Last year Yuke’s and Visual Concepts tried to reinvent the stale WWE game franchise by over hauling its gameplay and graphics system but in that process they delivered a half-baked product which underwhelmed both consumers and critics alike.
WWE 2K15 was criticised for a lot of things, from its diminished roster size to its lack of creation options and match types. The abject dearth of content meant that the game was not up the standards players had come to expect from a WWE game.
It looks like the development team paid attention to player feedback as WWE 2K16 seems to redress most of the issues people had with their previous game.
WWE 2K16 features a bevy of WWE superstars and divas from past and present, increasing the total amount from the measly 67 playable characters to the largest roster in series’ history; a whopping total of 120 unique characters.
Despite the size of the roster, it lacks sensational women wrestlers like Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Bailey. Their exclusion from the main roster, as well as the development team’s refusal to add them in future as DLC while including characters like Eva Marie and Rosa Mendes is very perplexing and a big sore point.
These lapses from the modern-day roster are usual fare for the WWE games and players can fill their absences by creating these characters themselves in WWE 2K16’s Creation suite which has been greatly expanded and allows players to create up to 100 wrestlers, which is up from the meagre 25 wrestler quota from last year.
Along with increase in character customization options, this year’s game adds features that not only allow players to create wrestlers of both genders but also create championships, arenas and shows.
Although features that were part of past WWE games, like ability to create custom finishers, highlight reels and import custom music are still missing from this year’s outing.
WWE2K16 continues with the match-simulation feel that was introduced in 2K15. This gameplay style includes mechanics such as starting with chain wrestling, the deliberate match pacing as well as the weight and fighting style determining the abilities afforded to the player.
WWE 2K15 was criticised for its pin mechanic, submission system and overly slower pace of long matches due to deteriorating player stamina. WWE 2K16 has worked to address all of these issues and streamline these gameplay mechanics.
The developers have changed the pin/kickout system mechanic from a horizontal line to a circular bar which feels more responsive and gives a better control over the feel of kicking out of a pinfall attempt.
Similarly 2K16 features improvement to the submission system, where the mechanic has shifted from simple button mashing to a circular mini-game of cat and mouse where one player has to overlap the other player’s bar to make him submit.
While this mechanic functions in an interesting and fair manner during local or online Player vs. Player matches, it get into the frustrating territory during battles with the computer due to wrestler AI’s extraordinary responsiveness.
The game also features the new ability to regain stamina via rest holds also offers players ability to improve the pace of match, preventing every match from boiling down to a lumbering slog.
The wrestlers now have a set number of reversals depending on their wrestlers’ stats. This means that the matches will no longer boil down to infinite reversal loops.
Players now have to earn reversals, just like earning signatures and finishers, making reversals a resource that can be utilized in a pinch rather than spammed for every move.
Encouraging a ‘pick-your-battles’ mentality, the new system makes the reversals a strategic part of the gameplay rather than a force of habit. It goes a great distance towards replicating the flow and momentum of an actual wrestling match.
Even with these improvements the reversal system is not without its flaws; the game fails to distinguish differences between importance of difference moves as it makes reversing a finisher as easy as reversing a basic strike or a simple grapple.
However, if the more technical style of matches is not up your alley then the game also allows the flexibility for the players to switch off mechanics like limited reversals and fatigue.
Though some fan favorite varieties like first blood, I quit, inferno, special guest referees and buried alive matches are still missing.
The returning My Career mode has also received an overhaul.
WWE 2K15’s My Career mode was seemingly a half-baked attempt that was extremely light on story events and full of filler matches and a singular objective of becoming a WWE Champion.
This year’s My Career mode allows players multitude of options on which shows to attend, which belts to target, choosing new rivals and how to progress the created wrestler’s career from NXT Rookie to WWE Hall of Fame.
Addition of aspects like conversation options in backstage interviews, option of creating a tag team, aligning with or against Authority and the variety of ways that the player can achieve the objective of Hall of Fame induction makes this year’s My Career mode much more character focused than the linear, match grinding one from last year.
While the Last year’s 2K Showcase mode lacked a bit of focus due to splitting into different rivalries, this year’s 2K Showcase mode is all about WWE’s biggest money maker and star of the Attitude Era; Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The new 2K Showcase follows the whole career of Steve Austin and allows players to recreate various events from his days as Stunning Steve in WCW to his ECW run, to his WWF debut as Ringmaster and most prominently; his memorable feuds from the late nineties and early aughts.
Although WWE 2K15 drastically improved the series’ visual presentation from its past games, 2K16 does not rest on its predecessor’s laurels and seeks to make improvements of its own.
Game’s new cloth and hair physics give a noticeable boost to the game’s visuals. Apart from that the matches generally feature clean animations, fluid moves and improved details in character models.
However like WWE 2K15, there is lack of consistency in the quality of character models across the 120 strong roster.
While some wrestlers look spectacularly detailed, others look like cheap facsimiles of their self. This is doubly true for women as despite the new hair physics, their hair still looks like wet spaghetti.
Graphically WWE 2K16 is still far from what could be considered visually impressive on the current gen systems.
Its unimpressive smoke effects, lack of textures on area mats and floors, bland entrance lighting and occasionally occurring visual glitches detract from the illusion of being in a WWE broadcast, something that the game so desperately tries to emulate.
However, the inclusion of Jim Ross as a commentator for Stone Cold’s historic matches in the 2K Showcase mode really adds authenticity to the package and is a complete 180 from the regular repetitive commentary as the limited and scripted nature of this commentary adds value to the immersion factor rather than detract from it.
Aside from that the game replicates all the character entrance themes, crowd chants as well as all the thuds and thumps of in-ring action that can be seen on WWE’s broadcasts.
WWE 2K16 also returns with options for online play as players can partake in variety of online matches and ability to share their creations.
The game features new additions like ability to play cooperatively in tag matches, warm up sparring matches while waiting for online opponent, similar to training while waiting for opponent in a fighting game, dynamic events under the banner of 2K Tonight and the simple but long awaited ability to invite and play private matches with your friend.
Whether it is the thrill of trying out every wrestler in the game’s humongous roster; or playing local and online exhibition matches with your buddies; creating custom wrestlers, titles or shows in the creation suite; playing booker in WWE universe mode; playing through wrestling career of a created superstar or the entire career of Steve Austin, WWE 2K16 offers hours upon hours of gameplay catering to every aspect of being a wrestling fan.
Overall WWE 2K16 is a great follow up to the previous year’s divisive game; it rights almost all the wrongs of WWE 2K15 while retaining its deliberate style of gameplay. So this game is not for those who prefer the frantic brawling pace of previous WWE games but is perfect for those that liked 2K15’s style but found it wanting.