While I am a casual onlooker into the world of Professional Wrestling, I’ve found that it’s the more ridiculous games that are any fun to play. Those that take themselves too seriously often have overly complicated controls and the focus is more on being a simulation of the matches rather than the theatrical nature of the promotion. WWE 2K17 does a little to blur the lines between the physical activity and the drama, but it still feels too much like a simulation rather than a fun game.
There’s a plethora of options for matches that let you quickly and easily get into the game. All the usual suspects are there, from Tag Team Matches, to Hell in a Cell, and even the Royal Rumble. Returning to WWE 2K17 are back-stage brawls and in-arena fighting, which allow Superstars to punch each other in the locker room, the crowds stands, and Stephanie MacMahon’s office, among other locations. You can even transition between backstage and the arena at the cost of a minute or so of loading time.
Controls take a little getting used to, as they’re fairly unconventional, but the majority of basic actions work well enough; grappling and striking, as well as leaping from turnbuckles are relatively simple to perform. Countering moves has always been a challenge at first with WWE games, but that’s part of the back and forth nature of the games. Using a variety of different moves in a match will increase the Star rating for the match and is a great incentive to play the game as intended.
What the game doesn’t do well is explaining things like submission holds. Sure you get the prompt saying how to do it the first time around, but there’s no easy way to look at these explanations again once they’ve been dismissed. It’s the reason why I switched to button mashing rather than using the analogue stick. Some things, such as driving an opponent through the Spanish Announcer’s table aren’t explained at all, though further research suggests it falls under the OMG moveset.
Aside from the vast amount of quick play modes, WWE 2K17 also has two modes for longer term commitment. WWE Universe mode lets you to customise the entire roster, allowing for you to set up your own feuds between Superstars. WWE Universe is sure to appeal to people, but for me personally it’s not anything that’s particularly engaging.
Speaking of customisation and designing your own things, you can create and share custom wrestlers online. New to the creation suite are the ability to create victory poses as well as videos to play during your entrance, which again are amazing to consider. There is also an online mode, though fighting online is fraught with connection issues.
Even though I said previously that I admired the amount of customisation available, the presentation here is overall prehistoric. Audiences have always looked horrific, but this year’s models for some of the wrestlers just look monstrous. I may have no personal affection for Dana Brooke, but she certainly drew the short straw when it came to her character model. It just looks nothing like her. It’s a similar story throughout, though the unlockable Legacy stars do look a little better than newer Superstars.
However it’s not just the visuals that don’t have the right amount of polish. The commentators are somehow even worse than they are in the shows, repeatedly looping their lines, saying where the show is twice, and having a particularly wooden delivery. But the worst offender is when anyone else speaks, as they have no voice acting at all, making their mouths move in slow motion, gurning as they do so. It looks horrific to the point where they should seek medical attention.
While WWE 2K17 has a lot of modes, the bulk of the gaming experience features a more involved sounding MyCareer mode. The idea is to create your own Superstar, then take them through training before debuting on the various shows. From there you can further customise your Superstar, allocate new moves for them to use, and even customise your entrance and victory poses.
Every match you play, even those outside of MyCareer, will accumulate VC. This can be used to increase the stats of your character, purchase skills, and buy more moves to perform. It can also be used to unlock Classic Superstars from across the WWE Brand, as well as arenas to fight in. For MyCareer mode in particular, there are Authority challenges for every match that will not only affect your reputation with that faction, but also reward you with VC upon completion.
New to this year is the notion of being able to cut your own promo. You have the option before each show, unless you’re locked in a rivalry, to shoot your own promo to heighten your appeal to the audience; whether they like you as a Face or loathe you as a devious Heel. You can also call out other Superstars for duels of wit, or use the platform to create/disband Tag Teams.
I’m all for introducing Kayfabe to WWE 2K17, but it just doesn’t go the whole way. You can choose one of four options for dialogue ala Telltale games, but there’s no way to put your own spin on things. Your performance is based on how the crowd reacts to what you say, but all they seem to be focused on is how much you like/hate them, how much you like/hate The Authority, and if you’re tough sounding or whiny.
To put it into perspective, I created a Superstar dubbed “The Prodigy”. His gimmick is a tried and tested one of a pompous Brit thinking he’s better than everyone else – a sort of amalgamation of Hunter Hurst Helmsley and British Bulldog – making a pompous buffoon who struts towards the ring to Rule Brittania looking smug. When it came to promos, trying to stay in character was impossible, as the game just didn’t reward me enough for acting my character as a superior thoroughbred.
By acting as a simulation rather than embracing the promotion silliness, WWE 2K17 misses the mark wildly. What chance they had to make MyCareer a marquee game mode and a game changer was wasted by half-baked ideas. There’s a lot going on with the other modes on offer and it plays better than most wrestling games out there, but its presentation suffers greatly as a result. As a tool for promoting Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar 2, it’s done its job, it’s just a shame that was the best thing WWE 2K17 achieved.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4