Gamer Review: What We Should See in a WWE Video Game
What is written here is my subjective opinion on what I would want to see in a current WWE video game.
I have played only two WWE titles and they were a good 13 years apart. The first was Wrestlemania 2000 on the Nintendo 64 (nostalgia factor), and the second is WWE ‘13. I would argue the former is better once you get past the blocky body textures.
WWE games need to hit the marks (no pun intended) on four main components: Physics, roster, career/universe mode, and dynamic gameplay. Now to break down each component:
This is probably the hardest one for developers to get right because emulating the move sets of wrestlers with the flow of a match I can imagine being a technical nightmare. I can’t accurately portray what the exact fixes may be because that’s in the hands of the developers who work with the physics engine, but I can say that I've never seen WWE gameplay that has a smooth feel to it. The best I can describe it is that the moves usually look “wonky”.
To key in on a certain aspect of the physics issues, getting back to your feet after taking a weak or devastating move. Wrestlers sell moves (making the move appear to inflict damage) and sell injuries during the course of a match. To make sure the match moves quicker, wrestlers that have taken substantial damage when being lifted back up should have the opportunity to grapple with their opponent back to their feet. This typically happens in WWE matches allowing an opportunity for a momentum swing.
There should be more ways to reverse and counter finishers and signature moves as well to make the match more on edge and exciting. Finishers and signatures can be reversed, but usually only in one way.
Also wrestling stances and the way a wrestler moves and runs has never looked up to par. Just another thing that looks awkward. The weight difference also is another aspect that needs improvement. Stronger wrestlers like Ryback and Brock Lesnar should be able to toss lighter wrestlers around like toothpicks, but the way they hit moves on the Big Show should look more strained but land with massive impact. The way wrestlers hit the mat and roll should also be accounted for in how different moves are hit. This goes back to selling, and each wrestler should sell differently, i.e. Dolph Ziggler selling compared to John Cena no selling (but seriously though).
There’s a lot of issues in the physics category, but they’re hard to explain without visual aid. I’ll likely make references to physics issues in my dynamic gameplay as you can already see points in here about possibly gameplay related issues.
To get a WWE game right, the roster has to have depth. The roster should be nothing short of how well defined the FIFA or Madden rosters are. I would argue for roster updates every two weeks. The roster should comprise of all current WWE superstars and NXT superstars. Legendary characters can be added as well, but I’d put them on a separate tab.
Wrestler attributes are important, and should allow each wrestler to have their own feel. I would add a role system and assign roles to certain types of wrestlers. I can see John Cena having 10 roles already, with the first one being the ability to win big matches. Dean Ambrose could have a reckless role, meaning he will go to any lengths to win a match. Seth Rollins could have an intimidator role, meaning he easily gets superstars angry with him. The roles should change over time allowing for characters to develop depending on who they face, dependent on the allies and rivalries that they make. If Cena loses 5 PPV or title matches in a row, he’ll lose his big match role. I think a role system would be highly beneficial to a future WWE game if implemented correctly.
I’m not huge on attires, but I think custom attires for each character should be easily manageable to the player if they want to customize any wrestler. I also believe there should be 4 to 5 pre set attires for almost every wrestler on the roster, especially the more popular superstars.
Voice acting should be a high priority for every wrestler on the roster, no matter how hard it is and how much it costs, voice acting makes or breaks the overall experience of the game.
There should also be a create a CM Punk option, but that’s just my personal taste.
WWE is currently a 2K game, and typically career modes are well done in 2K games, specifically NBA. I can imagine they have plenty of plans for their upcoming WWE release and I’m praying they get it right. I've read numerous reviews about the universe and my career move on WWE 2K15. Most reviews trashed the two modes for lack of content, and this is likely because 2K was brought on pretty late after game developers switched from last year’s WWE 2K14 release. Here is my advice for the career and universe modes, and please excuse me if I get long winded.
Universe mode should be the best part of the WWE ’16 experience. If 2K had to take out the online mode (which I wish they would, but they probably won’t) and focus mostly only on the universe mode, the game would likely be amazing.
Universe mode should be comprised of three separate experiences: Owner mode, general manager mode, and Road to Wrestlemania mode.
Road to Wrestlemania is one of the popular features that’s been in several WWE games from the N64 game I've played, and several other releases in the mid 2000's. The mode was typically storyline based behind the superstar you played as. To make this mode what it should be, I would let the player choose any superstar and play out a good portion of their career, say 8 to 10 max Wrestlemania’s before they can retire that superstar. An ending screen will show statistics, that superstars greatest matches and rivalries, and if that wrestler made the WWE hall of fame or just overall what their legacy is.
There should be 1,000's of storyline options dependent on the wrestler, the player should be allowed to sign contracts, engage in interviews and promos with choice options, and add the social media feed. Cutscenes should be numerous, and their should be many choices.
To piggyback off of that sentiment, the my career mode should be similar to the Road to Wrestlemania mode but with your own created character. My Career should be akin to NBA 2K’s depth in their My Player game mode. My Career should start you off as a young wrestler joining the ranks of NXT and working your way to the main roster and eventually battling to become the best wrestler in WWE. All the features I discussed earlier should apply to My Career mode.
