Review: WWE 2K16 (PS4)

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Title: WWE 2K16
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (44.01 GB)
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts/Yuke’s
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
WWE 2K16 is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Here we are with WWE 2K16, the second game from the WWE and 2K Sports partnership and it is yet another game the shows promise, but does not quite deliver the experience everyone wants.

WWE 2K16 focuses on two modes: The 2K Showcase, which focuses on famous WWE storylines from the past, and MyCareer, which lets players make their own superstar and bring him from developmental to the big show.

In this year’s 2K Showcase it is all about Stone Cold Steve Austin, primarily during the Attitude Era while dabbling in his previous stints in WCW and ECW. Going through Austin’s Attitude Era run means going through his famous matches against Bret “The Hitman” Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and The Rock.

If you have played the previous couple of wrestling games, that means you have played some of the marquee matches in Steve Austin’s career, making it kind of repetitive. But to 2K’s credit, they have you go through some of the matches in different ways.

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The main goal in this mode is to work the nostalgia as you are able to relive these iconic matches by hitting all the big moments through objectives and quick time events. An unfortunate issue is that it can be quite boring as you have to guide the A.I. opponent to scenarios, like bringing them to specific spots or performing specific moves. Overall the mode loses its intrigue the longer you play it.

2K Showcase does tug on the nostalgic heart strings if you grew up a Stone Cold Steve Austin fan because it is fun to see his and WWE’s history. Most of the matches are accompanied by video packages put together by the WWE and they are always amazing at presenting their past through their video packages. It is just a shame that the actual playing of the mode can be boring at times.

… pretty clunky to say the least …
Back again for its second year is the MyCareer Mode and it has improved quite a bit and might be the best part of the game. Last year’s MyCareer was a bland, forgettable experience with little going on to keep you playing with all the story bits being told through a terrible fake Twitter.

Now there is just a lot more depth to the whole mode. This comes from many new features like a revamped Face/Heel meter that helps direct your character’s attitude and crowd reaction. How you react to situations and win fights can affect your meter.

There are even post match interviews this year which help tell the story of your character. Don’t get too excited though because they are pretty clunky to say the least. You are interviewed by a poorly animated Renee Young who talks and moves awkwardly throughout.

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You are given choices for how to respond which, for the most part, is cheesy and poorly acted, which is a damn shame. “This could have been so much better,” is a common phrase said while playing this game. While this is a major improvement in telling a story compared to last year’s game, it still isn’t where it needs to be in order to be compelling.

Other changes and improvements include the Allies/Rivals feature that allows you to make friends or foes with other wrestlers. This means that if you want to quickly start a rivalry, you can now interfere in someone’s match.

The career starts you off in a feud with Tyler Breeze and it’s a consistent flow of matches and run-ins that all cumulate into a finale match at a pay-per-view. I actually enjoyed what was done with the rivalry feature and it helped make matches matter and feel important. It’s neat and definitely a proper direction to go in for the the future.

… progress your character’s journey …
As you play matches you will be ranked based on your performance on a five star scale. To achieve a five star rating, a match needs to have a variety of moves executed without repeating a move too often. It’s a cool system and forces you to use a wrestler’s moveset to its full potential while stuff like near falls all add to the rating which is a nice touch.

As you move up in the rankings you will be able to compete for titles and move from NXT to the main roster over time. When you do reach the main roster you will be introduced to The Authority who will give you objectives to achieve. If you achieve these objectives, you will be aligned with them. If you do not, you will be against them, and this will progress your character’s journey.

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You can still pick your rivals and allies and pick which title you want to obtain, but I should mention one key factor: this mode is an absolute grind. It takes hours to progress your character because he will start out as an absolute scrub. It takes many, many hours before you are able to take on more powerful wrestlers and stand a chance. It can be really frustrating to be honest.

There is a $9.99 microtransaction available to “boost” your superstar and it was tempting, because getting your ass kicked for hours and putting on poor matches really hurts a person’s motivation to continue. This mode is fun, but it’s an absolute grind.

Outside of the 2K Showcase and MyCareer, the creation tools have been improved with Create a Diva, Championship, Arena, and Show added back. The creation tools have always been fun with the WWE games as the community does a great job filling in the roster with wrestlers and crazy non-wrestling characters.

… good on them for fixing that …
With the addition of the other creation tools, it makes the Universe mode more important as that mode shines when the community adds their creations. It still lacks the storyline creation tools which is a bummer, but here’s to hoping that returns next year.

There have been two major gameplay mechanics added. The first is the new reversal system, which is still the old way of pulling off reversals, but they are now limited by a meter. Locking the reversals to a meter is a smart addition as it prevents a problem with previous games that was endless reversal loops. Now instead of getting stuck in an endless loop, a wrestler is limited to a meter that refills over time, so good on them for fixing that.

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The other major change is the new submission system which is dreadful. The submission minigame now involves a game of tag with the right stick moving a bar around a circle, either avoiding or trying to overlap the opponent’s bar until a meter fills. It’s terrible, it’s poorly explained in the game, and it made submission moves something I wanted nothing to do with.

Overall the base mechanics outside of the new submission system are fun. Putting on entertaining matches is achievable and the MyCareer mode continues to be something that could be great one day.

… things could be better …
Visuals:
2K Sports knows how to make athletes and they show off their skills with the character models of the WWE. Their face scanning technology is stunning and the wrestlers that were scanned look amazing. The characters look great and the amount of animations added are appreciated.

There are a handful of people that were obviously not scanned and it is really noticeable when they are around one that was. Outside of the wrestlers, things could be better. The announcers and crowd look bad and the arenas look lifeless and bare which is jarring.

It is understandable that most of the effort has been put into the wrestlers themselves and not anything else, but in a perfect world I’d like more effort put into the rest of the presentation.

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Audio:
The commentary team has some new life in 2K16 because JBL has joined Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler at the announcer’s table. And while he does not add a lot to the table he does add a new voice and more lines to a commentary team that had become stale.

The audio in wrestling games has always been a mixed bag from the commentary. The WWE television experience has still not been replicated in video game form.

Music choices are the standard fare one would expect for the menus with tracks like “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol or “Hello World” by Kid Ink. There is nothing special happening with the soundtrack and that’s fine. I’d prefer if they would just fill the menus with superstar’s theme songs, but this soundtrack is fine.

… it’s still not a great game …
Online/Multiplayer:
In the few matches I attempted, the online multiplayer worked fine with opponents easily found and matches going without any major issues. I have never been a huge fan of the online multiplayer in the WWE games, but that is likely due to the actual gameplay mechanics more than the online system itself.

Online is very useful as a great place to share creations. The creative community always turns out interesting stuff and checking the uploaded creations is always worthwhile.

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Conclusion:
While WWE 2K16 is an improvement over 2K15 it’s still not a great game and it leaves a lot to be desired. The 2K Showcase mode has hit most of the major marquee matches now and there is not a lot of incentive to go down that route unless you are a diehard Stone Cold Steve Austin fan.

The visual presentation, while always improving, still has yet to capture the real world presentation. The game does feature the largest roster to date which is great. It’s worth checking out for that reason alone, but the gameplay mechanics hold it back.

The MyCareer mode is the best thing this franchise has going for it, but it needs a lot of work to truly be something special. Most of my time and motivation to play was found in the MyCareer mode, and with a few tweaks could be so much better.

There is fun that can be had in WWE 2K16, it’s just dragged down by some design choices and lack of attention to detail outside of the squared circle.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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