Last year it was hard to love “WWE 2K15.” This year, it’s almost impossible to hate “WWE 2K16.”
Thanks to refreshed modes, enhanced visuals and the list of additional features that fans of the series begged for last year, “WWE 2K16” is a deep experience full of things to do and experience. And while the overall atmosphere isn’t a perfect one, with silly gameplay bugs here and there, “WWE 2K16” is a step in the right direction and one that can and will keep the WWE Universe busy for hundreds of hours.
Simply put, there’s almost too much to do here. With the largest roster in a WWE game, ever and 100 slots open for created performers, the opportunities to tell unique stories is there. With a host of small, but refined gameplay improvements as well, the game is more strategic, authentic and entertaining than ever before.
It all begins with the small things. Take the new pin system for instance. While it appears just a different visual element for the same type of well-placed button press/hold mechanic of last year, your margin for error changes on the pin count and it’s usually not in the same place. Rather than hold the button and let go like last year, this year, you’re pressing the kick-out button at the exact time that you have to. To say that it puts you on the edge of your seat is an understatement. Kicking out last year of a finisher with little energy last year felt near impossible at times. This year, it’s not only possible, but it feels awesome too. While you’re probably going to lose a ton of matches early on getting used to it, it’s a better mechanic than last year.
With the pinning system tweaked, the pace of matches has also been played with. Working holds is a new addition that significantly slows down a match. From a Sleeper Hold to a slew of other maneuvers used to allow you to catch your breath, it goes a long way in trying to recreate the action you see on TV. While the mechanic isn’t as amazing, it’s a natural progression after last year’s inclusion of chain wrestling. Although you’ll sometimes scoff when you get put in a working hold, it’s hard to deny that they do exactly what they are supposed to do. Escaping them, as well, gives you the same feeling you get when you see your favorite WWE Superstar do it. When was the last time you could say that about a wrestling game?
The same thing can be said for the new counter system. While there will still be plenty of them if you have two solid players, the timeliness of the button presses initiates either a major or minor counter. This is one way it’s easier to see who the better player is. Add in less frequency of counters and each match is much more strategic than last year. Overall, you’re going to have to pick and choose what you decide to counter and your performer, as a result to going to take much more damage. For those who choose to counter even the small punch and kicks at the start of a match, you may have to think of a new way to play.
Strategy comes even more into play with the new submission system. It takes time to get used to, it works best if you use limb-targeting in conjunction. What? In order to get a tap-out, you have to work that body part consistently throughout the match? Yes. Sure, this has been tried before, but just try to get a submission win with the Scorpion Deathlock or Yes Lock after using strikes for five minutes to fill up your momentum. It won’t work. For hardcore wrestling fans, that’s pretty damn nifty. Simply put, just like Ric Flair used kicks to the legs and his Shin Breaker to wear his opponents down for the Figure-Four, if you have a leg submission as your Finisher, you’ll do the same thing.
With an added level of strategy, the small, but solid gameplay additions to “WWE 2K16” have made for a much more immersive gameplay experience.
Bringing the gamer into the title even more is the Showcase mode, powered by the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin. While there could be more direction by the A.I. (Asking a kid or a less than geeky wrestling fan to perform a Stun Gun against Bret Hart is bound to cause them to go crazy.), it’s an awesome way to relive the career of the biggest draw in the industry.
The same thing goes for the MyCareer. A tremendous step in the right direction, the ability to perform run-ins on your opponents and beat them up before matches, as well as the interview segments with Renee Young and the ability to actually defend your title- make for a much more organic and free-flowing mode. Much like “NBA 2K16,” it would be great in the future to have a guest writer come in and design something a bit more entertaining (Vince Russo, cough, cough). Regardless, it’s an experience real fans will want to dedicate a ton of time to.
With all the added attention to detail, there’s no doubt that 2K Sports has stepped up their game tremendously, but they continue to drop the ball on several small fronts. Why does Renee Young’s character model look so creepy? Why does Stunning Steve Austin look like Stone Cold with a wig on? Why does Ricky Steamboat have so much hair for his 1994 Bash at the Beach Match? Why is Diamond Dallas Page’s hair still so high? Why is the dialogue from your MyCareer character so generic and cliche-ridden most of the time?
Make no mistake, the game plays better and looks better, but hardcore gamers will continue to ask for more. It’s not a fun ride for any developer when the source material is this electric, but why can’t 2K Sports get more small things right?
At the same time, you’d have to be pretty miserable (think Taz during his ECW run) to not see an improvement in gameplay and visuals in “WWE 2K16.” The added modes and “Create-A” features also stretch the gameplay cycle. It’s possible to spend dozens of hours just creating the world, from arenas, belts and characters- and not even wrestle. With innovative new tweaks in the pinning system, working holds and fewer reversals as well, you’ll actually want to be in the ring.
Eye Candy: The updated cloth and hair animations look great. The extra attention on animations bring out the superstars and divas more than ever before. From capturing the way Randy Orton delivers his clotheslines to the way Dean Ambrose shoots out of scope slam, “WWE 2K16” is pure eye candy.
Updated MyCareer: It’s corny, (Renee Young’s character is still and flat.) but it does allow for more user involvement and there’s definitely more blood, sweat and tears in it than the haphazard mode in last year’s game. For perhaps the first time in the series, you’ll actually feel more like a part of the roster and you’ll slowly begin to care about your character.
Stone Cold Showcase Mode: Reliving the career of the WWE’s biggest draw is a blast and possibly the best selling point in the game. All of those bonus matches and the different versions of Austin go a long way to making the mode a special one. More video from the WWE library
Gameplay Refinements: Charged reversals, a new pinning and submission system and the addition of working holds add an extra level to the strategy. If you want to mash buttons, go somewhere else.
Biggest Roster, Ever: Over 100 superstars and Divas and 100 create-a-wrestler slots allow for more fun and a depth to story modes that no other WWE-based game can make a claim to.
Buggy at Times: Seeing opponents change positions on the ground for no reason or opponents’ props floating in the air when you attack them on the ramp is an eyesore. While it doesn’t destroy the gameplay experience, the game needs another patch to clean up some of the visual and A.I. inconsistencies.
Server Issues: Since launch, it’s been incredibly difficult to get online and impossible to access the game’s page on the PlayStation store.
Although there isn’t much in terms of brand-new innovation, the fine tuning in the pin system, chargeable counters, working holds and submission mechanics have made “WWE 2K16” a well-rounded grappling experience that relies heavily on timing and skill and not button-mashing. Add in a wonderful Showcase mode and more content than ever before and this is the best wrestling game in years and a bold new step in the right direction for 2K Sports.