I like wrestling games for two reasons. One, because they provide resources to satisfy my creativity while quenching my incessant thirst for play. Two, because smashing together virtual representations of people within my own created storylines is a fucking blast. I’ve been a fan since before I started watching the actual product on television, and that is due to these reasons. It’s satisfying to beat people up. It’s fun to create stupid looking people and make them do stupid things. Wrestling games are great.
The 2k games get a bad reputation for being clunky. What the series does from others is attempt to present a realistic virtual representation of the product on television. So the in ring action sheds its once fast and arcade action for a more simulation style, momentum based back and forth. The Raw vs Smackdown games began to lean towards simulation, so this all makes sense for the development path of Yukes. For fans of the greats like WWF No Mercy and WCW vs nWo Revenge, the difference may seem startling and inaccessible. Wrestling games are already complex to learn and master, and when you go from arcade to simulation the complexity increases. When you go to briskly running around the ring, pulling out huge moves at the drop of a dime, the tiring wrestlers, and slowed down combat can seem off-putting. However, if you adjust your expectations, and change your outlook, you are greeted with a game that truly lives up to what’s on TV (and the Network). What you get is the most true to life professional wrestling game ever made, with some of the greatest graphics and bundle of features in the market.
Let’s speak about the game’s features. There’s a regular exhibition mode that can be played in the game’s many match modes, with any superstar the game has, that the player has paid for and downloaded, downloaded from community creations, or created themselves. There’s a lot to do here but I haven’t personally spent much time in this mode. You can alter the stables and championships, as well as defend said championships, and use this information exclusively for exhibition mode. But other than bragging rights when playing against my girlfriend I didn’t find much use for this mode.
The match types are extensive yet there are some strange omissions. You start by selecting the amount of opponents in the match, and then the match type. You can have a one on one, two on two, a triple threat, a four way, or a six man. You can also do handicap matches if you’re cruel to yourself, or specific superstars, and these handicap matches can go up to three on one, but strangely they operate as tag team matches instead of tornado–meaning it’s a one on one competition where one competitor can tag in a teammate. As far as special matches there’s an extreme rules, a falls count anywhere, a last man standing match, an I quit match, a cage match, hell in the cell match, elimination chamber match, tables match, ladder match, tables ladders and chairs match, money in the bank match, royal rumble, gold rush, and king of the ring. Under the six man matches there’s a six man battle royal, and a three on three tag team match. Tag matches can have tornado or regular tag matches and either of those can be elimination . Otherwise you can combine opponents with special match types, meaning you can have a six man hell in the cell match. Strangely the two on two mode seems most limited especially with the omition of a tag team TLC match. I was also surprised to see no first blood match and no casket match given this game is focused on Steve Austin and has a very large Attitude Era representation. But I suppose 2k13, which I still haven’t played, was the Attitude Era game, so they probably didn’t feel the need to include everything and that’s fine. There are more than enough match types here.
And it is always good to see a large selection of match types but some of these matches just aren’t fun because they’re too glitchy, or they just don’t work right. Any match involving a ladder is clunky and frustrating not only because propping the ladder up in the right way can become grueling, but the physics on the ladder itself is finicky as best. You can softly graze the fucking thing and it will fall over and sometimes out of the ring. Table matches are similar, as putting someone through a table can become a hellish task of guesswork unless you prop a wrestler onto a table and then jump off something to put them through or prop the ladder against a turnbuckle and tackle them through. Table matches should be one of the funnest match types because putting people through tables has always felt, in video games, as satisfying as it looks on television. The fact that you are restricted to different moves purely because the matchtype itself doesn’t completely work is disappointing, but it’s not a killing issue with the game as a whole. And when you watch the AI fight in a table match they clearly don’t know how to put anyone through a table. That’s kind of fucked up guys. Please fix this.
Also I must say–never play the elimination chamber. Just trust me. You don’t want to play the elimination chamber. Unless you want to view, and/or participate, in a hilarious garbage fire.
