So I randomly decided to watch some CPU matches (that is how little enjoyment I get from actually playing 2k15) last night and I decided I wanted to have the commentary on so that I could hear the announcer intros for my CAWs.
And I regretted that decision quickly.
From what we've seen, at large, the commentary hasn't changed much in 2k16. JBL just seems to chime in whenever and most of what we have is the same recycled garbage. I really hope the same can't be said for the Joey Styles commentary we have, but I feel like that'll be severely limited.
But why? Why can't WWE Games deliver a satisfying commentary experience? THQ wasn't good at it in their wrestling games, and 2K isn't particularly known for their commentary either. I was Skyping with a friend playing NBA 2k16 yesterday and he wasn't particularly impressed with it.
There are other sports games, on the other hand, that have good, and occasionally insightful commentary that I've played or been told about. From what I understand, the commentary in EA's Madden / NFL series has always been pretty decent. I've always found the commentary NHL games to be engaging and accurate, even in entries that are over a decade old. I also remember thoroughly enjoying the commentary in EA MMA. 2K seems like it might be the problem here. But I haven't played any of their other sports games, so I can't say that for certain. (Except for whatever the hell their 2001 football game was. Gameday? It's a total haze, and it's also 15 years old so it's irrelevant anyway )
I started thinking about the commentary in 2k15, what was wrong with it, the few things that actually do, or have worked, how it could be improved, and why it's so polarizingly different from the commentary we get on actual WWE Programming.
These are my observations.
- Most of the positives when it comes to the commentary are centered in matches using the default in-game roster. And that's fine. (At least, sort of.) You can argue that the main point of the game is to focus on the WWE; whether it's the roster, the historic rivalries and matches, or each Superstar's signature moves. And to a large degree it is. It seems wrong (and it is) to put all of the focus on the in-game wrestlers when you tout your franchise as having one of the biggest and most accommodating creation suites in all of gaming. (And for the most part, that's true.) However, now that they've begun to incorporate the Creation Suite into the main draw of the game for casual players: MyCareer mode, it's time for them to start catering to the CAW makers a bit. (Not that they haven't this year! The face import, hair dye, and material selection features are kick ass!). When you use the in-game wrestlers, you get bits of back story; you get more detailed commentary about their strengths and weaknesses. And, hell, if you have two wrestlers who are famously rivals in the same match, sometimes you'll even get a bit of the backstory on their feud. It's a nice touch. With the in-game roster, it's all well and good in Exhibition mode on these fronts.
- I appreciate some of the things they've tried to implement with commentary in recent years. There wasn't nearly enough of it in 2k15, but in 2k14 they began to talk about who has a certain type of advantage in each match. If somebody had a higher speed stat, for example, Lawler and Cole would usually talk about who has the advantage, or how to regain momentum after taking a beating by utilizing their strengths. That was a cool feature, but it was limited. It did only make its debut two years ago, but it seems that they've chosen not to build upon what's already there. There's a lot of room for improvement on this, and given the sheer number of stats each wrestler has now, it seems like a no-brainer to incorporate more relevant commentary towards this; who hits harder, who hits faster. Who moves quicker. Who's more likely to go flying off the turnbuckle, or the ropes!
- It's not in the game anymore (unless you're playing on last gen), but when it was a thing, I enjoyed that you could set custom names the announcers would call out when you performed a custom finisher. Granted, it didn't always work; it seemed to be random whether they actually sold your finisher or not. That aspect of it needed work. But it was a nice idea, and to be honest I'm kind of surprised it didn't make it to the Create-A-Moveset menu. Why couldn't we set a custom name for whatever move we had as our finisher? Why was Finisher-specific commentary relegated to the In-game wrestlers and people with custom finishers? If I do a Pedigree, I don't want to hear the commentators call it a Facebuster. I wanna hear them call it whatever I deem it is. If I use the same Double Arm DDT as Dean Ambrose, why can't it have a cool name when I do it? Bring this one back, guys. This was one thing you had very right.
- The commentary in Showcase Mode tends to be good, but most of the time, that's because 90% of it is pulled straight from the original match. None of the benefits of the commentary done for this mode carry over into the main game. This is where the commentary they record sees the most use, in spite of the fact that this is where dedicated players spend the least amount of time. It isn't about us and, as jaded or entitled as this will sound, that's part of the problem.
- The commentary in the main game- that is to say, Exhibition, Universe Mode, and Online- is dull, repetitive, often irrelevant to the match at hand.
- The commentary has sound bytes that have literally been recycled for the last decade. It's painfully obvious, too; in the case of Michael Cole, his voice literally changes pitch because it's changed over the years with age, and you can hear the quality drop in recordings, even just over the last couple of iterations of the game. This is not acceptable.
- Commentary is completely unbearable when we're using Created Superstars, who they have made zero effort to facilitate within the commentary for the last five years. There's a short list of commentary names, but unless you're hitting a finisher, taking someone else's strong grapple, or going for a pin, there's nothing to hear because that's literally all they recorded audio for. Not to mention, some of the names they've chosen are ridiculous when you compare them to the names they've left out. There's a chance this could be somewhat improved for MyCareer mode, but it wasn't last year, in the game's first iteration, so I can't see it being drastically improved this year.
- Divas have gotten a similar treatment in the past several iterations. Much of the commentary that relates to specific moves uses male pronouns exclusively, and there's no female equivalent. So half the time, you get the commentators referring to the Divas as "he", "his", and "guy/s". We haven't seen much in the way of Diva gameplay for 2k16, but I get the distinct feeling there isn't going to be much difference. At least, with the whole divas revolution thing going on, they might think to record some relevant commentary for next year.
