There was a sense of disappointment last time the WWE 2K series ventured out into the world, with many left wondering how it all went wrong. So now, there’s a chance for a story of redemption where WWE 2K16 is concerned. To ensure this, bugs will need to be a problem of the past and the included modes need an extra layer of depth. Can 2K deliver a polished and improved wrestling video game to the fans of the WWE product?
Is there any better place to start than with the 2K Showcase mode? Hell no. This year’s Showcase is focused solely on the cover star ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and his career in the WWE (formerly WWF) as well as the other promotions (WCW, ECW) he dabbled in beforehand. On first look, this is a remarkable look back at one of the biggest names in WWE to date, proving he’s right up there with Hogan and Cena. But to be a true recreation of historic moments, it needs to have a certain level of accuracy and that’s where it falters a little.
Whilst I’m immensely happy to see a return to the commentary table for Jim Ross alongside Jerry Lawler, they’ve gone for a ‘one pair fits all’ with regards to calling Austin’s matches. No sign of Michael Cole or Vince McMahon on the events in which they were a part of the commentary team. They haven’t even stuck to the lines used in the real matches for the game’s cutscenes to add authenticity. And don’t get me started on the generic Enforcer for the WrestleMania 14 match versus Shawn Michaels… I guess they couldn’t get Tyson.
Fortunately, the action controlled by the player and the cutscenes (with the occasional QTE), that play out memorable set pieces from these matches, live up to the epic battles of yesteryear between the likes of Austin/Mr McMahon, Austin/Rock and Austin/Bret Hart, to name just a few. There are plenty of video packages to hype the gamer up before certain matches, which are of a high quality as they always are in WWE. And with 25 matches plus four bonus ones, you should be kept satisfied for a good few hours as long as you don’t mind a whole load of Steve Austin and aren’t too much of a nitpicker.
For those who’d prefer to build their own superstar and create a legacy to be remembered, then MyCareer will hope to fill that need. Choosing whether to create a star from scratch or importing an already made character via the Creation Suite is just the first decision you’ll face throughout the career that follows. It’s pretty clear immediately that there’s been extra effort in moulding this mode into what the fans actually wanted.
There are slightly more layers to determine your character’s personality and if they are to be perceived as a Heel (bad guy) or Face (good guy) by the crowd. Being a part of interesting storylines was few and far between in 2K15; hence this time 2K have ensured that rivalries and backstage interviews become a regular thing. Starting a rivalry may start organically, however there are features put in place to help force matters when needed, such as run-ins and sneak attacks. Most importantly the career doesn’t end with a single WWE World Heavyweight Championship win; instead you can go after different titles multiple times in a bid to achieve the Hall of Fame objectives.
Having plenty of options to upgrade my abilities, skills and hire managers will certainly keep me working hard to put on great matches for the crowds, as doing so earns many skill points. Unlike last year’s MyCareer, you cannot become an overall 90 rated beast overnight (without paying real monies) and you may take a few knockbacks on the climb to the top.
It’s not all good news though, as the backstage interviews are poorly done by a lazy effort at reproducing Renee Young with a really robotic character model and bad voiceover work. Whilst I love the fact you can attempt to earn the benefits of being on the good side of The Authority, the objectives they give you before each match are completely random and often unachievable. Therefore it’s possible to fail without getting a fair chance to even try completing the task at hand. For example I was asked to perform my opponent’s finisher but the match never even started due to interference out of my control. MyCareer could also do with extra variety when it comes down to match types as I must’ve been in normal 1vs1 matches almost 99% of the time.
Should you require a more varied life in the squared circle, then maybe the WWE Universe mode is the place to be. This is where players can play through the WWE calendar and take part in matches that either the game or you has set up. Everything is customisable from rivalries to match participants to the events on the calendar. So, if you’ve always wanted to see a major show featuring all your favourite Superstars and Divas, now you can and they can actually be on more than one brand at the same time.
