Tag Archive: 2k


The WWE 2K series has been trending in the wrong direction in recent years. Visual Concepts and Yuke’s have tried adding new features to the franchise to help enhance its simulation feel, but often there has been an overall lack of polish that has held them back, or just a general disinterest in how these ideas were being presented. So, the development team turned to their audience and asked for help. Thousands of posts came in with suggestions—some more helpful than others—on what future iterations of WWE 2K needed, and it appears, at least at this early point, 2K listened. I had an opportunity last week to go and visit 2K’s headquarters up in Novato, California, and sit in on a presentation from WWE 2K executive producer Mark Little on what he and his team were bringing to WWE 2K18 this year to put the series back on track.

One of the most important things Mark said right off the bat was that they are finally abandoning last-gen consoles. Working on the Xbox 360 and PS3 was holding the team back as they were concentrating on virtually two different games at the same time. Now, being able to focus on just Xbox One and PS4, the team really honed in on their presentation. Visually, their graphics engine has been completely re-written. Mark showed a short comparison video of Randy Orton’s entrance between this year and last year, and I can attest there is already a marked improvement. New lighting, and how it reacts with different materials, already gave everything a more realistic look compared to years past, trying to emulate the visual product seen over on the NBA 2K side of things. Unfortunately, the team working on WWE 2K wasn’t quite ready to show much more of the game yet beyond this, and definitely wasn’t ready to let us go hands-on. But there were other promises made that at least has me hopeful for when it does come time to step back into the squared circle.

Continuing with presentation, there is new commentary. I nearly did a backflip when Mark said that a suite of dialogue from Michael Cole, now alongside Byron Saxton and Corey Graves, was being recorded as we spoke. There were also efforts being made to try to get all the men in the same room together so that they don’t repeat last year’s effect of it sounding like JBL was off in the distance somewhere. Jojo was also confirmed to be the new ring announcer for WWE 2K18 and new crowd chants are also being added to the game.

In terms of customization, there are more base models in create-a-wrestler and better logo mapping. Create-a-video was also highlighted, as now when you want to cut your match highlight to use in your entrance video, you can use a free camera to change angles in the post-production process. Custom creations are getting improved search functionality online, and a new “create-a-match” feature is also being added where you can save stipulations on your favorite matches for easy access in local versus or Universe mode.

Gameplay was also talked about in a variety of ways. New 8-man (and woman) ladder and tag matches are being added, while the backstage areas from last year’s game are now three times larger, with more interactivity and different objects. You can now even do one-on-one backstage brawls against friends online. There’s also a new carry and drag system being implemented, so you’re not just always grabbing someone by the back of the neck when you want to steer them towards a big spot. If strong enough, you can carry someone in a variety of positions now, even holding them in a powerbomb position on top of your shoulders before walking them over to a turnbuckle for example.

In terms of game modes, a new mode called Road to Glory was announced, but no details on that were given. Returning options like Universe mode will see some tweaks, with stories now being able to carry across and past pay-per-views before concluding at a natural point, rather than just at the end of a big show. Plus, Career mode is also being revamped to offer a shorter, more serious story-driven experience.

Finally, there’s the roster. As was announced last week, Kurt Angle is the pre-order bonus for WWE 2K18 and he was the only one confirmed in the game outside of cover athlete Seth Rollins. The team is looking to continue its tradition of increasing the roster every year, however, and is aiming for more than 170 wrestlers this year—an increase of about 20 roster choices from last year’s release.

As tremendous as all this sounds, this is also a lot to add to a game year-over-year, and beyond a little bit of the new graphics engine, I must re-iterate that we weren’t able to see or play any of these things. However, the fact that Visual Concepts and Yuke’s are listening to the community, and acting on many of their suggestions, is a great sign that at the very least WWE 2K18 should make strides forward from last year’s game. Whether or not they can follow through and deliver on all these promises, we’ll have to wait for when WWE 2K18 drops on October 17 for Xbox One and PS4 to find out.

I see what’s going on here. A Mafia game comes out and everyone just assumes the Italian guy from New Jersey needs to be the reviewer, like he knows something that everyone else doesn’t. Well, I might, but I’m no rat. The only thing I know and am willing to talk about is that Mafia III looks like it knew something, too, and somebody roughed it up a lot trying to find out what—because this game isn’t in great shape. If it had a mob nickname, it’d be called “Pretty,” but only in that ironic kind of way in which it really isn’t, you know what I mean?