So other than the exhibition mode you get a single player focus with MYCAREER and the Showcase mode. MYCAREER has you create a superstar and start out at NXT. Become successful enough, and you’ll advance into the main brand, competing on Raw, Smackdown, and Superstars. There is an emphasis added on producing “five star matches,” which I always thought was presented weirdly. Matches that are considered “five stars,” when such wording is being presented by a journalist or pro-wrestling critic, usually means that the match compels the viewer with a back-and-forth action, where both sides of the conflict are exhibiting powerful performances. To my knowledge there isn’t a “five star match” where one superstar dominates the other superstar. And that’s what constitutes a five star match in WWE 2k16’s MyCareer mode. You earn points, thus more stars, by performing different moves on the opponent, by reversing an opponent’s moves, and by kicking out of enemy’s pinfalls. These stars are only earned when you are performing the actions. While you can add to your points by kicking out of pins, or getting out of submissions, the opposition’s moves do not add to points, or constitute additional stars. Their performance doesn’t really matter, meaning the match isn’t getting a star rating, YOU are. A good show requires both superstars to sell each others moves to make the fight unpredictable because that’s the fun of wrestling–watching, guessing, and speculating who is going to win. When one superstar dominates another superstar that match is genuinely considered to be an act of enhancement–this superstar looks good because they destroyed this other superstar. And those matches would never be rated “five stars.” Most people wouldn’t even consider those matches “good.”
This isn’t an issue it’s more of a gripe I have with the system. It makes sense in the mold of 2k16, and all professional wrestling, in that the wrestling is treated as though it were a real sport and not a form of performance-based sports entertainment. I’m not quite sure how a professional wrestling game would work if the in game wrestling was treated as performance rather than sport. It would be interesting to see, but I don’t think any WWE licensed first party video game will ever try this. Hopefully more wrestling games come out in the future that go after this idea.
That’s really all I have to say about MYCAREER as I haven’t spent that much time in the mode. I think it’s lame to have every career begin exactly the same, and I think it’s lame that every career begins with a lame, and long, tutorial. But it’s nice to be able to create a superstar and build a career for them.
The Renee promos/interviews are fucking terrible and scary. Please don’t voice original dialogue. It doesn’t work. You can’t even pull off commentary in a naturally sounding way, so the act of one human being interviewing another human being (with a terribly basic sounding voice actor by the way) is a bad move. The animations don’t match up and the way she pauses before every line to stare dead pan into the camera is horrifying. This is a wrestling game not a horror game. I MAKE THE DISGUSTING HORROR YOU FUCKING BASTARDS.
The other major single player focused offering in this game is showcase mode, and I spent very little time in this mode. It’s used to unlock superstar legends, arenas, attires, and championship belts. You can also purchase the ability to unlock everything. With real money. That’s dumb. But I did it anyway because I’d rather play with everything in the Universe Mode rather than spend a lot of time playthrough through showcase mode and accomplishing every goal. This year’s mode covers the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin, in this means players go through matches from his career in an attempt to recreate moments that happened on TV and PayPerView. This is cool, but I’ve never been interested in this mode, even if Stone Cold is one of my favorites (and a definite favorite from childhood). The in between promo packages are really good, and otherwise it feels very cumbersome attempting to control my character and perform the exact actions the game wants me to perform. Also, I can watch all of these moments as they actually happened on the Network, so playing through them and watching them done in a video game has little value to me.
What does have value to me–the most value in this entire video game package–is the game’s Universe mode. In this mode you get to book matches however you want, using whatever strange collection of superstars you want, with whatever arenas, brands, championships, stables, and rivalries. WWE 2k14 had a really great universe that was significantly difficult to use. WWE 2k15 stripped out a lot of features, but implemented the rivalry system, which included many cutscenes that had the chance to play out when players played through the rivalries. WWE 2k16 adds features that were stripped out of 2k15 back in while making the mode easier to use and easier to understand. So far I think it’s the best Universe mode yet, and HOPEFULLY 2K17 IS EVEN BETTER.
