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Review: WWE 2K16

2K16 Raises the bar on wrestling games.

WWE 2K16 PS4 Box ArtWWE 2K16 (PS4 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Yuke’s, Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Genre(s): Wrestling, Sports
Release Date: October 27, 2015
ESRB Rating: T – Teen

 

For those of you in a hurry: If you are a wrestling fan and you need your fix this game is essentially everything that WWE 2k15 teased and was a beta version of.

While it’s not perfect, I am joining the growing chorus of outlets and people saying that this is the best wrestling game we have seen in years.

You can buy with confidence.

For everyone else I am going to qualify that statement with specifics.  The game is certainly far from perfect but where WWE 2k15 felt like “last gen 3.5” and an incomplete product in a number of aspects, this game took the full step forward into “next but now current generation.”

You will not confuse the PS4 and Xbox One versions of this game for their last generation console versions.

WWE 2K16 Finn Balor Screenshot

“The Demon” Finn Balor makes his entrance.

GRAPHICS:

A noticeable step forward on graphics quality, production values, and overall polish. Wrestler animations are improved across the boards.

In Create A Wrestler mode, 2K has ported it’s face import feature which allows you to use real photographs of people to mold the CAW’s face to match and it’s an amazing feature. Some of the CAWs that are already posted almost look like they were part of the official roster.

SOUND:

Noticeably more engaging and realistic across the boards.  A much needed upgrade has happened to the crowd and how they react to the action.

Everything sounds a lot more organic and natural.  You can have a crowd giving mixed reactions.

Some of the CAW voices for My Career are pretty lame.

Renee Young’s appearance in this game is almost freaky in appearance because you see a plastic version of a real mouth doing the voice overs and a weird mix of animation  with what I’m assuming is her actual mouth… it’s a bizarre looking mix…

In Showcase, you will hear laughably superior commentary from Jim Ross and Lawler vs the inconsistent commentary of the current product of Cole and Lawler who are decent and an anemic JBL who occasionally chimes in.

In real life this is essentially true:  It’s hard to be JR and King together doing their thing and I miss that tandem.  I know I speak a lot of fans when I say it’s hard to beat JR and he could make paint drying sound exciting with no disrespect meant against anyone else.

WWE 2K16 Steve Austin Screenshot

Stone Cold pins Jake Roberts to become King of the Ring.

GAMEPLAY:

It’s a tough balancing act between arcade and sports sim. This series has been gravitating more towards sport sim and for the better.  I think this version is as close to the sweet spot in between both worlds as the developers are going to get without reinventing the wheel.

The pacing of this game is more deliberate and methodical vs last year’s game. It’s just a little bit slower in terms of motion and by that I mean less arcade-y.

The gameplay benefits for this as everything that happens looks and feels more deliberate.  It’s tighter.A few nuanced changes have taken place on what is largely unchanged fundamental gameplay controls.

For reasons I’m not completely clear on, the submission gameplay was changed to a concept that people tell me is similar to older UFC games.  Instead of being just like the chain wrestling mechanic, which I would have preferred, you use your right analog stick and you have to make sure red goes into blue if you are on offense and blue stays away if you are on defense.  It takes some time to get used to it and it just doesn’t perform as cleanly as the chain wrestling mechanic does.

Be patient.  I like using submissions but I notice so far I am going to for those situations far less than I used to and that’s a shame.

Other nuanced variants include: If a wrestler is lying flat on the ground, holding down on the right analog stick does not pick them up and have their back facing you any longer.

These sort of minor differences are worth you looking over the instruction manual for the game.

Overall, the gameplay is more refined and nuanced for the better. Blocking and counters are better in this game. Last year I just took hits and got the job done. Countering was sometimes worthless.

In this game I can actually get the timing down into something meaningful and I think most people who played 2k15 are going to appreciate the improvements.  Collision detection was appalling in 2k15. This, too has been largely fixed here.  I’m not kidding when I say 2k15 felt like a beta version of this game.

The roster is jaw dropping and extensive.  The divas get slighted a bit but a quick trip online to Community Creations already is yielding some amazing results so you will have a robust dream roster in no time.  The inclusion of NBA 2K’s face imaging technology is a game changer of sorts that guarantees virtually anyone can create some good looking CAWs.

Game modes and matches are way ahead of last year’s 2k15.  It’s close to Here Come the Pain territory but not quite.

My beloved Special Ref mode is still missing and I’m sad about that. My friends and I had untold amount of fun and chaos playing matches with a special ref that we could control. I’m begging the developers to please consider reinstating this. I will personally pay extra money for it and if it were DLC this year I’d be ecstatic. My money is on the table.

MyCareer Mode is richly expanded this year with many more options and substance. It feels almost like a role playing game to take a no name wrestler from the ground up starting in NXT and making your way through feuds and up the ranks towards eventual world champion. Be prepared to lose a lot of free time in this mode this year.

They key word is: Variety. Variety of concepts, titles, shows,  PPVs, feuds, matches…  a lot of free time is going to be lost in all aspects WWE 2k16 for any wrestling fan.

The 2K Showcase is centered on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s entire career from his very beginnings as Stunning Steve on through. This is some impressive hardcore fan service and fun to revisit some incredible, industry changing times that happened with Austin at the center of them.

JR and King do the commentary for the appropriate time frame and as I stated above they are simply better and more engaging commentary that I miss outside of the Showcase mode just as I do in real life.

You will never think about 2k15 again. It’s a beta at best of this game. If you don’t believe me then after you have spent some time in this game go ahead and fire up 2k15 and put yourself in a match and five minutes of that should save me lots of typing.

This is the game that 2k15 should have been. To some of you still playing those older N64 wrestling games? It’s safe to move up and forward now. You won’t look back.

WWE 2K16 Cesaro Screenshot

Cesaro takes Titus O’Neil for a spin.

CONCLUSION:

Patch 1.02 was huge for this game. I had a glitches segment written out for this review prior to it and I sat on it and got lucky. All owners of this game got very lucky and my hat is off to 2K for awesome communication and a swift and thorough response to the feedback from owners. As you can see here? I have no serious glitches or complaints that I feel merit mention.

Pound for pound this is the best pro wrestling game I can recall in recent memory. It’s the new benchmark with all due respect to the N64 games that some people to cling to. It’s time to move forward and move on.

There is plenty here to like for everyone and plenty to keep us all well entertained until WWE 2k17. It’s a shame that 15 was essentially in an incomplete beta product and in a perfect world those of us that bought that game at full price really should get some kind of recompense towards this game but that’s never going to happen.

My confidence is now restored in this series and I’m excited for the direction it’s headed in. In a number of ways these games are better than the real life product because we as fans can make the product the way we want it to be and I hope 2K continues to run a nice sweet spot between the sim demands vs giving us freedom to do what we want. This is the new benchmark.

4 Stars

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1 Comment on Review: WWE 2K16

  1. Glad to hear it. I enjoyed 2K15 for what it was (the only wrestling game on PS4 at the time), but it was just missing too many match types and whatnot for my liking.

    Looking forward to joining you for some matches online soon.

    Like

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