WWE 2K16 is 2K’s latest foray into the realm of the WWE and it has some mixed results. Stone Cold Steve Austin is the cover athlete this year which means that the showcase mode is featured around him and different moments in his career. MyCareer is there where you need to work your way up to the ranks of the WWE to, hopefully, become a Hall of Famer someday. WWE Universe is there where you are put in charge of your universe and how things go down. There is also the creation suite, the online modes and much more. There is quite a bit to do here which should keep wrestling fans busy for a long time.
The gameplay for WWE 2K16 is similar to last year’s version although there are a few changes. There are “working holds” which essentially allow you to catch your breath while draining your opponent’s energy. The reversal system works the same way and while it seems like it might be a minor improvement over 2K15 it is still somewhat broken. Whenever the reversal icon flashes on the screen you have approximately half a second to hit a button. If you try to anticipate it you will likely get a “too early” message. If you see it pop up on the screen it is pretty much already too late to push it and you’ll receive a “too late” message. It can be very frustrating when it seems like your AI opponent can reverse every other move you throw at them but the insanely short reversal window you have doesn’t really allow you to hit a successful reversal unless you get lucky or you have played the game for so long you might be able to anticipate it. Other than that the gameplay seems to flow really nicely. I was able to pull off some moves with ease and it was always satisfying when I hit my finisher and pinned my opponent for the three count.
As I mentioned above the 2K Showcase for this year features the Texas rattlesnake and WWE Hall of Famer, Stone Cold Steve Austin. This is basically the “story” mode for the game and goes over some of Austin’s highlights throughout his career. I started off as Stone Cold taking on Jake “The Snake” Roberts at the 1996 King of the Ring. This is where “Stone Cold” was really born and where the phrase “Austin 3:16 says I just kicked your ass!” was born. You get to experience this moment for yourself as you become the King of the Ring. A little further into the story you take on Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13 in that famous submission match with Ken Shamrock as the special guest referee. This is one of those matches that really turned Austin into a superstar and they were able to pull off a successful double turn. If you aren’t a wrestling fan then that means that both men change sides. Austin went into the match as a “bad guy” but events transpired and he turned into a “good guy” by the end. His opponent Bret Hart went into the match as a “good guy” but by the end left a “bad guy’. It was magnificently done and you get to relive it here. There are other moments like Austin fighting Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 14 for the world championship and more that I won’t spoil. As you are going through these matches you will see different objectives they want you to complete so that it mirrors the real life event as much as possible. If you are a long time wrestling fan like myself you’ll enjoy the trip down memory lane you’ll get by completing these objectives. If you aren’t a wrestling fan you won’t have the nostalgic factor but you’ll see some nice action nonetheless.
Another mode wrestling fans should really enjoy is the “MyCareer” mode. This is where you experience what it is like to be a WWE Superstar as you try to navigate from being a young up and comer to a WWE Hall of Famer. You begin in the WWE Performance Center. You need to prove yourself to your trainer and then once you do they will put you on an NXT show. You’ll be chasing after the NXT Championship and will need to work your way through the NXT roster to do so. There is more to worry about than just your wrestling though. You’ll have to make decisions about post match drama, conduct interviews, interfere with rivals and more. I really enjoyed this mode as a wrestling fan and it is most likely the closest most of us will get to feeling what it is like to work your way up through the ranks of WWE. This mode spans the course of 15 years so you will be able to develop some long term partnerships and feuds with other wrestlers, wrestle on some of the biggest shows and even have a WrestleMania moment if you are good enough.
Another mode that should keep you busy for quite some time is the WWE Universe mode. This is where you control what happens. You can control the calendar to determine what shows will take place whether it be Raw, Smackdown or something of your creation. Within these shows you choose the number of matches, the participants, the championships and more. There are options to edit the superstars themselves as well as teams. You can create and edit your own championship. Then you have options you can set for the story that will unfold. You can choose whether you want rivalries to be automatic or not, whether tag teams can break up or guys can form new ones. You can also control whether someone can get injured or not as well as the crowd reaction. As you create and play in your universe there will be news from time to time that will show up on WWE.com along with a variety of stats and current rankings. This is a mode where you can pretty much go as deep as you want and you can be a fantasy booker for your favorite WWE Superstars.
