WWE 2K17 is here, looking to build on the momentum from last year’s “Stone Cold” Steve Austin-headlined affair. With all the bells and whistles being promoted, including a possible actual tie-in match with Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg, how does this year’s big-budget wrestling game compare to what we’ve already seen? It certainly doesn’t feel like what WWE is like in 2017, or 2016 for that matter.
It should be noted, before I get too far into the review that, yes, I get it. Game development takes lots of time, and radical changes cannot be made to games without months or years to further develop on the new changes. I also understand that the WWE has recently made massive changes to the structure of the organization, with the brand split, new announce teams and sets. These changes were made too recently to allow the developers to reflect them in WWE 2K17. It’s unfortunate, but I understand.
Despite that, this game still feels like it belongs in 2015 instead of present day. Aside from a few major additions like AJ Styles and the Four Horsewomen, nothing else seems new.
The announce team is the most glaring example of the game’s outdated feel. The three men behind the table in WWE 2K17 are Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler. Those three haven’t been an announce team for ages. Even if we ignore the changes after WrestleMania 32, where’s Byron Saxton? Where’s Mauro Ranallo?
As far as in-ring gameplay, things are pretty much identical to what we’ve already seen. Gameplay is pretty smooth and generally works, but like WWE 2K16, matches still come down to if you can reverse your opponent’s attacks or not. If you can’t get your reversals down, you’ll lose just about every time. The biggest changes are the addition of backstage brawling and interactive promos. Unfortunately, both fall flat.
Backstage brawling is definitely the cooler of the two big new features, but it lacks direction. It’s great that we can finally fight in some place besides the middle of an arena, and the addition of side rooms to find new weapons to use is fun. The issue is these backstage brawls are often presented like regular matches, but there’s not really anything to tell you what to do. There’s no clear finish like there is with a pin or submission.
Interactive promos seem like a great idea as well, but these are worse than what we’ve had in WWE 2K16. You get the opportunity to pick from four options every time you speak, but these options are usually vague and don’t reflect the full promo. I would often pick what I thought would be a good “face” thing to say, only for the actual dialogue to include swearing and other “heel” characteristics. Maybe this gets easier if you increase your promo abilities, but it just seems confusing and overly complicated from what I’ve experienced.
You can also have dueling promos, where you and another Superstar go head-to-head on the microphone. These suffer the same issues as before, but the way the game generates the text for promos doesn’t quite work. You end up yelling back and forth, sometimes about related things but often not.
Promos also feature paragraphs worth of text each time you talk. This means enough dialogue could never be recorded to make the promos sound good. Unfortunately, promos are instead done with the characters flapping their mouths and no sounds coming out. It’s jarring when you see two men in the middle of a ring yelling at each other, but not hearing any of it.
Perhaps my biggest complaint is the weird way WWE 2K17 is presented. When playing through MyCareer mode, you still set up each show with the match you’re in, if you want to run in on an opponent’s match or if you want to do a promo between matches. Once done, instead of simply simming to the points you want to play, you’ll have to sit through the opening of the show you’re starting.
This means you have to watch through the opening for NXT, Main Event and the rest EVERY. TIME. I didn’t ever want to know the lyrics to the Main Event theme song, but I have no choice any more. From what I can tell, this can’t be turned off either. Add in the dated, repetitive commentary and I’m pretty sure WWE 2K17 actually wants you to mute it when playing. You certainly will not be missing anything if you do.
As for any improvements, the graphics do look much nicer than previous games. The biggest addition is an upgrade to the lighting, which really helps make everything look and feel more authentic.
The creation tools also feel improved. There are more options to customize your wrestlers, the create-an-arena mode is a nice touch, and with the ability to change your MyUniverse mode as you see fit, you can get things looking like they do on TV.
Throw in a complete lack of a Showcase mode, and it’s really hard to recommend WWE 2K17. Aside from the improved graphics, there’s just about nothing new that’s worth getting the latest game. If you don’t have any wrestling game, WWE 2K17 is still pretty enjoyable. The core mechanics are still solid, and gameplay is fun and addicting. That being said, WWE 2K16 is almost identical, and doesn’t feature any of the annoying presentations or directionless gameplay. It’s also going to be cheaper, and you can probably find a used copy for a decent price.
So what do you think? Have you been playing WWE 2K17 yourself? Do you think you’ll be getting it soon, or will you stick to WWE 2K16? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.