WWE 2K16 Review – Showcase of the Immoral

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.

91uoZnsrAHL._SL1500_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.

WWE2K16LastGen06But 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.

Wrestling games; fun, but shouldn’t be {Part 3}

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 – At last, a step in the right direction

Although few new features were introduced in the 2009 instalment, Smackdown vs Raw started to feel a little more polished to play, along with graphical improvement and visual accuracy, which is always welcome. Signature moves were introduced. These are performed the same way as Finishers, but are available sooner, and are considered the stepping stone to unlocking the use of the Finisher. For example, Triple H’s signature is his patented spine buster, which then leads the way to pick up the opponent for his Finisher, the Pedigree. The main PR focus on the game were the changes made to the tag team mode, such as the ‘Hot Tag’, where if in trouble you can call for a tag once your meter is charged, using the taunt action from the ropes. This initiates a 2-piece QTE section, where, if successful on both instances, it will knock the opposing tag partner off the apron to the floor below, and allows you to perform your finisher on the opponent left in the ring, with a good chance of victory. There are also opportunities for your untagged partner to help double team an opponent from the ropes, or even blind tag yourself into the match (i.e. ref didn’t see it therefore illegal) to try and gain a slight upper hand. All these are, of course, regular occurrences on WWE television, and are quite welcome, although it’s taken long enough. We’re into 2009 here, long after WWE TV’s best days have (arguably) ended.

Another new introduction is the Inferno match, which isn’t as explosive as the title suggests, unfortunately. The ring is surrounded by fire, a temperature meter is added to the HUD, and the goal is to raise the temperature to 300C by performing the biggest moves your character has, then dragging them into the flames near the ropes. Once they’ve caught fire, victory is yours. Yay.

There is also the gauntlet match, which consists of 1 wrestler against a team of others, but one after the other, not at the same time. Some modes received the chop in this incarnation, ones that are still the case even now; create a pay per view, create a championship and general manger mode.

General Manager Mode was dropped in favour of Road to Wrestlemania mode; character driven storylines much like WWE TV, each culminating in a match at the Wrestlemania PPV. These are reserved for the franchise’s biggest stars, such as John Cena, Triple H, and even a tag team driven storyline with Batista and Rey Mysterio. Road to Wrestlemania basically involves take your chosen character through each week of Raw/Smackdown, having a match each week, building up to the next PPV event, with twists and turns along the way, the chance to power up your wrestler’s attributes, etc. There are also lots of extra collectibles to unlock, by meeting certain conditions in matches, which are an incentive for achievement grabbers also.

The final notable mode addition is Career Mode. Not to be confused with the above, the main aim of this mode is for the player to fight their way up the rankings for a particular title of their choice, in match types that they can also choose/unlock. After each match, the player’s character is awarded attribute points based on the style of wrestling the player used. Each match is also rated with a 5-star rating system, so performing all the big moves, using weapons where allowed, finishers, etc all add up to being the #1 contender. My take is thus; very tedious, monotonous, and repetitive. Unlocking the achievement for putting FIVE separate wrestlers into the Hall of Fame nearly broke me.

Things are starting to take shape now; hardly perfect gaming but these are games for the fans of a franchise, nothing more. Don’t try this at home.

Don’t try this at home. I did warn you!

Kapow! Right in the kisser

So then, Kapow! Comic-Con. My first ever Comic-Con, and although i was only able to attend the Saturday, what an event it was. You may be thinking, this is a gaming blog, what relevance has a Comic-Con to that? Well, thanks to IGN, plenty.

IGN Arena

Upon handing in my ticket, the first attraction on offer is the IGN arena, complete with master of ceremonies for the day, Christian Stevenson, who kept the upbeat mood going very well. The IGN arcade, complete with 10 Xbox 360’s and various games, including WWE All-Stars (perfect opportunity to experience the over the top action firsthand) and Portal 2 (which i missed out on, but looks excellent), kept many occupied throughout, along with exclusive Dirt 3 and Operation Flashpoint: Red River sections, which were also welcome.

WWE All-Stars is great fun, but technically not great and out of date. But i do love the exaggeration angle the game plays; it’s almost a parody of itself. You think those moves look painful choreographed in the ring on TV, wait till you see these babies.

Don't try this at home. I dare you.

IGN were also offering the chance to ‘man up’ as it were and attempt the fastest lap on Dirt 3, Top Gear style. I admit i chicken-ed out on this opportunity, but nevertheless, it looked fun.

The most exciting gaming experience of the day came with my first ever 3DS experience. After being shown the basics by the lovely ladies of Nintendo, i got my hands on one (not a lady), firstly on Nintendogs, which doesn’t interest me in the slightest i’m sorry to say, but the 3D on the game looked amazing. Later on in the day i got my hands on Super Street Fighter IV, which was excellent, the Circle Pad feeling so natural, along with the D-Pad offering the usual, natural feel that Nintendo have always been so good at.

Along with both Insert Coin Tees and Retro GT providing excellent gaming t-shirts, and even video game branded energy drinks, there was plenty for the gaming world to behold at Kapow!

Comics:-

I love comics. I have read them for as long as i can remember. My first memory was buying Adventures of Superman #445 years ago when on holiday in Great Yarmouth. It’s one of those memories that stays with you until the end of your time, and, for me, Kapow! was another. This was my first taste of anything like it, i suppose like many in the UK, as there hasn’t been anything like it before.