Mafia III follows the story of Lincoln Clay, an African-American Vietnam veteran in 1968. After his final tour of duty, Clay returns home to New Bordeaux, developer Hangar 13’s take on New Orleans in much the same way Mafia II’s Empire City was based on New York and Chicago. Even amid all the racist glares, Clay is thrilled to be home, meeting up with his adopted family and father-figure Sammy—a mafia lieutenant in control of the predominantly African-American section of town called the Hollows in crime boss Sal Marcano’s empire. It’s not long before Lincoln is putting his military training back to use for Sammy, which catches Marcano’s eye. After pulling off the heist of the century to help square away Sammy’s debts to Marcano, the crime boss turns on them all and burns Sammy’s bar to the ground. Clay survives the double-cross, however, and after being nursed back to health, plans to burn Marcano’s crime empire to the ground like the mobster did to Sammy’s bar.

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Let me start by saying that Mafia III’s main plot is one of the best-written stories I’ve played through in a very long time. At times it’s humorous, emotional, poignant, and with its willingness to tackle the subject of race during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history head-on, even reflective and analytical of the society we live in today. Its use of in medias res hooked me right away, dropping me right into the action, and then slowly developing the characters of Lincoln and his associates through well-timed flashbacks. Thus, allowing me to quickly care about or despise them depending on their relationship to our protagonist before smoothly merging Lincoln’s past with his present and moving forward from there.

A huge part of what made the main story so great was the audio aspect of the game. From tremendous voice acting by the cast, to one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard from a game, Mafia III is a joy to listen to. The soundtrack specifically is so deep and varied, compiling countless hits from the 1960s, that across the game’s three radio stations, you’ll be shocked when you’re still hearing new songs come on even halfway through what could easily turn into a 30-hour experience—not to mention their timing during story missions is a great way to help emphasize the emotion of the moment. Throw in original radio talk shows created for the game to reflect what’s going on both in the world at the time and the fire and brimstone Lincoln is bringing down about New Bordeaux, and driving around with the radio on has potentially never been better in a game.

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Unfortunately, as good as the game is audio-wise, it falls off a cliff at times visually. In those rare instances where everything comes together, New Bordeaux is a vibrant, diverse city that is a joy to drive through. More often than not, though, it feels like a ghost town. Even during one of the early flashbacks that has Lincoln escaping police through a Mardi Gras parade, the city never feels as alive or populated as it should, and that scene made it all the more telling with only scattered handfuls of revelers celebrating.

Also, the glitches that occur are far too frequent and major to be forgivable. At times, Lincoln was hit with some sort of latency bug, so a weird particle-shadow appeared behind him as he moved. Others, like in the screenshot below, you’d see two models of the same character in one place. In this instance, Cassandra, one of Lincoln’s own lieutenants, is both sitting while reading a book, and staring at the back wall for some reason. Sometimes NPCs would pop in and out of existence in a blink, or merge with the cover they are taking in shootouts. Once, the sky even flashed different colors rapidly as if the day/night cycle had suddenly broken (and I’m not talking about the instances before certain missions where it does accelerate so that a mission is taking place during the proper time).

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The worst aspect of Mafia III, though, has to be the liberation of districts gameplay. There are 10 districts in New Bordeaux, and as part of his plan to take down Marcano, Lincoln will recruit three lieutenants of his own —Cassandra, head of the Haitian mob, Vito, Mafia II’s protagonist, and Burke, head of the Irish mob—that he can then assign parts of the city to. There’s an interesting metagame where if you play favorites, the lieutenants might turn on you, but by evenly dividing up the districts amongst the three (the tenth district, the Bayou, cannot be assigned because no one tames the Bayou) you can avoid this.

By killing high-ranking Marcano goons and destroying valuable property, you’ll draw out racket bosses, and when you bump off enough of those, you’ll draw out Marcano’s nine lieutenants and capos one-by-one. Once you kill them, you’ll win the district. To do all this, however, you’ll have to complete these same objectives over and over again, just in different parts of the city.