Prepping the Universe is optional, however having all these options at your fingertips means that those who wish to meddle, can do so. Over the years I’ve neglected this mode because I saw no real value in it. Now though, it’s the perfect place to use lots of different characters and live out the storylines you wish they’d book on television. Cesaro can finally get that main event push and the Divas could even have their own mid-week show.
The WWE Creations holds all the cards for filling any gaps in the roster as well as being able to create move sets, championships and arenas. Should you have the creativity akin to that of the WWE writing team booking Orton versus Cena for the billionth time, don’t worry because the creative juices are flowing within the WWE Community Creations section. There you can browse and download anything that takes your fancy; whether that’s a character model for Asuka or a brilliantly designed WCW Nitro arena.
We shouldn’t really have to rely on ourselves to ensure that the roster has all our favourite wrestlers but it’s better than not having them at all.
I suppose I better mention WWE Online, which no longer has the gamer sitting in menus as matchmaking occurs. Instead it throws you head first into a practice match that may never end, due to often finding no one to play. When an opponent does appear, the button lag makes having an enjoyable match almost impossible. At least there’s a large amount of match types available to participate in, although not knowing how many people are wanting the same type, might see you waiting for a Steel Cage match for hours.
Exhibition is the only remaining offline mode and it is filled to the brim with match types such as TLC, Iron Man, Ladder and Hell in a Cell with anything from 1vs1 to 3vs3. This mode almost becomes a pointless entity, unless you want a no consequences practice match to get to grips with certain characters or have a few friends round to play on the same console. Otherwise you could just do all this in WWE Universe.
The roster, which was billed as the largest roster ever, doesn’t actually feel as big as the hype and the numbers suggested. Nevertheless, the range of Superstars available should guarantee that everyone has a favourite wrestler to use. Modern day fans have Super Cena, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor (who’s entrance is absolutely superb in this game), whereas the older generation can bask in the legendary Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, Savio Vega… okay that last one is by no means a legend but shows the diversity brought to WWE 2K16. Divas on the other hand, with their slightly bigger division representation, are struggling with a lack of depth that could’ve been address by adding Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch; all of whom have been right at the forefront of the action in reality.
It’s hard to believe you’ve been reading this review for hours and still have very little knowledge on what can make or break any video game, the gameplay. There’s a new reversal system in place that limits the number of reversals you can perform and once they’ve been used they take a while to recharge. Never have I known such a seemingly minor addition become a gamechanger. Strategically it makes the player think – ‘should I waste a reversal on a stomp? Or save it for the next grapple attempt?’ – Thus, battling the A.I. has never been more entertaining.
The new submission technique is a pain to get used to but after a while it becomes obvious that you just need to destroy your opponent before even attempting to make them submit. Basically there are two bars, one for each character and the aim is to overlap yours onto the opposition’s bar until the big red circle reaches its largest size. I prefer it to button bashing, it does however turn into a cat and mouse chase between the two bars, where second guessing the A.I. is the key to success.
Sadly there are detection issues; seeing finishers being performed and missed yet the receiver still goes down is baffling. Going for grapples on grounded opponents just leads to butter fingers where they can’t seem to get a grip of anything. Character’s bodies falling awkwardly after moves is another odd sight, but none are more infuriating than the statuesque pose when a recovering character gets up halfway and then stays there for an undetermined amount of time.
There’s no doubt that there are many additional features to the modes contained in WWE 2K16, however it’s the implementation of some of these, especially in MyCareer that ultimately lets it down from being the very best it can be. Unfortunately the majority of the issues with the game mechanics and collision detection still linger from the previous incarnation of the WWE 2K series, with the ones I’ve mentioned being only a handful of those experienced.
I have to say that overall WWE 2K16 is definitely better than the last offering in the series with much more longevity. And on first look, it seems fantastic with the actual gameplay being the best I’ve played in a wrestling game for a while, but over time it begins to unravel itself with various issues.
WWE fans should pick it up because even if a patch never comes, it’s still one of the better games I’ve played in the wrestling genre for a long time.