WWE 2K16: Hands-on preview

When discussing WWE 2K15, the first thing you might expect to talk about is the word “foundation” or in the eyes of the consumer “What the hell happened to our features?!”. The foundation of what is now current generation WWE gaming was WWE 2K15, and in WWE 2K16, 2K, Yukes and Visual Concepts are building the house that WWE games will reside in.

I was invited to a special preview event by 2K to experience a close to final build of WWE 2K16, and for the first time in years I had goosebumps playing. The first time you watch Undertaker making his elaborate entrance, only for Seth Rollins to slink out through the entrance and deck him while he’s completely unaware, is truly a sight to be seen.

When the idea of the break out feature was announced to be in the game, I’m sure many of you expected a canned animation to occur, with not much else. The reality is so much better. For those of you who played Raw on the original Xbox, it’s more along the lines of that. The entrance doesn’t stop. Undertaker was surrounded by his fire pyro, staring down the length of the aisle when the attack came. Boom! Phenom goes down!

You do also have the option of running from the ring to the stage when performing an attack like this, and even better, you can halt your own entrance to get the advantage over your opponent. That being said, sometimes you might want to elect to not attack your opponent mid entrance. The glaring example of this is Roman Reigns. If you’re awaiting your entrance, it’s better to not attempt to jump him, as you’ll always stampede through the stage while he’s in the ringside area. It’s a quick way to eliminate one of the levels on your stamina bar.

Talking of gameplay elements, the initial chain grapple mechanic is back, this time with options to push your opponent into the ropes. Much like you’d see in real life it adds that extra bit of authenticity to proceedings. In a similar vein to the chain grapple mechanic is the new working holds system, or as hardcore wrestling fans would call ‘rest hold’. In a majority of cases this will have a pair of meters pop up, just like chain grappling. If the attacker fills his first, the hold is cranked in deeper, if the defending superstar fills his then he’d rally back with side elbows, again, much like real life.

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Among the actual gameplay changes are modifications to the reversal, submission and pin systems. Submissions introduce a mechanic similar to the final game in THQ’s UFC Undisputed series, where a chase ensues within the meter. This is a welcome change to the ‘Mash X to Win’ that has been a staple for a while now. The ‘hold X to kick out’ pinfall feature has also changed. Once again you’re presented with a circle. The meter fills automatically and you have to tap X to stop the meter in the zone to kick out. You get either 2 or 3 attempts to do this, depending on how much damage you’ve sustained. While the reversal system is much more limited, with an allotted amount of reversals you can perform in a row.

This adds a new layer of strategy within matches, as you could opt to use a reversal on a stomp that might not pan out the way you’d hope, or you could save it for a grapple like a suplex, powerbomb, etc. In addition to this, some moves have multiple points where you can reverse. With the indicators on, a green prompt is for early reversals, and later you may find a red prompt which is a stronger reversal which takes away two of your reversals. This obviously would make a potential John Cena Vs Heath Slater match more like you’d see it on TV, and not a complete reversal fest.

The main story this time around is the MyCareer mode, which felt very half-baked last year. I didn’t get a lot of time to play around here, but the opening has your created superstar enter the performance center for training against NXT stalwart Enzo Amore. The first few matches serve as a tutorial for what to expect as you progress. You’re also paired up with “The Lone Wolf” Baron Corbin to tackle tag team matches.

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The hub for MyCareer is much better this time around, with the entire card for shows viewable, with the option to interfere and be pro-active in starting rivalries and forming alliances as you progress. However, I was unable to get very far. My last match featured my CAW vs NXT Champion Finn Bálor, where Tyler Breeze jumped in to start a rivalry.

The creation suites are almost at full form, with Create-A-Diva, Arena and Championship making the jump from last gen to current gen. I’ll start off with the improvements to CAW mode, with the introduction of photo import for faces, where you can overlay a picture of you (or Robert Downey Jr., but maybe not Josef Stalin) and accurately map the facial features so everything looks smooth as silk. This is a god send when compared to the facial scan technology of 2K’s NBA series and EA’s Game Face, since you can get a smoother import with the ability to fine tune everything so you can get a better replica of yourself (or you favourite superstar) in game.

Create an Arena is also benefitting from the upgrade in technology, with the ability to actually properly change the stages. You can add extra items such cars, ambulances and ladders, and mix ‘n’ match other assets, which greatly expands to mode.

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Championships are also a huge improvement, not only in the sense of being able to import your own designs, but also 2K have carved up a multitude of popular championships from years gone by, so you can play Frankenstein and make a championship with elements of older belts. Very cool.

In my deceptively short 3 hours playing, I found myself having a lot of fun with the game. The new mechanics breathe new life into a game which can feel stagnant at times. WWE 2K16 will be released on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PS3 and 360 on October 27th in the US and October 30th in Europe. Those who pre-order will also get to play as The Terminator.

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