If you smell what 2K is cooking then it might be because it is a familiar smell and you might already know what it tastes like. WWE 2K15 released last year to a lukewarm reception and as I long-time wrestling fan, and wrestling-game fan I have always wanted the series to become better and better as the years went by, but sadly it has been the other way around. Last years release was one of the worst in my opinion but since this is the only yearly series of wrestling games being released I keep coming back for more, hoping it will be better. Now I promised myself, that if WWE 2K16 wasn't better than last years release I would never go back to the series, and I am glad to admit that it is better than last years release, but it still isn't great
First things first, check out my reviews of the previous WWE 2K games and you will see how my love for the franchise is slowly turning into frustration...
I have been a wrestling fan since the early 80s when my grandfather used to sneak VHS tapes of wrestling into our house while my mom wasn't watching and I remember being addicted since the first time I experience the wild world of pro-wrestling. Back then me and my friends thought it was all real, we heard rumours that in Japan they would have barbed-wire matches where people literally bled to death, and since we didn't get wrestling in our house we used to go to the local electronics shop and watch the TVs there which showed Eurosport and WWF (for those that don't know before it was WWE World Wrestling Entertainment it was World Wrestling Federation, but the World Wildlife Foundation got the name so Vince McMahon changed it to Entertainment and the WWE we know today.
As I grew older my love for wrestling sort of died by the late 90s, until I joined the army and one of the guys there had some old wrestling tapes of WCW, and slowly but surely as I grew older and the Internet got bigger I dipped into wrestling now and then again. Now lets be honest, wrestling is horrible now compared to the 80s/90s but I can still find enjoyment in it, I still pay my 9.99 every month to have the WWE Network and whenever a wrestling game releases I am all over them. My favourite has to be WWE Here Comes The Pain, but since then I feel the series has gone downhill.
The main reason I don't enjoy WWE games as much anymore is not the fact that I am getting older, but the fact that they are trying to portrait it as a realistic sport, and trying to make the gameplay more like the UFC games. However, the best wrestling games have always been button-mashers, where your friends can easily pick up and play with one button for kicks, one for punches, one for grapple and one for running. But today the WWE games are all about mini-games and realism and it is not a good match.
WWE 2K16 is better than WWE 2K15 in many ways but the changes that makes it playable is still not enough to make the actual wrestling fun. This year they have toned down on the whole reversal debacle which was WWE 2K15s biggest downfall in my eyes. Now your character and the other wrestlers have a limited numbers of reversal to keep the match from being a huge reversal fest. The time for pulling off a reversal has also been slightly improved and easier to pull off but it is still one of the most annoying things about the actual gameplay.
Another addition this year is the early-match mini-games, and this might be the dumbest thing they have ever implemented. Before each match you get a lock-up and then you are to choose from three different moves which is a fancy way of adding wrestling to a game of rock, paper, scissors. The developers have said this is to highlight the entertainment value of actual wrestling but in reality it is just a horrible way to start every, single match. My trick was to just run towards the opponent and kick them in the face and then stomp a mud-hole in them and walk it dry, hoping it would be enough to get the upper hand and not having to do the tedious mini-game.
The career mode this year has to be the most repetitive and boring version of a career mode I have ever played in a WWE game in my life. You start off by creating a character and then you start training in dark-matches (which are matches not aired on TV and a actual thing in wrestling) and when you are good enough you get to start wrestling on TV on WWEs NXT which is the development brand where they basically put wrestlers on TV and see if people like them before bringing them to the big stage which is WWE TV. You don't earn points by winning matches though you earn points by creating entertaining matches, which means no repeated moves basically. You get a set of points for each move you preform and if you do a move over and over again you get deducted points. Earn enough points and you get a star in a rating which is based off the top score being five stars.
Once you are good enough to be on TV you can interrupt and torment other wrestlers by running in and messing with them during their matches to get heat with them so that they become your rival. If you help out someone they can become your tag team partner. If you want to go for the tag team belt you try and get a tag team partner in time for a PPV, and if you want to go for the title you try to annoy the person holding the title enough so that he becomes your rival. If you mange to do so you get a shot at the title of your choice at the next PPV. Win the NXT title and you get a job in WWE. From here you can freely challenge for any title by doing the same thing over and over, again and again.
And that right there, is the main problem with the career. You pick a title, annoy the person holding the title long enough for them to get annoyed with you and become your rival and then you go for the title in a match at the next PPV. When you are not doing the same normal matches over and over with the same character you get a random person trying to get you to become their rival so that you miss out on the main title of your choosing, and other than that there really isn’t much more to the career mode. The authority, which are the bosses of WWE can throw random messages at you where they want you to win by DQ or win by submission or something like that, and if you choose to do what they tell you then you become their pet, choose to ignore what they say they get mad at you. It is a small diversion in an overall repetitive mode which sadly is the most annoying part of WWE 2K16 and I always held this mode as my favourite thing in the series. Not anymore though.
WWE 2K16 has all the different matches you could ever imagine, a bigger roster than ever before with great names such as Jake the Snake Roberts, Macho Man Randy Savage, Stone Cold, both Stunning Steve and 90s Steve Austin, it has everything the other games has and they all are improved, the problem isn't with the content because there are loads of stuff to play around with here, the problems is the actual wrestling.
The creation mode is one of the best parts of this years release, as you can use your phone, tablet or pc to get pictures of yourself or other people in the game. You can create logos with pictures you upload and if you have played any game with a creation tool such as this before you know this is going to be a gold-mine as soon as it reaches the gamers. I spent so much time downloading custom made characters, I mean I got Deadpool as a playable character. The community for this game is incredible. The logo section is also all kinds of incredible and weird insanity which I cannot begin to describe to you. The creation part of the game is by far my favourite part of WWE 2K16.
Also included is the 2K showcase which has seen some ups and downs, this year it is all about the King of the Ring, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Now if you don't know anything about wrestling you probably know the name Stone Cold Steve Austin and if you haven't and you have a nice house under a rock you just need to know that Stone Cold Steve Austin has been, since the 90s, the Hulk Hogan of the wrestling. The video packages put together here are nicely done, as with anything WWE puts together usually is. If you are a fan of wrestling you have seen this all before but for those that don't and even if you have, it is a nice way to keep the story going. The 2K Showcase mode is a mixed bag, as the production of the overall package is nice the actual events you need to trigger for some of these matches can cause your brain to implode and your controller to go through your TV, but if you previously liked this mode then this is another one of those.
As I said at the beginning of this review, WWE 2K16 is better than WWE 2K15 but there is still a lot of things from the previous release which sadly carries over into this release also. It is weird in some way, as I know for a fact that the gameplay elements they keep in this release are the same ones that made people hate WWE 2K15, they just try to make them work instead of just cutting them out of the game. In my mind, the perfect WWE game would be taking it back the the Smackdown vs Raw era of the games, where one button was kick, one was punch, one was grapple and the other was running, simple yet extremely fun with friends. Hopefully 2K takes some of the critic this years release also is getting to heart and try to make some changes for the next release.