WWE 2K16 PS4 Review
Publisher: 2K Sports Developer: Yukes, Visual Concepts Genre: Fighting Players: 1-6
Age Rating: 3+ Other console/handheld formats: PS3
Why is it that it takes a load of games in a franchise before the developer comes up with a simple and sensible idea that will forever change the way that a game in that series is played? The latest game in the WWE series is one such game, with a rather simple idea resulting in not only the best game in the series for quite some time, but also the best wrestling game in a long while.
Ever since the release of WWE SmackDown! Vs . Raw 2010, there has only been a single button used to reverse attacks in WWE games, and when WWE 12 was released, a new reversal system meant that countering was a lot more about timing than it previously was. This is all very much the case in this year’s WWE 2K16, but the changes to the reversal system are easily the biggest since WWE 12. Remember how some matches used to amount to nothing more than one reversal after another? Well, this is a thing of the past, and with the new limited reversal system what we have now is a game that resembles real life wrestling a lot more than it once did.
You now begin each match with between three or five reversal slots, with the number depending on your chosen wrestler. This doesn’t mean that you are limited to such a small amount of reversals for the entire match, as each time you use a reversal, the slot will refill after a little while, meaning that, while making use of reversals is indeed limited, there’s still potential for lots of reversals in a single match, but they are nowhere near as frequent as they once were, and there’s no longer the chance for an entire match to be comprised of one counter after another or for the AI to counter every move you throw at them on legend difficulty in the way that they once did. The new reversal system also makes the game a lot more strategic, as you may find that it’s not a good time to reverse a basic move at a certain point in a match if your slots are close to empty, as, for example, you’ll feel defenceless if your opponent has a finisher and you don’t have any full reversal slots to counter it when he or she uses it on you. The limiting of reversals is certainly for the better in my book, but if you find that you dislike it, there’s the option to turn it off and play it in the way that it used to be played.
The limited reversals are not the only change to the reversal system though, as the game introduces major and minor reversals. As the name suggests, minor reversals give you a bigger window to reverse attacks, while major reversals give you a much more limited window to reverse. Not only that though, major reversals also require two full reversal slots to use them, and they also swing momentum in the way that they are more damaging to your opponent. All in all, the changes to the reversal system alters the feel and flow of the game, and it will likely take long-time fans a while to get fully used to it, but it’s all for the better, and it’s one of the improvements to the game that makes the most sense and that many will be overjoyed by.
Moving away from the new reversal system, and I’m also happy to say that the game has a new submission system to its name, replacing the previous Breaking Point submission system, which had you mashing the buttons. Thankfully, a button mashing submission system is now a thing of the past though, and the new system is all about stick rotation, but it’s a shame that the new system makes so much sense, although it doesn’t always work as it should. Whenever submissions are applied now, a circle comes up at the bottom of the screen, and it’s this circle that gives both aggressors and victims more control over the submission system than previous games in the series. As the attacker, your job is to overlap the defender’s blue indicator, which will eventually result in the entire circle turning red and your opponent tapping out and losing the match. As for the defender, their objective is to stay away from the chasing red indicator in order to get out of the hold and fill the entire circle blue in order to escape. During submissions, and whether on attack or defence, it’s also possible to speed your indicator up by holding a button down, which uses some of your stamina, but it may just give you an advantage. The new submission system is a welcome addition to the series that gives you more control and adds to the excitement, but it has to be said that it is sometimes more difficult to make opponents tap than it should be, particularly against AI opponents who seem to be always reading the direction in which you are rotating the stick. In fact, on the whole, the AI is still inconsistent to say the least.
There’s also a new pin system, which is similar to the previous one, but, like the submission system, it’s now all displayed in a circle. Also, you are only required to press one button when breaking out of pins, with double button presses only coming into the equation when you have taken a lot of damage in the later stages of a match-up. This means that for the majority of the time you need only wait for a blue bar to pass over the red kick out zone before pressing the button. There are also new pin animations, and some wrestlers can now grab the rope when being pinned, forcing the break, just as long as the referee sees it.