I spend so much time in Universe mode because it’s where I can let my creativity flourish. I build my own storylines, my own rivalries, my own eras, and even my own brands, championships, and arenas. I have several notes on my phone serving as documentation for the happenings, the championship reigns, and I have spent so much time planning future story lines in my Universe. I really went all out spawning several brands that competed amongst each other like countries in war. It was a fun time. Now whenever I play the older, more acclaimed wrestling games, I sorely miss having a Universe mode. I know I can have a somewhat similar experiences playing exhibition matches and imagining the events, the promotions, the championship rivalries, the stable feuds. However Universe mode provides me a tangible package of tools that I can use to supplement the stories I create in my head. It’s addicting and it’s compelling. Anyone who has ever found themselves constantly fantasy booking can appreciate a mode like this.
What makes it better is the fact that you can go online and download created superstars made by other people. You don’t want to spend hundreds of hours in the create a superstar mode. It’s slow, clunky, and prone to crashing. So painfully recreating a real wrestler from another promotion would be hell. Other people went through that hell for you. Profit off other people’s pain. I did. I had ROH and NJPW superstars fighting among NXT wrestlers and personally created superstars based off my friends from work. It was fun as fuck.
Along with superstars you can download custom build arenas, attires, championship titles, and logos. These individual modes are great to do on your own, and the ability to go online and download other people’s work is simply amazing. This feature has been around for years now, and it works very well in 2k16 with low download times and 100 character slots, but I’m always amazed by this feature considering I’ve played so many classic wrestling games on N64 and PS2 without this ability dreaming that I could somehow put new wrestlers into my game without spending hours creating them using an online guide.
As far as other online offerings you can match people but I don’t get the appeal of that. Wrestling games are exhausting to play against difficult computers. I wouldn’t dream of doing so online against players who are actually good at this game. I would probably kill myself from screaming alone. I haven’t really tried a match, so everything about the mode I know is from word of mouth, but I’ve heard from several sources that the online is extremely laggy, and that FPS lowers significantly to handle poor servers. The coupled with the slowed pace of the in ring gameplay sounds disgusting. No thanks. I appreciate the option and my ability to ignore it entirely.
Getting back to the Universe mode, I’ve spent probably around thirty of forty hours on this mode alone. I could have spent more but I start to feel bad that I’m ignoring other games, and the loading times and frustrating glitches that can occur accumulates and froths over my skull pot and into me yelling too much. Like when you edit a match and then the entire card changes, meaning if you edit every match of the card before you want to play the entire event, the card changes several times. Meaning you can’t really do that. Also, I didn’t play or watch every match, I ended up doing a lot of skipping around to focus on the storylines I cared about. I kind of regret that as I spent most of my time playing my overpowered created superstars, but it was still a really good time. I wrote about what happened in my Universe here for those curious to hear about it. I probably spent more time than was healthy developing the stories I told myself.
If you want a sample, there’s that time my first created superstar, wrestling Jesus, had to go through an entire two years of capturing every heavyweight championship (that’s Raw, Smackdown, and NXT’s belt) just for a chance to face Kevin Owens in a Universal Championship match. Along the way he had many rivalries, and eventually he had to start a little group called the NWO with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall AND he had to adopt a new gimmick, Metal Jesus, to destroy The Undertaker in a hell in the cell at Wrestlemania JUST FOR A CHANCE at Smackdown’s belt.
That thing alone took him his entire second year. When he finally faced Kevin Owens for the Universal Title, he absolutely destroyed him, and then went on to hold his belt for a year and a half. Who took the belt from him?
Bad Boy Dude Man.
So now, 2000+ words later, I’m going to get into the actual in-ring action. WWE games are massive, but the amount of content packed into this particular WWE game is simply amazing. I haven’t even got into the creation suite. But I’ll do that soon yeah hold on to your nipples it’s coming.