This lack of mission variety turns the open-world aspects of Mafia III into a grind. There isn’t even fast travel, so for many missions you’re constantly forced to just drive needlessly back and forth across the city—again, made a little better by the radio, but still annoying enough—bringing the game’s pacing to a crawl. And while it’s cool the first few times Lincoln basically goes into special forces mode, moving through warehouses to silently slaughter unsuspecting mobsters like he was again wading through Vietnam’s rice paddies looking for NVA officers, I was done with it after a few times—even though I then had to still do it another two dozen times or so. Of course, you can also go in guns blazing, but the numbers are against Lincoln, so it’s not recommended. Similarly, the game’s handful of side missions boil down to one of two types: steal a car and drive it back to your lieutenant for more money, or kill someone on Vito’s special hit-list.

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It’s funny how one of the major complaints people used to make about the earlier Mafia games was how linear they were. Mafia III is definitely open-world, but the lack of variety in mission design really makes me wish the game had stayed narrower in scope. If as much thought, care, and originality had been put into all the game’s missions—instead of just those revolving around when you finally hit the story’s main beats where Lincoln claims a territory—this could have been something special. As is, though, I’d say 20 of the game’s 30 hours are a grind, and there’s only 10 hours of really worthwhile content here that could’ve been streamlined into a really stellar experience.

Mafia III tells a terrific main story. The problem is the experience is bloated by repetitive, yet necessary busy work that requires a huge time commitment to draw out would-be targets to get to the next great story beat. This dichotomy is reflected in the audio and visual aspects of the game as well, with it being a joy to listen to, but chock full of glitches that snap you out of what would otherwise be an immersive experience. This review mob boss wouldn’t put a hit out on Mafia III—it’s not that offensive—but it sure would need to do some big favors to get back in my good graces after wasting so much of my time.

Publisher: 2K Games • Developer: Hangar 13 • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 10.07.16
6.5
Mafia III’s main plot is one of the better-written stories I’ve played in recent history. The problem is the gameplay is bloated with a lot of busy work and weak side content that detracts from this great tale.
The Good Tremendous writing and great storytelling.
The Bad Tons of visual glitches and extremely repetitive gameplay.
The Ugly I spent way too much time collecting the vintage Playboys in the game. I swear it was only for the articles, though.
Mafia III is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by 2K Games for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

I had a chance to sit down with Bill Goldberg to discuss him becoming the next pre-order bonus in the WWE 2K series and what he thinks about being in WWE 2K17.

Last night, on the eve of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, 2K Sports brought their own basketball finals to a close, naming the first Road to the Finals Champion in NBA 2K16.

Over the past two months, ranked matches in NBA 2K16’s Pro-Am mode saw over 2.3 million games played by over 100,000 different qualifying teams. Looking at the rankings, 2K took the top 16 of those teams and held a single-elimination tournament that culminated in last night’s festivities, which not only crowned a champion, but awarded the winners $250,000. The two teams competing in last night’s final were GFG, a crew of friends who had been playing NBA 2K together since NBA 2K11, and the Drewkerbockers HLZDB, a group that had been together since NBA 2K8, but who had only actually met each other in person for the first time just before the event.

On hand to witness 2K Sports’ first esports championship event in downtown Los Angeles were Lakers greats Kobe Bryant and Rick Fox, former NBA champion Scot Pollard, WWE Tag Team Champion Xavier Woods, and Indiana Pacers all-star and NBA 2K17 cover athlete Paul George.

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GFG came out fast, playing their game by showing power in the paint and slamming a couple of buckets down for a quick 4-2 lead. This would be their only lead of the night, however. Each team showed some jitters early, and it wouldn’t be until a late run in the first that put Drewkerbockers up 17-10 that the offense would really start to click. GFG would answer with a pair of threes, but a bucket at the buzzer gave Drewkerbockers a 19-16 lead at the end of the first quarter, and momentum that they would ride the entire night.

The second quarter was when the themes of the night would really start to show. GFG got away from their gameplay and often tried to make one too many passes, which led to turnovers or ill-advised shots. Meanwhile, Drewkerbockers took advantage of almost every one of those turnovers by converting them into points. Part of this was because they dominated the offensive glass, which led to crucial second-chance points. In a shocking turn of events, GFG, who were favored by many experts, only scored six points in the entire second quarter. This was in large part because they were so badly out-rebounded, finding themselves down 39-23 at the half.

