For this review, I’ll be touching on a hobby that I hint at, and even discuss among people who get it, and also people who don’t. Today, I’ll be talking about professional wrestling, a.k.a the male soap opera, a.k.a Live-Action Martial Arts Movies at Disneyland, a.k.a. Mr Universe Bikini Circus a.k.a. stories told through pre-determined exhibitions of athleticism. More specifically, I’ll be talking about a Professional Wrestling Video Game, and at the moment, possibly the only wrestling game that actually comes out every year. Much like FIFA, NHL, NBA, and every other EA Sports/2K Sports game, some wrestling games will always be remembered, while others will either be forgotten or looked back on with a bitter aftertaste. So a new question arises; Has the WWE put out a good wrestling game this year? Lets find out.
This year we’ve been presented with some excellent features; first, we have the largest roster that the series has ever produced (at least 120 wrestlers), and features quite a fun selection of current wrestlers from both the main roster and WWE’s farm show NXT (which is actually their own “Indy Wrestling Show”) as well as a combination of legends and other wrestlers from days long gone (with many, sadly, no longer here). It also features quite possibly the best non-wrestler to appear in a while, as Arnold Schwarzeneggar provided his likeness as part of a business deal between the makers of Terminator Genisys and WWE. So we get The Terminator from both the 1st and 2nd film in the game. However, even within the context of being up-to-date, there are some very big problems that fans will point out. The most obvious being that the Four Horsewomen of Wrestling (Sasha, Charlotte, Becky and Bayley) are not included, even though they had been putting on the best women’s wrestling matches since the All Japan Women’s Wrestling boom in the ’90s and the TNA Knockout Division in the late 2000s…and yet Eva Marie (1 of WWE’s answers to the Kardashians, and is a reality TV star before she is a wrestler) is in the game. To smark wrestling fans who look past the facade, this kind of decision is rather infuriating.
Next we have the 2k Showcase, which is a type of Story Mode, and this year the main focus is on 6-time former WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. We’re given the opportunity to recreate/relive/rewrite some of his most memorable matches, which includes his trilogy with Bret Hart, and 5 out of the 6 matches were he won the World Title, because unfortunately Kurt Angle isn’t in this game. Is 2K Showcase great? No, but it’s still very good. The lack of Mike Tyson, Owen Hart, Kurt Angle and (obviously, but understandable) Chris Benoit doesn’t help in its attempted authenticity. At the same time, the fact that they’ve thrown in some key matches from outside of his WWE career was pretty cool, such as “Stunning” Steve Austin vs Ricky Steamboat in WCW and “Superstar” Steve Austin vs ECW Champion Mikey Whipwreck at ECW’s November To Remember PPV (1 of only 2 matches that Austin wrestled in the company).
Another feature, which is only available on the PS4 and XBONE is the MyCareer mode, which focuses on a wrestler you create, and the journey you take as this wrestler, starting at an abysmal Overall rating of 60 and working your way up to entering the Hall Of Fame and possibly being at least 95 Overall (where you receive a trophy/achievement/digital can of coke). This part of the game is very close to the sort of thing I’ve always wanted. It’s flawed, with some (very) annoying voice acting, and 1 of the main goals has a “What the…” quality to it…It’s 1 thing to hold a title for over a year, or be a 3 time WWE champion or hold every title available…but lose every match for 3 years? That’s brutal! (I know, because I’ve done it.). Also, while we’re still on subject about voice acting – the commentary is still awful, and is closer to propaganda/brainwashing than actually telling a story…I miss the days when they just played techno-metal instrumentals and promos were done with subtitles only.
Lastly we have WWE Universe mode, which is effectively “playing the show”. You can choose to wrestle in any match on the card, change up the rosters, and make all of the decisions in the directions of rivalries, character personalities and whether you injure someone. There is no manager mode however.
Now onto the technical aspects of the game: Graphics-wise, WWE games have not been anything special for well over 10 years. Every time we talk about its graphics, it will always be compared to other games from the same time period or earlier. WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role looked good until you saw Tekken 3. WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2006 looked good until you saw Final Fantasy 12. And WWE ’13 looked good until you realised how little had changed in the last 5 years. 2K16, even on the PS4 is no exception. It isn’t even as good as Grand Theft Auto 5…for the PS3. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s the best looking WWE game to date (on current gen consoles, of course).
The music in the game is a major downfall this year, as you’re no longer able to customise it to your heart’s content. This doesn’t mean you can’t take out songs from your jukebox, but it also means that if you were hoping to have The Undertaker come out to For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica, recreate CM Punk and have him come out to Living Colour’s Cult Of Personality again, or in my case, come out to Link Wray’s Rumble while carrying a glass of wine, guitar case full of weapons and Samurai Sword, then you’ll be very sorely disappointed. On top of that, the main menu soundtrack can’t be used as entrance themes. So any Hardcore Philly fan looking to recreate former CZW Champion John Zandig (who came out to Youth Gone Wild by Skid Row) will have to stick to some other theme.
The gameplay…As far as in-ring action is concerned, the gameplay is very expansive, and while WWE Smackdown Here Comes To Pain is the prime example of WWE games being more arcade in style, This game is 1 of the best at emulating a realistic style. 1 that looks and feels more like a WWE or old NWA match and less like a badly booked indy match that is nothing but spots (Parts of the match that work brilliantly when you only see a maximum of 5 in 1 match, rather than using them for every move). Is this perfect? Nah, it’s got some bugs here and there. But it’s still quite a strong experience.
Now lets talk about customisation. I love this part of video games, and WWE have usually delivered in this department. So what’s it like this year? Yes, there are some options that are officially gone, custom theme music is gone, and create a finisher is gone (though they thankfully gave us a proper Butterfly Pile-driver, a brain-buster to the knee, and Kota Ibushi’s package fallaway power-bomb, and other moves that look dangerous rather than too safe, so it’s harder to complain about this). But this year, we can now add our own designs and faces to our create-a-wrestler (a feature that I remember seeing in Triple Play baseball 2001). The feature were you use a photo of your face and add it to your main character was a pleasant surprise, but I did spend hours perfecting it, as many attempts looked too much like Victorian Era plastic surgery.
Would I recommend WWE 2K16? If you’re a Wrestling Fan and someone who buys these games when told that it’s better than last year, then I’ll say “Yes, go for it”, as it’s a good addition to the series. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a vast improvement over last year’s game (which I never played, but after seeing videos and experiencing hearsay, I decided to put that money towards something better). And if my predictions are correct, 2K17 will probably be the best WWE game for this generation’s consoles. We can wait and see. But until then, it’s worth checking out when it’s £20-£30 or less on PS4 or XBONE…But beware; they reserve some of the best features for DLC…Like Tatsumi Fujinami, Curt Hennig and the ability to make wrestler attributes more realistic…It has a £20 price tag via Season Pass, so get this game as cheaply as possible…and before it’s made redundant by next Halloween.
Customisation: **** (despite lack of outsider music)
Roster: **** (despite lack of 4 Horsewomen)
Voice Acting: * (Really annoying, cheesy and generic.)