As fans of sports video games, we tend to gravitate towards franchises we know we like, while also being cool on the franchises we know we don’t like. For instance, I am a die-hard fan of NBA 2K and MLB The Show. NASCAR and golf, however, are not necessarily in my wheelhouse. For the past few years, WWE games fell in sort of a gray area.
Prior to WWE 2K17, the last wrestling game I purchased was WWE 11 on the PlayStation 3, which followed a gap of another five years or so between purchases. Like many of you, I looked back lovingly on the days of WWF No Mercy on the N64 and felt that modern-day WWE games were unpolished and clunky.
That’s why I let six years go by before even considering another purchase. I perked up once 2K took over, but decided I would give them a few years before diving back in. Now that I’ve spent some time with WWE 2K17, I realize this break was well worth it and that, while some nagging issues remain, 2K is definitely taking this franchise in the right direction.
The Universe and career modes are meaningless without a smooth gameplay experience. I am happy to report that 2K17 succeeds in this area. Is it completely smooth? No. Is it perfect? Of course not. Do improvements need to be made? Absolutely. But whereas the games that pre-dated the 2K takeover felt like they needed a complete overhaul, 2K17 feels like it has a nice foundation that is poised for a breakout release at some point this generation.
That’s not to suggest WWE 2K17 itself is an unsatisfying gaming experience. On the contrary, it is a lot of fun with tons of replay value. The star-rating system for each match adds a twist to every contest. You are actively encouraged to not just beat your opponent, but to put on a great five-star match. You can’t just stomp and hit the same suplex over and over and get a great rating. The game encourages you to mix things up, which is refreshing.
The reversal system is also much improved. As usual, timing is everything, but now you have a limited number of reversals available at a given time before they replenish. In years prior, you could just simply try to reverse every move, which led to boring matches. Now, you have to consider whether you want to try and reverse a simple suplex or if you should save them for when John Cena tries to give you an Attitude Adjustment.
But there are some gameplay tweaks that need to be made. Matches are a lot more fun now, but the pace of each match isn’t entirely accurate. Every match feels like it has the pace of a Kane vs. Big Show. This is fin if you are using larger wrestlers, but a Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler match should feel like it goes at a different pace.
The graphics are on par with what I would expect from a current-gen release. Hair and mouth movements during speeches come off as a bit awkward, but that’s fairly common across the board. Player models are incredibly accurate, even if some of the muscle tones are a bit exaggerated — but not nearly as bad as they were in past releases.
Ring entrances still feel a bit off. Using Sami Zayn as an example once again, 2K clearly studied his mannerisms and dance moves on the way to the ring, but in the game they remind me of the Elaine Benes dance. Lesnar is another example where they got the framework correct, but the animation is a bit awkward. But during gameplay, even if it’s a bit slower than I would like, the wrestlers look great as do the animations. It plays and feels more like an actual wrestling match than ever before, and that’s what really matters.
MyUniverse And Other Thoughts
I don’t begrudge 2K for cashing in on the downloadable content wave that has exploded this console generation. It’s unrealistic to expect anyone to throw away money. But if you take the cost of the game, plus the season pass, plus the other content not included in the season pass, you are spending well over $100 to get the entire game.
Of course, none of this is required. You can simply buy the game and try to re-create the 2K content in the creation studio or search for it in the community section. But having to shell out money to get Gallows, Anderson, Nakamura, Eddie Guerrero and several others is a little frustrating.
That said, the 2K community is a huge asset to this game. You can find an infinite number of belts, wrestlers, you name it. This is especially useful if you want to get really detailed with creating your MyUniverse, which is the mode with which I have spent the most time. Again, it has a great framework and offers a lot of replay value, but it needs some more polish.
Since I never played 2K16, I’ve read that they made editing your Universe a lot easier this year, but they could re-arrange and edit the screens a bit to make editing each show (if you do Raw vs. Smackdown, for example) a little less cumbersome. It isn’t terrible by any means, but little tweaks like being able to view the entire game roster and filter between who is on Raw, who is on Smackdown, and who is not currently assigned would be a nice addition.
Now that I’ve spent more time with the game, I’ve noticed a few of the bugs other players have already mentioned. The empty/null match on the card, for instance, is puzzling. The most frustrating thing I’ve found so far is when the game puts Brock Lesnar in the Money in the Bank ladder match despite me not having Lesnar on any of my rosters.
Regardless, I am extremely happy with my purchase. I am having fun just with exhibition matches, but MyCareer and MyUniverse both offer replay value for those who don’t enjoy quick matches. If you’re like me and you gave up on WWE games years ago, it’s definitely time for you to reconsider. 2K has put in a lot of good work with this series and the results are beginning to show. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this series.