The second mode, General Manager mode, can be a little bit more watered down than the other two modes and used more as a gimmick mode. In GM mode, you become the GM (obviously) of Raw and have free reign to edit match cards and play in whatever matches you’d like to participate in. The gimmick is having the perks of being the GM and choosing wrestlers to aid and who to screw over (sorry Bret). Each Raw you are allowed to set the stage and make changes to matches to how you see fit, also allowing for interference. There should be numerous cutscenes and interactions with the superstars in the locker rooms. Wrestlers coming to you for advocation, or to air their grievances. The mode shouldn't have to go too in depth, but enough content to enjoy at least on year as GM in the WWE circuit.
The owner mode is also a gimmick mode, but with more potential for more content. Owner mode should put you in the shoes of Vince McMahon (you can be him, but you can make your own owner, like Jerry Jones or Roger Goodell for even more fun), and allow you to call all the shots of the show and the card.
The most important aspect is booking the matches. We all know wrestling entertainment are pre set matches and made for entertainment value (right?). The goal of owner mode is to capture the hearts of the WWE universe and put together the most entertaining show possible and boost your ratings. Recreate the Attitude era? Allow John Cena another 10 years on top? Allow an NXT roster takeover? Create factions? Let the Rock and Paul Heyman cut a 20 minute promo? Let Stephanie and Triple H open the show with a 30 minute promo? These options should all be possible in Owner mode. The show should be condensed for those mostly interested in the booking, but you should be allowed to play whichever match you want. Matches you don’t play you can set the outcome, and have options as to how the match finishes, a la interference, disqualification, or many more.
The fans should play a big role. The social media aspect plays a bigger role here. See which wrestler is trending and why. The fans will tell you what they want. Will you listen to them? Storyline options should be abundant and feel fresh. Booking PPV’s should be a true test to being a successful owner. Can you convince Brock Lesnar and the Rock to headline a Mania or Summerslam? This mode could definitely be a big addition to a WWE game. There was a similar mode in a Smackdown vs. Raw game where you chose one general manager to be in an attempt to beat the other brand in the ratings race.
As owner you can set your GM, for Raw, Smackdown, and NXT. You can also customize your NXT and Smackdown shows how you want whether you want them to be match heavy, shorter, longer, or what day you want them on. At the end of each week you’ll receive a breakdown on all the happenings on the three shows and the crowd reactions and ratings to go along with it.
I believe WWE fans would flock to an owner mode because everyone truly wants to a create a WWE universe of their own and shape it in their own way.
None of the last three game components really matter if the general gameplay is no good. WWE is a wrestling game, and the wrestling should look good and feel smooth.
I would take a step in the direction of trying to mirror game matches with how regular WWE matches look. Wresting AI should have high flying wrestlers look for more high flying moves. Wrestlers should also key in on injuring certain body parts. Wrestlers should have a chain of moves that swings the momentum in their favor.
Ring psychology is what this comes down to.
A good match has good momentum and mood swings. Finishers should not be abundant. Most finishing moves should end the match after the story of the match has been told. Reversals should be in lieu of a momentum shift in the match. No one wrestler should dominate a match unless the skill levels are vastly different. Randy Orton should squash Adam Rose pretty much every time.
Gimmick matches should feel gimmicky. I.e. A Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match should have wrestler AI looking to use said weapons to cause destruction.
And for the love of God get JR to do the commentary.
Real talk, the commentary should be done and done well, I don’t care if it’s Corey Graves and Renee Young doing commentary on every show, the commentary should have a lot of depth and dynamics to them. No one wants to hear the same comments every match. Commentary is essential to the game experience (more about commentary in sports games in another piece).
The focus of each match should be to tell a story and allow for exciting matches to be exciting. I wouldn’t feel bad about losing a 15 minute match if Orton hits an RKO out of nowhere while I’m Adrian Neville attemping some crazy stunt from the top rope.
Submissions should either be a crawl to the rope to break, or a power out. I would only suggest submissions do substantial damage and end matches if you’re playing with a submission specialist and you put the other wrestler center of the ring while he’s taken some heavy damage.
Allow fighting to spill out into the crowd, so many opportunities for cool spots out there. There should also be titantron jump spots.
While most people generally like WWE games being highly customizable, I’m personally okay if the game doesn't give me an Adobe creative suite of options, but creating arenas and pay per view themes would be cool.
Fix ladder match physics.
Sync your iPod or iPhone to create entrance music. Also on the customizing train customization for entrances are always cool.
Water down move sets a little bit, BUT NOT TOO MUCH. Each wrestler doesn’t have 50 different moves in their move set, but an adaptable move set would be a good idea for this issue.
Create a new kick out system so that I’m usually kicking out at 2, until I've taken substantial damage or a finisher.
I think that’s about it. Hopefully 2K hires me as project director and we get rollin’ on WWE 2K16, I promise not to disappoint.