WWE 2K17 Review
Most people around my age remember seeing Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, and so many classic wrestlers fighting it out for the Heavyweight Championship and watched them with admiration. While many WWE games have offered you the chance to become the champ yourself, WWE 2K17 feels like it’s the first time you are truly earning it. A few years back, the WWE series shifted its focus to being a simulation title rather than its unique blend of sports and arcade. While the latest title in the series has some incredible improvements as it becomes more and more real, it drops a folding table on its own foot as it pulls away from some of the unrealism fans have come to love and enjoy.
From a gameplay standpoint, anyone who has played the WWE series in the past won’t find much in the way of new content: controls, character motion, audio effects, and graphics are what you would expect from a long running sports series. There are upgrades and polishes to show that this is the newest model but there doesn’t feel like any new ground-breaking features. At the same time, that might not be a bad thing: the WWE series has played with a lot of options in the past and it seems they’ve narrowed in on the “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” formula. Characters are unbelievably realistic in both fine detail and how they move, and the stamina system makes sense: you can’t simply sprint everywhere and powerbomb to your heart’s content. For those who have played the last few games it’s easy to pick up and play. For new player, however, it will take a while before you feel like a WWE Superstar, even on Easy.
“Characters are unbelievably realistic in both fine detail and how they move, and the stamina system makes sense”
There has been a logical progression in the controls of the WWE series to the point that – for an experienced gamer – the button mapping makes total sense. However, WWE 2K17 lacks a proper tutorial mode (previous entries would attach rewards to completing complex tutorials). I found myself struggling to pull off intricate aspects of the game with only my memory to draw from. The pause screen does displays a simple button layout but it’s clearly not the same from hands on training.
Of course one of the biggest draws for any WWE game is creating your own Superstar or Diva. The detail that goes into crafting your character has traditionally been staggering with complete body sculpting and amazing work by the online community. 2K17 retains this incredibly in-depth editing for the face, but streamlined customization of the body to selectable pre-sculpted parts. The neck, back, chest, arms, and other groupings have a number of selectable parts to choose and from. While this makes them seem more real in the world of the existing wrestlers, a big part of the fun was making unrealistic characters of both gargantuan and diminutive sizes. I can accept the idea they want to keep characters realistic, but a small childish part of me was disappointed at these limitations.
Characters, championship belts, and arenas can all be unlocked by using an in-game currency called VC which is earned by competing in any kind of match. These unlockables come with a decent enough price tag to make you earn them without feeling staggeringly out of reach, and considering how many items there are to unlock it will still take you plenty of time to get everything.
WWE Universe returns as the evolved GM Mode where you can run weekly shows, set up matches, tag teams, and generally control the entire roster as if the WWE was your own plaything. There are options to allow injuries, tag teams to break up, and a whole host of options that allow the WWE Universe to evolve organically and create a unique experience to your game. MyCareer however is probably the bigger draw for fans of the WWE. In MyCareer, players will make (or use their already created) WWE Superstar and work their way from nobody to WWE Main Eventer through a series of trials and rivalries. This mode makes you feel like a new guy, giving you a generic moveset and training attire while you do a few matches to prove your worth. It’s a nice experience, if a little generic, but the biggest problem actually comes from the moveset.
“2K17 retains this incredibly in-depth editing for the face, but streamlined customization of the body to selectable pre-sculpted parts.”
I spent literally hours painstakingly crafting the moveset for me. Movesets have always been an incredibly in depth experience but now it gets to a point of monotony. This complex list of moves, combined with the difficult to decipher controls, means half of the options you select you might not even see for a while. Wrestlers used to have four taunts and later, a fifth that would make opponents get to their feet to set up a face to face finisher. 2k17 offers a ridiculous 51 taunt settings, each falling into three categories of taunting the crowd, your opponent, and making your opponent get to their feet, from different positions. After the first fifteen or so I was tired of seeing these animations and just skipped it.
Finally happy with my moveset, I entered my character into the MyCareer mode only to discover that you have to rank up to use certain moves and – being a new Superstar – I only had access to D class moves. Granted, I could spend the in game VC points to unlock bundles of moves from various letter grades but the entire moveset I made was reset to a generic set. Thankfully, this change only exists in the MyCareer mode and did not affect it in exhibition matches but I was not prepared for this kind of slap in the face.
Returning to the series is a remarkably well crafted custom championship belt editor that not only makes exemplary looking belts but lets you tweak the small details, alongside a nicely detailed arena creation mode. With these options it’s possible to make a show that is entirely your own and will no doubt be a huge draw to wrestling fans.
With customizable shows, an extensive list of unlockables and a massive roster of both current and classic WWE Superstars, WWE 2K17 sets out to establish itself as a simulation title and succeeds. The controls can be difficult to master, especially with no tutorial option available, and those who enjoy the surrealism possible in previous entries might not be thrilled with the grounded aspects of the game. While there are plenty of things to do, WWE 2K17 relies on the player to find its heart, rather than offering up anything to feel attached too.
***A PS4 review code was provided by the publisher***
- Extensive Customization Options
- Plenty of Unlockables
- Effective Wrestling Simulation
- No Tutorial
- No Body Sculpting
- Overly Complex Moveset Options