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WWE 2K16 Review

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  • PS4

WWE 2K16 improves on the many things wrong with last year's game, but not nearly enough.

No entertainment company has a more complicated relationship with its own history than the WWE. As announcer Michael Cole reminds us often both on television and in the company's licensed video games, Monday Night RAW is the longest running weekly episodic television show in history, and the company's stamp on popular culture runs even a great deal longer into the past than that. Yet the way the WWE chooses to leverage that long, exhaustively documented history is peculiar. The WWE Network, the company's perpetually not-quite-successful-enough streaming service, is an astonishingly rich collection of all that has come before in the world of WWE (and whatever other tape libraries they've seen fit to purchase), but rarely do you see that history portrayed with any significance on any of the weekly television programs.

At best, history is periodically acknowledged, gestured toward, when a superstar of old is up for a Hall of Fame induction, or available for a brief public appearance. And even in those appearances, histories are only relevant insofar as they relate to what's happening this week, what rivalry is the current focus of storylines. History in the WWE is a marketing tool, a way to gin up interest in an episode where perhaps less is going on than usual. Here's Ric Flair to deliver a trademark "Woo!" while "putting over" his daughter. Here's Shawn Michaels, fresh from his latest trip to Cabela's, to tell the current world heavyweight champion why he's just an also-ran of the Heartbreak Kid. Here's Stone Cold Steve Austin to deliver a few hell yeahs before introducing the Undertaker, without ever diving too deep into the rich, bizarre history the two superstars have with one another. If you don't already know, the longest running weekly episodic television show in history isn't going to fill in the blanks for you.

WWE 2K16 brings back missing features and makes a few improvements, but it doesn't quite wash the taste of last year's mostly dismal game away.
WWE 2K16 brings back missing features and makes a few improvements, but it doesn't quite wash the taste of last year's mostly dismal game away.

That's left to the Network, and, more often of late, the video games. Since WWE '13, the developers of WWE video games have been providing fairly detailed, interactive retellings of the company's watershed moments. Whether it's 30 Years of Wrestlemania, or an overview of the fabled Attitude Era, these games have become not just tools for players to create their own WWE-flavored moments, but loose history lessons as well. You play through whatever the WWE and the development team consider to be the biggest, most relevant moments of an event, of an era, or even a single feud. This year, the focus is on Austin, whose 14-year career peaked during the WWE's most tumultuous period, who Vince McMahon often credits for ushering in the Attitude Era and saving his company. And like those infrequent, one-off appearances on WWE's weekly television, Austin's expanded presence seems meant to gin up interest in a video game series that, over the last couple of years, has had a bit less going on than usual.

Where last year's game tried to assemble a handful of unassociated feuds into a game that already felt barren and disjointed compared with its predecessors, the history of Austin's career makes for a decidedly easier sell. Though it covers some of the same ground as WWE '13's Attitude Era mode, WWE 2K16's Austin showcase is a solid walking tour of many of the biggest matches and feuds of his career. It occasionally veers into the more obscure, early era matches he had in WCW and ECW, but largely keeps its focus on his rise from King of the Ring '96 through his historically long feud with Mr. McMahon and his various cronies. Like previous years, you engage with this history by playing through these matches, hitting specific moves and quick time events along the way. The core beats of each match are reenacted with decent accuracy, except where licensing issues prevent it. For perhaps obvious reasons, the Owen Hart portion of Austin's lengthy feud with the Hart Foundation is glossed over in video clips, as Hart isn't playable in the game. Similarly, Mike Tyson isn't present for his "enforcer" role in Austin's title-winning Wrestlemania 14 match against Shawn Michaels. Instead, it's an unnamed figure who does his best to stay out of the player's field of view as much as possible.

Occasional veering from the legitimate history like this isn't a huge problem. More of an issue is the way these modes go about making the player engage with that history. As the years have gone on, the Showcase matches have gotten more cavalier about pulling control from the player in service of more accurate, non-playable cutscenes. Significant chunks of all the main matches in Austin's showcase do this, either asking you to hit a quicktime button press (sometimes after an unpleasantly long wait period, which prevents you from paying attention to anything on-screen besides the button overlay), or do nothing at all as history plays out in front of you. A few of these would go a long way, but some matches have in the neighborhood of 10-12 objectives that range from simply damaging an opponent to highly specific moves. This mode has always tried to walk a thin middle ground between total adherence to history and player freedom, and I'd argue this year's is a little better about avoiding super frustrating objectives. But it's not completely devoid of them, and a few too many matches still became repetitive chores as a result.

