The magic of wrestling can be found in one thing: the suspension of disbelief. The fine trait that we hold onto as young kids and sadly tend to discard as adults is something we need to regain. WWE 2K16 is here to redeem itself from its spandexed-problems of yesteryear and show us that the magic is truly back in the world of wresting.
While WWE 2K15 centred around Mr. John Cena, this year the focus turns to none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin. The 2K Showcase mode takes an oil-coated look the Texas Rattlesnake’s career over the years – making this year’s retrospective a nostalgic, beer-drinking, ass-whooping blast from the Attitude Era past. Whether you grew up during Austin’s reign on top of the WWE or came to the fold years later, the mode includes a wealth of classic video packages that highlight this no-nonsense feuds with the Undertaker, McMahons, Bret Hart, the Rock, and more.
Barring the odd visual glitch, the presentation is sharp and classy in the Showcase mode, as well as in other areas of the game. Facial animations and wrestlers look more lifelike than ever before, the crowds are animated and diverse, and the fluidity of the game makes the actual act of wrestling not seem awkward and clumsy. It;s clear that Yuke’s and Visual Concepts are starting to harness the newer console generation.
As for the gameplay – it’s not as scientific as most fighting games are, and never has been, but it’s not a simple button masher either. Instead of memorising combos, you have to figure out overall strategies, and how different scenarios in a match will link up together, and WWE 2K16 does a good jump at upping that tactical element.
Players now have a reversal meter, which needs to recharge over time. This fixes the problem of never-ending reversals which plagued past games in the series, and adds a degree of technicality to your fight.
Another interesting addition is the ability to store a finishing move, which can be used to unleash a devastating attack (as usual), but it can be also be used to kick out of a sure-win pin. If your opponent has beaten you down and its likely that their pin will finish the job, you can pull out your trump-card by using up your finishing move to get back into the fight.
Stamina plays a massive role in WWE 2K16, more so than in any other game in the franchise. Also new to the series are ‘working holds’ which allow your superstar to have a breather and regain some stamina while depleting your opponent’s. Stamina is a key factor throughout any encounter, so even if you’re dominating your rival, you need to avoid running out of stamina, which could prove fatal – causing you to become unable to get up after moves and making it extremely difficult to kick out of a pin.
As for the AI – it can be a bit inconsistent. Some opponents will vary dramatically during matches, going from irritatingly repetitive with their moves to hovering around awkwardly waiting for you to bodyslam them. This is where playing locally comes in. WWE 2K16 shines when playing with four friends on a couch, causing one another bodily harm in a TLC match.
When it comes to online, minor lag is fairly common. WWE 2K is about precise timing, whether you’re countering an opponent or kicking out of a pin, so even the smallest amount of lag can put you at a hopeless disadvantage.
It’s not without its problems, but when the smoke machines shut off and the confetti settles, WWE 2K16 is one of the best wresting games to come out in quite some time. The combat is steadily improving and the new reversal system is excellent. The huge roster of fighters and most of the main modes are now up to their previous levels of quality. WWE 2K16 will be a welcomed addition to true wresting fans, but a little inconsistent for those casual fans of the sport.