’re a fan of the Texas Rattlesnake or even that part of the Attitude Era, well – this is for you without a doubt. Having JR and King back on the commentary booth is reason enough to play through the mode, but I will say I really hated suffering through submission moves from Bret when I am trying to complete tedious objectives when the submission system is so bad as it stands.
The Creation Suite last year was gutted, with no divas, limited options, and nearly everything outside of moves missing. This year we get a much better product that has actually seen significant change. Instead of sculpting the scale of each body part, you can now use a mocap styled dot system to mold the shape of your created Superstar. It works exactly as it sounds, with the player controlling dots to shape facial features, sizes of limbs, and body parts. We also have a lot more customization with new pieces of clothing to dress your superstar up with, so with the logo imports and even facial capture (that is on the way), this is definitely a refreshing step up from last year’s mess. You cannot age a Superstar though, and that may not sound like much, but it definitely hurts the mode as imagine trying to sculpt out a Legend just to find out that they will be a plastic-looking babyface. I suppose creative fans can work around this, but for those who do not enjoy spending a lot of load time to add wrinkles with a paint tool, well – you might want to import some actual headshots later on to make your older guys. Also, and I am adding this in right here because I can. Why would you take out The Worm, take away THE WORM motion, just leaving the chop, and then still label it The Worm? I promised myself I would mention that. Move along.
The next big addition is Create a Show. This mode is one for those who want to lose hours upon hours into the main game as you can create every aspect of your own show, down to the logo for the brands within. Assigning matches, Superstars, and so on along with the extra slots for created wrestlers means one could literally recreate an entire era or company if they would like, and I definitely am excited to see this now decent addition to be something truly great in the future. Online mode is much better as in you can play it without waiting an hour. There still are no entrances online and that needs to change, but aside from that the whole “WWE Tonight” and “WWE Live” matchmaking options definitely make that portion feel more complete despite not being able to see the entrances for our wrestlers that we spent so much time making.
Well, I will say that the graphics in WWE are decent. The models look fine in the ring and most look smooth. The lighting in arenas is also well done and some of the faces look right on. For instance, Billy Gunn looks fantastic this time around and so does a lot of the NXT superstars who are making their debut here. Renee Young looks…I can’t. I have never laughed so hard at a character model as I have with Renee Young and her awkward animations. You will understand when you play and get interviewed but between her face and Shane McMahon’s “face”, I can’t honestly tell you which one is worse. That is kind of the theme with the visuals. Some are great. Some are terrible. A lot of work went into making new reversal animations and these are great and exciting to see. Getting your hand stuck in a Superstars chest due to a glitch or watching screen tears and other abnormalities however are not that wonderful to see or experience. This is a glitchy game but its glitchy in a Red Dead Redemption way where it will make you laugh and not angry due to the visual mess-ups. Can you forgive fighting an invisible opponent? Well, that did happen to me once and I did, so its all about perspective.
I was watching Lillian Garcia announce the rules for a Royal Rumble and noticed how her cheeks looked like she was in a wind tunnel as her lips failed to match up to the dialogue she was saying when she randomly shouted “D-Generation X!”. I was Adam Rose. She then shouted it again during the next entrance instead of announcing my opponent, who was Kane. Not here is Kane, not as part of ______, KANE! – but just “D-Generation X!”. That is kind of what you get with a lot of the audio. It is fluid 90% of the time and the other bit is a bit harder to take. The commentary as usual is hit or miss as while I think its better, JBL sounds so bored while reading his lines that he comes across as unbelievable. The in-game soundtrack is better. Not great, but easier to enjoy with a wider variety than the country/rock rubbish we got last year.
After bring rather critical during this writing, I think most would think by now that I would frown upon this release, but I honestly found the core of WWE 2K16 to be a blast to play. The gameplay itself and the pacing of the matches lead to some unforgettable moments that are sure to capture any fan’s excitement as they pick their favorite superstars. That said, just because the game is better (by miles) than last year’s abomination does not mean this game is perfect or even great for that matter, as shady practices hurt one of the finest modes in the game while other mechanics have been applied without any thought or merit, acting as wet band-aid that is supposed to “fix” problems that us fans have been vocal about for years.
WWE 2K16 is a completed version of what should have been WWE 2K15, but somehow still manages to be full of bugs that at this point should not exist. This isn’t the debut of a WWE video game on a console and it should not be given a “better luck next time” jab to the cheek just because it managed to be better off this time. Full of flaws, frustrations, and fun – WWE 2K16 is sure to be one of the most polarizing releases in history, as it still isn’t good enough to represent the brand for this generation, but is just good enough for a fan to spend countless hours on as they patiently wait with hope for a more polished product in the future.
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