WWE 2K16 Review (XONE)

WWE 2K16 screen
WWE 2K16 screen. 2K Sports

The good news is that WWE 2K16's is absolutely a better game than the mess that was WWE 2K15.  On the other hand, it doesn't do anything particularly new or substantial to improve the series as a whole.  The positives of having a huge roster, a great selection of modes and match types, and solid gameplay are sort of nullified when it is still the same glitchy janky mess (plus other issues) it has been for years now.

  WWE 2K16 is worth playing just because the roster is totally nutso awesome, but it is still far from a great wrestling game.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  2K Sports
  • Developer: Yuke's, Visual Concepts
  • ESRB Rating: “T" for Teen
  • Genre: Wrestling
  • Pros:  Huge roster; solid creation suite; improved gameplay; lots of match types
  • Cons:  Pin / submission mechanics suck; tons and tons and tons of glitches; awful commentary; very inconsistent visuals

Features and Modes

Let's just put WWE 2K16's most appealing feature right up front - It has a roster of 120 superstars and divas including most of the current stars along with a bunch of legends for good measure.  There is a pretty darn good chance you're going to find a favorite wrestler or ten to play with here.  Even with 120 characters, there are still some notable stars missing like Eddie Gurrero, RVD, loads of WCW guys, loads of ECW guys, Trish Stratus, Lita, The Four Horsewomen, etc..

I totally understand that, for various reasons, they can't get everyone fans want, but some of the included "Legends" here are just super lame and were seemingly only added to pad the roster and make the final number more impressive. 

Thankfully, the Create-A-Wrestler feature can fill in all of those gaps and the online community has created a ton of great ones already.

  Even better, you can make Divas this year, which was foolishly removed last year.  The CAW editor is a little different now as you can't just select different "parts" and features and instead have to use the morphing system to pinch and pull and move things around until the faces look how you want.  It is harder to use than previous systems, but the results actually do look significantly better than any CAWs have before, so it is worth learning.  You can also create custom belts, arenas, shows, entrances, and move sets to truly make your wrestling dreams come true.   Sharing stuff on Xbox Live is also very, very easy so even if you don't want to put in the effort to make things yourself, there are lots of other dedicated people out there making some pretty great stuff you can use.

Like everything else in WWE 2K16, the number of match types has been pumped back up to pre-2K15 levels.  Some of the dumber matches, like Inferno, are still absent, but most of the matches you'll actually want to play, and with different amounts of participants, are present.  Ladder, table, TLC, Hell in a Cell, and Extreme Rules can all be played with 2-4 participants,  Ladder and HIAC join the Elimination Chamber as 6-man matches.

  And there are a number of different configurations for tag team and handicap matches as well.  One-on-one fights have some specialties as well like Iron Man and submission matches to go along with variations of every other match type.  Throw in the ability to create various tournaments and Royal Rumbles and you have a ton of match types.  No complaints here this year.

Gameplay modes are fairly robust in WWE 2K16 as well.  My Career lets you take your created wrestler all the way from their start in NXT through up to a 15-year career and ultimately the WWE Hall of Fame.  You have a surprising amount of flexibility and control over the direction your character takes, so it can be pretty fun.

  WWE Universe mode puts you in control of everything to make the WWE play out exactly like you want, so Daniel Bryan can win every title just like the Internet wants. 

The now traditional 2K Showcase mode this year focuses on none other than The Texas Rattlesnake, Stone Cold Steve Austin.  You follow Austin's career from his iconic King of the Ring victory over Jake Roberts all the way through to his retirement.  His feud with Mr. McMahon and epic WrestleMania matches with The Rock, obviously, are the highlights here but it covers a lot more including some bonus matches from Austin's WCW and ECW days.  I have to say, though, that the 2K Showcase formula is getting kind of old.  You still have to re-create the matches exactly the way they happened in real life, which is kind of a pain in the butt and the novelty is wearing thin now.  The stories are great to watch, but playing them is kind of not fun anymore.


I have to admit, I absolutely hated the gameplay changes in WWE 2K15, but things are a lot better in 2K16.  There is still a stamina system in place, but wrestlers don't get totally worn out in 30-seconds and have to crawl around the rest of the match anymore.  Also, the game is still much slower than the past SmackDown! games, but it isn't just glacial like in 2K15.  Likewise, the punch lasers of the pastare gone and you have to actually be in the proper position for strikes to connect and grapples to work.  This is also how it worked last year, but it feels a lot tighter now.

