“WWE 2K16” is five parts technical and one part wrestling.
The latest installment in 2K Sports’ wrestling franchise is the second in which Visual Concepts, the development team behind 2K’s unparalleled basketball franchise, has lent a hand to the longtime grapplers at Yuke’s. I had a lot of faith that it would push a professional wrestling title into the conversation about the best games in the sports genre.
And for diehard wrestling fans who’ve logged a ton of hours on previous iterations, it probably is. For the rest of us, it is not.
“WWE 2K16” is far, far too complicated to just pick up and play. I understand why. Wrestling is not like other sports. There’s a sadistic creativity surrounding it. Superstars don’t just punch and suplex each other on a canvas ring – they brawl in a variety of environments. They jump off 20-foot cages and fight in graveyards.
The hundreds of different moves and techniques coined by wrestlers in the past 40 years, combined with the need for interaction with a variety of environments, requires a boatload of controls. If you are committed enough to spend several hours learning how to pull these off and when to use them, “WWE 2K16” is probably the game for you.
However, one of the major draws of sports games is that anyone can play. Anyone can pick up a controller, learn that square is the shoot button and X is for passing, and have a fun experience with “NBA 2K16.” The “Madden” franchise is even easier to grasp.
‘WWE 2K16’ released on Oct. 27.
In appealing to diehard fans, “WWE 2K16” loses the rest of us. I used to be into wrestling, but I’m not now. I maybe watch one pay-per-view event every other year or so. I didn’t have much experience with the past few games.
Everything is difficult. When your superstar and the opponent both try to grab one another, it triggers this weird mini-game in which you have to press one of three buttons in a rock, paper, scissors sort of way. Winning puts you in a dominant position, and losing puts you in a submissive one.
This is all during what is supposed to be an action-packed wrestling match. You also have to swirl the joysticks around in weird circles to pull off submission moves, and there’s a simple “stop the spinning wheel at the right place” prompt.
It just doesn’t fit. Maybe I am just a dinosaur when it comes to wrestling games, but I don’t want to spend my time in the squared circle worrying about mini-games. I want to wrestle. I want my buff, sweaty dude to beat up the other buff, sweaty dude.
I also hate the virtual currency cash grab present in “WWE 2K16.” All of the moves, skills and attributes in the career mode are purchased with virtual currency. You win this digital cash by completing matches and training sessions, but you can also buy it.
Many of these important statistics require exorbitant amounts of virtual currency, meaning a lot of options are really only available to people willing to spend actual money to purchase the digital cash. A lot of these give your career character, who starts out with pitiful statistics, a major boost. You will have a really tough time competing against the computer opponents, let alone actual players, without coughing up some money. And that’s a little greasy.
The 2K showcase mode includes Stone Cold Steve Austin matches from 1994 to 2001.
It’s too bad that the gameplay is so tough, because the game modes are top notch.
The career mode has a lot of fun interaction options outside the ring, which make you feel as if you are controlling an actual person – not just a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot. Your actions as well as your words dictate whether you will be a “face” or “heel” – a good guy or a bad guy. That’s a fantastic feature.
The 2K showcase mode, which puts the player in control of Stone Cold Steve Austin during his most memorable matches, is perfect for someone from my generation. I was 8 years old when my all-time favorite superstar, Bret Hart, beat Austin. I saw it live on TV.
I loved how 2K showcase spliced audio and video from the original matches with the digital depiction in front of you. It created this sort of weird hybrid experience between watching an old match and controlling a new one.
“WWE 2K16” also looks great. The superstars are as realistic as ever, depicting the wrinkles on the weathered faces of aging superstars like The Undertaker as well as capturing their vigor in alternate characters from 20 years ago.
However, the simple fact is that a wrestling game with awkward match mechanics can’t be saved by a large roster of playable characters, solid game modes and strong visuals. If the wrestling is cumbersome, the game is cumbersome. Some light simplification would turn “WWE 2K16” into powerhouse.
▪ Rated T for Teen for blood, alcohol use, violence, language and suggestive themes
▪ Developer: Yuke’s, Visual Concepts
▪ Publisher: 2K Sports
▪ Out now for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One