The focus on Austin and his era in 2K16 has another, probably unintended nostalgic consequence. Austin's rise also happens to coincide with what many consider to be the peak of the wrestling video game genre. As Austin came to power, AKI's various WWE and WCW N64 games, alongside 2K16 co-developer Yuke's' own SmackDown series on the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, were thriving. Those games are, for better or worse, still invoked by fans of this genre today, often when complaining about the current line of WWE games. 2K16 reminded me of the time I spent playing those AKI wrestlers as a teenager, and in so doing, simultaneously made me realize how far these games have come, and how much hasn't really changed for the better.

2K16 makes a number of small, but solid changes to its gameplay systems. Except for the new submissions meter, which is a wreck.
2K16 makes a number of small, but solid changes to its gameplay systems. Except for the new submissions meter, which is a wreck.

Look, if you hold any of those old games directly up to the light of 2K16, the differences are unsurprisingly stark. 2K16 is by far the closest a developer has come to recreating the in-ring choreography of a modern WWE match. In addition to the chain wrestling mechanics added last year, matches now feature a host of small touches that tip the scales toward that ever moving goalpost of total realism. Early in matches, you'll see wrestlers back each other into the corner, allowing one or the other to throw in a disrespectful punch or slap as the ref comes between them. Finishers have been reduced in effectiveness a bit, meaning that, as seen on the television product, it often requires multiple big moves before you'll finally put an opponent down. A new pin meter encapsulates this shift toward longer matches, making it a bit easier to kick out in dramatic fashion following more average moves, while a lousy new submissions meter attempts to more accurately resemble the push/pull between wrestlers as a victim tries to struggle out of a hold (and largely fails). Heel wrestlers have some small AI changes that periodically cause them to exit the ring to regroup, attempt to exit the arena altogether, or pull out an illegal weapon to end a match in a DQ. Reversals have been given their own meter, and a limited number of rechargable uses, effectively limiting the number of times you can switch up a move during a match. Even rest holds, the necessary bane of any match, have been gamified into a stamina draining minigame. Between these changes and a whole host of newly motion-captured move animations, no game has ever looked more like a televised wrestling match.

Yet for all those visual touches, WWE 2K16 still isn't a great deal of fun to play. I called last year's game sluggish, and 2K16 feels near-identical in that regard. It's not just the new animations and stamina systems that create this sensation. If anything, I found myself getting used to the nuances of match pacing this year, learning when my character will just hover over an opponent instead of launching directly into an attack, recognizing where I can get a strike in while an opponent laboriously climbs up the ropes back to his or her feet late in a match. But even as I became accustomed to these traits, 2K16 still felt like it dragged through every single match. Every character feels like they're walking through water. Controls just don't respond with the snappiness you want, and many of the new move animations lack the kind of impact the older, if more busted, animations offered.

Say what you will about those old games, they moved. They had an energy to them that, while perhaps unrealistic, nevertheless was exciting to play. Even some of the recent games in this series offered up similar energy, but as 2K has pushed this series toward the holy grail of total realism, that energy has diminished. In 2K16, Visual Concepts and Yuke's have created a game that mostly accurately portrays the dance you see in the ring every single week, often at the expense of the spirit of what that dance is meant to portray. Moves that used to look brutal and ridiculous now look languid and floaty. Now every time Austin lands a Stone Cold Stunner, especially in showcase cutscenes, it never quite looks right. Or maybe it does look right, and just doesn't resemble the kind of cartoonish over-selling you'd see in years past, where every victim sprang skyward before flipping over dead. Wrestling fans are sticklers for detail, to the point of obsession. Every time one of these games comes out, it's not hard to find players online complaining about this move, or that character model, not sufficiently emulating real life. Perhaps this is the end result of that obsession. What once could be exaggerated out of technological limitation has now been softened by the limitations of wrestling reality.