  They seem to have found a good balance, finally, between sim and arcade. 

The major gameplay changes this year are changing how reversals work and the addition of Working Holds (or better known as Randy Orton's favorite, rest holds).  Reversals are now a precious resource as you only have a handful of reversals to use in a match unlike past games where players just constantly reversed everything.  You can refill your reversal meter as the match goes on, but they are still something you want to save for critical moments rather than just something you spam constantly.  Working Holds also play more of a role than you'd expect because using them effectively lets you refill your stamina meter while draining your opponent's, which gives you a decided advantage (even if the crowd thinks it's boring ...).  I like these additions overall

There are still a few gameplay quirks that I can't accept, however.  I hate hate hate the way pinfalls and submissions work.  Pinfalls require you to watch a spinning meter and press the "A" button at the right time to kick out.  The more stamina you have, the bigger the window is and the easier it should be to kick out.  It freaking sucks, though, and is significantly harder to actually pull off than it should be.  I genuinely miss the days when you would just mash buttons to kick out, because at least it felt like you had control over it.  This new system is unnecessarily complex and not fun.  Similarly, the submission system uses a silly setup of meters and bars where both players have to move the analog stick to find a sweet spot to fill a meter or, something.

  Again, it isn't fun or in any way intuitive.  We pretty much only play gimmick matches at my house in WWE 2K16 because victory or defeat in normal matches is too darn random.

I also can't ignore the sheer volume of glitches and jankiness in WWE 2K16, which are just as bad or worse than previous games.  Moves not connecting like they should.  Hit detection not working at all.  Wrestlers teleporting around the ring.  Wrestlers magically sliding around and re-positioning with no animation at all.  And the A.I. is occasionally hilariously atrocious as well and will do things like leaving and entering the ring over and over, rolling a downed opponent over 10 times in a row, and other weird stuff.  It is just janky as heck, no other way to describe it. 

Graphics & Sound

The presentation is also pretty disappointingly inconsistent.  Some wrestlers like a lot of the top current guys look absolutely fantastic.  Randy Orton in particular looks freaking amazing, for example.  Other wrestlers don't look nearly as good.  A lot of the Legends are, fairly obviously, last-gen models with only a minimum of cleanup work done to them.  CAWs now actually look better than many of the real wrestler models.  The game is just really inconsistent.  When it looks good, it can look really quite good, but it looks mediocre or bad far more often. 

The sound is also a mixed bag.  Almost all of the entrance music for all 120 characters is here (except for "My Time" for Triple H ...) and it all sounds good.  You can also set entrance themes to be used as the menu music, which is awesome.  I also like that some wrestlers actually have their real voices used for taunts and stuff, so it sounds just like the real deal.  On the other hand, the commentary is just absolutely terrible.  The commentary team of Cole, King, and JBL is just as abysmal here as they are in real life.  Not only do they not say anything of any particular importance or have any emotion whatsoever, they repeat things constantly and oftentimes don't even finish what they're saying before launching into some new nonsensical statement.  There are a few matches in the Austin Showcase mode where Jim Ross does the commentary (and also an appearance from Joey Styles calling an ECW match), and the huge difference in quality between good ol' JR and Styles and the current crew is stunning. 

Bottom Line

All in all, WWE 2K16 is sort of two steps forward, one step back for the franchise (I just want a new WWE All-Stars, honestly).  The available modes and match types are fantastic and the creation suite is solid once again, and the gameplay is easily better than last year, but there are still a lot of little quirks that need to be worked out.  The glitchiness and jankiness needs to be addressed.  The pinfall and submission systems are bad.  The presentation is inconsistent to the point it can be distracting.  And the commentary is generally just flat out awful.  Just blowing it up and taking a couple of years to make a new game from scratch isn't the worst idea in the world (though we've seen how that has turned out with NBA Live, so maybe not).  Despite its flaws, however, wrestling fans will still have a good time thanks to the huge roster and selection of match types, and the gameplay is more than fun enough, particularly in multiplayer.  WWE 2K16 isn't a great wrestling game, but die hard fans will definitely have some fun with it.