About a year ago I reviewed WWE 2K15. Being a massive wrestling game fan I scored it 7/10 and made no qualms about it – this bias influenced my score. There were many niggles to put up with and it was a fairly short-changed debut for the now current gen machines. All eyes on 2K16 then to sort this spandex nonsense out and deliver the goods.
Deliver they have. WWE 2K16 is absolutely brilliant. It’s not just more of the same with some bits tweaked, it’s not just a ‘fixed’ 2K15. They have gone above and beyond and whilst there are still a few bits to improve (and I am being picky here) it’s easily the best wrestling game ever. Quite a statement.
Firstly, the stuff they’ve fixed. The control system has been improved along with animation and collision detection. It’s still not perfect but the move toward ‘real’ wrestling simulation is almost complete. Hard hitting blows, dynamically paced matches feel like real matches you would watch on TV. There are more positions now with the introduction of sitting and kneeling, and transition animations join together commands to give it a natural flow. The move set has also increased with grapples and strikes having their own set of moves now for each situation, nearly doubling the amount each character can do.
The amount and variation of moves have increased dramatically which helps although some of the newer situations have a fairly limited set. I could talk in great detail for days about this but let’s cover off the key changes that make WWE 2K16 a significant gameplay improvement on past games.
Reversals are now limited (varying by character) meaning you can’t simply return each punch ad-nausea. So you need to pick and choose what you’ll take in favour of potentially reversing something bigger down the line. They slowly recharge through the match and it feels strange having to watch your wrestler get beat up simply because you don’t want to reverse a slap to the face and then get crushed by a powerbomb through a table. The stamina meter returns but with the introduction of working holds – working holds allow you to go to a submission manoeuvre not to try and beat your opponent, but wear him down and recover yourself. Whilst in real life overuse of this can receive criticism from fans about under-conditional wrestlers, in the game it balances nicely restricting those that just want to bounce off the top rope constantly to something more realistic.
These can be turned off but why would you want to? Chain grappling returns from 2K15 but here it’s better balanced, used less often and is not forced upon the start of every match ever depending on your actions. This adds a nice production feel and different start to each match and for those that can’t wait you can now interrupt your opponent’s entrance and beat him up while he still has his hat on. This hasn’t been before and is seamless in game, however it is limited to 1 v 1 matches.
The gameplay is so significantly improved with these and many more smaller tweaks that if everything else where the same, it would be a glowing recommendation. 2K Sports didn’t stop there though and have gone to town on the depth in this game. The roster is enormous – just huge, the biggest in a game ever. There are a few repeat characters with different version of themselves but it’s mostly unique, over 140 different choices. Some new additions to the real roster are missing (as usual) including confusingly some of the recently promoted Divas to the main roster.
Match types and modes also return from games of past fleshing out the combinations to well over 50. Annoyingly you still cannot have complete control over your match types with a limited rule set but there’s probably a variant that will closely match your desire. Along with this come returns of Create a Belt, Create an Arena and a much-improved Create a Superstar. Lots of historic assets make their way in as well so if you are particularly keen on old ECW or WCW arenas then you can rebuild with more control over the various aspects than ever. Fancy a smashed up car on the entrance way? Go for it. Down to the colour of the turnbuckle pads, it’s all yours to edit and tweak. Whilst the created superstar options are much improved the load times of seeing your creations built could be snappier and is unnecessarily frustrating.
In terms of gameplay modes, WWE Universe returns and is generally improved all round. Ability to create your own shows, PPVs and edit rosters to your heart’s content is here and should provide masses of hours of entertainment. 2K’s stable MyCareer mode is also here, starting off in NXT (which is included properly this year) all the way through to the Hall of Fame ceremony, developing move sets and attributes as you go. The final meaty mode is the 2K Showcase – this year centred around the career of cover star Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin’s rise through WWE is experienced through matches, in-game cinematics and video cutscenes and is done well with an especially good final video charting the end of Austin’s career. It will be interesting to see if the DLC Showcases have similar support or are just limited to classic matches of other stars.
What makes the game for me is finally the fans have been listened to. You can download attires for any of the characters in the game (along with arenas, created superstars from scratch, belts etc.) – it’s exciting to see all of the latest outfits for wrestlers the night after a big PPV available in the game to download. The process isn’t as smooth as it could and should be, but it’s great to have this option. The little touches such as the ring announcer and timekeeper sitting by the ring who get up as you snatch their chairs away to use as weapons, or the t shirts of fans changing with the era of the mode/arena you are fighting in.
Last year I caveated the score with you probably needing to be a fan of wresting games. This year, if you’re a fan of wrestling at all you need to check this out. There is an element here for any level of enjoyment from battling with classic stars to all out creation of your own wrestling federation. The depth is incredible supported by similarly brilliant gameplay. If you’re a fan of wrestling games, add 1 point to this score.
Reviewed on PS4