And for all the realism imbued in the gameplay, WWE 2K16 is still replete with immersion-breaking glitches, bugs, and occasional crashes. Wrestler AI is often predictable, except when it freaks out and leaves characters stuck standing on the top rope, or trying and failing to reenter the ring before a count out. This game still can't seem to handle larger weapons getting thrown into the mix without the physics going wonky, but even outside of gimmick bouts, I've seen characters clip waist-deep through the ring, pinned wrestlers stick to an opponent's hand like they're wearing suction cups, and generally deform in horrible ways. And that's just the visual bugs. The audio has a ton of issues as well, especially in the commentary. JBL's been thrown into the mix this year, and his lines are stitched together in such a way that they only barely gel with the existing lines from King and Cole, which are still overly repetitive and sometimes flat out incorrect. JBL's performance isn't good, but the editing is worse, as three men now try to hold a match-length conversation largely out of time from one another.

Elsewhere, 2K16 has made some strides toward at least rebuilding the tower of modes and match types that last year's game pared down considerably. Most of the creation modes--save for the poor, assumedly dead, story creator--are back, allowing you to build your own championship belts, arenas, and shows in addition to the usual character and logo designers. All of these modes work more or less how they did before they were excised or severely reduced last year, and they're pretty easy to use. The wrestler editor in particular has been streamlined a great deal, now allowing you to preview various items without lengthy load times in-between, and upload face-specific images you can apply to your created grapplers. You can also create diva wrestlers again, which great given the number of major diva wrestlers currently missing from 2K16's "largest roster ever." That roster, mind you, is a pretty solid list of current, upcoming, and classic superstars, though a decent portion of those classic wrestlers are holdover characters from last year's game, seemingly included because those assets had already been generated.

This year's roster is the largest any of these games has ever had, and outside of a few odd omissions, it's a great blend of classic, rookie, and current superstars.
This year's roster is the largest any of these games has ever had, and outside of a few odd omissions, it's a great blend of classic, rookie, and current superstars.

The biggest changes are found in 2K16's MyCareer mode. Introduced last year, MyCareer lets you create a WWE superstar of your own design, and put them through the paces of a full WWE career. Or, at least, that's the idea. Last year's mode was a crushing disappointment, a skeleton of a career mode that ended abruptly, but not before hours of meaningless matches that offered almost no story or character progression beyond basic statistics. This year's is a little better. You start off the same way, joining the NXT roster and working through some early tutorial matches. However, it's not long before the game puts you in your first rivalry. This system tracks your relationship with other superstars on your show's roster, fluctuating between ally and rival depending on what you do. Or, it says it depends on what you do, though just as often it appears left to the whims of the computer.

Essentially, you or your would-be rival have the ability to interfere in each other's matches, either attacking before it even starts, or getting involved in the middle of the action. Rivalries are determined exclusively by who you choose to attack and interfere with, and who the computer picks in absence of a choice of your own. You advance your career by winning titles, which you build toward by besting other wrestlers currently vying for that belt. You repeat this process over and over again, checking off some achievement goals required to qualify your career for the WWE Hall of Fame while either meeting or failing objectives laid out for you by The Authority, and that's pretty much it. Sprinklings of story appear from time to time, which offer some branching choices, but it's all pretty lightweight. Still, those scenes are better than the uniformly terrible interview segments with an animatronic Renee Young, which exist to push your mostly meaningless personality traits in one direction or another.

Mostly, it's up to you to fashion the stories in your own head as you grind through the lengthy array of matches the mode presents you with. That grind isn't as bad as last year, since there are things you can do in it outside of just winning and losing matches, but it does feel somewhat imbalanced. You start off the mode as an extremely low-rated wrestler, regardless of what rating you assigned the character in the creation mode. In order to build that wrestler up, you have to spend earned skill points on individual attributes, as well as unique skills (like dirty pins, high flying moves, and the like). This puts you at a significant disadvantage for much of your NXT run, as the number of points you're earning per-match (especially if you're losing) don't equate to significant adjustments to your overall stats. Losing is theoretically not supposed to matter as much as putting on a high quality effort. Everything you do in a match, from move variety to drama heightening pin kickouts and submission breaks, feed into a match rating that tallies up at the end. I was losing four-star efforts on a regular basis, and still only getting a tiny number of skill points, compared to less-exciting wins.