WWE 2K16 has a lot to do outside of the ring as well with their creation suite. You can choose to create a superstar, a show, an arena, a championship, a move-set or an entrance. If you just want to see what others have created you can also look at the community creations and download what you like. The options here have been expanded from last year’s offering which is definitely good and will allow you to create your dream scenario whether it is a superstar, a arena you have always wanted to create or whatever. There are even achievements tied to creating your own content such as viewing an entrance scene that uses a custom championship title. One thing however that really needs to be improved on is the loading time here. It is atrocious. When I was choosing my wrestling attire, for example, there seemed like there was at least a five second wait every time my cursor moved. If I wanted my attire to have a more metallic look to it and it was the fifth option then whenever I would move the cursor over it would take around five seconds to get to load the content in that new box which means it could take me around 20-25 seconds just to scroll over to that metallic option. When you have to do that for your attire, your knee pads, your elbow pads, your boots...that wasted amount of time adds up really quickly and needs to be fixed.
If you are someone who likes to play online against others than WWE 2K16 has you covered there as well. There are four different modes within the online suite with “2K Tonight,” “WWE Live,” “Team Up” and “Private”. You’ll start off your online career at level one as a trainee and be able to level up depending on how you perform. The “2K Tonight” mode are dynamic nightly events. The themes are based off of pay per views and WWE tv shows. The “WWE Live” mode is basically the standard matchmaking you would expect. The “Team Up” mode is where you can invite friends to join you on a team in either a two or three man tag team against other opponents. Finally the “Private” mode is where you can invite friends to join your session and you can even include AI opponents in the match with the requirement of there needs to be at least two people participating. During my time with these modes I didn’t experience any problems. I have some friends and colleagues that were having intermittent issues but I didn’t have any during my time with the game.
Presentation is also a really important part of WWE and 2K16 does a pretty good job of emulating what we see on tv every week. When a match is about to begin you have each wrestler making their respective entrances and there is no loading time in between each entrance which helps with the immersion and makes it look just like Raw does every Monday night. Some of the entrances themselves though and the character models are a bit off. Randy Orton’s character model, for example, looks pretty damn good. It isn’t perfect but it looks great and he acts just like his real life counterpart on Raw. Nikki Bella on the other hand, her character model looks awful. She is a beautiful woman in real life and I don’t know they botched the character model so badly. The entrance a wrestler makes in WWE is all about theatrics and trying to get the crowd pumped up for what they are about to experience. Similar to the character models conundrum, there are some entrances that are great and some that miss the mark. In the game they pretty much nail Stone Cold’s entrance. It looks fantastic. With Seth Rollins though they miss the mark in certain areas. In the game Seth’s entrance begins with a shot of the crowd and then eventually of Seth as he begins to walk to the ring. In real life they have a camera that tends to be on the giant WWE logo on the stage and then they sweep across it as Seth walks out from behind the curtain perfectly timed to his entrance music. For Roman’s Reign entrance they have the camera pointed up a bit at Roman where in real life as he is coming through the crowd the camera is pointed down a bit since he is walking down the stairs and the camera is above him. These are all things that don’t affect the game itself and if you are someone that just casually plays the game then you won’t ever notice these nuances. This game is targeted towards wrestling fans though like myself and fans like that will notice all of inaccuracies in the product and it can take you out of the moment to moment immersion when you see it.
The commentary for WWE 2K16 is decent but nowhere where it needs to be. You have JBL, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler along with Jim Ross in certain instances, such as Stone Cold’s showcase. The problem continues to be that the commentary is not always reflective of what is taking place. There were times when my wrestler was walking to the ring and the commentators were going on about what a great fight they were witnessing. The fight had not started though because, as I just said, I was walking to the ring. I’m not a programmer and don’t know how hard it is to do but there has to be something that can be done to get accurate commentary more often than not.
WWE 2K16 does a lot of things right as I have talked about above. It does have some missteps though that keep it from going from a good game to a great game. Some of the complaints are simply because I’m a big wrestling fan and I know when they get something wrong from an accuracy standpoint. These are the types of things casual fans won’t pick up on but this game is marketed and made for wrestling fans and they need to do a better job in this regard. The gameplay works well and flows nicely except for my issues with the reversal system. I really enjoyed the career aspect and starting at the bottom in NXT and being able to work my way up to being a WWE Hall of Famer. The WWE Universe mode is always fun and there are over 100 WWE Superstars to choose from so you have a nice variety there. If you are a wrestling fan then I would definitely recommend that you give this game a chance. There is a lot to like here. If you never watch WWE on television but you enjoy playing the games then you should have some fun here as well. WWE 2K16 is the like the current WWE product itself. It is pretty good and can be really entertaining but there is the potential there to be better than it is.