There was so much on offer, great stalls selling comics, graphic novels, most at reduced prices, along with action figures, framed artwork, and plenty more. I got myself a copy of Superboy: Boy of Steel HC, along with The Avengers Volume 1 HC. The latter, along with issue 1 of said Avengers comic, signed by the artist, ones of Marvel’s best ever, John Romita Jr, who was a pleasure to meet. Definitely the highlight of the day for me.

The DC Superstar Creator Q+A was also excellent. 4 geniuses behind table, a 100+ in the audience asking whatever we wanted. Awesome. Frank Quitely (Vincent Deighan) and Paul Cornell were really funny, and refreshingly laid back and honest. I took the opportunity just after to speak with the DC Comics sales person (forgot his name), regarding the lack of DC Animated feature films released in the UK, particular as All-Star Superman was referenced quite a bit in the Q+A. Hopefully something will be done about this. But i digress.

An event such as this can only be good for the UK entertainment industry, whichever of the media was on show. It was such a great day, and will do it all over again next year. TTFN.

Wrestling games; fun, but shouldn’t be {Part 2}

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2008

After the introduction of new gameplay and several new features in SVR 2007, this edition delivered very little in addition to that. The main push of this game was the introduction of the ECW brand, and its own roster. The combat system was also altered to include ‘styles’, such as Powerhouse, Dirty, Brawler, etc. For example, a hardcore style wrestler will gain lots more momentum from using weapons instead of regular attacks. These styles unfortunately make for very unbalanced combat (surprise), and were always more fun to be dirty/hardcore anyway. These styles were however tweaked for future releases in a more productive manner.

There were alterations/additions to the game modes once again, with a tournament mode added, such as Beat the Clock, and King of the Ring, which was resurrected in WWE TV that year also. Season Mode and General Manager Mode were merged into WWE 24/7 mode, with the aim being to transform your chosen wrestler into a legend. Training, matches and even rest was manageable, but not without an adverse effect on your character, but once again, it is mostly a breeze for the most basic of players.

“I had onions for lunch”

Roster wise, as usual a few changes here and there, mostly down to the aforementioned ECW roster, but most notably, the first WWE game since SD: Shut your mouth to include Jeff Hardy, as he began his quite remarkable rise through the company at the second attempt.

This game is really only for WWE completion-ists, and, although some of the skills and attributes is the most redundant of the next gen WWE titles.

Wrestling games; fun, but shouldn’t be {Part 1}

WWE games have forever existed on one format or another, or many at once, in the case of the Smackdown VS Raw series, for as long as, well, any of us will probably remember. In the previous generation of consoles, a differently developed WWE title was released for each; the Smackdown series was always Sony’s package, ultimately becoming the Smackdown VS Raw series of today. The Xbox had the largely inferior and clunky Raw series, which was abandoned after 2 titles. Finally, the Gamecube had, in my opinion, the best wrestling game of that generation in Day of Reckoning and its sequel. (I’ve completely ignored Wrestlemania X8, it was that bad).

All the above games from came from THQ, who still have the license to this day, with the imminent release of WWE All-Stars, just in time for Wrestlemania this weekend. So, enough of the history lesson, here is my run down of each next-gen WWE game to date.

WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2007

The first of the next-gen WWE games was a brief reinvention for the series, but not without its problems. Presentation was improved significantly, in line with the jump in console power, and the grapple system had a total overhaul, making analogue sticks the tool for executing quick and strong grapples. It took some getting used to at the time of its inception; but is a system that some may now consider, especially 5 incarnations on, to be largely out-dated. Even with this better control system, the AI was still very easy to overcome, even on Legend difficulty, and the General Manager mode is tedious more than anything, and ultimately, not very rewarding. Match types were increased by bringing in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, now a popular yearly event in WWE television, and is brilliant fun with a few mates round. There was also the introduction of ‘hot-spots’, where in key places around the ring, such as the ring post, a grapple icon will appear. Once activated, a cut-off animation will show your opponent (or even yourself, should you be on the receiving end) being thrown in the ring post, or other item around the ring. This incarnation also introduced fighting ‘in the crowd’, which, in reality, is a weapon-filled area over the crowd barrier in the top right of the screen, but is largely pointless.

The create a wrestler mode is not much different, but instead other create modes have been included/improved. Create an entrance has been improved, allowing full control from the video screen, to the pyrotechnics used. There is a create a championship mode, allowing the creation of any title belts you desire, and then fight for them. Stables can also be created/amended, and can be adjusted based on experience points obtained in season mode, to be more efficient as a team.

As usual, the roster is usually out of date in some form when the game is released, as characters change, leave, be recruited so are missing, and, in the case of SVR 2007, die. This is the final WWE game to feature Chris Benoit, due to his untimely and controversial death in 2007, a few months after the games release.  This is also Kurt Angle’s final WWE game, in fact he had already been released before the game’s release, as well as Lita, who had retired in the month of the game’s release.

Overall the game is still one of the best in the series, and, like most of these titles, plenty of fun on multi player, but far too easy in single player. But these games are all about being your favourite (or not so favourite) WWE idol, not much more.