It's worth noting that this is the same system 2K employs in its NBA game, though the trickle of skill points earned there is offset somewhat by the team nature of basketball. If you're an underrated player, you still have the ability to pass the ball around and make different kinds of plays that benefit your team. Here, unless you're in a tag team, you're on your own and forced to grind out those NXT matches until you've built yourself up to a sufficient degree. Or, you could buy the MyCareer Kickstart in the game's DLC shop, which, for ten bucks, lets you bump your MyCareer character up to a 90-rated superstar sans any skill points. It's tempting to say the tediousness of the grind is meant to inspire players to buy this thing, but bumping your character up that high just ensures any halfway experienced player will decimate most every opponent outside of the Brocks Lesnar and Johns Cena of the Universe. That's not a very good solution either.

This is the vibe felt throughout WWE 2K16, one of solutions to problems in last year's game that don't quite go far enough. Take the online modes, which were a hot mess last year. The online interface has gotten a significant cleanup this year, with a proper menu system that lets you engage in private and live matches. It's a much better presentation that is nonetheless hobbled by the game's inconsistent servers. They're not uniformly jacked, but roughly half my time spent online resulted in laggy, barely playable matches where reversal timing became nigh-on impossible. During high volume periods, it's hard to even get the servers to connect long enough to download user created stuff. Things have gotten a bit better in recent days, but I'm still encountering laggy matches on a nightly basis.

MyCareer adds some story and objectives to the mix, but they don't prevent it from feeling like a tedious grind.
MyCareer adds some story and objectives to the mix, but they don't prevent it from feeling like a tedious grind.

WWE 2K16 makes some not-insignificant strides toward improvement, but not a great many. Yes, it's nice that creation modes are mostly back to normal, and that gameplay has begun to shape itself into something other than the half-busted fighting game of years past. But what it's shaping itself into isn't compelling on its own yet. The little touches that emulate what we see on TV week after week don't negate the clunky, uncomfortable feel you're forced to wrestle with every time you play, or the dull, grindy progression of the career mode. What good is a deep and detailed creation suite if you never want to play with the things you create?

This ultimately leaves WWE 2K16 with its history; its largest-ever roster, and deep dive into a career that once revitalized a floundering company. Just as we see on TV from time to time, WWE 2K16 leverages history out of what feels like a lack of confidence in what's currently on offer. 2K16 at least offers a measure of hope that this series can one day again stand on its own, that it can reassemble all the ill-fitting pieces it has collected over the years into something better balanced between hyperrealism and fun. Until then, here's Steve Austin once again to remind you of better times long since past, in the hopes of distracting you from everything wrong with the present.

Alex Navarro on Google+

57 Comments

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hassun

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I can't believe you put this much work in a WWE game review. This will make for some quality bedtime reading.

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alex

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alex  Staff

@hassun: At a certain point writing about yearly franchises like this breaks my brain and I start meditating on the nature of nostalgia in modern wrestling.

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AMyggen

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This is a fantastic review for a game that doesn't deserve it. Good job, Alex.

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ripelivejam

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Giant bomb, your home for reviews of every game.

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TheGamerGeek

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Fantastic review, Alex. Blows my mind there are only two to three negative-ish reviews on Metacritic for this game. More power to them for enjoying it, I suppose.

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moonwalksa

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Edited By moonwalksa

This is a really good review. Or maybe I just really like people taking the opportunity to wax nostalgic about wrestling history.

Reads like it could just as easily have been 3 stars, considering all the successes you mentioned and the efforts towards Something Better. But hell, if it's just not fun to play then that's a killer.

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andrewf87462

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Great work Alex! It's a shame the games not worth my time but maybe next year?

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iAmJohn

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But is it art?

(The review, I mean. Clearly WWE 2K16 is trash. The answer is yes, by the way, this review is art.)

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bed

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Edited By bed

I'm, once again disappointed that we don't have a good wrestling game this year. At least we got a stellar Alex review out of it.

Maybe I'll just go play Smackdown vs Raw 2006 instead? That game turns ten this month, and I still like it a whole bunch.

