WWE 2K16 Review

Richard Walker

WWE 2K15 felt like something of a next-gen dry run for the 2K's popular wrestling series, lighter on features than it had been in the past, with its famed customisation severely lacking and a grappling system that left a lot to be desired. It wasn't the most encouraging start for the series on Xbox One and PS4, but by comparison, WWE 2K16 is a more muscular prospect, boasting a far deeper level of customisation and gameplay that's been tightened up and refined.

Yet it's still the same creaky old game beneath the shiny veneer, beholden to its hideously clunky combat system, which remains characteristically sluggish and supremely frustrating. It's something that last year I could let go as the first WWE game for the current crop of consoles, but this is the second attempt and fundamentally, beneath the skintight lycra, it's no better than last year's effort.

Before he was 'Stone Cold', he was 'Stunning'.

However, if you enjoyed last year's WWE 2K, you're going to love WWE 2K16 simply by virtue of the wealth of content on offer, completely blowing 2K15 out of the water. Career Mode and the 2K Showcase are once again at the heart of what's on offer, with this year's game centring around its cover star with the 2K3:16 showcase charting the rise of 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin and key moments in his illustrious WWE career from the mid-90s to more recent glories.

The 2K Showcase is quite possibly WWE 2K16's most involving and entertaining facet, featuring archive footage from The Texas Rattlesnake's heyday, with key bouts against greats like Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, Ricky Steamboat and host of other classic superstars. It's genuinely excellent, and something I found far more interesting than the slog of Career Mode, which has admittedly been improved with your custom superstar now possessing personality traits that determine their standing and whether they're a face or heel.

The Authority also make their presence known during the revamped Career Mode, and you can choose to side with them or stand against them in defiance. Post-match interviews also flesh things out, as do rivalries and alliances, which in turn lead to match invasions and all of the drama present in a WWE match. Once you get into the meat of Career Mode, it can prove to be a compelling experience, but that's providing you can endure the painful rise from training to NXT obscurity and beyond. Only when you get to the WWE proper and sufficiently upgrade your fledgling superstar will you really start to get the most out of Career Mode, all while striving to boost your star rating by varying moves, heightening the drama of a fight and so on.

Of course, none of this quality content counts for much when the gameplay remains so steadfastly slow and muddy. Again, the right trigger reversal button attempts to represent the back and forth of an actual wrestling match, but more often than not a successful counter on your part will rapidly be followed up by one right back at you. The result is a game that feels remarkably one-sided, even at lower difficulty levels, where every match up feels like a hard-fought battle to see if you can beat the AI at pushing the reversal trigger. Once you master the timing, it's fun, but more often than not, WWE 2K16 can feel futile.

Granted, I'm not the most patient gamer, but WWE 2K's infuriating gameplay persists in rubbing me up the wrong way, with almost every bout I played making me want to bang my head off the nearest brick wall. Slow reactions and an inability to telegraph incoming strikes and grapples is one explanation; the fact that this is the same old game served up once again is another. WWE 2K16 isn't necessarily bad, but the lack of any real, meaningful innovation in its core mechanics is something of a letdown.

The same old chain grappling QTES and stick twiddling of last year also return once again, with new Minor or Major reversals shoehorned in to little effect. WWE 2K16 simply isn't much of a step forward from a gameplay standpoint. It is, however, a significant step forward in terms of presentation and content, with a massive roster of Superstars and Divas, and a vastly improved and expanded Creation Suite. There really is no faulting this year's game in the sheer amount of stuff it manages to pack in. It's exemplary.

Undertaker: still laying the smack down after all these years.

The online experience has been given some much-needed attention too, with a raft of modes and game types to get wrapped up in, including standard WWE Live online fights, Team Up matches or 2K Tonight events, as well as private lobbies. Matchmaking is a bit haphazard, but you can practice against an AI while you wait, and once you're connected, the experience is lag free and far smoother than it was in WWE 2K15.

As for achievements, WWE 2K16 has you covered with objectives spun out across pretty much every mode. Once again, though, there's a bit too much of an onus on grinding out match wins, but for the most part this is a decent enough list that pushes you into the right areas, ensuring you're encouraged to take each mode for a spin. Chances are you'll want to spend most of your time in Career Mode and the 2K Showcase anyway.

Addressing many of the gripes I had with WWE 2K15, this year's game has a far deeper suite of customisation options, a wealth of Superstars and Divas to choose from and more modes than you can shake a steel chair at. While it's a better game than last year's offering, WWE 2K16's gameplay remains frustrating and simply lacking where it counts. Here's hoping that WWE 2K can come back stronger next year.

WWE 2K16

WWE 2K16 is a better game than last 2K15, largely thanks to the expansive range of options and features that have been reinstated. The 2K Showcase is fantastic, but the core gameplay hasn't changed enough to warrant a hearty recommendation.

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A mixed bag of music for the soundtrack, but the voices, crowd noise and everything else is authentic, although the overall atmosphere is rather flat.


An improvement over WWE 2K15, there's a bit more detail in its character models and visually, 2K16 is fairly accomplished.


An incremental baby step forward, WWE 2K16 is essentially the same game you played last year. There's been a little bit of refinement and polish applied to the gameplay, but the same frustrations remain.


A proper, fully-featured WWE title that benefits enormously from a vast Creation Suite in which you can build your own Superstar or Diva, a raft of modes, loads of characters and more make this year's title more inviting. Being unable to pit male grapplers against female characters annoyed my sister though. Just sayin'.


A very similar list to last year, with the same amount of grinding in the game's various modes. It's still a decent enough list, but one that could still use some work.

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