Format reviewed: PS4 & Xbox One
As wrestling fans of over 25 years, we’ve played almost every single wrestling game there is, from the adequately titled “Pro Wrestling” on NES to last year’s WWE 2K15. And every year when the game hits stores, the question is asked on how high that years’ game ranks in terms of the best of the best. This year is no different.
So does WWE 2K16 rank up with the best wrestling games of all-time? The short answer, is absolutely yes it does.
Let’s start with the actual bread and butter of this game – the superstars in which you’ll be controlling. This is the largest roster ever assembled in a wrestling game – 120 Superstars. At a time when WWE has arguably the greatest roster it’s ever had, it’s wonderful to see that almost everyone you see on TV today is in the game. Whether you’re a fan of Cesaro, John Cena, Seth Rollins, Fandango, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose or Paige, they are all represented in the game in all of their glory. There are some notable exceptions, such as the “Four Horsewomen” of NXT, but 2K Sports have explained that situation and I’m OK with that. There’s also a slew of WWE Legends and Superstars of the past such as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Lex Luger, Ultimate Warrior and Stone Cold Steve Austin, the cover star and centrepiece of the main “Showcase mode”.
The first thing you’ll notice that’s different from last year when you get into the ring is how the game feels to play. It wasn’t obvious when we saw screenshots or videos, but you just have to play it to understand what we mean. It immediately feels more fluid, fresh and much more of a simulation rather than an arcade game and believe us when we tell you, that’s a huge plus point.
The presentation has taken a huge leap forward. Between entrances there are absolutely no loading times. The ring announcements sound a lot more natural, the music sounds absolutely fantastic and, for the most part, the entrances themselves are spot on (except for a few timing cues with the music, but that’s being VERY picky).
There’s a lot more strategy and thought needed when you’re in a match with your opponent. You now have a limited number of reversals to use, which means you have to think carefully when attempting to reverse your opponent, or let them pound you for now, and save them for later. Use up your reversals too soon, and you could find yourself regretting it when your opponent goes for a signature move followed by a finisher, and you can’t do a single thing about it. The good thing is the reversals do regenerate over time. Although personally we think they regenerate a little too quickly.
There’s some neat little touches too. Run at your opponent when they’re leant on the ropes, and you’ll clothesline them straight over the top rope, just like on TV. It’s little touches like this that 2K Sports have added which makes this game such a joy to play. The chain wrestling system returns, which for the most part is a positive. Just like in WWE, you’re not going to hit your opponent with the big moves right off the bat, and it’s the same in-game too.
The new pinfall and submission system is absolutely fantastic. With a some skill, and a lot of luck, your opponent could hit you with everything they have, and somehow you’ll find a way to get out. The area which you need to hit in order to kick out shrinks as you take more damage, making it much harder to do. But trust us, there’s very few things more satisfying than when you kick out at 2.999 after being hit with an AA. When playing locally with a friend, this can make for some absolutely epic contests. In terms of submissions, there have been some complaints about the new system, and admittedly, it really does take some getting used to, but it’s much better than last year’s button-bashing (which for the record, we hope 2K never brings back). Once you’ve mastered it, it becomes a game of human chess and panic as you’re trying your best to fill the blue bar and escape the hold. Ironically, our advice would be to not submit on the system. Practise makes perfect.
In terms of the creation suite, there are an incredible amount of options this year. Literally anything is possible and already there are some absolute masterpieces in circulation. You can create shows, arenas, superstars and championships. The possibilities are truly endless, and some of the Superstars not in the game have been replicated to near-perfection in the community creations. It takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it. You can import anything from faces, logos, designs and more.
The Stone Cold Steve Austin showcase is, for the most part, excellent. Historical moments are recreated to near perfection with brand new commentary from WWE Hall of Famers, Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jim Ross. There are a few odd things though, such as a caucasian Mike Tyson and for some reason, a few important parts of Austin’s career are skipped over for less important ones. We suppose the reason for this might be because they’ve already been done in other games, we don’t know.
MyCareer is vastly improved from last year, as is the WWE Universe mode. For the latter, there are tons more options in terms of customisation, and rivalries & factions. The biggest complaint from last year’s MyCareer was that you’d go weeks and weeks and weeks without any story or direction. This has been addressed, and there’s stuff going on for your character from start to finish. The way you answer questions and act in the ring directly affects what type of Superstar you become.
Unfortunately, while minor, there are a few negatives left over from WWE 2K15 which need to be patched and in some cases, fixed & completely removed for 2K17.
The play-by-play commentary is very inconsistent. The cut-scenes in Showcase mode are beautifully done, but when action returns to the regular match it becomes a little monotone and doesn’t match the pace or passion of the scenes that just played out. In other modes, repetitive lines are a big problem and the 3-man commentary team lacks any fluidity. On top of that, I’ve noticed that there’s still a lot of lines of commentary left over from games as far back as SmackDown vs. RAW 2010.
2K said they added hair physics, and while this is true, they look really odd. Hair sways from side to side when wrestlers walk, and it’s most noticeable in Undertaker’s entrance. To be fair though, that’s being really picky. When you’re picking faults with something as small as hair, you know 2K have done a great job on the whole.
One thing we wish 2K would add/change is the animation when you cancel a pin. Simulating matches and creating them for playback online or having a great match with a friend is affected by this. Sometimes you don’t want the match to end just yet because it’s great, so when you cancel a pin, we believe your opponent should animate as if they’ve kicked out anyway. Instead, when you cancel a pin you just get up off your opponent, which looks awful. Perhaps there could be a two-button system for this, such as when a) you want to inflict more punishment on your opponent and b) you WANT them to kick out.
The crowd during entrances need to be much louder. This has been an issue for quite a number of years and for some reason this always gets overlooked. To us that’s just as much an important part of the game as what goes on in the ring.
Weapons defy gravity. In one case, Cesaro suplexed Seth Rollins near a steel chair, and the chair flew into the air across the ring and to the outside of the ring. While it’s nice that you can slam your opponent on to weapons for more effect, it can cause glitches. Weapons don’t feel or react as good as they should.
Those are minor issues, quite frankly and are idealistic rather than “this must be fixed right now”. The game has everything you could ask for – a huge roster, a vastly improved single player experience and matches that play out a lot more like they would on WWE TV.
In short, 2K Sports have improved massively on the foundations laid down on last years game. Everything feels better, bolder and much more realistic. The small bugs and glitches aside, this is by far the best wrestling game in over 10 years.
WWE 2K16 was reviewed using the full retail version of the game.