GFG would regroup in the second half, but the damage had been done. Each team scored 20 in the third, playing evenly and trading buckets back and forth, before both teams came out playing fast and loose in the fourth. With the game set at five-minute quarters, there simply wasn’t enough time for GFG to stage a rally. So, even when Drewkerbockers stopped trying to run up the score and tried instead to just kill the clock—leading to some sloppy turnovers on their end—they were already too far gone. If there were a mercy rule in basketball, it would’ve been used here, as the Drewkerbockers cruised in the fourth to a 73-62 win, becoming the first ever NBA 2K16 Road to the Finals Champions.

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If you remove that abysmal second quarter, this was actually an extremely competitive game for the most part. It’s also in that spirit of competition that I was alerted to what some would see as a small controversy. As soon as the clock had expired in the fourth, the clearly frustrated team members of GFG began complaining about the controllers used in the match. I approached them once the cameras had stopped rolling and found out that the game had been played on PS4, but that GFG were used to playing on Xbox One—the system they rode to the championship. One member in particular, his handle being “DRAKE GRIFFLN”, said that his team was “blindsided” by the system choice and that he and his team “…didn’t find out until we got here about the controllers.”

The controllers he spoke of are third-party HORI “Horipad FPS Plus” controllers (see below), given to GFG as alternates to Xbox One controllers. The Horipad provides a PS4 layout, except the joysticks are situated like an Xbox One controller. After handling the controllers myself, though, I can attest they feel nothing like an Xbox One controller—and if this was indeed a surprise to GFG, it could have factored into their defeat.

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When I asked tournament organizer 2K Sports for comment, Senior PR Manager Ryan Peters gave the following statement on the possibility of GFG not being properly informed about the controllers, or those controllers being of a lesser quality:

“A single platform had to be used in order to make the competition work,” says Peters. “We gave the contestants ample practice time and notice (a week) of what controllers and system would be used. I can also confirm the controllers were in no way sub-standard.”

So, maybe it was simply frustration from GFG over the fact that they were outperformed in a game many expected them to win, or maybe the information was lost in translation between the team and 2K. If it was a controller situation, it does seem odd that GFG’s collapse came in the second quarter and not the first, and that they then bounced back to actually outscore the Drewkerbockers in the second half. If 2K didn’t reach out about the controller/system info, GFG also could’ve reached out on their own to confirm the equipment that would be used in the championship game. At that point, though, it’s still odd GFG was given the Horipads instead of just regular PS4 controllers like Drewkerbockers to make the playing field—at least from a technical standpoint—as even as possible.

If 2K wants to remain in the esports space, maybe this could be a lesson to double-check ahead of time with teams that they know the parameters, and make sure the playing field is completely even from a tech point of view. Either way, congrats to the Drewkerbockers, and hopefully 2K will take what they learned from this experience and build up a bigger and better tournament for next year.

WWE 2K16 Universe Mode Gameplay

I play WWE Universe mode in WWE 2K16 on Xbox One. Sounds like we still were having a couple of audio issues, but it was far better than my Transformers: Devastation video. Thanks everyone for watching and don’t forget to subscribe!

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A mid-card contender

The Attitude Era, a time period that engulfed wrestling in the late 90s through early 2000s, is widely considered to be the pinnacle of modern sports entertainment. Never before had WWE’s brand reached such a wide audience, and many of the television ratings records set back then remain standing today. So, it is no wonder that when wrestling video games need a pick-me-up, they look back to that era for inspiration to put themselves back on track—and WWE 2K16 is no exception.

After a down debut on current-gen consoles last year, the annual WWE 2K franchise looked to one of the greatest faces of the Attitude Era—Stone Cold Steve Austin—as a reason to inject some much-needed edge back into the series. The Texas Rattlesnake was a beast for WWE starting with his meteoric rise in 1997 through to his retirement in 2003, so it’s no surprise that they’d model this year’s 2K Showcase mode after him.

Letting players relive many of Austin’s best matches from his time with WWE is a concentrated shot of nostalgia that any child of the Attitude Era can’t help but enjoy, as classic footage is spliced with recreated in-game cutscenes. Making things even more enticing are Bonus Matches. After completing certain bouts, some of Stone Cold’s best pre-WWE moments—like when he was “Stunning” Steve Austin in WCW—are unlocked, letting you take on the likes of Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and many others.

While the 2K Showcase mode is great for a walk down memory lane, where the WWE 2K series usually shines is when it lets gamers play wrestling god and create different matches, wrestlers, arenas, and more to satiate whatever their heart may desire to see inside the squared circle. Or, if they’d prefer, they can walk the path of a superstar themselves and see what it takes to win major gold in the world’s premiere wrestling promotion.

