WWE 2K16 PS4 Review
The state of wrestling games in 2015 are shadows of their former shadow. WWE 2K16, like many of its predecessors, is still a veritable fuckbox of glitches and bugs. We have not even overcame that seemingly simple hurdle after all these years. The AI has not stopped acting like it’s possessed by the ghost of a three legged dog. 300lb men can still walk on air as if they were a fluffy cloud painted by Bob Ross. Physics still operate outside the bounds of known limitations, perhaps dangerously close to finding a new particle. Animations still break so absurdly that it will lead those watching to question the meaning of life. The list goes on.
Sure, this year’s effort is better than WWE 2K15, but that is faint praise. Anyone that bared witness to last year’s travesty will understand this. Applauding WWE 2K16 for slight improvement is akin to handing out an award for participation. You don’t congratulate someone for winning a race up Shit Mountain.
The supposed draw of this year’s effort is to give more. The most noticeable example of this promise is the expansive roster, which includes stars old, new, and forgotten. The insistence on offering more is the great downfall of this year’s effort in my opinion. This series has always had underlying problems at it’s core, so the intention of fixing this by piling more atop already dodgy foundations can hardly have a happy ending. Even though there is now much more to see – in terms of characters and menu options, WWE 2K16 is still not fun to play. That’s a big problem.
Simply calling something “not fun” is a simple statement to make, so let’s try to offer proof. Movement feels laborious. It does not matter if I am controlling Big Show or Neville, every single character feels like they are carrying around extra weight. Interactions with opponents lack impact. The submission system is a damned mess, which sees players rotating the analog stick to keep one coloured bar from touching another. It is like a bad Mario Party game from the lowest points of the series. Simply hammering a button (like in older games), is probably not the right answer, but at least it gave some sense you were struggling against tapping out. This dissociation with the actions on screen is a prevalent issue that eats away at almost all areas of gameplay.
A notable change from last year’s effort is that finishing moves have become less damaging. On WWE TV, hitting a finisher usually means a match is done, a wrestler will pin his opponent and walk out victorious. On PPV finishers magically become less capable – sometimes two or three are needed to finally get the three count. In WWE 2K16 it seems like finishers are about as impactful as slaps from a baby. I regularly needed to hit two or three to end a match. It was rare I’d ever finish a match with just one.
Seeing as Stone Cold Steve Austin is glaring from the box art, it is clear he plays a big part in WWE 2K16. He has his own mode that is a retelling of events that happened during the course of his career – including work before his Stone Cold persona came to be. This mode has the same stylings of other “Showcase” modes that graced the series over the past two years – one shone a light on 30 Years of Wrestlemania, whilst the other told a overarching tale of the events of the Attitude Era. On paper this seems like it could be great, as it has for two years running, but in reality you are forced into performing a laundry list of chores to progress.
This mode still revolves around recreating events from classic matches. You read an onscreen prompt and do what it says. It’s never very challenging, but always overly specific. Almost all modern day wrestling fans know wrestlers call their moves to each other before performing them, but having such spots labeled as objectives on screen, and then being tasked with laboriously trying to force the virtual recreation of Steve Austin to do them is a hassle. The game rarely finds good middle ground, either asking too much from a list of seemingly insignificant tasks, or reducing a spectacular moment to a QTE button press. No matter the route, gameplay regularly feels totally detached from player interaction. This mode has its moments, but ultimately makes fantastic moments in wrestling history seem wholly vapid and really boring. You’d be better just reliving events on the WWE Network…. which is just $9.99.
I feel like my opinion of modern day WWE is significantly influencing my opinion of WWE 2K16. I could go on for hours about lackluster episodes of RAW, Smackdown, and monthly PPVs, but suffice to say I’ve grown angry as they underutilise great talent with unexciting storylines. I do however like NXT, and I watch it weekly, and give WWE Network my money to keep an eye on what’s going on. Speaking of that brand, I am disappointed with the decision not to include a large selection of the woman who rose up through the ranks in NXT over the past two years. Women’s wrestling has seen a huge renaissance in NXT under the WWE corporate umbrella, with Paige, Emma, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Bayley leading the charge amongst many more. Sasha, Charlotte, Becky, and Bayley are not in the game, even though they’ve all been with the company longer than many included male NXT alumni – Finn Bálor, Kevin Owens and Hideo Itami.
Speaking of the Divas, the virtual recreation of some characters can look great – although only a few get this treatment. Stone Cold, Triple H and other high tier stars are spot on. Step one level down and things start to get a bit fuzzy. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, Paige, and Kevin Owens all look a bit misshapen. Some of the other Divas are where the game is visually at its worst. I fear Eva Marie, Tamina Snuka and Emma would even be unrecognizable by close family and friends. Also, something horrible happened to the always radiant Renee Young too. I’m so sorry.
To be truthful, presentationwise the game can be a mess. The commentary is almost thrown together. This is not a surprise as it reuses phrases recorded for older games in the series. This year JBL is added to the table, but he is the only person to have recorded a whole set of new lines. He puts some effort in, and sounds interested at least, but it is very noticeable his lines are stitched in between what Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler are saying. Any time the trio try to converse with each other the illusion they’re supposed to be sitting just inches from one and other shatters into pieces.
Where WWE 2K16 improves significantly over last year’s effort is the number of available modes. A huge number of creation options are now back to play around with. Wrestlers, belts, and arenas all can be edited. Whereas the Steve Austin showcase mode is expertly presented – using clips from WWE‘s near endless video library, MyCareer mode is much more basic. MyCareer is where you can create a wrestler from the ground up, and start life as a promising superstar down in NXT in hope you’ll eventually reach the big time. You can develop rivals and allies, and have base level interactions with other wrestlers. You can attain skill points and dole them out, develop and add new moves to your arsenal. However too much of this mode is displayed via graphs and charts. It quickly begins to feel like you are being told bit parts of a story rather than experiencing it for yourself. There are options available, such as the ability to interfere in matches,and give stock answers during interviews, but it quickly becomes apparent these component parts are held together with tape, string, and glue. You can almost see it falling apart at the seams.
There are a bunch of micro changes that help improve the series. One that deserves to be pointed out is the annoying reversal system that used to cause some characters to counter every move you make is no longer an issue. This was done by limiting the amount of reversals available to a character. As I said before, there are issues at the core of this series that caused those reversals to become annoying in the first place, so fixing them by simply putting a limit on their use is not something that should be applauded
So what do I want of a modern day wrestling game? I don’t fully know to be honest – people with more money and more brains than me should be able to figure it out. Maybe I want a followup to WWE All Stars! Maybe WWE Immortals was much better than I initially gave it credit for? Maybe a game where I play as Kevin Owens insulting idiots on Twitter would suit! Maybe a mod for Superman 64 where I play as John Cena? What about a music rhythm game starring the members of The New Day? All I know is I don’t want more of this – that much I am sure of.
WWE2K16 is a game with so many various bugs that sometime soon sentient societies will rise up to worship them. If this does not bother you, and you can laugh away regular trips to the monster factory of technical horror, then maybe you will be able to find moments of joy in the substandard gameplay on show. For me, as the hours passed by, I found the simple act of playing was a hassle. Instead of offering entertainment, the game became an effort to endure. Sure, all the gaping wounds that have plagued the series over the years are slowly getting fixed with each year that passes, but that does not change the fact this is a very sick series. In its current form I believe it is one that can never rise above mediocrity.