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xerseslives

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Hoping for wrestling games to improve at this point feels nearly as pointless as hoping for the actual WWE to improve, and for the same reasons; one major company, one major game, and a battered core fanbase that will accept the only product offered regardless of quality, even with the obvious signs that it could be so much better.

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BradBrains

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Though I certainly agree with a lot of the review I think if you are WWE superfan to still give it a try. some of the subtle things they have changed to game play really help the pace and the look and feel of these games. Ive had some really epic 20 minute back and forth matches that were a lot of fun.

If your looking for a fast paced game from the 90s its never gonna be like that and its going more to "Simulation" than ever so jeff is out but the consensus around the hardcore fans ive spoken to (and surprisingly a lot of reviewers) has been very positive.

a lot of the modes are problematic but the creative stuff is great and the core gameplay is great for what it is. its a "for fans" product if there ever was one though. everyone else stay away.

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Anupsis

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I'm actually liking the game a lot, keep in mind I haven't played a wrestling game in over a decade so maybe that's why? It sucks that you had issues with bugs Alex, I've got dozens of hours played and haven't run into a single issue (my brother hit an annoying one really quickly though so I think I got lucky). I agree with the submission system though, that shit is terrible.

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nixnutz

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I haven't bought a WWE game since 2010 and I can't wait for them to make a decent one any longer. All I want to know is if the Molly-go-round is available in CAW, if so I'm in.

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dikarddeckard

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Edited By dikarddeckard

@bradbrains: Yeah, I totally agree with you. It's definitely not for everyone, but there's a lot to enjoy if you know what you're getting into with this type of wrestling game.

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dobedobedo

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This is actually the first wrestling game in this series i have enjoyed since wwe '13. However my favorite game is still WWE All Stars

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NTM

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That review was stone cold.

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Musubi

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Do not agree. But hey... opinions be opinions. I'd easily give this 4/5 stars.

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BradBrains

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Edited By BradBrains

Do not agree. But hey... opinions be opinions. I'd easily give this 4/5 stars.

I think its all about what you want from these games. There is a certain group that wants the type of game that made some of those older games great. some want an experainace that feels or looks like what american wrestling is now.

Ive never been a huge fan of the AKi games when it comes to american releases. aki games never made a good WWF feeling game. I will play Virtual pro wrestling 2 any day dont get me wrong. WCW/nWo revenge didnt bother me as much because of the international flair WCW had.

I get it if your looking at it from afar as a game. the 3 main modes are kinda the same the pacing is slower and their are some weird glitches and jank that are hillarious.

but even with all that im having a blast with the game. unlike most years im learning new things all the time (which I admit the game is bad at explaining). its not perfect but the fun factor is there. I think it helps I have a good community of players talking about the game which adds to the fun.

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Musubi

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@bradbrains: Oh for sure. These games are never going to impress the bomb crew. Its not what they want out of these games to begin with.

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hassun

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Edited By hassun

@demoskinos: Then again I loved Smackdown 2, 3, 4 (most of all) and 5. I thought Smackdown vs Raw 2006 was OK and I think the series has grown more stale and has therefore declined ever since.

It's not always the case of "oh you're just not into this type of game".

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xerseslives

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Edited By xerseslives

@hassun said:

@demoskinos: Then again I loved Smackdown 2, 3, 4 (most of all) and 5. I thought Smackdown vs Raw 2006 was OK and I think the series has grown more stale and has therefore declined ever since.

It's not always the case of "oh you're just not into this type of game".

Yeah, I've been kind of going back and forth in threads about the game and I'm seeing that defense a lot. After playing every game in the series, through the ups and downs, I'm really not getting where a lot of the positive response is coming from.

They've built on some gameplay things (limited reversals should have happened years ago) but chain grappling is still terrible, the new submission system is the shits, and the star ratings feel totally binary. The part where you play it still isn't engaging to me. People keep saying that the Bomb Crew doesn't like it because it's more of a sim, but a) it's really not, because slower ≠ sim and b) they've talked for years about how they wish the games more closely resembled the flow and the dance of the product and it never has. People don't do 14 front grapples in real wrestling or exchange wrist locks in gimmick matches. Brock Lesnar and Sting aren't having matches on a random Smackdown. If they want to make a game that's for fans only, that's awesome, but then they need to go all in and get the details right. It's still these animatronic action figures pantomiming wrestling, without the selling or the drama of the real thing, which are understandably really hard to get right.