For those micromanagers out there, WWE Universe returns, letting players pit their favorite wrestlers of the past and present from the WWE series’ largest roster yet (120 superstars and divas combined) against each other. If you want, you can create major wrestling shows for every day of the week, cultivating made-up arenas with the returning Create-an-Arena feature, and then watch as matches play out. You can also step in, if you’d prefer, and influence the direction of your WWE over the course of several years on the calendar. There are even adjustable sliders that can affect a wrestler’s personality this year, influencing how they will or won’t act in the ring, and injuries can now occur, drastically shifting storylines at times just like the real-world WWE. The only knock against WWE Universe is the inability to create more detailed storylines, but seeing as how much you are able to customize here, filling in the gaps for the usually impressive AI isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Sometimes the best part of the WWE games aren’t just playing as your favorite wrestlers from TV, but inserting yourself, or some crazy cockamamie monstrosity, into the action. Create-a-Wrestler is far deeper than it was last year, bolstered by the fact that you can upload your own personal designs quickly and easily via the WWE 2K16 website to put on your wrestler or their clothes. You can even upload your own face—like I did to create super-journalist Murrow Thompson—and really feel like you’re getting into the game (quality of results will vary).

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You can also customize your wrestler’s moveset, with thousands of attacks and abilities available to you. My only disappointment here is the lack of Create-a-Finisher, as nothing makes your wrestler feel more like your own than piecing together a finishing move that no one else in the world has, even if it borrows parts from already existing moves. I think a pop-up DDT would’ve been just what Murrow needed to enlighten the masses; instead I settled for Dean Ambrose’s Dirty Deeds.

Once you have a created wrestler, you can then import them (or a different superstar made from scratch) and enter the revamped MyCareer mode. Looking to add a stronger sports simulation aspect to the traditionally arcade-inspired WWE series, last year’s MyCareer mode was the worst kind of grind that culminated in a single Wrestlemania match. This year is different.

Starting off in NXT, your mission is to one day make the WWE Hall of Fame. By wrestling in highly regarded matches, you can build your character up to more easily achieve a series of possible career goals that will lead to guaranteed enshrinement. What goals you pursue are entirely up to you, however. You can dominate at the mid-card level, winning the US and Intercontinental titles multiple times. Or, if you’d prefer, you can try to hold every title once and get the career Grand Slam. Wrestling in certain kinds of matches at certain venues as well as a multitude of other paths can also catapult you to the desired stardom you require. Although, I will warn that if you choose to focus on tag team gold, the AI for your partner may make you want to go the way of The Rockers sooner rather later. You also get to actually play an entire career, instead of flash forwarding to your retirement match upon completion of certain objectives (unless you choose to retire, which is entirely up to you)—giving the mode much needed longevity and replayability.

There are also more ways to play to the crowd and develop your wrestler’s personality. By participating in Extreme Rules matches and the like, and using weapons and tables, your aggression and other personality traits will adjust. The most important personality factor, however, comes from your post-match interview with Renee Young. From here, depending on your answers, you can start rivalries, change alliance, or turn face or heel. What decisions you make there can in turn gives you more options, like participating in a new feature that allows you to interfere with your rival’s matches.

The biggest addition to MyCareer mode is the in-match feedback on how your match is going. Move variety, hitting signature and finishing moves, and sprinkling in some “OMG! Moments” will help result in a 5-star match. Repeating moves, never countering, or quick matches will result in lower stars and less progress for your character. This emphasis on move variety helps each and every match feel genuinely like something you’d see from the real life WWE.

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Even with all these modes and the additions made to them, though, it would all be for naught if the in-ring product did not make advancements from last year’s game—and in a fair amount of ways it did. A slew of new mechanics have been added to WWE 2K16’s gameplay, and most of them work very well. A new, slowly refilling reversal meter finally nerfs players who know how to perfectly time every move, with each wrestler only having three-to-five reversals to start a match, and you’re never allowed to hold more than whatever you started with. You can also now slow the pace of matches down with Working Holds. Just like in real life, these allow wrestlers to catch their breath while also draining the stamina of their opponents. These two changes alone greatly expand the strategic depth you now carry into the ring, especially when combined with the chain wrestling and stamina meters added last year.

