I’ve become quite the wrestling fan in recent years, even attending the 2015 Hell in a Cell pay-per-view for my honeymoon. However, even my love for the sports-entertainment spectacle could not cast a positive glow over the newest installment of 2K’s WWE series. Plagued with horrible animation, dated gameplay mechanics, and recycled assets from previous years’ games, this game is more of a JBL than a TJ Perkins (TJ Perkins not in game).
In this review, I will reference many times the previous games in the series. Unfortunately, the reason for this is that not much has changed in recent years. Like the titles before, WWE 2K17 is a wrestling game that allows you to create a wrestler or play as one of your favorite Superstars. A complex system of moves, reversals, and mechanics await any who attempt the game, and—if you’re new to the series—prepare for a fairly intense learning curve.
Starting off in 2K17, I hopped into the career mode, excited to rebuild the man, the legend, (my made-up wrestler from all previous games): Sneaky Pete. The game’s new promo system had been much hyped, allowing your character various dialog options to shout out during their promos. By picking certain options, characters can gain favor with the WWE Universe, or swing their public perception from Face (good guy) to Heel (bad guy), or vice versa. When I was able to finally give this a try, four options were placed in front of me. Unfortunately, much like a Fallout or Mass Effect title, the options are short, truncated versions of the final text, and often don’t properly convey what you are about to say. Even worse, when you do select something to say, your character will stand there, moving their mouth, but no sound comes out. With most promos coming in around 100 words, this means you’ll be doing a lot of reading when in the squared circle of WWE2K17.
In fact—outside of a few short cutscenes—the only voices you’ll be hearing are those of the announcers. Sadly, many of these lines are taken from previous years, and are often miscued. Numerous times after a basic strike, Jerry Lawler would shout “There’s the finisher!” from the announcer’s desk. In one pre-match ambush the commentary was exceptionally poor, not only using the wrong names for those involved, but warning me about count-outs, and contemplating why I was fighting outside the ring (which is the whole point of an ambush).
Another new wrinkle to career mode is the “Heyman Guy” challenges, which revolve around impressing legendary wrestling promoter/commentator/manager Paul Heyman. Note: Paul Heyman is a Heel manager, so… sorry Faces, this entire aspect of the game is not for you. Heyman’s challenges include such things as taking every belt, or holding a belt for a specified amount of time. These are cool challenges that offer lots of VC, but unfortunately alienate those looking to play as a certain type of character.
Despite the WWE brand finally showing respect to its female wrestlers on television, WWE 2K17 fails in properly representing its female athletes. As in previous games, there is still no option to create a female wrestler in the career mode. While at first I wrote this off due to the insane amount of voice acting I figured the game would require (false) or many scripted interactions with the male Superstars (also don’t really exist), there’s truly nothing keeping a female create-a-wrestler from being available in career mode outside of shortcomings from the developer.
And while many male wrestlers received an upgrade to their looks, the female wrestlers’ faces look horrible. Dana Brooke and Nikki Bella took the brunt of the neglect, only recognizable by their ring gear. This is really frustrating as the entire point of playing as a Superstar is to feel like them, which requires quite a stretch of the imagination with the game’s graphical limitations.
There is also no “Showcase” mode this year in 2K17, which I feel is a massive opportunity missed. In past games, this allowed for the proper amount of nostalgia to be injected into the title, allowing those who may have missed huge moments in the company’s trajectory a chance to live through them. Personally, I liked living out those highlights and learning more about the world of wrestling. Unfortunately, this means the only nostalgia to be found comes from the game’s massive (and impressive) roster.
No matter which game mode you play, however, the overall vibe of 2K17 is that it is dated. Not only with poor graphics and locked-in animations that cause the wrestlers to pop around the screen, but dated in the WWE fandom as well. It becomes immediately apparent that you’re playing through the WWE’s past, as characters, arcs, outfits, and more are all ages behind where the show is. For example, a large brand split was announced in May, and happened this summer, sending different characters to different rosters. In no way was this represented within the game—instantly dating it. Now, I know that 2K doesn’t get the budget of a Madden or FIFA game, but I’m not asking for weekly roster updates, I’m just asking to see things that happened in 2016 within WWE 2K17.
I’ve always considered myself a face, though, so let’s not have this review devolve into a squash match. One positive that stands out—and always has in previous games—are the characters’ move sets. All the time spent not updating the rest of the game must go into this aspect, as the characters all have the distinct movements that you can see them perform on one of the weekly shows. Comeback sequences from Apollo Crews and John Cena are immediately recognizable and exciting. Getting hit with Samoa Joe’s Muscle Buster actually feels painful. These are all excellent.
Also great are the backstage fights. Here, you just kick the $#!^ out of your opponent, working your way through the hallways of whatever stadium you’re currently in. At your disposal are garbage cans, equipment boxes, monitors and more. Even more awesome is the ability to Irish whip your opponent through a door and into a room off the hallway. This is a very special moment in the game, evoking the feeling of knocking an opponent to another level in a Mortal Kombat.
The WWE 2K series seems to be suffering from the fatigue of being an annual title, and never has that been more evident than in WWE 2K17. A confusing multitude of controls keep the game from being something fun that anyone can pick up, and a host of glitches keep those who follow the series from wanting to put in the effort. Perhaps it’s time the “New Era” arrives for this franchise.
|Publisher: 2K Sports • Developer: Yuke’s/Visual Concepts • ESRB Date: T – Teen • Release Date: 10.11.16|
Playing WWE 2K17 is as frustrating as being a fan of Dolph Ziggler: There’s a lot of potential there, but those in charge of the game just won’t let it shine.
|The Good||A massive roster allows you to see some familiar faces from wrestling’s glory days.|
|The Bad||The game is as dated as it is confusing.|
|The Ugly||My create-a-character’s custom tee.|
|WWE 2K17 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by 2K Sports for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|