WWE 2K16 is all about building on the framework that 2K15 started. While last year we griped about not enough features being brought over from 360 & PS3, this year 2K have gone all out to not only bring back those modes, but to also add more features in that you’d never expect.
Before I get to the good stuff, let me gripe about the new submission system. Replacing the button mashing Breaking Point system is a mechanic that seems inspired by UFC Undisputed 3, where you play cat and mouse and try to either have your sector overlap your opponents, or avoid that from happening. It feels like it is made of treacle, with it being very hard to get to grips with. During my first play test I figured it was because my character didn’t have a high enough submission skill, but that isn’t that case. It’s more a case of this reviewer doesn’t have a high enough skill at this mini-game yet and it’s not as intuitive as most newcomers (or people jumping from last gen) would like.
Doubling down on the introduction of a more simulation style wrestling game, 2K have introduced several more features that improve the flow of matches. Some of them are small touches that long term wrestling fans would enjoy, like if there’s a stale mate in the returning chain wrestling mini-game, instead of breaking the hold you’ll force your opponent into the ropes or into the corner forcing the referee to intervene and giving you an opportunity to deliver a cheap shot. Sometimes it’s the small things that really drive home the authenticity.
Joining the chain wrestling mini-game are working holds, which allow you to slap your opponent in a chin lock to regain much needed stamina while also draining your opponent of theirs. The mechanic works in much the same way with you finding the hot spot using the right thumbstick.
The major addition to gameplay is the limit imposed on reversals. For years the WWE series fell into the trap of being reversal fests on harder difficulties. This is now no longer the case as the reversal stock is now a resource to micro-manage, do you reverse a strike or wait until a heavier move such as a powerbomb to strike the right trigger? This can lead to very tense situations where your opponent has a finisher and you have no reversals left, leading to a tense game of cat and mouse.
Commentary is much the same as the past few years, with Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler providing the bulk of the commentary. JBL joins the team, but feels very tacked on as it’s rare for the three man booth to actually interact with each other. JBL will chime in every so often, but with it being so sparse it seems like it shouldn’t have been done at all.
MyCareer mode is also back this year with renewed vision. This year the main objective is to get into the WWE Hall of Fame, rather than a single WWE Championship ending your career. This time greater control is in your hands, as you begin at NXT and progress to the main roster. My story started out like yours no doubt will. Starting with training under the tutelage of Jason “Don’t Call Me Tensai” Albert with Enzo, The Vaudevillains and Baron Corbin, leading into a feud with Tyler Breeze and then being allowed to progress as I see fit.
I began chasing the NXT Championship, now back in the hands of Kevin Owens, through three months worth of feuding. The first ArRIVAL (TakeOver isn’t in 2K16) PPV was non-title, and then the second match was for the title in which Kevin got intentionally disqualified to retain the title which both surprised and annoyed me. I wanted the belt, but I never expected the AI to pull a stunt like that which was out of left field that I couldn’t be annoyed long. Then the third match where I took the title and promptly joined the ranks of the US Title hunt, where John Cena reigns as king.
My initiation to Smackdown was met by The Beast Incarnate. Brock Lesnar is a different class of competitor than Aiden English, Finn Bálor and Kevin Owens. I remember thanking the gaming gods when ‘Crossfit Jesus’ (Yes, I called him Crossfit Jesus) Seth Rollins came out to back me up. So far in my 15 hours clocked in MyCareer, I’ve been NXT Champion, beaten Brock Lesnar and I beat up Seth Rollins for shiggles. I’m not even a year in, and with 15 years ahead to achieve the goal of being inducted into the Hall of Fame I have a ways to go yet.
Showcase returns with cover star Stone Cold Steve Austin as the only attraction. This was a weird choice considering a majority of these matches have already been part of previous Showcases, namely 30 Years of Wrestlemania and the Attitude Era mode from games gone by. This time around, not much has changed. You still have the same objectives, same QTE cutscenes and the like. The only thing that has actually been added is the Special Objectives section, where further unlockables are obtained by being frequently on the other side from Austin or by completing matches on harder difficulties. That’s not to say that the mode isn’t well done or anything, because it totally is. Also I find it hard to complain about any mode that allows Savio Vega and Mikey Whipwreck to be involved in the 120 strong roster. Also, 2K did the best they could with key elements of Austin’s career not being available for use, Owen Hart especially. They were able to use footage, but of course Hart’s estate (Martha) won’t authorize any new WWE use of Owen Hart. Also, with Kurt Angle firmly in TNA during the development process, we’re left with a huge chunk of late 2000 and mid 2001 missing. No Summerslam or Unforgiven, and no 6 man Hell in a Cell. Sadface.
The creation suite is almost back to full strength this year. Last year we saw the beginnings of what can now be described as one of the meatiest versions of the creation tools ever. A great deal of the assets of the 120 strong roster are available as items to use on your created star, including hair and beards. For example, two of the more obvious items are Kane’s long hair from his 90s incarnation, and Randy Orton’s patchy bum fluff beard. Oh and DDP’s Dog the Bounty Hunter coif.
Aiding this is the improved Logo Import feature that introduces the ability to import face textures bringing a much greater sense of control over your creations than ever before. However, it tends to be very hit or miss. You definitely need perfect face pictures to use this effectively, but even then it may not work as planned.
That being said, I have spent a lot more time in the creation suite during release week than I have in years. With the return of Create a Championship and Create an Arena, I’ve spent time re-creating things from Insane Championship Wrestling. Both modes have their own improvements to boot. Championships can be made using imported logos, or by making a Frankenstein’s monster out of parts of actual championships.
The same can be said for Create an Arena. In older games, Created Arenas were static creations with very limited customization that were only based on the stage you picked. This time around you can have a mash up of various in game arenas, such as mixing the Skull entrance from Survivor Series ’98 with the modern side walls from the current WWE Universal stage.
With a roster this diverse and a deep creation system, WWE 2K16 is very difficult to put down. It is definitely one of my favourite wrestling games and it’s only been out a week. While a few of the niggling bugs and jitters that have plagued the series still remain, I haven’t found a reason why that would stop anyone from playing. The only thing I would really change about the game is the lackluster submission system.
“Your time is up, my time is now”. The famous lyrics to John Cena’s entrance theme. It also serves as an apt description of where the WWE 2K franchise is heading now, especially in reference to last gen versions of 2K16 which are just retreads of WWE 2K14. If you haven’t gotten a chance to pick up the next gen wrestling game, I highly recommend you begin right here.
- The small things count
- More control in MyCareer
- Janky submission system
- Face import isn't perfect