Too Long; Didn't Play: WWE 2K16

Sponsored by: UMOarsman

Time 'rassled: 89 minutes

Ladder Match Review

Some games not even Duke Nukem can save.

Royal Rumble Review

Sometimes you can't go home again.

I went through two distinct wrestling-fandom phases, both of which peaked with me attending live events and watching the weekly shows.

The first was during the ________ era, which is currently illegal to talk about, so I won't say anything specific. Suffice it to say I was eight years old, and watching larger-than-life personalities clash in the squared circle was one of life’s pleasures.

Later, I “grew up” to the ripe old age of twelve and started attending live showings of American Gladiators, and my fandom of “the 'rasslin’”went dormant.

Later still, I “grew up” a bit more, and went away to college. I had a Nintendo 64, and even though I hadn't thought about wrestling in over ten years I found myself spending what little money I saved from working a job (counting pills in a pharmacy) to buy a copy of a WWF game. I had thought it was a game about protecting wildlife, so imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a game about professional wrestling! I had no idea who any of the licensed wrestlers were, but I found the game enthralling enough that I wanted to learn. So it was that my six-year fandom during the Attitude era began. I watched the peak of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s game, and the rise of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson from heel to face.

I even have an autographed copy of Mick Foley’s autobiography. I waited in line at Walmart for hours. (He’s a truly nice guy. Even chatted with me about some of the pins on my jacket.)

I had hoped that WWE 2K16 would, if not rekindle my love of of testosterone-addled soap-operas, at least let me revisit them and remember the fun I had.

But, as I said, you can't go home again. Perhaps I've outgrown sports entertainment, and perhaps not. I do know that I don't find the gameplay that goes with licensed wrestling games fun in any capacity.

Wrestling games have always been slower paced fighting games with an emphasis on grapples and counters. You'd think that would make the game feel more strategic, instead it just makes the game feel plodding and unresponsive.

The idea is to weaken your opponent until he or she is vulnerable to being thrown or put into a signature hold. You allegedly have any number of ways to do that, but I've never been able to do more than throw some ponderous punches that occasionally seem to connect with something. Unfortunately, this being a game about sports entertainment instead of plain old sports, there's a crowd you have to please, and throwing slow, clumsy punches at your opponent is about as fun to watch as it is to do (spoiler: It's not fun to do), so in order to get to the point where you can perform a crowd-pleasing move, I had to do a bunch of stuff that made the crowd boo me vigorously.

Any attempts to mix things up led to me getting pinned almost immediately. Even on the easiest setting.

I will admit that the problem might lie with me. There's an enormous amount of complexity to the systems of moving, fighting and grappling. At any given time, for any given position, I was having a hard time figuring out what buttons did what things. I'd press a button expecting something to happen, and my wrestler would do something else entirely, or sometimes nothing at all. Was that my fault? Was it the game? Is my controller broken? I have no idea, and no way to find out. All I know is that I'm routinely getting my butt handed to me by the tutorial AI sparring partner on the easiest setting.

I will give them points for presentation, though. The create-a-wrestler feature is seriously robust, and I was able to make a very reasonable Duke Nukem, right down to the aviator sunglasses and red tank-top. The jeans were a bit of a struggle, since the style seems to have trended toward that baggy, plumbers-crack look that's so popular with the kids today. Finding a pair of jeans that didn't expose the underpants was more difficult than it should have been, but then what do I know? I'm almost forty years old and I own several belts, including one with a zipper on it to hide money in.

Unfortunately, a good wrestler-creator without a good wrestling game is just a glorified paper doll set, and I'm just not enjoying the wrestling in this wrestling game.

Kick out?

I don't think I can stand to keep trying. There are too many interesting games in my library for me to beat my head against this one just to figure out if I'm just too dense to understand the controls or if the game is actually terrible. (Or I could embrace the healing power of “and.”)

As much as I'd like to see Duke Nukem climb the WWE career ladder in the game’s story mode, I have better games with him in it, permanently installed on my hard disk. I'd rather go play one of them. Perhaps I will. Right now. As you read this.

Is it a hard potato?

Yes, but not in a good way. There are counters and reversals and this bizarre energy system that appears to be tied to how much the crowd likes you but maybe isn't. The whole time I was mashing buttons trying to figure out if they do anything, because the game certainly isn't going to tell me. The whole experience was a hot mess.

Not unlike the WWE, now that I think of it. However, to be the Devil Daggers of your kind you have to be fun and challenging, not frustrating and broken. Two blades out of a million.

Comments

to the ripe old age of twelve and started attending live showings of American Gladiators

Hang on. I feel like we just breezed right past this.