Finally, the game also introduces working holds for the very first time. These holds allow you to play a mini game with your opponent, in which you can refill stamina, and it’s also a good way to refill reversal slots during the times that you are feeling vulnerable. It’s another tactic that adds extra strategy to the game, and with the management of stamina and reversal slots being taken into consideration alongside the rest holds, you may feel like a smart ring general if you are able to put all of these tools to good use and manage them in a sensible manner, staying on top as well as expertly controlling the tempo of the match. If Yukes and 2K were aiming for a wrestling simulation that captures real life wrestling, well they have certainly done just that with the excellent match mechanics on show here.
In terms of matches and other options, those who were disgruntled with the removal of certain matches and options in the previous game will be glad that the majority of them return in this one. The likes of Create a Championship, Create a Diva, Create a Show and Create an Arena also make their return. Hopefully, things such as Create a Finisher and Create a Story will return next year. Not only have the option and match types been expanded when compared to last year’s game, but the 120-strong roster of wrestlers and divas is also an improvement. In fact, this is the largest number ever featured on the roster in a WWE game.
This year the popular Showcase mode focuses on cover star Stone Cold Steve Austin, who is a legend in the business, and one of the grappler’s that helped the WWE beat the WCW in the ratings during the famous Monday Night Wars between the two companies. The mode has matches from Austin’s earlier days in wrestling, before he was a big star, but obviously it also features some of the biggest matches of his career. If you followed Austin, this brilliant mode will be a major nostalgia trip for you, but if you didn’t, you’ll learn all about the career of one of wrestling’s major stars.
The MyCareer mode also returns and introduces run-in options, allowing you to interfere in the matches of opponents if you intend to strike up a rivalry between you and him, but you can also forge a new friendship by coming to the aid of a wrestler and supporting him during matches, with tag team gold even being an option some time down the line. In the MyCareer mode, you once again start out as a lower rated NXT wrestler, and you’ll eventually have championship opportunities as well as get promoted to the main WWE roster some time down the line. I’m pleased to say that the career mode can also potentially last for multiple years now, which will be pleasing for those who took a dislike to the rather limited mode in the previous game. Still, it has to be said that the backstage interviews with Renee Young become repetitive really quickly, and long loading times that last longer than some of the segments also makes them all the more painful. I still like that you are given a little freedom as to how to respond to questions, as it allows you to respond in a cocky, crowd baiting or noble manner, which affects your personality traits. The mode is certainly an improvement over last year and is enjoyable enough, but it still could do with a little work in future releases.
Moving on, and the online options are inconsistent to say the least. In fact, playing online is close to broken as, while lag isn’t always obvious, it’s definitely there. During pinfall attempts, it sometimes feels impossible to kick out, and such lag really isn’t good enough for a game that requires timing in a number of important areas, with reversals also proving to be more difficult to pull off. Lag has been a problem since online options were introduced in the series back in 2005, so I really have no idea why they can’t get it right. If you want to play multiplayer in this game, I’d suggest you to stick with the local options if you can.
Glitches have also long been a bugbear in the series, and, while most of them are small and not too bothersome in this year’s game, they can still be annoying when they do crop up. Some of the nastier glitches for me included not being able to get back to my feet after being thrown to the mat, and also being unable to smash an opponent through the announce table when I needed to during the Showcase mode. Both the online multiplayer and the glitches do take the shine off what is otherwise an excellent wrestling simulation.
Yes, WWE 2K16 has its issues, which is disappointing, but the game itself is the best it has been in a long time. The finely tuned gameplay brings the game closer to real life wrestling than it has ever been, with an ingenious reversal system, helpful rest holds, more intuitive pin system, and the more sedate pace of the game creating a wonderfully satisfying and thrilling virtual recreation of real world wrestling.