The in-ring action is good, as I said in my opening paragraphs, if you play the game how the developers intend for you to play it. The pace is slowed down, so if you’re constantly running in for power moves you’ll experience low stamina and then you can’t do anything. If you reverse every move thrown at you, you don’t get reversals until one of your bars fills up again. If you taunt and an enemy gets to their feet and your character is still taunting, they can and will hit you. If you go in expecting to make every match a squash with your character on top, you may see the momentum shift in the opponent’s favor multiple times throughout the match. It’s a system meant to recreate how matches look on TV, and that’s been the focus since the series shifted from Raw vs Smackdown to WWE 2kXX. This won’t be like Smackdown Shut Your Mouth, where I can go in and hit move after move without the enemy getting a punch in. If you get a powerful move off, the opponent will be on their backs for a long time, and they will take awhile to get to their feet, meaning you have a lot of opportunity to get in more moves. The same can be said for your opponent–when they get a powerful move off, you will experience an avalanche of their own moves. It’s a system about momentum, and when you think about the idea of “selling,” or making a move look like it hurt, this makes sense. You are putting on a performance, after all.
I’m not going to pretend the in-ring action is perfect. Far from it. The CPU still reverses moves far too frequently. The bars help, but if a CPU has a bar full, you can expect your next move to be reversed. These are supposed to be employed strategically and it’s a bit odd that the CPU just reverses whenever it can and whatever it can. I also experience far too many reversals during signature and finishing moves. This shouldn’t be a thing–those happen rarely on TV, and should happen as rarely in the games. It’s frustrating to feel like you have your opponent finally beat, and they’re DLOFUCKINGBROWN, and they reverse your finisher.
Luckily for those things there’s the option to reduce (or increase, if you’re a mad man) certain elements of the AI’s capabilities. For instance you can reduce or increase the frequency the CPU reverses anything in the games, from strikes to finishing moves. You can reduce the amount of times the CPU goes for submissions, which is good because submissions are fucking hard to figure out in this game. You can totally eliminate the beginning section of every single match with the chain grapple quick time mini game, which is good because that thing sucks ass and has never felt fun and would never get funner after multiple times (READ EVERY FUCKING MATCH) and is actually quite unrealistic given that doesn’t happen in every (FUCKING) match! You can also edit the strength of finishers, and this is huge because FINISHERS should FINISH the match!
All of these sliders go a long way in fixing the game. To be honest I did not enjoy playing this game until I found out about these sliders. Before the game was grueling, as though they wanted you to put on twenty minutes five star matches even when you’re trying to squash Bo Dallas to build up the strength of your character. Now you can kill a guy in three minutes and look really good doing it, or you can make the match an epic. This works really well in Universe when you’re trying to introduce personal created superstars, and tell storylines about their climb up the WWE ladder. Also it helps you feel better about your real life by beating the shit out of DLOFUCKINGBROWN–I mean it’s satisfying, and sometimes you don’t want to spend twenty minutes on one match if you play to get through many. These sliders are a great addition, and the ability to tailor your gameplay with this much depth is always welcome.
It can still feel jank when you’re trying to perform certain functions. There are times where you can’t perform the finisher you want because you also have an OMG moment the game wants you to do instead. Characters can suddenly float off of the floor if their physics collide with the physics of another object, especially with tables and ladders. Weapons in general don’t work very well when set up, though there are some interesting moments like placing chairs over opponent’s ankle, or setting the table on fire. Putting opponents through announcer tables requires a canned OMG moment and although you can select which move you use to put an opponent through the table it’s disappointing that you can’t just climb the table and do whatever you want, or jump off a ladder/turnbuckle/apron to dive through the table.
One of my favorite spots is the dive to the outside from a turnbuckle. Especially when the opponent is on a table, which is simply performed by pressing the grapple button with a table in one’s hands to lay the opponent over said table. It looks particularly brutal, and I built that into the cannon of my character in that he would pull out that spot when he really wanted to hurt people. The other spot I would do with that same character that I particularly enjoyed was performing a taunt where my character would flex and look at his arms (shades of Lex Luger). I would do the taunt right when the other person was getting up expecting them to hit me in the middle of the taunt. It just looks so funny to see a guy flex and then, distracted by his own muscles, receives a punch in the face.
