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 a copy of History of Wrestlemania mode in WWE2K14, Showcase lets you play out Stone Cold Steve Austin’s key historic (and some not so historic) encounters. Meeting certain conditions unlocks 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. These can be as basic as delivering X amount of damage or perform an Irish whip, and are also 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. As you progress the conditions mount up resulting in rather exhaustive and laborious matches. 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 and slow, with unforgivable glitches such as commands that randomly stop working as quickly as they start working again. Factor in an oddly inexplicable difficulty spike, which leads to frustration more than an increased challenge.
Despite these apparent indignation’s, WWE 2K16 is a generally simple title to pick up and play. The variety of crazy matches to be had 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. WWE 2K16 is effectively WWE ’13 version 3, with the series in desperate need of a change from the ground up.
Striking, grappling, submission, reversals and even pinning manoeuvres are all just essentially a game of chance; a game built up on QTE-based command foundations that are often cleverly masked behind the accurately depicted WWE arenas and superstars.
But then 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 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, particularly multiplayer, it really isn’t due to skill; making for a rather shallow experience.
Despite all these grievances, 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. One obvious reason is lack of competition; there are simply very little rivals to WWE‘s crown, much like the real product. Moreover, WWE 2K16 just isn’t satisfying enough even for a hard-core WWE fan. As a fan of the promotion for the best part of 20 years, it stretched even my interest. WWE 2K16 has a feel of desperation that its TV counterpart often suffers from: a lack of fan satisfaction.
The version played for this review was the Xbox One edition.