When I published my WWE 2K15 review last year for PS4, I was very clear in stating that I understood the need for 2K to use 2015’s game as an entry point to a new console. The tech was new, and I get that building everything from the ground up on the PS4/Xbox One was something that was most likely going to run into a few growing pains.

WWE 2K15, while far from being a perfect wrestling game, had its bright moments and showed plenty of potential as we headed into a generation of consoles.

WWE 2K16 has finally hit the shelves, and I’m pleased to say that most of the issues that we ran into with last year’s game have been addressed. The bare bones Creation Suite from 2K15 has been expanded with a bunch of new content and features, though when I say “new,” I really mean “closer to what 2K14 gave us on last-gen consoles.” We’re not there yet in terms of complete freedom to make whoever/whatever you want, but we’re getting there.

Remember last year’s game when you were only given one generic entrance motion? That’s not an issue this year. All those generic entrance themes from the better part of the last 10 years are back as well, for better or worse. The point I’m trying to make is that despite the quality of these extra creation suite goodies, at least the variety is back. You are no longer stuck using only existing Superstars’ moves, and until Sony/Microsoft allow us to save music to the consoles again so we can use our own entrance music, I’m pleased that there was a step forward this year.

A few other features round out this year’s game, and depending on whichever ones you deem as more important, the changes are either super awesome, or the worst thing to happen to the WWE series in some time. An example would be the new submission mechanic. Gone are the days of mashing buttons to fill a meter; now you have a minigame where you must swivel a colored bar to either overlap or avoid your opponent’s colored bar, depending on whether or not you are the attacker or not. It is damn near impossible to accomplish.

The mechanic simply isn’t implemented very well, and using submissions as a form of offense is clearly something that not too many will do, given the near impossibility of pulling a submission off successfully. In the MyCareer tutorial, you are tasked with forcing Enzo Amore to submit in an attempt to teach you the new submission mechanic. Enzo Amore…not Daniel Bryan or Bret Hart or some other submission specialist. It took me eight attempts to successfully submit Enzo, which is absurd considering the style of wrestler he is.

I figured maybe my created character was simply not proficient enough in his submission offense stat, so I played an exhibition match as the best there was, the best there is, and the best there ever will be, Bret the Hitman Hart. I still struggled mightily as pulling off the Sharpshooter successfully took almost six tries. The Sharpshooter is supposed to be Bret’s finisher; it’s the move that almost guarantees a tap out.

WWE 2K16 Review

Six attempts makes it about as effective as a wristlock. Now granted, a good portion of my struggles with the mechanic is most likely due to the fact that I’m simply not used to the new system. I’ll admit to that, and I’m sure after a bit of time I’ll get better at it. It’s not that I’m getting on 2K’s case for trying something new; quite frankly, the button mashing thing was getting old.

My issue with the new submission system is that it seems poorly implemented and doesn’t just make successful submissions rare (which I’m ok with), but rather it makes them impossible. I’ve been playing wrestling games since Pro Wrestling for NES, gone through every Yukes and Aki game on the N64, still play Fire Pro Wrestling Returns regularly even to this day, and have never missed one single Smackdown/SvR/WWE game. This is the first time I can confidently say that a new mechanic just doesn’t seem to work.

Now that the submission mechanic is out of the way, let’s look at some other features. WWE 2K16 boasts the largest roster ever assembled with no repeat character. Weeeeelllll…..that’s not 100% true. You still get five versions of Steve Austin, three Stings, two Jerichos, three HHHs, three Takers, two Kanes, two Mark Henrys, two William Regals, and two Rocks.

Now granted, these are versions of each character through time and are represented in the 2K Showcase mode (which follows the career of Stone Cold), so that’s fine, but take away all the repeats and I wonder if we still have the largest roster ever assembled. Just a thought. Either way, you still have a nice roster comprised of current Superstars, NXT newbies, and legends. Not too shabby at all.

Along with the submission mechanic is a new reversal system. Instead of unlimited reversals like before (which turned matches into a reversal-fest at times), you now have a meter with a limited number of reversals.

