Also On: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Yuke's/Visual Concepts
My name is, Paul Rosselli and I’m a certified gamer and a bonafide wrestling fan, and you can’t teach that. This right here is WWE 2K17 and it’s the latest entry in their long running franchise. Badda Boom…ok that’s enough of that. On top of being a lifelong wrestling fan, I’ve also played every entry in the WWE/WWF video game library. After last year’s significant upgrade over 2K15, I was eager to see where 2K Games would take this years entry.
Previous years saw the Showcase mode take us all over the history of the WWE (with sprinkles of WCW and ECW). We went through the Attitude Era, 30 Years of Wrestlemania, Rivalries of multiple Superstars, and the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin. So where did Showcase bring us this year? It is noticeably absent, maybe it got suspended for the year for violating the WWE Wellness policy. The lack of Showcase mode is a huge immediate blow for me. Regardless of how good or bad the mode has been in previous years, I always play through it and enjoy my time with it. I understand 2K said they would have encountered some licensing issues if they made a Showcase mode staring their cover athlete, Brock Lesnar. If that was the case, why not do something different with the mode and feature a rivalry or something that doesn't have to do with Lesnar? So rather than put in the money and work to do a Lesnar Showcase or work on something completely different, we get nothing…we lose, GOOD DAY SIR!
So besides not having a new Showcase mode for this year (if you can’t tell already, I’m extremely disappointed by that), we are given a lot of the same modes from last year’s title (returning/rehash items will become a theme of this review as you will see). The Career and Universe are improved (as they are each year), but that’s just not enough for me. Let me jump into some of the positives before this sounds like a real Smack Down (too easy). The gameplay is the best it’s ever been. That sounds really bold at first glance, but it’s 100% fact.
I’m going to touch on a couple of the gameplay improvements that I really liked. First and one of my biggest problems with the previous years game, the submission system. So rather than completely changing it, they allow you to use the same system from last year OR use a new system where you hit mash the corresponding on screen button until the submission meter is full. The old system was extremely frustrating to me, and made me almost exclusively use non submission style wrestlers. The new system is exactly how a submission meter should be, in my opinion, and immediately changed up my style. I also really enjoy the dynamic of how matches with 4 or more players are treated. Rather than struggling at the end of the match to finally get a pinfall or grab a title in a ladder match, there’s a new out of ring rollout mechanic. As the matches go on, you will encounter moves that will cause your wrestler to roll outside of the ring to the floor. At this point, a new meter will start to fill to show when you can get up and go back into the ring. When you watch actual WWE this is something you see quite often in matches with many superstars, and this was perfectly emulated in 2K17.
The creation tools are still great and include some new options such as create a victory pose and create a video. Expanding the creation tools all work well and really push the envelope in trying to create former superstars, wrestlers from other companies, or just making yourself. Having said all that, there’s still something glaringly missing, and it was a feature of previous years. Adding your own music to the created wrestlers, which was available on previous gen systems back in 2K14. For whatever reason they can’t work on a solution so we can add music to our consoles and then select it for our created wrestlers or existing wrestlers. With 2K14, I remember downloading wrestlers over the network, then adding those former superstars’ music to my game and adding it to their entrances. Royal Rumble matches became classics, filled with a great mixture of included wrestlers and fan created wrestlers with very authentic looks and sounds. This year if you’d like to feature that same Royal Rumble, you would have to choose generic music or existing wrestler music for your created guys. This unfortunately makes me care a bit less about the created wrestler aspect of the game.
While the music option is another disappointment for me, it’s not a deal breaker. You see the create a wrestler isn’t as essential as it was in years prior. 2K17 features the largest roster to date for a WWE game. I could see this being topped every year going forward though. You see almost the entire roster included are wrestlers from last years game. Basically they took all the wrestlers from 2K16 plus all the DLC wrestlers that were offered and added in the handful of people who came into the WWE since 2K16’s release (but not all of the new superstars you would expect make an appearance). I don’t particularly care for the practice of making an NXT add on which includes 3 wrestlers that aren't featured in the standard version… and they’re not just a bunch of jobbers. Forcing fans to buy a special edition of a game to get the most up to date company roster is a shady tactic in my opinion.
Since there isn’t a Showcase mode this year, Yuke's would have to come up with a new way to unlock wrestlers. Their solution was to include a store with in-game currency. I last remember WWF No Mercy featuring a similar option and I definitely approve. The matches you have will earn star ratings, depending on the moves you do, and how the match unfolds. The higher the star rating, the more points you get to spend in the store. In the store you have wrestlers, arenas, and championship belts to purchase. My problem with this harkens back to the recycling of the previous years wrestlers. While it’s cool to have wrestlers to unlock and make your roster larger, it’s far less interesting to have to unlock wrestlers that were all featured in last years game whether that be as DLC or in the standard game. None of the wrestler that can be purchased are brand new to the franchise, which makes unlocking really hit and miss. The extra dig with all of this is that 2K Games made sure to announce the season pass plans, which included many wrestlers that were not included in the game and that have never been in the franchise thus far, current and legends included. Why not feature at least a handful of new legends (or the return of Hulk Hogan)? Maybe I’m just a bitter fan that buys a game every year and expects a bit more; some might be more than happy with this roster.
The gameplay improvements makes WWE 2K17 the most playable entry in the franchise. Mirroring the TV product the closest it’s ever been, with new camera angles, entrance options, and match gameplay features. On the other hand, the features are more of the same and the lack of Showcase mode really hurts the replay-ability. My recommendation is very similar to the route I took with the PES and NHL reviews of this year. If you’re a fan who doesn’t usually play the WWE games or someone that hasn’t picked up an entry in a few years, 2K17 is a great buy with a huge roster of past and present superstars. Fans that stick with the game every year won’t find as much to keep their attention this year, despite some great gameplay improvements. I expect a great Showcase mode next year with some new legends to pair with this year’s great gameplay and 2K Games then might have the ultimate WWE release. They’ve got the whole world in their hands…