Review: WWE 2K17 (PS4)

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV
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Title: WWE 2K17
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (58.54 GB)
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: 2K
Developer: Yuke’s / Visual Concepts
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Annual sports games are a vicious cycle that prevent developers from making dramatic changes from game to game. They’re only able to make small changes and additions which leads to games either marginally improving or becoming stale over time.

With WWE choosing to define itself as Sports Entertainment, it means we get a new wrestling game every year for better or worse. This cycle leaves us with yet another mediocre WWE game in WWE 2K17, a series that continues to show potential, but misses the mark on a consistent basis.

Before we get into my issues with the game and its primary game modes, let’s talk about some positives.

WWE 2K17 continues to build upon the huge roster it had last year, making this year’s even larger. Now the roster features the women the previous iteration was missing plus a good chunk of the NXT talent and recent hires. Fans can now play as Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch as well as Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, A.J. Styles, and more. The roster is simply fantastic and gives players a lot of characters to play around with.

I have always enjoyed the gameplay of WWE games and the newest version adds more depth and options that mirror a real-life match-up. Specifically multi-person matches have been greatly improved as now A.I. opponents move out of the way after big spots or will focus on other characters instead of everyone focusing on you. This makes ladder matches, battle royals, and triple threats more bearable experiences.

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Last year the submission mini-game was introduced and it was pretty rough, but this year it feels slightly improved, at least on the defensive end. I dreaded the submission mini-game in 2K16 and while it still feels difficult to win with a submission hold, getting out of one is slightly easier.

Outside of new animations and some tweaks here and there the game plays like it has in the past. It has small improvements, nothing major. The gameplay is solid at best, it’s just everything else that feels lackluster.

The 2K Showcase is absent this year, and for those unfamiliar, it was a mode in which you would relive historic matches from the WWE’s past. Usually it would follow a couple wrestlers through a storyline and would tie into the cover athlete. This year Brock Lesnar is the cover athlete and it makes sense not to go into his career because it would not be a fun past to dive into.

… a cool glimpse behind the curtain of the WWE …
He’s a pretty overpowered character in the WWE universe so he lacks major stories or conflicts to relive. And the previous WWE games ran the well dry in terms of other storylines to replay. There have been multiple games that have covered the Attitude Era and WrestleMania so abandoning that mode means they could double down on Career Mode right?

Career Mode is a real bummer this year as it has been in previous years. Since it was introduced into the series it has always shown glimpses of fun, but in the end falls flat.

As usual, players can create a wrestler using the deep character creator and start from the ground up in the WWE at NXT. It’s a cool glimpse behind the curtain of the WWE as you start out in the Performance Center and have some tryout matches, the final one being against Samoa Joe. The outcome of the match apparently determines your play on the roster.

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Since I beat Samoa Joe I was pushed to the main roster instead of the starting in NXT which kind of felt unnatural considering how the WWE works now. It did at least save me from grinding my way through a bunch of NXT matches.

Once on the main roster you choose a championship to chase and begin your climb up the rankings. In theory pulling some victories together and earning five star rated matches should move you up, but it rarely does and it leaves the mode feeling like a total grind.

… a huge misstep …
Throughout this grind you will make allies and rivals. The rivals side is where you can mess with the newest feature in the game, the promos. Promos are a big part of the WWE. These are where the stories are told.

Promos in WWE 2K17 are too weak to deliver any sort of meaningful stories sadly. Promos breakdown into dialogue trees. Each line of dialogue is selected from four choices and players are rated based on stringing together a coherent promo. The problem is that the writing is awful, it’s cheesy, and feels like it was written by someone who has never watched WWE, or at least good WWE. Figuring out what the game wants is a puzzle in itself.

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During my career, I won the United States Championship and the Royal Rumble and I rarely moved up in the rankings for the WWE Championship. I won most of my rivalries and the ones I lost made little sense. To add salt to the wound that is the promo feature, the game removes the ability to perform them during a rivalry which is a huge misstep. Meaningful rivalries need both wrestlers to have the chance to tell a story on the microphone and removing the player’s chance to do so blunts the rivalry.

In addition to collecting championships, you can try to become a “Paul Heyman Guy” which is just another shallow brass ring. Paul Heyman lays out challenges, all of which are time consuming, and he only pops up from time to time to give advice. That’s it. The career mode is another grind that lacks depth and story.

