(Played on PS4)
The problem with the modern WWE is that due to constant stop and start pushes, combined with poor writing overall, the modern WWE roster is thoroughly underwhelming when put up against previous generations. The exception to this would be the wrestlers from NXT, who are protected much more and thus are yet to lose their lustre. Something tells me that 2K Sports are all too aware of this and have stuffed their current WWE release with as many past superstars as possible as well as increasing the NXT representation to boot. What that means is that we are left with a gargantuan roster that should at least satisfy most people in one form or another. Unfortunately WWE 2K16 is still a very flat game even with its great roster and I found it a bit of a slog to get through.
It’s not that the game itself is overtly bad. It can be frustrating at times but the general gameplay, when it works as it’s supposed to, is well imagined and smooth. The graphics are well detailed in most cases, although none of the women on the game really look right. Some of the men look picture perfect to their real life counterparts, with Rusev being a particular stand out in that regard. The women just look a bit “off” though when it comes to their presentation. Their faces look puffy and not really like how they do in real life. Stephanie McMahon in particular looks like she’s storing a jacket potato in her mouth and her eyes are blank and lifeless. It’s rather disconcerting if I’m being honest.
The arenas have been recreated well enough and there’s a litany of classic arenas to go alongside the modern ones. The main single player experience is split into two parts, with My Career and the 2K Showcases making their returns from last year. WWE Universe mode is also back as are a number of online options. Showcase mode is based around the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin and follows him from his King of the Ring win in 1996 up until his final match with The Rock at Wrestlemania XIX. In conjunction to the linear narrative, there are also side matches from Austin’s time in ECW and WCW, which gives us the first ever appearance of Mikey Whipwreck in a WWE licensed game.
Despite this, I found Showcase to be disappointing and nowhere near as good as the Wrestlemania and Attitude editions of the mode seen in previous installments. You only get to play two matches from WCW and a single solitary match from ECW. Why they couldn’t have added The Sandman to the game and recreated the Austin/Whipwreck/Sandman Three Way Dance from 1995 is beyond me. Plus, despite Brian Pillman being in the game, there are no matches in Showcase where you can play as The Hollywood Blonds. This is exceedingly frustrating as Arn Anderson is due to be DLC and they could have easily just put him on the disc and done Blonds Vs Anderson and Ric Flair from 1993. Hey, give Shane Douglas a pay out and show the Blonds Vs Steamboat and Douglas feud some love. I’m sure Shane would appreciate it seeing as last I heard he was having to work in Target.
I would have certainly preferred more WCW and ECW stuff than some of the other matches that are represented, such as the Wrestlemania 13 rematch between Bret Hart and Steve Austin at In Your House 14. Considering this is the third Bret Hart Vs Austin match in Showcase, I really think they could have put an extra WCW match in there instead of this. The match was a throw away main event on a B show that was overshadowed by a big angle the next night on Raw, where Austin injured Bret and then kidnapped him in an ambulance. Obviously the lack of Owen Hart as a playable character caused 2K to have to get a bit more creative with what matches from 97 they could include, but I really think the Showcase mode is a frustrating missed opportunity. I would have personally loved to have played more as Austin from his WCW days.
The game is also capable of glitching out when it wants to, and this came to light for me during the 2001 Royal Rumble section of Showcase mode. To pass the mode, you have to play as Austin and welly Kane with 3 chair shots before you can eliminate him. The problem is that only Kane is permitted to get out of the ring and get the chair, which means you have to let him knock you down and then bring the chair in so you can complete the objective. However, the game would glitch out at this point and Kane would knock me down only to start hitting the ropes and failing to get out of the ring. During this time, I’d be knocked out and unable to get up. This led to me having to restart the match at least 3 times. It didn’t help that at another point The Rock and Kane decided they weren’t going to fight each other and just fight me. To get to the next part of the match, I had to hit Rock with a Stunner. I finally managed to get both Kane and Rock down and walked over to pick up Rock so I could deliver the move and advance to the next objective. However, despite me not only standing next to Rock’s prone body but looking directly at him the game instead decided that I’d pick up Kane, which meant I couldn’t stun Rock in time and thusly had to start the chapter again.
The game glitches in normal play as well. You’ll dodge strikes from opponents but your wrestler will sell it anyway. You’ll hit the ropes and just stop running as a part of your body gets stuck on the ropes. At one point Kane’s arms grabbed me from half way on the other side of the ring like he was some kind of Stretch Armstrong. It’s a shame because the gameplay can be satisfying when it actually works as it’s supposed to, but sadly that isn’t guaranteed to happen.
WWE Universe Mode has its flaws as well. For instance, you can’t have a title match on an episode of Raw or NXT. I tried numerous instances of putting a number one contender and the champion in a match together but I was never given the option for a title match. This is exceedingly frustrating, especially as you could do it on previous versions of the game. Also, for some reason on my game it doesn’t generate storyline matches when I play on NXT. This was after I changed it so NXT could host pay per views and still the storyline matches wouldn’t generate.
My Career works a lot better than it did last year, but I still found it a chore and it’s definitely the mode I played the least. If it wasn’t for the fact I had to review the game, I probably wouldn’t have played it at all. I just don’t want to create my own guy. I want to be able to take a WWE or NXT superstar that I like and then help them climb through the rankings, like you could do on the Smackdown games. Yes, you could create a wrestler if you wanted to, but you could also challenge yourself by trying to take someone like Ultimo Dragon to the Main Event of Wrestlemania. I think I played the Season Modes of both Smackdown 4 and 5 with most of both games rosters. I’d get to the point where I was playing as someone like Test or Sean O’Haire in Season Mode because I loved playing it so much and wanted to see what would happen when I played with different guys. I’m just not interested in making someone especially for career mode and I’d like to have an option to just use one of the wrestlers already in the game. Maybe in that case I would want to create someone after using a real wrestler a few times, but when I’m forced to do that I really resent it. And before people say “that’s what Universe Mode is for”, I’d retort that Universe Mode is a poor substitute for the Season Modes of old that you’d find on Smackdown or No Mercy.
I will say though that getting to play as guys like Tyler Breeze and Hideo Itami is a lot of fun and I’m really glad that the NXT quotient has been increased for this release. It just rankles even more than I can’t play as one of them and get them to a World Title match at Wrestlemania. For me, playing as an actual NXT guy or girl who has been promoted to the Main Roster and dealing with the problems that go with it would have been a much more interesting story than going with a created guy who gets thrown into NXT just like that. You don’t really get a chance to add any real back story to your created wrestler either. Is he a rookie straight out of wrestling school or is he an indy veteran whose finally getting his chance? It’s never explored and would have been something that could have added a different layer to the narrative. My Career just gives me no impetus to care. I haven’t taken time to know or care about this character, so I have no desire to see his career path through to its conclusion. At least with an established wrestler I know who they are and have a reason to care about them.
In closing, I wouldn’t recommend this at full price. If you see it cheap in a few months time and are a big wrestling fan, maybe give it a goosey gander then. But don’t spill 8 Bison Dollars on it. It really isn’t worth it.
Final Score – 65%