- While the commentators frequently refer to the "crowd going crazy", or whatever similar nonsense they're spouting, it's never actually when the crowd is reacting to anything. Given that the devs have proven the commentary can be somewhat dynamic depending on the moves being done (and if they've been done more than once), why is it that they can't react to the crowd when the crowd actually reacts? Acknowledge the fact that the crowd is chanting for a particular wrestler, acknowledge that the crowd is marking out because somebody just did a suicide dive! Don't just interject random nonsense that the crowd is being lively when they're more silent than a Japanese crowd during a jobber match.
- My biggest pet peeve is when somebody is actually saying something halfway interesting, talking about the pacing of the match, or the who has what kind of an advantage, and then they abruptly stop talking to shout because somebody did a stomp or a fireman's carry or something. Or a generic reversal Not only that, but the cuts always sound very harsh, because it's not somebody who's just stopped speaking, it's an audio clip being ended abruptly. How hard would it be to record a bunch of shocked reactions to put between the clips and ease the transitions?
- There were a few key differences that I found myself picking out when I was watching these matches back. Comparing them to matches I watched recently; from NXT, WWE (RAW), and WCW. Why is the commentary so much different from what we see on TV?
Well, for starters, as painful as this is for me to say, it's because there's long silences. Cole, Lawler, and JBL are storytellers. While what the bulk of what they do on the show is tell stories, in the game, they occasionally give a bit of background information on the wrestlers or the match, but for the most part, they stay quiet until someone does a move, or a counter, only occasionally popping up to make some comment about the match. They don't talk the way they do when they're calling matches. How can you even program commentary to tell a story?
- Guess what? It's not impossible. It might be damn difficult to do something like that in a 6-man Battle Royal with no context, but pretty much every other 6-man match has a set theme. Money in the Bank. Hell In A Cell. The Elimination Chamber. The match type is context, and it's part of the story that's very rarely touched on when you actually play these matches in game, unless you execute some simple trigger, like climbing a cage, a ladder, or a cell.
As for smaller matches- singles matches in particular, the long silence needs to be filled. Not with more mindless banter, but with contextual speech. Talk about the match type. Talk about the title that's on the line. If you're in Universe Mode, they already talk about what place the match is on the card. Talk about whether the wrestlers have faced before, or their recent win/loss record. It could be better, but it's there, and it's a nice touch. If two guys have been in a rivalry for a bit, talk about it! There's contextual commentary in the cut scenes! Why is there none in between them?
- Okay. So moves in the WWE games are broken down into sub-categories of another move. Great. That's exactly how they work. Ignoring the fact that they mis-call moves fairly often (please don't turn Michael Cole into virtual Mike Adamle, 2K), half of the game's moves are labled as something completely wrong by whatever triggers their commentary (I frequently see elbow strikes connect only for Cole to refer to them as a "hard right hand"). In other cases, they call the move before or after it makes any sense to be talking about it. There are many cases where some moves are combinations that start in one move and end in another. Like the Backbreaker and Leg Sweep, Backbreaker and Fallaway Slam, or that combo of two Backdrops and a German Suplex. Almost all of these only have half the move called, and it's usually the first move at the second move's point of impact. Probably the worst culprit is the poorly named STO Backbreaker, which is a backbreaker followed by a neckbreaker that gets called an STO by the commentators. WTF? How hard is it to add multiple triggers to a move, or at least the proper trigger the point of impact? Or even record a few different lines that could be used for that exact purpose, like "An excellent combination by ____". Come on, guys. I know there's a lot of moves that they really should call by name, but you've gotta start somewhere, and I personally feel that they need to start by fixing what they already have before they add to it.
- So... speaking of calling moves! There's a little bit of dissonance between some of the animations and the commentary as well. Namely, a lot of the moves lack impact, whereas, and this is the main problem of the two (for the sake of this discussion), the commentators call almost every move like it's a Finisher. You've got a problem when all of your discussion is quiet and calm, and then your reaction to every move is to mark out like whatever one wrestler did just drove the other one straight through the ring. It's like the commentators all suffer from a split personality and their other personality is Don West. I think, that, in order to nullify this problem, there needs to be a bank of commentary for certain types of moves, broken down into sub-levels for each type of grapple. Moves assigned to the quick grapple spot get a calm-ish reaction. Moves in the medium grapples get an appropriate reaction, and then strong grapples get the commentators marking out. But that's just my personal opinion. Something needs to change with this, though. When you hear the same mark-out reactions in every single match (not to mention total deadpan every time someone does a Suplex) it gets tiresome and robotic and just makes you want to turn the commentary off that much more.
- Last but not least, the commentators need to have meaningful conversation. Banter (plentiful) that isn't tied to the match, specifically, but actually sounds like something they would say. Not something they're reading off a script. Match context optional. Something that plays once in awhile (as in every few matches) between actually meaningful commentary about the match and the show, depending on whether or not you're playing Exhibition, or Universe/MyCareer. Something in between the stories and the play by play that injects a bit of personality into the three commentators.
These are things I've noticed and thought about in regards to the quality of the commentary in the games. Why it is the way it is, what's wrong, what's right, and what should be.
I'm sure there are things I've missed or forgotten, but I'd like to hear others' opinions on this subject. What do you feel is wrong with the commentary? What's right? How can it be improved, or made to more closely resemble what we hear on TV?
Edited by RobChapman91, 10 October 2015 - 03:58 AM.