And that's not even getting into MyCareer, which is still a nonsensical grind, or Universe, which has all of the potential in the world but has been in the games for years with minimal changes. I mean, it's great that people are enjoying it, but it's a real bummer considering how much better it could be. It's felt like one step forward, one step back for years. Who knows if any of the things that they did improve on will even be in the game next year.

I know it's a real "agree to disagree" situation at this point. Maybe it's because I'm playing the game alone and really don't care to engage with a community of players or go online. I dunno. I'm just not seeing it.

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WrathOfGod

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Alex please rest your gorgeous fingers.

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poobumbutt

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I'm gonna wholesale steal a line from some guy on these forums I saw 'round 6 months back.

Alex Navarro: Review Machine.

Great review, Alex. Feels weird enjoying a review so much for a game that's so flawed. That said, the old feeling of wrestling games comes back when I see gameplay of this, and I end up being somewhat sure I should play this. Hopefully, THIS will keep me in check.

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Colonel_Pockets

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Hell of a review, Alex.

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schnoo

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Do not agree. But hey... opinions be opinions. I'd easily give this 4/5 stars.

Saying you disagree and giving it a higher score is meaningless.

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SaberLion

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Edited By SaberLion

Good review, but need 300% more nicolas rage screencap

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LegendaryChopChop

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@demoskinos said:

Do not agree. But hey... opinions be opinions. I'd easily give this 4/5 stars.

Same. The create modes alone are fucking mindblowing. It has a ton of issues, gameplay-wise, but if you know what you're doing you can produce excellent matches with the AI and, perhaps more importantly, with friends.

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Musubi

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@xerseslives: I don't play online either. I think the actual game play is great this year. The only glaring problems I have with it are content ones like the lady wrestlers having only 35 hairstyles vs the mens 100 or so and the way that the physics system still glitches the fuck out in crazy ways.

Its my favorite one in years and I've played pretty much every WWE game since the smackdown 1 era.

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ottoman673

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One of the absolute most immersion breaking bugs for me isn't part of the user controlled gameplay. No. Rather, it's Cole's remark in every non-Showcase match about this being the "Independence Day version of WWE programming."

It really makes career mode feel like Groundhog Day, especially with how slow the progression is

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BradBrains

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@xerseslives: no one wants to play zack ryder vs fandango though.

I think some people have a vision of a wrestling game that cant really exist. the selling examples you use would be basically impossible for a player controlled wrestler and more importantly not fun. so instead they pepper it in with things like exhausted pins and breaking out entrances etc. those extra flairs and on a gameplay system that is actually getting a lot of praise this year makes for a fun experience.

maybe its kinda like a dynasty warriors things were people give you a list of things wrong with it and the answer is "maybe but im still having fun despite its flaws". thats kinda like this.

also call me crazy but I like the new submission system quite a bit once I got used to it

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jamjarjar

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Brilliant work on this one Alex. Great writing and very fair review.

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Y2Ken

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I think you hit the nail on the head with your discussion of the moves, Alex. I remember when I used to spend ages creating characters in those old games - whenever a move had 5 different animations, I always opted for the one with the most over-the-top, bouncy animation because it looked cool. It feels as though they've leant hard into the more "realistic" animations, which don't seem nearly as impactful when translated to a game.

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Venatio

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Another great review Alex, great job. That makes me wonder, are the only review writers Jeff and Alex? Can't seem to remember the last time one of the other dudes wrote one

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benitobb

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Edited By benitobb

Good review, but as a longtime fan of wrestling, outside of '03-'12 WWE, this is the first WWE game I've bought since Warzone on the PS1. The fact that it feels so close to the televised product, except for some bugs and awkward CPU moments, is what makes me really like the game. The game overall from menus to gameplay can be described as sluggish, but I enjoy the gameplay. My friends are still in the button mash style when we played this a few times together, but as someone who doesn't play these annualized games ever, the game that I'm playing feels like a professional wrestling match and that's awesome. Submission mini games are almost always a no-win for me late in a match due to how seemingly unresponsive that dial feels, but I feel like pretty much all other gameplay choices are excellent. I could see how seeing this "series" change from the fun arcadey style of SvR and prior turns away a lot of "fans of the series", but as a wrestling fan I'm really enjoying playing realistic, fun, momentum swinging matches with some really great character models.

