It’s a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, I admit, but since our first edition of “Game Time” looked at the first wrestling video game that I bought, we’ll take a look at the most recent wrestling game to join my collection, in the form of WWE 2K16.
The seventeenth game in the series that THQ started way back in 2000 with the plain-old “SmackDown”, WWE 2K16 is the second attempt on the new PlayStation 4/Xbox One consoles, and came into its release looking to improve on the previous year’s effort. We’ll cover 2K15 down the line, but in a nutshell, 2K15 was an unmitigated disaster on the latest-generation of consoles, with match types disappearing and creation modes removed.
Fortunately, 2K16 restored the majority of all of those removals, and they also countered with the largest ever roster assembled in a WWE video game. After introducing NXT to the video game series in the prior year’s release, 2K16 expanded up on it with the addition of further NXT talents, particularly with the DLC packs giving you the WWE video game debuts of Samoa Joe, Blake & Murphy, the Vaudevillains, Enzo Amore, Colin Cassady, Tyler Breeze, Kevin Owens and Hideo Itami.
This being a modern-day video game, of course there’s downloadable content. Disappointingly, paying full price for the game on day one didn’t give you the full roster, as you needed to pay a little extra for additional characters. The Legends pack gave you access to the Big Boss Man, Dusty Rhodes, Mr Perfect, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, plus Trish and Lita. Another pack, misleadingly labelled “Future Stars” gave you access to Samoa Joe, Blake, Murphy, and the recently repackaged Matadores of Diego and Fernando. Extra moves for the game could also be added, as could extra Showcase matches involving 2015’s Hall of Fame inductees for those who wanted more single-player matches. Unfortunately, DLC seems to have become part and parcel of the current era of video games, but it never feels right when you pay $60/£45 for a game, then have to pay about half-as-much again to get the full game.
Annoyingly, in spite of the “largest ever roster” and the extra DLC, there are some key omissions. None of the unofficial “Four Horsewomen” of NXT: Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch or Bayley were included in the game, as the game largely stuck to established Divas. Whilst NXT’s women’s contingent were represented by Eva Marie, Emma and sometimes-there Cameron, missing so many of NXT’s most popular characters felt like a misstep both when the roster was locked down (circa WrestleMania 31) and announced… and even more so by the time the game actually was released, since three of the four were actually a part of the main roster by that point. If 2K were able to get clearance and include Samoa Joe into the game after only debuting in June, I’m not sure why they couldn’t have included any of the prominent NXT women.
That being said, you can at least create divas in this year’s game – and with an expanded capacity to save up to 100 created characters, you can create an entire new company’s worth of talent if you so wish. The launch of the 2K16 Creation Suite app allows you to take a photo of your own face (or other image) and add it into the game… Or just do what I did, and download a bunch of created wrestlers from New Japan, ROH, Lucha Underground and beyond from the Community Creations mode. You can even download logos, title belts, , giving you plenty of choice for your overhaul of Raw and SmackDown in Universe mode (we’ll get to that), although you’ll be limited to twenty downloads a day, as 2K try to prevent their servers from being overwhelmed.
Standard roster complaints aside, the game plays pretty well, but at the same time it also felt too familiar. At its core, WWE 2K16 is the same game that I played on the first PlayStation in 2000, with a few control tweaks: the left thumbstick moves you, the D-pad performs taunts, combine square and the left thumbstick to do strikes, X and the left thumbstick to do moves, and the shoulder buttons to run or block. Simple, right? Unfortunately, after sixteen years or largely the same control system, it starts to feel repetitive, particularly if you’ve been a long-time player of this francise.
As a single player, you have three main game modes – aside from the ubiquitous exhibition mode: career mode, Showcase mode and Universe mode. Career mode is the standard “create a character, and fight your way throughout the roster and to the top of the card. Starting at the WWE Performance Centre, you start off with a tutorial matches against Enzo Amore and Tyler Breeze. Annoyingly, in spite of what you may have given your character in the Creation Suite, Career mode resets your moves and you have to unlock them as you go. Another tutorial, tagging with Baron Corbin against the Vaudevillains, and then you make your NXT debut proper, and it’s off to the races from there.
Alternatively, if you’d rather control anyone on the roster, there’s the Universe mode, where you (as the name suggests) control the entire WWE Universe. If you want to book specific matches, you can. You can add new wrestlers and move them around to existing or new brands, new shows, new pay-per-views… Or you can just play the matches set and follow storylines as if you were watching Raw every week, except each episode won’t last three hours! The downside here is that Universe mode quickly churns out some weird matchups that you’d likely never see on TV. Stardust as WWE champion? Alright then!
Then there’s Showcase mode. Unlike prior years, on launch this only offered one character – Stone Cold Steve Austin, as 2K made WWE 2K16 into WWE 2K 3:16. This mode allows you to follow Stone Cold’s career from it’s birth at the King of the Ring, all the way through to his final match at WrestleMania 19, along with a couple of bonus matches from before his WWE career. All of these matches have objectives that you have to meet in order to progress to the next stage – things like win by pinfall, hitting certain spots and generally making sure that you replicate the match that you’re playing. Want Jake “The Snake” Roberts to beat Stone Cold via DDT – that’ll make you fail this mode.
All in all, this is the best wrestling game that has been released since the early SmackDown games. Whilst we’re likely never going to get back to the pinnacle that No Mercy brought wrestling gamers (no matter what all manner of developers promise), unless 2K completely flips and (say) re-hires AKI to redo No Mercy, or Spike to make it like Fire Pro, this is the best we’re going to get whilst 2K stays in the business of annual releases.
|Largest ever roster
|Some key NXT characters missing, despite extensive DLC
|Expanded creation options
|Universe mode creates weird champions
|TV-realistic presentation (for the most part)
|Commentary can become repetitive
|Attention to detail – Lillian Garcia announcing NXT shows?