It seems like a small thing, but having a limit to the number of times you can perform a reversal actually adds a fair bit of strategy to the game. Do you reverse tiny moves like punches and kicks in order to unleash your own attacks uninterrupted, or do you hoard your reversals in case HHH tries to nail you with a Pedigree? Having a reversal in store could mean the difference between winning and losing a match. It also helps with the pacing of the match, as it slows things down a bit closer to the pacing of a real WWE match, and less like an amateur college match.

To go with the new reversals in the “new stuff I love” category, is the working hold. If you recall, WWE 2K15 introduced the chain grapple mechanic, which some loved (me) and some hated. i felt that it added a bit of realism to the pacing of a match, since you rarely, if ever, see a match in real life start off with a bunch of endless power moves.

By going through a few minutes of chain grapples, the virtual match started off a lot closer to what you might see on tv. Expanding on that in this year’s game is the concept of working holds. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, a working hold in professional wrestling is when performers lock in a headlock or something similar, and slow the match down in order to catch their breath.

In WWE 2K16, performing a working hold not only gives you those breaks in the middle of a match that replicate the pacing of a love match more closely, but successfully performing a working hold replenishes your stamina meter. And how does one perform a working hold? Exactly how you would win a chain grapple; by swiveling around the right stick and holding the “sweet spot.” Simple, familiar, and more important to creating a realistic match than you could possibly imagine.

The biggest changes this year in terms of game modes are in the MyCareer mode, WWE Universe, and the Creation Suite. Last year, MyCareer focused on your rise from NXT rookie to legend. As it turns out, your “career” ended as soon as you won the WWE Championship.

As soon as that happened, you fast forwarded to your retirement match, and that was that. The mode was very entertaining, but short. This year rectifies all that by actually giving you multiple years to play through. You still start off in NXT and move up through the ranks. The bulk of MyCareer hasn’t changed too much, but at least you have a longer stretch of time to have your career now.

Instead of Vicky Guerrero telling you every week that she doesn’t have anything scheduled for you, you now have The Authority’s approval to win via mini challenges. You’re still going through trying to get five star matches, and upgrading your stats accordingly. It’s not a huge change from last year; it has simply expanded on the length mostly.

Perhaps the one gameplay mode that players always sink the most time into is the Universe Mode. 2K has reworked Universe Mode to present players with much more variety so you’re not dealing with the same few storyline situations over and over.

You can now also schedule wrestlers on multiple shows, and with the return of Create an Arena/Championship/Show, you can now make your own shows to add to the WWE Universe. New personality sliders give players even more control into tweaking the variety of you Universe, but by and large, Universe Mode should seem very familiar to anyone who has played it in the past few years.

2K Showcase this year gives us a look into the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin, going as far back as his WCW and ECW days. Arguably one of the most important, if not THE most important figure in professional wrestling, Austin’s career is awesome to play through, and I’m still reeling from the shock of being able to play as the Hollywood Blondes without having to create them myself. Very cool, and again, nothing new here in terms of gameplay.

You still get some fantastically recreated in-game cutscenes along with archival WWE footage, and various challenges to meet during the matches. It’s a ton of fun and really goes to show that the Attitude Era Mode that was introduced in WWE ‘13 really ended up finding life and became an integral part of the WWE game experience.

Graphically, the game is actually hit or miss, which surprised me because I thought last year’s game looked fantastic. Some characters just look WEIRD, like Seth Rollins and John Cena. If I didn’t know any better, I would say they look worse than their 2K15 counterparts. I would be curious to see if they were able to get as many Superstars to do the motion capture this year as opposed to last year, because those that didn’t participate last year really looked off. Honestly, it’s not something that ruins the gameplay experience, but it IS noticeable.

As expected, wrestlers still move around like robots, but the overall animation is very smooth. Basically as with pretty every wrestling game, 2K16 is a mix of excellent animation with really wonky movement.

I’m pleased to see that after last year’s “test game,” 2K is back to form with 2K16. All small complaints aside, WWE 2k16 offers players a comprehensive look into the WWE, and with an expanded MyCareer and Universe Modes, there should be no shortage of things to do.

The Creation Suite has been brought back to something close to its former glory, so wrestling diehards should have no issues recreating their favorite non-WWE wrestlers to use in the game (minus authentic entrance themes, of course). As expected, future DLC will provide some new content in the coming months, but if you skipped last year’s game, this would be a smart year to get back into it.