SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
A few weeks ago, I picked up “WWE 2K17” and “Gears of War 4” from a local store. I was with friends, so when I grabbed the games off the shelf I made sure to keep “Gears of War” on top when I handed them to the cashier. Then I shielded my friends’ view of the exchange with my shoulder as they talked amongst themselves in the checkout line, in hopes they wouldn’t actually see me purchasing 2K17. It isn’t that I didn’t want them to know I’m a wrestling fan; they were already well aware of that. It’s more that I didn’t want them to know that I was buying another wrestling game.
Friends have seen me play WWE games in the past. If they’re wrestling fans and they’re playing with me, we usually have fun. If they’re not playing with me and are just watching me as I play alone, it doesn’t go nearly as well. They’ll laugh at the myriad of glitches, awful commentary, and the other presentation issues that plague these games and then question why I’d lower myself to play them. Unfortunately for me, WWE 2K17 isn’t nearly polished enough to break that trend.
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this review, it’s important to note that wrestling games, much like actual professional wrestling, are best divided into two parts: presentation and in-ring action.
From a strictly in-ring perspective, WWE 2K17 is excellent. A lot of the gameplay elements that were implemented over the last few years like the stamina system and limited reversals gel really well this year. Limited reversals in particular help to force a realistic approach to matches. Instead of playing as if it were a straight fighting game where you’d try to block and attack at every turn, having a limited number of reversals encourages you to actually strategize like a wrestler. The idea is to get your opponent to waste their reversals early in order to have an advantage down the line. When your opponent has exhausted all of their reversals, you can then cut them off and build a lead. Now you can adjust the speed at which the reversals replenish, so the flow of the match is now more in your control than ever.
This year’s new major gameplay addition is the rollout system. In the past, multi-person matches like triple threat, fatal-four-way, and Money in the Bank ladder matches were often too chaotic to be truly enjoyable. With this new system, a high impact maneuver at certain points in the match will send you or one of your opponents out to the floor. On paper, it may sound like it takes some control out of the hands of the player, but in practice it adds drama and more closely mirrors actual pro wrestling matches.
The in-ring action has probably never been better than it is this year, although it can be argued that many of the presentation elements have never been worse.
A lot of WWE’s 2k17’s presentation is completely incongruous with the level of promotion the game has received. It’s hard to imagine that a game with this level of screen tearing, framerate drops, and AI issues is the focal point of the Brock Lesnar-Bill Goldberg matchup WWE is building towards on television.
The 2K Showcase that’s been the focal point of recent games has been removed and what we’re left with on the single-player front is My Career mode and Universe mode. 2K Showcase had players recreate epic matches and moments in WWE’s history in a way that felt really polished and major league. My Career basically returns players to the grind of creating a WWE Superstar from the ground up (who, if you do it right, I suppose should look just like Randy Orton) and have him rise up the card. It’s pretty much every career mode you’ve ever played, but it’s fairly well done.
Universe Mode, however, is more or less a disaster. Universe Mode is the mode that ideally should keep you playing this game until the next one comes out. It’s supposed to recreate the WWE experience by having feuds organically play out the way you’d see on television, adding much needed sizzle to the steak. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough cut scenes to make these feuds unique. I had a feud on Raw between Finn Balor and Rusev over the United States Title that had many of the same cut scenes as a Smackdown feud between Dolph Ziggler and the Miz for the Intercontinental Title.
In addition to the paucity of cut scenes, there are a ton of other issue that rear their ugly head over time. You’ll notice at times the camera is angled off of the wrestler who is supposed to be featured in some instances. In championship matches, even if the champion retains the title, Lilian Garia will announce them as the new champion. Worse yet, if you use any alternative attires for any of the characters in Universe Mode, one or both wrestlers involved in the cut scene will appear invisible.
I mentioned earlier that gameplay was perhaps better than ever and, while I definitely feel that, it’s worth mentioning that there are a number of issues that tend to pop up on that end as well. I’ve had multiple six-man elimination tag team matches where I’d be in a two-on-one scenario where I’d have the advantage, but my A.I. controlled partner would come in and break up my attempts to win the match. Also, I’ve had tag matches where the A.I. controlled illegal man will get stuck running in place and get disqualified due to his inability to leave the ring.
All of these issues really take you out of the game and some of them, namely the problems with Universe Mode, are ones that we see year after year. I’ve been playing wrestling games for as long as I can remember and I can say for sure that when things in WWE 2K17 work the way they’re supposed to, it’s as good as anything I’ve gotten my hands on. But the lack of polish at this point in the series is embarrassing. It’s the ultimate party game for wrestling fans for sure, but the single player experience leaves a lot to be desired.
I give WWE 2K17 a 3 out of 5.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS AMADI’S TAKE: AMADI’S TAKE: WWE has an opportunity with Dolph Ziggler’s win last night to create a babyface fans can unite behind