Last week I had the opportunity to go to Dogpatch Studios and play WWE 2K17 prior to its release. I have played the WWE games on and off occasionally throughout their previous iterations and was never drawn in or blown away by them. They were never bad, but just never spoke to me as a video gamer and someone who had never been into wrestling. 2K17 however will be a game that I buy. They managed to create an experience that works for wrestling fans, sports fans, 2K fans and good video game fans equally. New to a wrestling game? Start career mode and you will get the most detailed and intuitive tutorial I have ever seen in a game like this. Are these games an old hat? Play free-play with one of their plethora of game types. A wrestling fan who just wants to see how a match plays out? Play simulation mode and pit two of your favorite stars against each other and see who wins. 2K really seemed to be a step ahead on this one and managed to make an extremely well balanced game that has something for everybody.
In my roughly 5 hours I spent with the controller in my hands I tried to take in as much as possible. I plugged away at the career mode for a good while, completing both the wrestling tutorial and the “trash talk” tutorial. Once complete you are thrust into the world of fame and fortune as a WWE superstar on the rise. You track friendships and rivalries, your standing with “The Authority”, sales of your merchandise, how the crowd perceives you and everything else you can think of. Every match you play and how you play it directly affects all of these stats. They aren’t arbitrary numbers either, your standing in career mode also affects how the matches play out for you. The career gives you a great feel for several different game types, and as I mentioned previously there are a LOT of them and they are all unique.
Before jumping into your career you will create your custom superstar. This process is both incredibly in-depth and very enjoyable. The level of customization you have rivals even the most hard-core RPGs out there, allowing you to craft not only the physical appearance but also a back story, home town and various other aspects of your character’s life. These all come into play during matches with how your character walks out, what kinds of signs get held up in the crowd, how you are received and how the match itself plays out. The walk-out has been greatly improved over previous versions of the game. Real life video from the WWE universe plays out behind you as you walk toward the ring, with music and intro’s from real superstars going on. The loading screens also have announcers commenting over it, keeping the game feeling live and real.
The game itself plays great, the controls are intuitive and not hard to grasp. Graphically there is a noticeable update from last year’s offering, with smoother interaction between characters and better facial graphics. The superstars look like their real life counterparts and represent themselves rather well. You have such a vast number of options when it comes to game types, you can play one on one, two on two, cage matches, ladder matches, hell in a cell, extreme rules, no rules, etc. I tried everything I could and they all played differently. Different strategies were required for each match and each game type. You have to play off not only the game, but off of which wrestler your opponent is. You cannot attack John Cena the same way you come at A.J. Styles. They all require different approaches and learning what to do is a big part of what makes it fun and challenging.
All in all, WWE 2K17 is definitely a game to watch. If you are a veteran who plays every year, you will be extremely impressed with the upgrades that they have made. If you are someone who stepped away for a while, now is definitely the time to come back. If you are new to the franchise I can think of no better way to jump in and try it out. As someone who hasn't played these games much lately I was extremely impressed with what 2K has done here to make such an appealing and well-built video game. I am very much looking forward to playing WWE 2K17 at launch.