WWE Universe mode seems more related to what you would see on-air; the matchups and feuds make more sense based on personality and aren’t as random as it used to be. There are some matches that should be ‘enhancement’ matches, but the end result could lead toward a feud based on what happens. A good example is when I joined a match as Seth Rollins versus Fandango; I had Fandango beat when I got caught with a submission (more on that in the gameplay section) and lost, and Fandango then earned a title shot from this. This made the feuding more enjoyable and made it more dynamic, instead of “guy A feuds with guy B through this PPV, no matter what the weekly result” like it felt in years’ past. In addition, there are unique personality and ‘status effects’ that you can add to change the Universe as you continue to play. There are a few anomalies, like seeing Undertaker on Smackdown main events, but that’s understandable if he’s labeled as a regular roster member, and everything seems to be in place.
The gameplay has been changed over time to fit the simulation feel to the game, and there are both good and bad to come from it. Overall the controls seemed fluid and easy to learn the basics before you start increasing the difficulty with stringing moves together. The grapple mini-games, pinning system and reversals are good examples of using strategy to get back into a match (or win), and puts it on par with the rest of the controls. This game is about pace and planning, and makes you use your moves wisely and learn timing. With that said, the submission system, another new addition, is pretty terrible. Players need to Use the R stick to overlap a colored section of a wheel, with the opponent trying to beat them to fill the wheel. The idea sounds like it could be good, but it ruins the results of a lot of matches. The person on offense is given a big (almost unfair) advantage to start, even in early parts of a match where no damage was even registered to my Superstar. Even after trying it several times and getting used to it, I’d still lose matches within moments because of the hit or miss execution of it all. Considering how much emphasis is put on strategy with everything else, this feels like it takes it out of the players’ hands and needs to be reworked.
Some of the gameplay features have sliders that also help customize the game to your liking. You change increase or decrease finisher strength, ease of reversing finishers, frequency of moves, and a host of others. One thing I’d like to see is more control sliders, or completely new alternate schemes. There is a momentum shift available (slow, normal and fast), but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few match pace sliders or other arcade-like sliders (like fatigue frequency, for example) without changing it’s setup as a simulation game. There are a few times where I thought the match speed didn’t match up to the player’s damage level, and mixing it up with sliders might offer something new. I think this would please people who do like the new format, but also bring back some people who would like a more ‘casual/masher’ type feel. There are several games on the market that offer the new controls, but feature classic/alternate controls that work very well no matter which one is used. (The MLB: The Show series is a great example of implementing this.)
In closing, WWE 2K16 gets a lot of things right, but there are a few reasonable complaints (like the submission system) and a few others that have always been present (updated graphics). I would recommend this for both hardcore and casual WWE fans, whether you buy yearly or periodically. The only people who might be turned off by this game are traditional button masher fans, because this is the closest to a true simulation we’ve had yet. Other than that, WWE 2K16 is a solid effort. The 2K Showcase Mode with Austin, the roster, gameplay and game mode changes, and overall amount of content are definitely worth the price.
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