Professional Wrestling has become stagnant. The monopoly of Vince McMahon’s WWE has killed creativity and innovation on their flagship show WWE RAW (Not so much on their other brands Smackdown Live and NXT). This lack of new changes and characters has brought on some boredom to the wrestling faithful, to the point where people have been turning away from the show in droves and finding something non-wrestling related to watch. Back in the days of the Monday Night Wars, when WWE was forced to innovate against the popular WCW & ECW brands at the time, things were interesting, exciting and changed the wrestling world many times over.
Why do I bring this up in the beginning of a video game review? Well, that’s because WWE 2K17 is just like the WWE itself. It’s no longer innovating, it’s no longer that creative, and it’s sure as hell not that exciting anymore. Sure, there are some small changes and additions to this years game, but it’s nothing more than restoring the game to the glory that it was when THQ was in charge 3-4 games ago. With 2K Sports pretty much perfecting their simulation changeover for the game last year, I was expecting to see some new innovations that would bring the game forward into a new era – instead, I’m seeing nothing new and possibly less than offered in previous games. This is not a good thing at all.
Game Name: WWE 2K17
Platform(s): PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One & PC
Publisher(s): 2k Games
Developer(s): Yukes & Visual Concepts
Release Date: October 11, 2016 (North America) / October 11, 2016 (Australia)
Price: $59.99 (North America) / $99.95 (Australia)
This year there is no story mode to speak of. The previous Showcase modes which have carried the WWE 2K series since it’s inception have been removed in favor of expanding the MyCareer and WWE Universe modes. While the version of Showcase mode that was featured in WWE 2K16 wasn’t all that great, it still told us a great story and history of one of the best wrestlers of the Attitude Era. What do we have now? Nothing more than a MyCareer mode that gives you a choice at some point to skip NXT in part and become a Paul Heyman guy and then battle against John Cena and others in small and boring story lines. Otherwise, you can continue in NXT and work your way through that brand before moving onto the main roster where you’ll battle John Cena and others in boring story lines.
WWE Universe mode isn’t much better as an alternative. It’s more about playing out TV shows than actual wrestling events. This is shown more through the addition of the Promo Engine. This new mechanic gives you a chance to select lines and have them play out in a choose-your-own-adventure reading style while the crowd either boos or cheers your actions. To be honest, this is completely boring and I hated having to do it in both modes; but I’m a fan of WRESTLING and this is SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT in all it’s glory. Call me the relic of a by-gone era, but I’ll always prefer to spend my time playing a wrestling match over reading a bunch of repeated scripted lines in my video game.
If there was one thing that 2K Sports brought to the table that was innovative and great was their scanning and motion capture systems. Both, at the time, were at the top of the game and produced the most amazing level of graphics that has even been seen in sports games. However, the technology has aged badly. Characters in WWE 2K17 now look like rubber or plastic figures as they awkwardly bounce around as they walk to the ring. This is no more evident than when you play any of the female characters in the game. Sure, they might have plastic parts, but to see them act like living Barbie dolls is shocking to see in a game where the company still boasts about its capture technology. Sorry 2K, but Mattel has better scanning technology than you do now.
But while the characters look like rubber, the spit and polish that is the entrances are still right up there. Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance looks like a great bit of work. The New Day still makes me want to get out of my seat and clap. Even the classic characters look exactly like they did back in their day too and don’t look that out of place with the more modern sets that WWE uses.
One last thing with graphics. This years mode selection screens look like something that you would see in a beta or test version. Simple font lines enclosed in boxes makes for one of the most lackluster yet space saving menus ever put into a wrestling video game. I don’t like the look of it at all, but at the same time, I can understand why they wouldn’t waste time on menus when it takes up space that can be used for other things in the game.
The sound is just the same as last year. A lot of the lines have been recycled from previous games. After experiencing the constantly updating nature of EA’s Madden NFL 17, it’s hard to sit there and listen to JBL, Jerry Lawler & Michael Cole repeat the same shit over and over again. Hell, they didn’t even bother to add Corey Graves and Tom Phillips, or even Byron Saxton when you’re playing the NXT brand in any mode! This shit is fucking lazy and I’m getting sick of it. Another thing that is annoying me to death is the waste of space that is the WWE Soundtrack, a bunch of songs that have been selected by Sean “Puff Daddy/P-Diddy” Combs that plays on repeat in the menus. Surely 2K could have used this space for some more custom or older themes in the Create-A-Superstar mode. But at least the themes that are in the game are crystal clear, that’s something to be praised I guess.
