- Prima Interactive
- Prima Interactive
- Single Player, Multiplayer, Co-op
- Playstation 4
- Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Wrestling games are quite difficult to get right. Compared to other sports games where simulation and arcade occupy opposite ends of the spectrum (and are developed based on which side is favoured – NBA2K vs NBA Jam for instance), WWE 2K17’s are tasked with balancing the two, creating a simulacrum of a well-considered theatre, one where thrills are designed to be spontaneous but are meticulously planned and laid out. Given the headiness of sports entertainment, it’s quite inaccessible to the casual fighting fan…and while it may seem like a no-brainer for WWE fans, the fan-service could have been a little better. Here’s why…
Annualised titles are notable for incremental updates rather than massive overhauls of game engines, mechanics or real innovation that is often afforded to titles that have taken years to develop. The recent WWE games felt fresh because of the showcase mode, a somewhat linear, narrative-driven story mode that tackled an era, a theme, a rivalry or a Hall of Fame career.
In a year where Fifa launches a brilliant career mode, it seems almost criminal for 2K to ship without one. Some of my fondest memories of modern wrestling games are linked to the showcase mode (my favourite was recreating Diesel vs Undertaker’s infamous Wrestlemania 12 match – a significant event in my formative years. Showcase mode’s mini in-game objectives also broke from the often monotonous format of a regular match and I replayed many matches to ensure I hit all the win conditions. Given the resurrection of Goldberg as a pre-order bonus, it would have been great to have a showcase mode that highlighted his rise to fame. The evolution of NXT from its gimmicky beginnings to arguably the hottest thing in wrestling would have also made for a great Showcase mode. The invasion angle, 30 years of Survivor Series, Ruthless Aggression and ‘best stables’ would have all made for rewarding and enjoyable showcase entries.
I’m a huge WWE fan, having played almost every licenced games, and a ritual I’ve embraced since WWF Wrestlemania Arcade (over 20 years ago) was to choose the Undertaker for my first match (the roster builds on last year’s impressive headcount with 136 superstars from across a variety of eras). I opted to face off against veteran and WWE newcomer, AJ Styles. While the character models for the crowd were a little on the ugly side, Taker was spot on (his nose was perfect and he had age in his eyes). AJ was less flattering. Yukes have yet to perfect hair so it’s harder to pull off certain superstars. John Cena is spot-on, but Dana Brooke is legit horrifying. I noticed a few of the older animations lingering but overall the graphics are serviceable, if not a little samey to WWE 2K16. Here’s hoping 2K18 takes a page out of UFC 2. Online was generally smooth although I much prefer to invest my time in the MyCareer mode (even though it often felt like a grind). Earning points that could be used to unlocking characters, buying moves and attributes provided incentive to stretch matches out and mix up my offense. Lots of points for this. Similarly, Universe mode added a lot more rbanching stories than previous years and does a lot to make up for the lack of a showcase mode.
The soundtrack is very good, with quite a few catchy tracks, however I recommend you incorporate the wrestlers entrance music as the playlist is quite limited. Pity they don’t have Bobby Roode in the game as his theme is glorious! Commentary is pedestrian at best, with quite a few unintentional gaffes. It was never a strong point for the franchise so I never go in expecting much.
My biggest gripe with the game is the roster – while burgeoning, its outdated and doesn’t incorporate the radical changes that took place with the brand split. 2K are aggressively patching the game as I write this (with some hefty download sizes) and it would be great to get a content refresh pack that includes the Smackdown Live branding.
New to WWE 2K17 is promos, and while it was included with the best of intentions, it really feels half-baked as there’s zero recorded audio so it falls flat (this includes not having any audio from Renee Young when she interviews you). I wish they would have recorded various voices reading the lines. I also feel that the promos are a parody of wrestling as the writing was often cringe-worthy (I didn’t want my wife walking past the screen while I was choosing dialogue options for promos as most of the options were embarrassing and lame.
Here’s an image of my character, ‘Mufti Muscles’. The creation suite was a little tough to navigate, with some odd user interface choices – there’s an unnecessary confirmation step for every choice and unless you click start, it doesn’t save your choices. An interesting aside is that you can choose South Africa as your country but it only gives you Pretoria and Cape Town as cities. I don’t expect them to have Ixopo (sorry readers from Ixopo) but Durban and Johannesburg are plausible. They do get extra points for having my first name as an option, although Muhammed is the most common name in the world so it’s odd that so many games don’t have it as an option.
Reflecting on this review I might sound a little harsh, I think it’s because I’m such a fan of the sport, and while WWE 2K17 loses points for removing the showcase mode, it’s still an essential purchase for professional wrestling fans and will provide hours of enjoyment. Just expect it to be silent a lot of the time.
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