REVIEW-A-MANIA IS RUNNING WILD, BROTHER!
Well its October, which means its time for Yukes’ and 2K’s latest installment of their long running WWE 2K series. As the huge wrestling nerd that I am, I’m always keen for WWE 2K no matter how terrible it turns out to be. That said, it has been getting a little tough to get too fired up of late as more often than not, with the recent WWE 2K games feel more like glorified roster updates than proper continuations. But with the promise of a raft of changes along with the biggest roster ever featured in the franchise, WWE 2K17 has all the potential to be a truly great instalment of the franchise. Welp, enough with the introduction: let’s take a trip to Suplex City…though not actually, because if I got taken to Suplex City, I would die.
One of the biggest selling points for this year’s edition of WWE 2K was the aforementioned massive roster, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. WWE 2K17 brings us a fantastic mix of stars old and new, from the crow-pleasing debuts of modern favorites like The Phenomenal” AJ Styles, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte to a raft of legends and stars of the past…and also The Bushwhackers, for some reason. While some of the more exciting additions like Shinsuke Nakamura and Austin Aries have been squirrelled away fro DLC purposes, the standard roster is nonetheless incredibly impressive. This year’s roster also doesn’t feel quite as dated as certain rosters in the past have, which is a very refreshing change of pace, with most near everyone being very current in terms of looks and attire, save for a few exceptions.
And speaking of looks, WWE 2K17 looks as impressive as ever in the graphics department. The last few editions of WWE 2K have benefited endlessly from this console generation’s added oomph and power and it’s on full display here with environments and wrestlers being detailed down to a fine point. The in-game crowds also look as great as they ever have, and have left the days of cardboard cutout people far behind them. That said, however, while most of the wrestlers look great, not all of them quite hit the mark. While some, like Randy Orton for example, are frighteningly accurate, others don’t look quite right, and it can have a certain Uncanny Valley effect at times.
Gameplay-wise, WWE 2K17 is less a huge leap and more a great stride. 2K17 has added a number of nifty new mechanics: taunts, for example, have been modified to provide various buffs upon successful use, as well as being able to set up moves on your opponents, and the options for using certain objects, like tables and ladders, have been expanded upon as well. Another new addition is a revamped version the Backstage Brawl match type, which allows you to beat the ever-loving crap out of your opponent all over the arena, from backstage hallways, to the interview areas, to the crowd areas in the arena. Hilariously, you can even brawl in Triple H’s office…while he’s in there. Suffice it to say, should you get in the way of ol’ Trips in the course of your office brawl, he is not a happy chappy. Besides these features, there are a great deal of minor tweaks and adjustments to gameplay to improve the fluidity of animations and the like. The expansive options for gameplay adjustment also make their welcome return, with the delightful new addition of being able to switch the format of the submission mini-game from the stick-waggle back to the good old fashion button mash, which was a nice touch. With that said, however, the core gameplay remains more or less unchanged, hence why is difficult to call this a full revamping. This isn’t to say that the core gameplay is lacking so much as it has begun to get a tad stale.
Of course beyond the game’s standard Exhibition mode, both Universe mode and MyCareer make their returns for WWE 2K17. Showcase Mode, a staple of WWE 2K for the past few years, has been put out to pasture for 2K17. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it seems its exclusion lead to a renewed focus on MyCareer and Universe mode, introducing a number of improvements and tweaks as well as several new features. Most notable are the changes to MyCareer, which includes a new mini-game where players can cut their own tailor-made promos. Players now also have the opportunity to become a “Paul Heyman guy” and acquire the managerial services of the greatest advocate in WWE history. For the most part, I’ve never found either MyCareer or Universe mode particularly appealing, and while the changes introduced have certainly improved experiences other things, like the inability to retain move-sets for imported created wrestlers in MyCareer, are something of a reminder of the mode’s restrictiveness that turned me off of it in the first place. Both modes also still suffer from the same issues of repetition and frustrating grind-like gameplay that’s still a real turn-off. That said, however, one really great move to come out of MyCareer is that WWE 2K17 now utilizes match ratings and earning of VC (the in-game currency for buying upgrades and moves for your wrestler in MyCareer) in every other part of the game, and VC can now be spent on unlockables. Using VC in this way was an inspired move, since it encourages players to keep playing and rewards them for their spent on the game as opposed to having to complete often frustrating objectives in the game’s previous source for unlockables, Showcase mode.
It didn’t take too long in my time with WWE 2K17 to run into a few performances issues, howver. While most of these weren’t necessarily game breaking, they were very noticeable in places. Crowd reactions would often bug out, with wrestlers who were set to “cheer” or “boo” getting the opposite reaction during my play through, and there were more than a few occasions where I would see crowd members walking through the air above the entrance ramp. Big multi-person matches also tended to tank the game’s performance some, with these matches often causing a great deal of lag or slow-down in the proceedings. The most egregious glitch I encountered was when I was playing, as AJ Styles and I suddenly couldn’t move him at all. While I was often able to overlook these frustrating technical bugs and quirks, my enjoyment of the game took a hit as a result. Immersion and fidelity to the actual WWE show is a big part of my enjoyment of these games, so stuff like this tends to get in the way of that.
WWE 2K17 also boasts the return of the WWE 2K series often insanely detailed creation suite, and this year’s edition did not disappoint in that department. Most all of the creation options from last year’s edition make their return this year, as well as a few new ones such as Create-a-Victory, which allows players to customize wrestler’s victory celebrations. As always, the creation suite’s range of options is incredibly deep…almost too deep at times. Like, as great as it is to be able to choose so many moves for my wrestler, I don’t necessarily enjoy having to spend close to two hours putting it all together. By contrast, Create-a-Superstar has provided a range of new options, as well as streamlining some of the clunkier aspects of customization options. This combined with the elimination of the ridiculous load times between switching items, and creating my own wrestler had never been breezier or more enjoyable. In fact, my final creation was probably the first time since playing one these games where I really felt I was able to make exactly what was in my head. This experience wasn’t necessarily the same for the rest of the creation suite, however. Besides the aforementioned grind that was move-set creation, I also found a few of the interfaces and menus to be rather clunky and at times difficult to use: Create-a-Entrance particularly was an exercise in frustration in my attempts to come to grips with it.
WWE 2K17 is a marked improvement over last year’s offering. With a huge roster, improved gameplay, and some extra shine and polish on its more tried and true elements on the long-running franchise, WWE 2K17 feels like a second wind for the WWE 2K series. Any wrestling tragic owes it to themselves to pick this one up and start taking fools to Suplex City.