WWE 2K16 Review

Let’s all be honest with ourselves; WWE 2K15 was less WrestleMania, more BotchaMania. An unmitigated disaster akin to Batista’s 2014 return. Or the Gobblede Gooker. Or Hornswoggle being Vince’s illegitimate son. With a diminished roster and lack of match types, a poor MyCareer Mode and the omission of plenty of creation tools left gamers feeling alienated and robbed. It was actually just like being a wrestling fan. Surely then, WWE 2K16 is better than the previous installment? Of course it is, the question is how much better?

Let’s start with the positives, shall we? After last year, it’s great to see that near enough every facet of the creation suite, along with the missing match types, are back. Also returning this year is 2K15’s greatest feature: the logo importer, allowing players to upload pictures to be used as custom logos. Because who doesn’t want to make a Mortal Kombat arena? Or the biggest abomination you’re eyes ever did see? Scroll down to see some examples.

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Not resting on their laurels though, 2K16 is supplemented by the biggest roster ever, with over 120 unique grapplers from over the past 25 years of wrestling. Fans will still find holes, but frankly the complete lack of the Four Horsewomen; Bayley, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks; is disappointing. So much for the Diva’s Revolution.

The game engine itself has also seen an upgrade from last year, with improved animations and chain wrestling, along with the new reversal system that punishes you for countering everything your opponent throws at you. No more endless reversal chains! This helps make WWE 2K16 look and feel like actual wrestling, except for when the engine throws a wobbler and decides the laws of physics are merely suggestions.

The WWE games are hitting a weird, “uncanny valley”-esque paradox in their never ending pursuit of realism: the more photo-realistic the games look, the worse a glitch appears to be. There’s nothing more immersion breaking than watching your wrestler freeze in place inexplicably, or teleport across the ring like they’re the damn Nightcrawler.

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Also improved is last year’s MyCareer Mode, but in fixing some problems, they’ve created another. Instead of predetermined rivalries, players now have a relationship status which is influenced by your actions. Naturally, if you attack someone, they’ll hate you. Help someone win however, and you’ll have a new best friend, and this is how rivalries and alliances are formed.

Not only are your relationships tracked, but also your personality. How aggressive or disciplined you are, whether you are respectful or egotistical to others in backstage interviews, and if you’re loyal or treacherous; these are all personality traits which form the basis of your superstar, and dictate whether or not the WWE Universe loves or hates you.

It’s a much improved system from last year’s “do nothing for a few months of the calendar, have an underwhelming rivalry, get told by Vickie Guerrero that there are no plans for you, repeat” approach. You’re more in control of who you want to be and where you want your career to go. If only real life offered that kind of control. Still, there are a few downsides. After about 4 matches, an interview with Renee Young backstage revealed that I was one of the top ten most popular superstars on the roster. How fickle the WWE Universe can be… 

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The bigger problem, however, is that the MyCareer Mode feels like an unrewarding slog. After around 10 hours of gameplay, I’d only just earned enough money to buy the Top-Rope Diver skill. I was still in NXT, and my attribute points were trickling in at a pace akin to chinese water torture. Sure, I’d made it to the top of the rankings for the NXT Title, but the game was still insisting on pushing me into rivalries with Kalisto, and work both NXT and Superstars in the same week, meaning said rivalries were taking twice as long as they should. My attention span was already tapping out.

But the most disappointing part of the 2K16 package this year is the Showcase Mode. Chronicling the career of WWE Legend and Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, you’ll control Austin in moments throughout his career, from his career making match and promo with Jake “The Snake” Roberts at King of the Ring 1996, all the way up until his last match against The Rock at WrestleMania XIX.

While it might be a good starting timeline for casual fans looking to get clued up on some of the greatest moments in WWE history, the bottom line is that you can get all of this and more… right now, on the WWE Network, for an undisclosed sum (cheap pop!). This is just a watered down look at a time that was anything but watered down.

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Mentions of WWF, along with swear words, are censored at all times; context for each match ranges from poor to nonexistent; and the pacing of some matches is ruined by the special objectives you’re required to complete. After finishing all the objectives and clearly reaching the finish of the match, you’re usually still left with a semi-healthy opponent who will kick out at 2. Talk about an anticlimax.

So is WWE 2K16 worth your time? The triumphant comeback of the creation suite will no doubt mean more to some players than any tweaks to the gameplay, but there are fundamental issues that should be addressed. JBL’s introduction to the commentary team this year is woefully underwhelming to the point of entire matches going by without his input, failing to provide a boost to the much maligned commentary on offer in WWE games, whilst the game engine itself gives out more often than it should as a simulation game, giving this WWE license a distinctly bad indie show feel. The type where old legends turn up drunk and mess everything up. Like the kind you’d see on BotchaMania in fact… Guess it’s still not quite ready for The Grandest Stage of Them All.

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