The WWE is renowned for glitz and glamour. Larger than life superstars clashing in the ring, battling for supremacy. WWE 2K17 was the first title enhanced for the current generation, so you would expect WWE 2K17 to build upon this and take it much further. It does in some ways, but in others it is just a little bit baffling.
Let’s start with the most important part – the in-ring action is fantastic. It was good previously and it builds upon that. There are a couple of new changes to the action which help – the first is the major/minor reversal system. If you time it right you can reverse an attack, which costs you a reversal slot (these rebuild over time). However, if you hit a different timing window then you can perform a major reversal – which costs two slots. The benefit of this is that your opponent then has a timed window in which they cannot perform any reversals themselves – this adds a layer of strategy to the action and helps replicate the feel of a real match.
The limited ‘target focus’ option of 2K16 is replaced now with a better signposted and more dynamic option – you can change who your target it is at any point now rather than having to stand perfectly still. However, whilst this makes multi-man matches that much more playable, the frame rate takes a dive when six characters are all in the ring. It remains playable but it is noticeably slower. Another dynamic to multi-person matches is the rollout feature. If someone takes enough damage, they roll out of the ring to recover until such time as their meter returns. This helps replicate the feel of real-life wrestling and is a welcome addition.
The taunt system has had an overall. Pushing a taunt button now gives you a damage buff, a crowd buff (helping you reach your finisher quicker) or forces your opponent on their feet. It’s nice to have some more of a function for taunts but each wrestler performs a random taunt from a selection, and can leave you open if it elects to perform a lengthy one rather than a short taunt. There are context sensitive ones too, near the ropes, on a turnbuckle etc but the variety here is very limited and most of the wrestlers end up doing the same thing.
Roster size is massive. The largest roster to date, by default it includes a lot of the previous DLC characters from the last game too. Oddly though, the character models don’t quite look so good as in the previous release. The horrible, nightmare-ish smile all of the women had is thankfully gone, but they all look a bit rougher in general. This is a bit of a theme for the 2K17 release in general, whereas a lot of time has been spent in certain aspects (specifically customisation – more on that later), the overall presentation has taken a hit.
Gone are the bright, high definition images adorning the menu and character select screens. Instead your main menu is a text list. This is hugely underwhelming although at least remains functional. If I look for the positive this could be a love-letter to the AKI version of WWF No Mercy, heralded by many as the best simulation wrestling game ever, but in reality I suggest it’s a lack of time/resource/budget. Character selection has also lost HD photos of the wrestlers, replaced with in game models. Some are done reasonably well to be fair, whilst some look horrible.
Perhaps some of the presentation budget was allocated to P Diddy who curated the soundtrack. It’s only played in menus and aside from Paranoid by Ozzy, it’s most rap nonsense which may or may not be your cup of tea. Regardless, it doesn’t really fit well with the tone of the game – thankfully you can get rid and replace the themes with wrestler entrance music.
Fortunately, there is some evidence that the entire budget wasn’t blown on P Diddy’s fee. There is a lot of customisation options here, a frankly scary amount. You can create your own wrestler, of course – this time though loading all of the elements are much quicker to generate previews of what you are building. You can create your own arena, your own show and schedule, a championship belt, an entrance video. You can even cut and save moments from in game matches and use this for your custom videos. The customisation extends to the Universe mode – a curated build of shows, feuds and matches, you can adjust or tweak this to your heart’s content and it very much suggests that this year, it is your WWE.
Sadly, the main attraction this year is gone. There is no Showcase mode which has served as the main event, highlighting past feuds, careers, historic events. Given the focus on Brock Lesnar and his ‘Suplex City’ as cover athlete, there could have been some good stuff here. Instead, Universe does a good job of stitching together matches for fans who want some direction outside of straight exhibition bouts, or there is the MyCareer mode.
MyCareer takes you from a prospect, through the ranks of WWE. Oddly I completely missed NXT (the typical entry to WWE) and went straight to RAW. Like last year it is a relentless slog of matches backwards and forwards with limited excitement. There is a new promo mechanism where you choose what to say to the crowd and build your good or bad guy persona, but it’s limited to text selection and text speech (with a lengthy animation). It’s a good try but I think there will be a focus on this next year.
Attributes are awarded through Virtual Currency which also lets you choose to unlock wrestlers, arenas or Championship belts. I like this system – being able to choose what you want to unlock is good and reminds you that this is your game.
A solid effort then this year for WWE 2K17. The customisation aspect helps make up for some of the presentation drops although the Showcase element missing is a shame. It’s worth noting that at time of writing there is a bug on PS4 where if you leave your PS4 in sleep mode, it will erase all of your game save data. I suffered this and had to start over which is fairly annoying once you’ve spent a lot of time creating various bits given the level of customisation on offer here.
Reviewed on PS4