One gameplay addition misses the mark, though, and that’s the new submission system. The button mashing minigame of yesterday is thankfully dead, but in its place is an overlay system where you must try to get your bar to consistently overlap an opposing wrestler’s. The more tired they are—or if it’s a finishing submission like a Sharpshooter—the easier it will be to make them tap, but controlling the bar makes it feel like you’re wrestling the controller as much as your opponent.

WWE 2K16’s in-ring product has also seen its fair share of polishing. While the occasional glitch still pops up, it’s nowhere as bad as last year. Many character models also look much better—especially impressive considering the 120-person roster—but there are still a few examples where wrestlers look like they were being pulled from games that are two or three years older than this. While she never steps in the ring, I feel it necessary to point out the aforementioned Renee Young looks particularly stiff and frightening during your MyCareer interview segments.

It also needs to be said that, unlike the look of the game, the commentary has not come very far. Some new lines have thankfully been recorded to avoid as much repetition as last year, but too often Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler talk about subjects irrelevant to the match, making you think at times the dialogue has glitched. Oh, and it sounded like JBL, who was added to mark the first time we have a three-man commentary team in the game, had a cold when he recorded his lines.

Some minor annoyances aside, WWE 2K16 has taken a step largely in the right direction. Many, but not all, features missing from last year’s game return. Online functionality was questionable on the first day of launch, but seems to have stabilized over the weekend from what I’ve seen. A fully realized MyCareer mode and reliving the glory days of Stone Cold Steve Austin highlight an improved in-ring experience and the largest roster in the series’ history. While not ready to hog the spotlight like a main eventer, WWE 2K16 should find a nice spot on any wrestling fans’ roster of fall games.

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Developer: Yuke’s/Visual Concepts • Publisher: 2K Sports • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 10.27.15
8.0
A big step forward for the series, WWE 2K16 is still some polishing and a new submission system away from being Hall of Fame material, but should make a nice living as a stop gap in your library before hopefully bridging the gap to a bigger and better game next year.
The Good The fleshing out of MyCareer. Reliving Stone Cold Steve Austin’s glory days. The long-awaited balancing of reversals. Return of many match variations.
The Bad Submission system still misses the mark. I miss Create-a-Finisher. Tag team AI needs work. Awful announcing.
The Ugly The haunting robot that claims to be Renee Young when it comes time for your MyCareer interviews.
WWE 2K16 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by 2K Sports for the benefit of this review.

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When I got my hands on WWE 2K16 for the first time a few weeks ago, the small amount of gameplay I saw had me worried. After playing a more complete build of the game this past week, however, that first demo seems to have been an earlier build that wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Now, I’m more confident the franchise is taking the necessary steps forward to get it back to where fans of “sports entertainment” want it to be.

The most obvious difference between my demos was found in the gameplay. I experienced a lot less glitches in and around the ring, and now grapples and reversals both felt much tighter. I also saw the return of the collar-and-elbow tie up from last year’s game at the beginning of matches that prompts a rock-paper-scissors mini-game, showing the franchise’s commitment to providing more realistic, properly-paced matches.

The ability to “run-in” or “break-out” during entrances was also an interesting feature that I began to take more advantage of during my second time playing the game. While getting a cheap shot in on my opponents may not have been the most sporting thing to do, it was a lot of fun, and authentic to what you might see on RAW every week when you have two opponents who particularly hate each other.

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Where I spent most of my time, however, was with the returning career mode. Once again, you get to create your own wrestler from scratch, see them toil in NXT, and then hopefully make the main-roster—with your primary goal being to see their 15-year career culminate in a WWE Hall of Fame induction.

Due to the limited amount of time I had with the game, I didn’t have much of a chance to dig deep into the specific options of wrestler creation. To save time, I just slapped some brightly colored trunks and boots onto my guy before sending him out to be lambasted by WWE’s new head trainer Matt Bloom (better known as Albert, or Lord Tensai, to longtime fans of the product). Here, career mode took its time teaching me the ins and outs of what it means to put on a good match, focusing on the importance of move variety and how the new Five-Star system works.

What’s really nice about this new career mode is that you now get a lot more dynamic feedback in the ring. Each move you perform can add or detract to your match’s five-star rating, and utilizing every move in your repertoire to keep the fans entertained is critical. Every time you step into the squared circle, it’ll be those fans—not wins or losses—that’ll be most on your mind.

