2K Games’ newest addition in the WWE 2K series seems to have made big improvements from its overall buggy predecessor, but does it stand on its own as an improvement in the series overall?

 

Back in May, I started getting back into wrestling once again after an almost 6-year absence and that’s mostly thanks to WWE 2K15 being released on the PC back in mid-May. That however, is about the only positive thing I can say about the frankly disappointing advancement in the WWE games’ series, which was overall a very unfinished and buggy game, thanks mainly to the fact that the developers had to create versions for the next-gen consoles for the first time as well as the last-gen all in about a year. So when WWE 2K16 was first shown off and looked like a much needed improvement in the series, I was very excited. But does the game live up to all of its potential and become the game that WWE 2K15 should have been? Let’s find out.

As soon as I started playing the game, one of the first things I noticed was the very obvious focus on gameplay improvements. Moves feel like they have more impact, the game itself feels much smoother overall, the irritating pinning and submission systems have been replaced; the game just feels great to play, thanks to these minor details. The new submission system definitely takes some getting used to though, due to the delayed feel of the minigame. However, it’s certainly better than the blister-inducing button-mashing minigame we’ve been stuck with for a few too many games now.

My Career Mode, one of the more recent additions in the series which didn’t start off too well in 2K15, has been heavily revised this time around. Instead of the constant loop of three interesting rivalries a year with pointless dark (skill-improving) and tune-up (TV) matches which don’t contribute to anything at all, My Career is now a much more focused and action-filled game mode. You start off in NXT, WWE’s developmental company, and are automatically engaged in a rivalry with one of their top stars, Tyler Breeze. After a number of matches against him and the closing match at NXT Arrival, you’re free to do quite literally whatever you want; you can engage a rivalry with anyone in the NXT roster, find yourself a tag team partner and try to take NXT’s tag team division by storm or go for the ultimate prize in NXT, the NXT Championship.

After eventually getting popular enough, you can then go on to the main roster and challenge anyone, whether it be the weakest wrestler on the roster (cough Heath Slater cough) or a WWE Legend like Undertaker, The Rock or even Sting. You can also enter the rankings for any championship in WWE currently straight off the bat, whether it be the Intercontinental, United States, Tag Team or WWE World Heavyweight Championships. The mode offers a huge emphasis on the player’s freedom to weave their custom superstar’s story to the way they want it — a very welcome focus after 2K15’s lack of such freedom. The game’s wide variety of creation options has also returned, a feature which many WWE 2K fans will be pleased to see the return of. You can create superstars & divas, championships, arenas and shows, giving you the chance literally create to your heart’s content, even to create an entirely different wrestling promotion if you’d like.

However, despite all the game’s positives, there are a few negatives: first, the game’s graphics seem to have taken a hit in exchange for the aforementioned gameplay improvements. I’ve noticed that many of the character models look more plastic and unrealistic compared to 2K15, where high-quality character models was one of its finer points. Some of the characters’ models look just awful, such as Zack Ryder’s, which doesn’t bear any likeness to him whatsoever and Lilian Garcia’s, whose face barely resembles that of a human being’s. Also, there are some glaringly obvious and unfinished things, like Emma’s entrance. She has her current entrance theme but still retains her old titantron video and entrance movement which clearly don’t match up.

So, is WWE 2K16 the much-needed revitalization that the WWE 2K series needed? Yes. Is it an overall improvement to the series on its own? In some aspects, yes and in others, not at all. At its best, WWE 2K16 is the near-finished first step in the right direction; the game fixes almost all of my problems its predecessor was filled with but also creates some new ones of its own. The main thing that’s holding back the huge potential this game series has is its yearly release schedule because if the developers simply had more time to work on the game, I think this could have been a much bigger step towards the perfect wrestling video game.