WWE's highly anticipated annual game, WWE 2K16 released today, and I've had an opportunity to play through this year's edition. It's refreshing to say that 2K and WWE didn't eliminate much, if anything from last year's title, something 2K15 couldn't say. The additions, however, are noticeable. Although it isn't without flaws, WWE 2K16 is a major leap forward for wrestling fans everywhere.
Before The Match
Right out of the gate, there were some unfortunate things that caught my attention. The audio on this game left plenty to be desired. In-ring commentary has never been good on a pro wrestling game, so that was no surprise. However, the ring announcing by Lillian Garcia was chopped up, and didn't go together well as it should have been. That, coupled with the fact that the audience pops aren't where they should be for entrances, it takes away from the experience before your character even gets in the ring.
Inside The Ring
Once inside the ring, there were improvements and setbacks. I'm all for a simulation, based game, but the pace in which 2K has set for WWE 2K16 is incredibly slow, maybe the slowest of any pro wrestling game ever. I was glad to see that they seemed to increase the size of the ring, after reducing it last year.
Some of the movements are a little weird, and simple things like stomps can sometimes take too long, but an addition I really liked was that of the usage of the ropes. Wrestlers back one another into the ropes out of headlocks, lock ups, and things of that nature. You can choose whether or not you want to make a clean break, as well. Also, characters pull their opponents back towards the ropes before using an Irish whip, which was something I never knew I'd wanted in a game until WWE 2K16.
The referees are slow in this game. Really, really slow. Frustratingly slow. It sometimes takes three seconds for the ref to get on the ground to make the three count. It's also pretty hard upon first play, for me at least, but I don't consider that a negative in any way, shape or form, even though it did take me five tries to beat Sami Zayn with Seth Rollins, and he kicked out of three Pedigrees. I digress. The reversal system is a welcome change, as you now have a set number of reversals (you can earn more), and matches aren't just an endless chain of reversal, reversal, reversal. There are also small things, like characters remaining in a seated position to sell after a kickout that really helps and adds a realistic nature to the game. Top rope moves also land with more fluidity than past incarnations.
The roster speaks for itself, the largest ever. This was something that had to be done after 2K peeved a lot of fans last year with the lackluster roster. Still, the exclusion of Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch is inexcusable. Regardless of the weak reasons 2K offered fans for this, they have tons of NXT talent in the game. Fortunately there are 100 created wrestler slots, so I'm sure someone will make spot-on versions of these women to download.
I'm a big fan of having as many moves as possible in a video game (Fire Pro Wrestling Returns, y'all), and WWE 2K16 did an excellent job of adding that. Although moves like the piledriver have been banned from WWE TV, they remain in the games, and the Curb Stomp got the same treatment, which was nice. Many of the missing match types from last year have returned as well, giving the game a much more complete feel.
Customization and Career
Customization is a really cool part of WWE 2K16. If you want to throw a mask on Sami Zayn and make him relive his indy days, go for it. If you'd like to create your own supershow, have at it. Create-a-title is also back in the game, as well as create-a-diva. Create-a-finisher has not returned, but that mode had so many issues with it, there probably wasn't much worth saving. You can also build your own arenas that compliment your custom shows, and use logos that fit them. The creation suite is worth checking this game out in itself.
The Steve Austin mode is fun. I won't spoil anything, but you play through the story of Stone Cold Steve Austin all the way from his WCW days right up until today. Nothing has matched WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain's story mode (which had infinite flexibility due to it being text based, without commentary holding it back), but this is a pretty cool mode and worth playing through.
WWE Universe mode doesn't look like it's going anywhere, and a not a whole lot has changed with it. Fans have clamored for the return of GM mode, as well as the aforementioned Here Comes The Pain career mode, but it appears that WWE Universe mode will have to do for now. There's nothing wrong with it, it just turns into an endless cycle fairly quickly.
My Career mode is a giant improvement, but that isn't saying a lot, as last year's edition (and the game as a whole) was one of the worst ever put forth by WWE. This year, you won't work and work and work, only to have your game abruptly ended after reaching your goal. There's plenty of improvements to be made, but it's a way better experience this year.
One of the most infuriating things about WWE 2K16 is microtransactions. After you pay 63 bucks for the game, 2K asks you to spend upwards of 30 dollars more for additional characters, moves, features and things of the like. That's just the way things are these days, but $100 for a complete game is a little too much to ask.
All in all, there were significant improvements and fixes to this game. Last year's edition was an all-time bad pro wrestling game, and WWE 2K16 is more than solid choice. I enjoy the realism of the game, but sometimes the gameplay gets too slow due to selling, which may end up being a good thing, since you can't spam German Suplexes anymore. I'd recommend this purchase, even if you were jaded by last year's terrible output.