… a more realistic depiction of a WWE match …
The other major mode available is the Universe mode. Here you have the ability to make your own WWE product by managing rosters, championships, and setting up shows. The amount of customization is fantastic, but like the Career mode, it lacks story depth to make anything feel meaningful unless you use your imagination to create one for yourself.

You can spend a long time crafting the roster for a show or building up the rankings for a championship, but at a certain point it feels like it’s all for nothing.

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Visuals:
If there is one thing this series has going for itself it’s the visuals, which continue to improve more than regress. A good chunk of the current day wrestlers show a great deal of detail in the face scans and it’s clear when a wrestler has been face scanned. Then there are the wrestlers where it’s clear they were not scanned and they look bizarre, especially when standing next to their better looking counterparts. This is apparent with the legacy wrestlers and even some current wrestlers or non-wrestling characters.

Wrestler’s entrances continue to improve and the game is able to pull off some great ones this year with good camera cuts and other visual effects. You can clearly tell when an effort was made for an entrance and when it was not.

Animations are tighter and there’s more variety in character’s abilities to move around the ring and reflect a more realistic depiction of a WWE match. There are still some bugs that pop-up, but for the most part when they do happen it’s more hilarious than frustrating.

… The whole commentary team is just a paint by numbers ordeal …
Audio:
Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and John “Bradshaw” Layfield (JBL) return to the commentary team which is unfortunate because if you watch the current television product, there are new commentary teams. The stale trio has been either replaced or moved around on current day television much to the delight of fans, so this inclusion just ages WWE 2K17.

Changing the commentary team will only fix one of the issues with the game because the writing and pacing of the commentary is terrible. It sounds as if there are three different conversations going on. The lines shouted by Cole and company rarely flow and they often talk about old real-life storylines instead of anything you have been doing in the career mode.

Simple moves like a bodyslam will receive the highest praise from Lawler as if it was an amazing or special thing. And to just bother the wrestling nerd that I am, the commentary will often talk about a match between two jobbers (scrubs) as if it was a legendary match in the making.

There are often comments referring to the upcoming match like “it will be an instant classic” or “a match the WWE Universe has been waiting for”. The whole commentary team is just a paint by numbers ordeal that lacks the ability to bring depth to a match.

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Online/Multiplayer:
As per usual you can jump online and fight against friends and it works well enough. I’ve never been an online person for the WWE games, but if that’s what you are into, it worked the few times I tried it.

The backbone of the online in a WWE game is the community and their ability to create amazing things. Players can create wrestlers, championships, and fill all the gaps that are left by the developers due to time constraints and that community is amazing.

… failed to create its own memorable story …
Within a couple days of release the whole Cruiserweight division for the CWC was available and scarily accurate to its real-life counterparts. The past couple of months of WWE have been insane with the influx of new talent within the company and the community has been given the proper tools to create these new people to insert them right into the action.

This helps the Universe mode, especially for those that want to make a recreation of current WWE. I immediately downloaded the CWC competitors, new NXT prospects, and all the new belts recently introduced into the WWE.

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Conclusion:
When the WWE is at its best, it’s firing on all cylinders both inside and outside the ring through storytelling. While WWE 2K17 has the in-ring down, it fumbles in the storytelling.

I was fine with the removal of the Showcase mode, but if the Career mode continues to be this weak, then the lack of Showcase hurts the game. Showcase succeeded because it was retelling great stories from the past and the Career this year failed to create its own memorable story.

Career Mode feels incomplete. It begins to move pieces in the right direction only to fumble them towards the finish. Matches come as a grind with no rhyme or reason behind them and accomplishing feats like overcoming a rival and winning a championship lack substance to convey their importance.

The gameplay continues to improve and I can have a really fun time trying to perform a five star match. The depth of the roster can lead to many possibilities and dream matches especially when the community creations are thrown into the mix. There just needs to be more to do with those characters outside of simply having them available. Once again the WWE and 2K Games have delivered a game that has bursts of potential, yet falls short in the end.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • That was really in depth, bummer to hear the 2k games continue to disappoint. Last one I picked up was 2k14. Good to hear it still had an amazing creation community. I saw some clips online and some of the arenas going back to some sick old school WCW arenas really had me stoked.

    • MJC

      Thanks for reading. I really want these games to be better so I tend to try and go in-depth with them. They could do so much with the My Career mode if they wanted, but they always find a way to mess it up.