I love Pro-Wrestling, and I am one of those people who really enjoys watching modern day WWE programming as much as I like to revisit older eras. As a fan, I have played almost every installment in the official WWE line of video games, which is now owned by 2K Games. It was typically a stale franchise that did not see to many improvements during the last generation of consoles. Last year’s installment did, however, try to change things up by making some adjustments to the formula, especially when it came down to the graphics. However, the game felt lacking, feature wise, and the gameplay was a mix of old as well as new. A lot of improvements are expected from this year’s WWE 2K16, so does it deliver?
WWE 2K16 has five different main game modes: Exhibition, 2K Showcase, My Career, Universe Mode, and Online. The first thing I usually do is jump right into the Showcase mode, since it’s often a great way of learning the new gameplay mechanics while experiencing some Pro-Wrestling history. When it comes to learning the ropes, it’s no different this year. As soon as a new gameplay mechanic is introduced, the game pauses and explains how it works. This year’s Showcase focuses on the career of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and his so called Austin 3:16 run in WWE. It covers his career from the attitude era all the way up to his retirement, with classic matches against legends such as Bret “The Hitman” Hart, The Rock, and even Dude Love.
All of the storylines and matches in Austin’s career are beautifully told via scripted cut scenes before, during, and after the matches. It all comes together quite well, and it’s awesome to hear good old Jim Ross behind the commentary table. One downside to the showcase is repetition, however, as there aren’t many matches where you play as someone other than Stone Cold. After 8 hours of playing this mode I yearned to play as another wrestler, though I love Steve Austin.
The several hours spent inside the Showcase mode allows for the player to try out most of the gameplay elements that WWE 2K16 has to offer. Several gameplay mechanics have been added, such as a new kick-out mechanic that makes kick-outs feel more like a rhythm based affair; And the new submission mechanic, which is now a cat and mouse minigame instead of the mindless button mashing we have endured for years. The new submissions do have a learning curve, however, but when you get passed that, they’re a rewarding and fresh addition to the game.
Other new mechanics include a proper rope grab skill, dirty pins, an improved chain wrestling minigame, and limited reversals that remove the awful reversal-fests that could occur in earlier installments. Combine these additions with a whole lot of new animations as well as a faster pacing, and you’ve got the best match flow in a wrestling game for quite some time. And it all looks good, too, as more wrestlers have been 3D scanned this year and the overall graphical fidelity improved. There are still a few characters that look a bit weird, but it doesn’t take much away from the experience.
Last year, the career mode was the weakest part of the game; this year, however, it is the most improved out of all the modes. You start by creating your wrestler with the vastly improved Create-a-Superstar mode. You can morph the face and body like never before, and there are a lot of different clothing, logos, and more to use on your superstar. With the logo and face import mechanics it can be even more detailed, which is awesome. When your character is created, you start in NXT, the WWE’s developmental brand that has created all kinds of buzz lately. You then have to put on good matches–weather you lose them or not–to rise in the ranks and get a shot at the Championship.
This time around, the player has more freedom of choice in their career. You can choose which wrestlers to have a rivalry against, you can do interviews after matches, and they story changes depending on whether your wrestler is face or heel (good or bad). All of this is in addition to the main goal of being inducted into the hall of fame by completing missions. Even after these missions are fulfilled, can can choose if you want to retire or not, so your career doesn’t have to be cut short like in previous installments. It all comes together quite well, and I have had tons of fun with career mode so far, putting more then 50 hours into it.
Universe mode has been around in the series for quite a while now, and there are three major changes in WWE 2K16. The ability to put a wrestler on more than one show at once such as NXT, Monday Night Raw, and Thursday Night Smackdown; status effects that boost or hurt your wrestlers stats; and personality traits that cause your wrestlers to behave differently in matches. The latter is easily the one of the best additions to the game, as it gives the characters personalities that are more true to their real selves.
This means that guys like Brock Lesnar will be super aggressive when you meet, but heels like Kevin Owens might try to get disqualified, win by a count out, or even try to run out from the match. You can also change the personality traits of the wrestlers as you play in the game or via sliders. So if you want a heel John Cena, you can make him a heel–It really gives an extra flare to the different wrestlers. However, aside from these additions, Universe is largely the same as last year. The changes that present are welcome, but I would have loved to have more storytelling added to it, as that is still its weakest part.
The creation suite this year is fantastic. You can create your own shows, arenas, divas, superstars, logos, move-sets, and there isn’t much you can’t do if you have even a single creative bone in your body. And even if you don’t, you can always download other player’s creations through the community manager. There is no way to import your own Mp3s as entrance themes, however, which limits the choices for your created wrestlers a bit. 2K Games have been kind enough to supply some unused generic themes, though, which helps to some extent. All of your creations can be used in the different modes that WWE 2K16 offers, spicing them up a little. I found the Exhibition mode to be useful here, as it allowed me to try out my creations in all kinds of different match types to see if there was any value in using them in Universe mode.
Everything is not gold that glimmers however. WWE 2K16 is littered with bugs. Through all of the game modes, I have encountered targeting bugs, superstar limbs that suddenly twist in certain uncomfortable ways, match events that don’t trigger when they should, and so on. Something doesn’t always go wrong in every match, but when it does, you will notice it. 2K Games has taken notice of some of the issues and is working on patching it, but as I am writing this, that patch has not yet been released. It’s too bad that all these bugs are present, as it can sometimes ruin the overall immersion of the game. I am also sad to say that I have not yet gotten the chance to try out the online features for the game properly, as I seem to have trouble in finding match ups. I have found a few matches, however, and when I did they seemed to work pretty well. All these problems do not overshadow the game’s core improvements, though, it is just too bad that they are so present in what is a good experience otherwise.
WWE 2K16 has been built upon the foundation that last year’s title had set up in a grand way, making it an overall better WWE Pro-Wrestling game. All the additions, big and small alike, makes it a much more enjoyable experience that represents the real life product in a better way. Despite the bugs, lack of improvements in Universe mode, and my inability to find Online matches, WWE 2K16 manages to be the best Pro-Wrestling game for quite some time, with its huge 120+roster, gameplay improvements, and overall improved modes. I highly recommend it–Especially if you are a WWE fan.
- The largest roster in a WWE game
- Great gameplay improvements that make for a fantastic match flow
- Career mode is fun this year around
- The creation suite is back in full force
- A whole lot of bugs
- Universe mode could have used more improvements
- 2K Showcase feels a bit repetitive