THE CHAMP IS HERE! Yes, it’s that time of year again, where the grappling soap opera laces up its boots and dons its flamboyant singlets/shorts to unleash its roster on the world once again. After last year’s threadbare next gen debut, the tension is rising, the deck is stacked for failure, and so can the champion-turned-disappointment come out on top in 2015?
Let’s start with what desperately needed improvement from last year: the content. It’s what generally labels a WWE game as a success or failure, whether it’s Road to Wrestlemania modes, original stories, unlockable content, etc. So it is instantly pleasing to see that WWE 2K16 has introduced the 2K Showcase mode; essentially the same as the History of Wrestlemania mode of 2K14, Showcase lets you play out Stone Cold Steve Austin’s key historic encounters (and some not so historic), meeting certain conditions to unlock material that can be used in the general modes of the game. However, whilst initially a lot of fun to revisit scenes that are 20 years old and every older WWE’s fan dream, there are some serious pacing issues. Most conditions are simple yet tedious to fulfil, such as delivering X amount of damage or perform an Irish whip, and are mandatory to continue and complete the match. The fact that these matches unlock new characters and other goodies is the only incentive to a mode that only succeeds in feeling forced and very restrictive; the conditions mount up to make rather exhaustive and laborious matches, and all the while I was wishing I was watching the real thing instead.
Which leads onto the most disappointing element: the gameplay itself. WWE 2K16 is clunky, slow, with unforgivable glitches such as commands that randomly stop working as quickly as they start working again, along with the odd inexplicable difficulty spike, leading to frustration. Despite these apparent indignations 2K16 is a generally simple title to pick up and play, with a lot of crazy matches to be had that will satisfy the hard-core WWE fan. But, and this is the biggest but of all, WWE games have effectively been the same title – albeit tweaked – since WWE ’13, effectively making this WWE ’13 version 3, and is a series in desperate need of a change from the ground up. Striking, grappling, submission, reversals and even pinning manoeuvres are all just essentially just a game of chance; a game built up on QTE based command foundations that are often cleverly masked behind the accurate WWE arenas and superstars.
But even the visuals themselves are not the draw they once were, especially after taking the step up to the next console generation. Appearances from the owner himself Vince McMahon are almost comical as his face barely resembles the man that has (arguably) made WWE what it is today. And that pretty much optimises the state of the Yukes-developed WWE game in today’s world: although its wealth of modes will draw a few hours of fun, especially the multiplayer matches, it really isn’t due to skill; making for a rather shallow experience.
It can be easily concurred that WWE 2K16 is the best wrestling game you can buy today; unfortunately that does not mean that it is a great game by any means. 1 obvious reason is lack of competition; the rival wrestling brands no longer have video games developed so there is no current comparison. The other reason is that it just isn’t a satisfying game, and even for a hard-core WWE fan it will stretch their interest, which is a crying shame and a massive opportunity missed. WWE 2K16 has the feel of desperation that its TV counterpart often suffers from: a lack of fan satisfaction.