What was it?
A 25-minute hands off presentation featuring gameplay clips.
What did we learn?
— JBL has been added to the commentary, and there’ll be one more special announcement soon, but there’s still the same issues of disjointed dialogue.
— The crowd still looks vacant and unpopulated.
— Though the wrestlers look great, as do their entrances, in the ring they look sterile.
— Chain Wrestling is back, and there’s even more of it.
— It’s 2K15 with more wrestlers.
How was it?
"Like career mode, it’ll be a process", 2K’s international brand manager Bryce Yang told me when we spoke following a presentation on what’s changed (and what hasn’t) for WWE 2K16. The question was in reference to the game’s commentary, which, he admitted, hasn’t been great for some time. The idea of WWE 2K16 being in the early stages of a long process rings true, as the early parts of the presentation look eerily familiar to last year’s entry.
There are more wrestlers, 120 to be exact, spanning Divas, Legends and upcoming talent via NXT. We got to see Finn Balor’s main event entrance, with full face and body paint and freaky crawl down the ramp. Yang informs us that the team mo-capped Balor in order to fully recreate his unique approach to the ring, and it does look very impressive, even down to his turnbuckle climb. It’s just a shame that the crowd, once again, remains muted and King, Cole and JBL sound like they’re having a Skype conversation with a 15-second delay.
We then got to see a couple of matches. I wasn’t a fan of the Chain Wrestling introduced last year, but Visual Concepts has doubled down on the mechanic, adding more moves and strategic elements to allow the aggressor to regain stamina while depleting their opponent’s during the exchange. The problem with the feature is that it continues to remain forced for a set period of time in the opening of every match. While Yang affirms that "when you watch WWE programming it does always start in the chain wrestling sequence, at least for a bit," it’ll be hard to keep the feature from remaining forced and quickly becoming repetitive.
2K has updated the creative tools, though. Create-a-Diva, arena, belt, and show options are improved, and greater depth to last year’s Create-a-Superstar mean that players should have more to tinker with when it comes to making their own content. Sadly no Create-a-Move is there this year, but overall it looks to be a decent improvement over the previous offering.
While WWE 2K16 takes the first positive step by introducing a huge roster and bringing the creative suite up to the standard fans have been used to on old-gen consoles, large parts of the game look to remain as they did in 2K15. While 2K admit that the process of bringing the game up to scratch is a process, going so far as to compare it to NBA 2K, which took several years to reach the dizzying heights it’s achieved, that doesn’t make the first few steps any less tricky.