Now this is the major reason I think WWE 2k16 is a good wrestling game from its in-ring gameplay–it’s the first time in a wrestling game where I was thinking about spots, gimmicks, character progression, and plot while I was playing the game in the ring. I’ve never really cared about telling a good story when playing some of my older favorites like No Mercy–I was more concerned with having fun and beating the tar out of someone. Now I’m thinking about WHY I need to beat the tar of them, AND I’m selling their moves to make the match more interesting. What does that mean for a video game? Well I often let the other guy beat me around for a little while without reversing or really trying to get a move in. Not only does it add to the tension a bit when they hit a finisher and go for a pin, but it tells a better story. It displays a battle instead of a beat down. And it feels more like the real thing. WWE 2k16 changed the way I look at wrestling games, and how I play them.
The final section of this review will go over the creation suite, which has been a critical feature of professional wrestling games since WWF Warzone. Is that the first time creating a superstar was introduced? Probably? Anyway, I already said it was nice to download other people’s creations, but I also like the ability to create whatever dumb superstars, entrances, arenas, and championship belts that I can. You still can’t create Stories like you could in WWE 2k14, but that’s fine because I (oddly) never used that mode anyway. What you can do is make detailed masterpieces in the create a superstar mode, and the create an entrance mode. Created title belts always look of lower quality than real titles, and their physics always fucked up when superstars attempted to wear them. Create an Entrance works really well, with the ability to choose music, titantron videos, lightening for each specific moment as well as pyro, you can set filters, decide when the nameplate pops into view, and it all works really well in the creation suite. Your superstar gets different movement options for each point in the entrance, meaning your entrance may be nothing but hobbled together pieces from other entrances, but altogether you can make something truly beautiful. Hopefully I can get a video on here of just what I’m talking about, because I must admit I am a true visionary when it comes to Entrance Art.
Now create a superstar is still good in this game, but there were too many issues that bogged this mode down to the point that I didn’t use it nearly as much as I do in other professional wrestling video game titles. For one, you have no real option to preview most of everything on your superstar so instead you have to select it, wait for it to load in, and then see what it looks like. You can preview clothing on a mannequin but that’s about it. Hair is even worse because not only will it take too long to load in the preview, but you have to squint to see what the hair looks like before you put it on your superstar, making this process take way longer than it should. The load times are absolutely brutal. If you want to preview a mullet it takes almost thirty seconds for the mullet to load on your superstar’s head. Same for shirts, boots, masks, it doesn’t matter. I’ve spent countless hours trying to create my fictional version of a friend both because it took a million years to load everything I wanted, and because the game likes to crash while you’re creating superstars! In particular, if you’re placing text on their gear, which I was heavily. It got to the point where I had to make a blank version of my superstar, and then edit it later to put in whatever text, designs, and logos I wanted on their clothing, just so I didn’t have to redesign the character from the ground up AGAIN.
In conclusion I obviously have many problems with WWE 2k16. BUT, I also have spent a LOT of time with WWE 2k16, so I still really like the game. If you cannot find it within yourself to enjoy a flawed experience that often feels clunky and takes a decade to load, then no one would blame you for overlooking this game. If you want to stay with WWE 2k14, or if you already have the recently released 2k17, then I also can’t blame you for overlooking 2k16. But this is still one of the greatest professional wrestling games ever made and I for one am greatly looking forward to seeing how 2k can continually improve their engine and add to their growing amount of existing features.
WWE 2k16 changed how I play and think about wrestling games. For that, I give WWE 2k16 a Bloody Sock out of Body Pillow. Hopefully, 2k17 will be even better!
FIXIN FOR A RUN IN
THEN I’M HEADIN INTA APPLEBEES IN TIME FOR LAST CALL