Building on a lackluster arrival on the new generation WWE 2K16 aims to be a more concise and enjoyable game.
Showcasing the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin, WWE 2K16 builds a far more cohesive narrative in its showcase mode. Allowing players to experience some of the most memorable moments from WWE’s more recent history through the beginning of its Attitude Era and beyond, not only acts as a reminder for old school fans but also gives some great reference points for someone not quite so versed in the deep wrestling history often alluded to on the weekly shows.
WWE 2K16 probably gets closer than any of the previous games in creating the showmanship element of professional wrestling. This isn’t a sport, this is sports entertainment. You’re not here to simply batter your opponent into submission and walk away victorious; you need to entertain the millions of fans watching around the world. Your work in the match will be judged on a five-star rating system always present in the top left of your screen during play, this will change as the match goes on and gives you bonuses for creativity, using different moves and creating tension. You’ll be rewarded for a fight that doesn’t simply go one way but has a comeback or a surprise in the mix. This will be your focal point a lot as you become more experienced in the systems available and will always strive for that perfect five-star rating.
The Career mode has had a near-complete makeover and offers a lot more for players this year. Not only will you be fighting week after week, but you will be building relationships with other wrestlers. Eventually having a rival whose interference in your career can culminate in a huge PPV battle, or them running in on a key match and ruining your built up momentum by striking while the referee is distracted, giving the upper hand to your opponent. 2K has built on their experience gained from perfecting the career modes in their NBA franchise and brought something competent and fun to use into the WWE Universe.
Making a welcome return this year are the host of create modes that were missing from the first foray onto new generation consoles. You’ll be able to create yourself a wrestler – and import your face on to them with reasonable success and build the wrestler you want from the ground up. You’ll create their entrance and a move set in an extremely streamlined fashion making for a much more palatable experience this year.
The biggest disappointment is the lack of work that has gone into the in-ring action. The fighting mechanics, with grapples that begin with a rock-paper-scissor style guessing game and a confusing submission mechanic, make playing the actual game more of a challenge than anything. I ran into numerous bugs during my time including power bombing an opponent through the ring that left them clipped at half height until I reset. The fight pacing is stunted by the addition of a new reversal meter which limited the amount I could reverse at one time before I waited for the meter to refill. So, if my opponent was making a comeback and my reversal meter was empty I’d just have to sit there and hope he wouldn’t go for a pin which I would struggle to break. The new additions slowed gameplay down to an absolute crawl if you wanted to be successful and held none of the power fantasy I felt from games years ago.
This becomes more frustrating when in career mode. This requires a lot of tougher goals in very specific situations and the match is going on for a while. Your wrestler will be tired and will still need to complete a number of different goals before you can complete the match. It’s frustrating and takes all of the fun out of what you are actually seeing. Final success feels more like relief than a celebration.
WWE 2K16 does a lot of things right and the showcase mode houses some of the most memorable moments in wrestling. The gameplay lets this down and makes getting to the end a frustrating challenge but for any wrestling fan is worth seeing. Mostly, this acted as more of an advert for the WWE Network, the dedicated wrestling streaming service as I was able to go back and simply watch the matches I was struggling to complete. It’s great to see this game more of a complete package than last years and some nice touches to the creation mechanics make building some weird and wonderful creations far easier. The career mode offers light rivalries and challenges but leaves the room for you to build up the depth of the feud in your mind which I enjoyed but could be frustrating for some.