Last year’s entry into the WWE 2K series marked the first time that visual concepts would have a full year of the development since acquiring the license from the now non-existant THQ. Many wrestling fans, myself included, expected to find the same level of polish found in the NBA 2K series (except with a lot more RKOs, naturally). Sadly it wasn’t the case, because while WWE 2k15 brought the visuals we expected from such a talented team, that was easily the biggest highlight. Luckily, with WWE 2K16, It’s looking like we’re finally getting the game we knew that the team was capable of.
I have to emphasize that our time with the title was very, very short. And the preview event we attended it was just way too loud to listen in to some of the key takeaways (like the ref telling us to get to the ring, while a brawl spilled out at ringside before the start of the match). Much of my takeaways from the preview were visual, and that’s incredibly important because while last year’s game dipped its toes into uncanny valley territory — when other elements in the game didn’t look quite as good — it all fell apart. I can say with ease, that is not the case for this year’s game.
For starters, we had an opening match between Brock Lesnar and Kevin Owens. Brock was one of those avatars from last year that just didn’t look good. Especially when you compared him to someone like Cena or Orton, both of whom were clearly scanned into the game. Now there’s no way to verify if Lesnar was scanned for this years’ game, but the difference is night and day. It was nice to see that Owens, who — as he transitions from NXT — was also spot on. Last year, outside of Rusev, most of the NXT superstars looked, well… awful.
Before our match opened, Owens made his way down to the ring, and on the top left of the screen the option to “run in” appeared. After a quick tap on the ‘X’ button, Lesnar comes barreling in and pushes Owens down the ramp. And just like that, it was an all out brawl at ringside and the match had not even begun yet.
A couple of things to note before all of this unfolded: the time between the character select screen and the action taking place had to have been at least 5 times faster than last year’s game. The load time was so minimal that I barely noticed any. After characters were selected and the camera showed the crowd at Monday Night Raw you can not only see that it was more “alive” but if you looked close enough you even saw people making their way through the aisles (and I guess headed to concessions?). The level of detail in the games presentation was incredibly high.
Back at ringside, we finally made it into the ring and unleashed a smorgasborg of moves on one another. What was interesting is that throughout most of the back and forth, I didn’t see the “R2” button icon as often as last year’s game, which echoes the sentiment that the game’s developers are making clear: this won’t be a reversal fest. Instead players will get a set amount of times in which that can pull off a reversal but this time the payoff will be bigger as it can help shift the momentum during the match.
Once again the action spilled out of the ring, and things were about to get intense as Brock started clearing off the announcers table. This is where I saw all three announcers getting out of the way and JBL’s classic cowboy hat fly off the top of the table and land next to the steel steps. It’s a small touch but a good one that adds to the entire moment that was happening outside of the ring.
Another unexpected moment was how the match ended: through a submission. It was a chance for us to see how the new mechanic works (and because it was so foreign it’s probably why we got the tap). Essentially players are “volleying” for position with the analog stick and fighting their way out of the submission. We didn’t realize how it worked until the referee was calling for the bell and it was all over.
At first I was thrown off by it. But then thinking about it after the fact the new mini-game made sense because it adds a new layer of strategy to matches, considering that you can pull off a submission hold without having to fill up any kind of signature or finisher meter. This is going to add a lot more excitement (and actual wrestling) to matches later this year.
I wish I had spent more time with the game to see how many little details I can pick up on. But in the short glimpse I did have I quickly realized that this title showcases the quality we except from 2K and instantly jumped near the top of my most anticipated games of the fall list.
WWE 2K16 will be available on October 27th for PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360.