To be honest, I’m not too happy to be talking about the gameplay this year. The changes that were put into WWE 2K16 have remained. Stamina & reversal bars are still here and are as limiting as ever, the opening rock-paper-scissors chain wrestling and rest hold moves are still here and are more annoying than last time as the computer instantly knows how to one-up you at all times, and the god-damn submission struggle system is still here… But thankful you can switch it out for a less annoying button mashing version that is somewhat fair to both sides. Other then that everything else is the same. You’ll be guessing for hours how to do something like moving your opponent around the ring, how to use OMG! moments and everything else because the game never explains anything and there is no manual or tutorial modes anymore. The collision detection is crap still, after so many games it’s still impossible to make a good wrestling game with decent collision detection. Characters will slide around the ring a lot more in WWE 2K17 because it’s more about the animations than the moves themselves… And the less I say about the reversal system still being broken, then further away from a rage induced heart attack I will be.
In terms of match types to select, I feel like there are less of them this year, but that could be an illusion brought on my the extremely basic menu system. But I know there is a new mode and a couple of small new features that are worth talking about. The new mode is the Backstage Brawl, which sees two wrestlers fighting through the backstage area of a WWE show. You can go through locker rooms, the interview area, The Authority’s office and more in this mode. This also works in No Disqualification and Falls Count Anywhere modes too which makes things a bit more exciting. Additionally, you can fight through the crowd once more, something that was taken out due to space limitations in previous games, and is a welcome addition to see back. The final new addition is the expansion of the ability to break out of a victory animation and get a little post-match beat down going. It’s a small thing, but it adds to the players choice in their game which is never a bad thing to have.
Create-A-Video & Create-A-Victory have been added to the creation suite this year, which is good for those creative types out there who want to add the personal touch to their created Superstars, but we still do not have a custom soundtrack option on latest generation consoles, something that I hope is fixed by 2K allowing theme updates as the game goes on and wrestlers change their gimmicks. We also lost Create-A-Story , something that was present on the last generation of gaming consoles. Though to be honest, it wasn’t that much of a lose. Create-A-Superstar has been streamlined too, so less loading between parts… Even if the part options have been reduced again in favor or more generic outfits.
At the end of it all, there are some small changes here and there in WWE 2K17, but all it’s really done is brought the game back to where it was with WWE ’12 by THQ. I know 2K Sports wants to make WWE 2K17 more along the line of their other sports games, more simulation style, but that’s not what wrestling fans want. Wrestling isn’t about stat management and the management of the wrestler in the ring, it’s about red hot action and getting your Smackdown on. Somewhere along the way the WWE 2K series has lost that feel and now only appeals to those people who love 2K Sports games over EA Sports games. WWE and wrestling fans deserve better, we need more than Yuke’s hands on the development and 2K Sports simulation management in control of the creative side of things. To be honest, this is the last WWE 2K game I’m going to spend my money on. This is going to be a series where I’ll wait and but maybe every second or third game in the series rather than the yearly spend it used to be.
Speaking of spending, one last rant. WWE 2K17 is just expensive. Now while I could just have bought that standard edition for $99.95 and be done with it, I know I wouldn’t be getting the whole experience if I did it that way. So as usual, I bought the Collectors Edition (This year named the NXT Edition) which gave me a Figure I’ll never display (I miss the Funko Pop Vinyls), a trading card that’ll gather dust, an NXT pack that will be in the store anyway, and Goldberg from pre-order which will just end up in the store eventually. This NXT edition cost me AUD$150, which is a lot to fork out in order to get the full base experience. Then on top of that I dropped $15 on the MyCareer KickStart pack as grinding through the mode takes forever to get anywhere (This is by design. 2K wants you to get frustrated and buy the KickStart), and also the Season Pass at $45 to make sure I get the rest of the roster and moves that were left out of the game on purpose (And don’t tell me they didn’t, since they announced everything with in-game models before launch). This means in order to get the full WWE 2K17 experience I had to shell out AUD$210! This will just not do anymore. I’m sick of it. Couple this blatant ripping off of consumers with 2K’s recent change to giving review codes to streamers and YouTubers months before release so they can ruin any chance of websites getting some attention and I’m just fucking done with 2K and the WWE 2K gaming series.
*WWE 2K17 was provided by 2K Sports USA for review purposes, however, this review is based on the Australian retail NXT Edition, purchased by the author. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please take a look at our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Stagnation is not innovation
WWE 2K17 tries very hard to innovate itself back into what the game was at the height of the THQ era, but also tries too hard to be a complex simulator. While simulation works for it's other sports titles, 2K didn't need to morph the WWE series into the same thing. 2K continues to try and turn players away with their innovation in everything but DLC practices and graphics. This is what WWE games should have been 3 games ago, now it just feels like stagnation... Like watching WWE RAW.
- Good to see the game getting closer to what it used to be in creation modes
- The biggest roster ever through many generations
- MyCareer mode is more robust than ever
- Fucking DLC Season Pass bullshit!
- Characters look more plastic than realistic
- Controls have become too complex for newcomers