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ChuckDeNomolos

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They need to rip out all the mini-game systems, and trash them, and remove any part of the fighting system that encourages me to just put down my controller and wait for my button prompt. Reversals, getting up from the mat, and the QTE heavy systems just ruin any sense of rhythm that game can achieve in spite of it's sluggish, imprecise controls.

The context-sensetive nature of the fighting system works against it, too. Doing exactly what you want in a match is a fool's errand, because off all the factors running in the background to determine what your character will do seem to wreck in to eachother and cause moments where my character is behaving so radically different from my input. I'll pull off grapples with the strike button, or vice-versa, so the internal logic of the controls goes out of the window. When I press nothing, my character will engage in a strike or grapple purely for a reversal set-up that never changes a match's momentum, it just removes my ability to play the game until I can pull of my own reversal.

It's a dismal system that over-rides the matches. The AI is miserable to play against because while the reversal system can be punishing with it's timing for players, it's just another tool in the game's belt to drag on the matches. It leads to there being a lack of a 'stunned' state that would let the player set up the various objectives the career mode sets up. Do you need to pick up Bret Hart to put him on the ropes for a stun-gun to progress? Well, Bret Hart doesn't feel like jobbing to you today, have a jawbreaker instead.

The unforgiving nature of reversals come from the random use of them as well. Am I going to preform a counter-move and damage the opponent, or am I going to escape? Is it going to leave them standing or on the ground? Am I going to be at just far enough distance that the AI will will throw a sucker punch and make me burn another reversal? The only definite answer I have to dealing with this is, "go play something else until the wrestling parasite in your brain makes you want to bust cutters on fools."

The enjoyment I get out of the game doesn't come from a crispness of control, but of nostalgia for broken PS1 wrestling games and watching just how hard the development team whiffed on details it should be getting right. The Showcase mode whiffs the edges pretty badly, in a way that seems either lazy, or constrained by licensing rights. Why does the King not have a classic outfit for the old Austin matches, and why was he calling a WCW match? Why is there a WWE logo on the television for a WCW match that has WCW logos in the stadium?

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xerseslives

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Edited By xerseslives

@bradbrains:

It feels like this weird circular thing of fans defending the game or pointing out that certain people won't like it because it's "more of a sim", the people dissatisfied with the game not thinking it's up to to pace with what the real product is, and then those same fans going "yeah well you just want this impossible sim".

I don't think a wrestling game that's fun to play while also getting the finer details right is this unachievable dream. Making punches have more impact, and the hit confirm animation of those strikes leading your character into a corner or back into the ropes more convincingly for your next "spot", or findings ways to mimic match structure in terms of the options given to you are completely doable things and would in no way be less fun than quick time prompts and mini-games for everything. Most WWE matches don't start with chain wrestling exchanges. Randy Orton isn't grabbing a front face lock 15 minutes into a match before doing a body slam. It doesn't have to be a match working simulator. It's great that they constantly look for new flourishes to add to the presentation aspect, but really, how often are entrances interrupted in WWE? It's like that one year they added casket matches despite one not being held on TV in years.

And I'm not even arguing that the games need to go in that direction, but it's the first place my brain goes when people say it's hitting that sim feel. It's got the skeleton but no real weight beyond that. All Stars was the most fun I'd had with a wrestling game in years and that was completely absurd and I was fine with that. If the goal is a more realistic gameplay experience or presentation, then they have a long way to go, and I just want people to expect better instead of this "yeah but it's the best we're probably going to get" attitude I see from some people.

I'm glad people are having fun with it, but there are just too many basic nagging things that will seemingly never change that get in the way for me. I've had the same disrespectful interview with Renee Young a dozen times and joined the Authority and made Rollins my tag team partner and the game still considers me a face. Meanwhile, during the auto-generated AI cards going on in the background, John Cena is making his weekly appearance on Superstars. It's a microcosm of the whole package to me.