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There are other ways to get fans to react than what you do in-ring, however. After any big match, you’ll be interviewed backstage by WWE’s Renee Young, during which she’ll pose to you a multiple choice question. How you respond over the course of the interview can change you from a face to a heel (good guy or bad guy for those not up on the lingo) or vice versa, as well as help flesh out your personality. Do you want to be aggressive or cocky? Charming or funny? How you answer these questions will determine how the fans react every week when you make your entrance.

Your fellow NXT and WWE superstars are also paying close attention to these interviews, as what you say or who you call out can lead to different rivalries. Because tag-team wrestling has also been given a heavier focus in this year’s game, who you have a greater affinity with personality-wise will also help determine who is willing to wrestle alongside you when the time comes to find a tag-team partner.

Once you start working on your character, you’ll then be able to pick your own set of goals as you start working towards having a Hall of Fame career. You can focus on climbing the ladder, working your way from NXT to the main roster to obtain the US Championship, Intercontinental Championship, and finally WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Maybe you want to focus on being part of a tag-team, and go for double-digit tag team championship reigns like the Dudley Boyz. Or maybe you’re okay being a mid-carder, setting your sights on breaking Chris Jericho’s nine-time reign record with the IC belt. There are multiple paths to the Hall of Fame—but how you get there is your choice.

It’s this new depth to career mode and the pacing of in-ring matches that has me really excited again for WWE 2K16. While I think it’ll be fun to relive the glory days of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the real meat and potatoes of the WWE 2K experience needs to start coming from other places. In that, career mode looks primed to start pulling its weight as a top-of-the-line attraction in this annual sports entertainment simulator.

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I had a chance to go hands-on once again with Gearbox Software’s Battleborn while up at PAX and this time I used the hulking brute Montana to take the fight to the Varelsi.

Montana definitely felt more my speed compared to my play through with hit-n-run specialist Caldarius since Montana is a prototypical tank character whose Gatling gun deals a near constant stream of damage to his enemies.

Battleborn will be available from 2K Games for Xbox One, PS4, and PC on February 9th, 2016.

Even after a relatively weak showing last year, I had hope that the second new-gen outing for the WWE’s annual wrestling franchise would be able to right the last game’s wrongs and bring the series to a new level. After all, it’s very common that yearly sports releases require an extra year or two before they hit their stride with new technology. Unfortunately, if everything I saw at the hands-on reveal of the game at SummerSlam this year was any indicator, WWE 2K16 is still a ways away from being a main event attraction in gaming’s always crowded fall season.

The demo we were given had access to two modes. The first is your standard Exhibition, which allowed us to tussle with a dozen or so revealed wrestlers from the company’s massive roster. We could do your standard one-on-one face-off, or wrestle as a tag team. I quickly set up a match between current WWE World Heavyweight and US Champion Seth Rollins (who I controlled) and Brock Lesnar, creating a rematch of sorts from the WWE Battleground PPV from a few weeks ago.

As soon as Brock started making his way to the ring, I was able to try out one of the new features the game touts—which gives wrestlers the option to run out during their opponent’s entrance to sneak attack them. With the element of surprise on my side, I began pounding on Brock as we slowly fought our way down the steel ramp. To my chagrin, after a couple of minutes the referee called off the match, much like he would on Monday Night RAW, and the match was declared a no-contest.

When offered a rematch I took it. This time, when I jumped Brock (again, not mandatory, but I was embracing my heel nature), I ran into the ring after clotheslining him, and Brock followed suit. After a quick, but very awkward cutscene that automatically positioned each wrestler on their starting marks—and which suddenly changed Seth’s clothes from his pre-match attire to what he more traditionally wears in the ring after a series of oddly timed cuts—the match started, with Brock at a slight disadvantage.

The idea of being able to run out during another wrestler’s entrance is a good one. It adds an element of unpredictability when playing with friends, and a sense of authenticity when compared to the product we see on TV every week. I think players need a better sense of when the referee is about to call the match off, because had I known that at first, I would have run into the ring much sooner in my first match—but otherwise this is a welcome addition.

