2K Games hasn't had the WWE license for very long, but the publisher recognizes that there's a long legacy of wrestling games worth honoring. That's a big part of the reason why WWE 2K16 will boast the largest roster in series history, featuring superstars from the main WWE roster, the up-and-coming stars of NXT, and the all-time great legends from the past.
2K, Yuke's, and Visual Concepts also recognize this as an opportunity to revamp some other aspects of the series' gameplay. Some elements, like chain wrestling, have been refined, while the game will also debut some new ideas, like a revamped reversal system and a new pin and submission system. Shacknews recently went hands-on with WWE 2K16 to see just how well these additions are being implemented.
The first impression for wrestling fans will be the authenticity of the WWE 2K16 entrances. These remain very similar to the television product, whether it's the Roman Reigns entrance through the crowd or the black-and-white presentation of the Vaudevillains. However, in MyCareer, there are a few more wrinkles thrown in, with players eventually able to run in on opponents' entrances and ambush them from behind. Sometimes, this won't go so well, as we'll discuss shortly.
MyCareer itself feels mostly unchanged from last year, with players creating a new prospect and running through his career from the WWE Performance Center all the way to the WWE Hall of Game. This will mean taking a lot of lumps down in NXT, with players establishing rivalries with some of the developmental leagues stars and tagging up with potential allies. In-between matches, players can participate in backstage interviews with Renee Young and shape up their characters (as well as face/heel alliances) through various dialogue choices.
The in-ring action itself has changed quite a bit. Chain wrestling has been refined to more of a rock-paper-scissors interface, with players using three face buttons to follow up any light lock-ups. That will be follow by an analog stick interface, where the advantage goes to the first player that finds the sweet spot and fills the meter. A similar kind of analog stick interface is used for submissions, requiring the applier of the hold to overlap their colored cursor on top of the opponent's. A new pin system utilizes another similar analog stick-based quick-time system, requiring the wrestler on the mat to hit the X button at the right time. The window shortens significantly after running low on stamina and becomes nearly non-existent after getting hit by a finisher, but it is still possible to kick-out regardless. Some one-on-one matches even lasted well over 15 minutes, because one player simply wouldn't stay down and still managed to keep kicking out. It's also possible to get a little extra leverage through new dirty pins, which include grabbing the tights or using the ropes for assistance.
All of this makes WWE 2K16 more fun to play against friends, but those looking to run through single-player modes like MyCareer may want to take pause. The new reversal system sounds great on paper for limiting reversal spam. Players only have a limited number of reversals, which can be recharged over time. The window for reversals is very small and this writer wound up missing more often than not, getting "Too Fast" or "Too Late" messages. However, the AI (even on Normal difficulty) was unforgiving, able to hit reversals constantly. Over the course of my time with MyCareer, I was only able to rack up one successful win. Even when one scenario saw me attempting to ambush Tyler Breeze during his entrance, the AI-controlled Breeze still got the better of me, constantly reversing my attacks until he stood tall.
While MyCareer feels unchanged and somewhat uninspired, the main single-player draw will undoubtedly be the 2K Showcase mode that follows the storied career of Attitude Era legend "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Much like other 2K Sports offerings of the past, the attention to detail is stunning (no pun intended), as the game mode will follow all of Austin's most memorable career moments spanning from his early days in WCW, his brief stint with ECW, his incredible rivalry with Bret "The Hitman" Hart and the Hart Foundation, and his industry-changing feud with Mr. McMahon. Individual chapters will require players to hit certain moves over the course of the match, as mid-match objectives, some of which will cue up cinematics and allow players to live out wrestling history, fully rendered with the in-game engine.
Whether players will be able to adjust to the mechanical changes of WWE 2K16 remains to be seen. But the mechanical updates could be a lot of fun with friends and offers a chance to live out some dream matches with friends, with this writer even trying out classic Vader against modern-day Brock Lesnar. While single-player has the potential to be a slog, wrestling fans may want to follow what 2K Showcase is putting together with the great Steve Austin.
WWE 2K16 is almost ready to step into the ring. The game will hit Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 on October 27.