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BradBrains

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@xerseslives: dont get me wrong. I dont think anyone is off base on the issues they have (though I did think the complaint dan had on the bomcast about not being able to do anything when being attacked kinda weird because in a fighting game and someone is doing a combo on you the same thing kinda happens) in most I think are spot on. Im having fun despite those issues because I think the gameplay is most good and I have a good community of players with me to joke around and have fun talking about the stuff we did.

maybe sim isnt the word for it. but I (and many others) have liked the more methodical pace the series has been going. compared to the very fast paced games of yesterday it more close to the pace of a real match. sometimes things are slower. sometimes people are laying on the ground. sometimes a guy gets a attacked for a while. this stuff happens more in these games.

I do think that a lot of people want a wrestling game that cant really exist. if the animations were slightly better and punches had more "impact" it still wouldn't change . people complain about reversals. what do you replace it with? also its not liek there wasnt reversals in those older games that people like. in fact it was often worse in those games. even in some of the best regarded games like firepro its all about crazy timing windows. you can turn off the chain wrestling if you really want to.

but dont get me wrong . id love for them to actaully take the time and fix most of the things people complain about. I do think some of the small things dont ruin the game as much as some say. maybe it does for them and thats fine but I disagree. and it seems like im not the only one.

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Mezmero

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Last WWE game I played was Smackdown vs RAW and that was when I finally realized that they're making these games for kids and marks of which I am neither. Always a pleasure to read your writing Alex. Keep up the great work.

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deactivated-5a00c029ab7c1

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If this comes to PC I'll get it in a heartbeat there's no question these games are no way near as fun as No Mercy and HCTP. And the royal rumble mode is just awful in the 2k games.The legends roster in 2k16 and Austin's showcase is the only the reason I want to play. WWE is garbage these days and 2k games gameplay is just bland and boring as the product today. But to play in the old arena's with the old wrestlers takes me back to better times nostalgia will win again if this comes to PC.

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ClicheUsername

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There hasn't been a decent WWE video game since WWE '13. Honestly though they really need to look at what made WWE video games so awesome. WWE video games up until WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2009 always have had a kickass soundtracks. The gameplay was amazing, not too fast and not too slow. The storylines although cliche, worked. And it always had that charm that gave there superstars a personality. We don't see that in WWE 2K16, its just a mess in general. We get that graphics are a big thing now, but its not everything. The only thing I'll thank you for is not letting John Cena make the soundtrack again. The soundtrack for 2K15 was shit. Thank you 2K for taking away everything we loved about WWE video games and crushing it.

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MachoFantastico

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Have to entirely disagree with Alex on this one, yes it as its problems but it's by far the best playing WWE game for a good while now.

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Mortuss_Zero

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Weird to say it, but I actually disagree with Alex this time. I liked the old wrestling games too, but I don't think they're anything to hold up as good examples of much of anything in today's world. I actually enjoyed the slower paced, simmy nature of this game. It tickles me to see things that happen in lots of matches actually appear in a game. I like the new reversal system a lot, and it makes the matches considerably more thoughtful than I'm used to. It doesn't hurt that Stone Cold is one of my all-time faves, or that I've never been more into the main roster or wrestling in general, or that it's the first time I can take full advantage of the Community Creations system. I still wouldn't have paid 60 bucks for it (I split it with a friend), but I'd personally give it more like 3 stars, verging on 4. It's miles from perfect, but I also think it's miles from trash.

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zeroeffects

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Thanks, Alex. I actually wrote this review, word for word, a couple of weeks ago. Are you in my brain?

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DS23

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No story creator no sale!

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deactivated-5ffc9b71f33ff

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Metacritic of 3:16!

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Kingpk

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If they sped things up a bit with the gameplay, I think they'd actually have something. I do like the limited reversals and I've actually had some really fun matches in Career mode. The submission system is complete ass, though. UFC Undisputed 3 tried the same mechanic and it didn't work there either.

And I totally agree with Showcase mode not really being a whole lot of fun. The objectives are SUPER repetitive and if they are just going to put a bunch of cutscenes in the match why bother doing the mode at all? I can just watch these matches on the Network.

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gamer_152

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gamer_152  Moderator

Even as someone not interested in wrestling or the WWE games, I liked this review a lot. I think there's something interesting about seeing a developer's struggle to try and properly systemise this odd mix of acting and sport.