Once the action got going in the right, however, I noticed an alarming problem: all the wrestlers felt particularly sluggish. In every match I played over the course of the evening, with different wrestlers from Wade Barrett to Daniel Bryan, it felt like they all had cement shoes on. This wasn’t just a problem in terms of speed, but also in how fights flowed. Gameplay was relatively unresponsive, with most matches devolving into the counter-fests that had plagued previous iterations of the game. We can only hope that everything is tightened up in the two months before launch, but this was disappointing to see to say the least.

Another issue that has troubled the WWE series is glitches, and this demo was chock full of them. The awkward resetting of the wrestlers at their starting marks was just the beginning; clipping issues, broken animation and ragdoll effects, and awkward cutscenes and replays happening in inopportune moments—like when I was going for a pinfall against my opponent—were all prominent throughout my playtime. While all of these are things that will hopefully be fixed by the final version, with 120 wrestlers on the roster, it’d be shocking if they all could be cleaned up by October’s launch. Even some of the wrestlers themselves seemed unfinished, with the quality difference between characters models for guys like Wade Barrett and Brock Lesnar being extremely evident.

Once a given match gets underway, whether you jump your opponent or not, the combat is the same as it has been in years past. Last year’s stamina meter returns, along with three health bars. You still use the face buttons on your controller to perform a series of strikes, grapples, Irish whips, and finally the pin. The only difference I noticed immediately in the ring is the quicktime grapples that started matches last year have been removed. It’s unclear whether or not they can be turned back on in options, but they were clearly missing from the demo we had.

There is also a brand new pinning and submission system, with the latter being similar to what was seen in EA Sports UFC, where each person has a bar in a circular icon. The hold applier is trying to overlap the defender’s bar, and if they do so for a long enough time, the defender will tap out. It’s a nice change from the button mashing system of years past but definitely takes a few attempts to get used to.

The pinning system is still a timing-based mechanic similar to previous games, but instead of holding a button and then releasing it when a meter fills into a “sweet spot” (resulting in a kick out), there’s now a spinning bar in a circle that only requires a tap of the button in hopes of landing in the target area. The more health you have, the bigger that sweet spot is, but both myself and my opponents found it easier to kick out with this method. In fact, I was kicking out of pinfalls even after three of Brock Lesnar’s F5s, and the other player after two Pedigrees from me.

The tag match I played with Tyson Kidd and Cesaro versus the Lucha Dragons played out similarly, but the one observation I made there is that the AI for your partner is much smarter than it used to be. Whenever I went for a pinfall, my teammate would often intercept the opponent’s tag partner and prevent the pinfall from being broken up—whereas, in last year’s game, I often had to take out both opponents before I could attempt a pinfall. As long as I went for the pin closer to my corner than the opponent’s, there was a great chance my partner was going to jump into the ring and make sure we got the win.

The other mode I got to go hands-on with was 2K’s Showcase mode, which this year follows the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Besides tapping into that nostalgia factor for those of us who grew up in the Attitude Era, Austin had some of WWE’s best matches in the late 90s and early 2000s. The first of the mode’s sixteen chapters sees Austin in the finals of the 1997 King of the Ring against a hobbled Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who was reeling after receiving a Vader Bomb in the semi-finals. Just like previous years, meeting each match stipulation results in a full cutscene, and rewards that would be fitting for the Texas Rattlesnake, before unlocking the next chapter.

The new aspects that are trying to be added to WWE 2K16 this year seem like steps forward, but with foundational elements—like how the wrestlers feel and look when you play—still needing to be fixed before the game launches, I’m admittedly worried about this year’s entry. With a couple of months still before release, I’m hopeful the bumps can be smoothed out and that we’ll see a higher level of quality in the game modes we’ve yet to encounter. If not, WWE 2K may need to take a long look at itself as a franchise before being sent back down to a developmental territory to work on its gimmick.

WWE Legend Stone Cold Steve Austin is turning WWE 2K16 into WWE 2K 3:16.

Stone Cold Steve Austin, a six-time WWE Champion, three-time Royal Rumble winner, and 2009 inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame will officially grace the cover of WWE 2K16 this year. Looking to raise some hell in video game form, the official announcement came via trailer this morning showcasing Stone Cold digging up a key aspect of his past, the Smoking Skulls WWE Championship belt.

Austin was one of WWE’s most celebrated superstars during the Attitude Era of the late 90s, cementing his status as an icon with classic rivalries against Bret “The Hitman” Hart, The Rock, and especially WWE CEO Vince McMahon.

WWE 2K16 will be available for Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3 on October 27.