WWE 2K17 Review

By
x
Review of: WWE 2K17 Review
Gaming:
Ken Barnes

Reviewed by:
Rating:
2.5
On October 17, 2016
Last modified:October 17, 2016

Summary:

While WWE 2K17’s fighting action is slowly getting to the point where it’s a real contender, pretty much everything outside of the matches themselves – including the new Promo Engine, which is nonsensical - is riddled with glitches that degrade the experience to the point of frustration.

When 2k first revealed WWE 2K17 back in May, there were no details confirmed about the game other than the fact that Goldberg would be available as a pre-order bonus. June came and they announced that a man who had only wrestled seven times in 2016 up to that point – Brock Lesnar – would be the cover star but still, there was no information about the actual game.

In July, we got a look at some roster reveals and downloadable content announcements, but yet again, gameplay information was nowhere to be seen. Alarm bells were ringing for sure by this point but finally, midway through August, the publisher decided to actually detail some of the things that fans could expect to see as they stepped into the digital squared circle in 2K’s fifth attempt at creating a must-have wrestling title.

Whether or not the reluctance to provide any information on the game itself was an indicator of how in flux the feature list was right down to the wire is up to people’s personal interpretation, but the feeling that a lot of the new features in WWE 2K17 have been rushed isn’t something that can ever be questioned.

Initially, some of the new inclusions that you’ll notice make a great deal of sense. In a match where more than two superstars have to battle to be the first to claim a pin – a triple threat or fatal four-way match for example – a new system is in place that more accurately reflects how things go down in the real world. Fighters can be beaten down to the point that they automatically roll out of the ring to recover and have to wait for an indicator bar to fill before they can get back into the action, meaning that getting a cover in these matches is no longer just about sheer dumb luck. Rather, it’s about spotting an opportunity and taking your chance. The balance here is just about right. Combatants don’t just roll out of play for no reason, but when they do exit the ring, you can up your game to take advantage of the situation.

Also improved around the ring is the way in which structural objects are used. Tables, ladders, and chairs (oh my!) are now a lot easier to get into position, wedge into corners, or use as a bridge. There’s plenty more scope to use other types of weapons now as well, given that the game re-introduces the concept of backstage brawls and taking the action out into the crowd, which in turn allows for Falls Count Anywhere matches to be reintroduced and for no disqualification matches to spill outside of the ring and wherever you’d like them to go.

No matter what sort of match you take on, there’s a good deal of fun to be had from the actual wrestling itself. Matches featuring lower-card opponents can become genuinely thrilling and drawn-out affairs when you have the AI set to a competitive difficulty level, without ever feeling unfair. Indeed, an early career six-man tag match featuring my created wrestler and two generated characters against Bo Dallas and The Ascension was one of the tensest and most thrilling digital bouts I’ve taken part in since the days of WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64.

The development team always have to bear in mind that matches featuring too many reversals and switches in power aren’t as entertaining as they first seem but this year, it seems they’ve hit the nail on the head in terms of how frequently the balance of power is shifted. It can be very fiddly to get non-legal wrestlers back into position once they’ve been tagged out in tag matches, but that’s barely worth mentioning in the grander scheme of things.

What’s worth mentioning though, is WWE 2K17’s bug-ridden performance outside of the ring. In MyCareer more depth has been added, with the goal clearly being to add extra layers to the previously kid-simple RPG-style character improvement. Whether you choose to play as a created character or an existing superstar, you’ll find that your moveset is stripped down to the absolute barest of bones.

Pick Stone Cold for example, and the Stone Cold Stunner isn’t available to you and has been replaced with a weak-looking DDT. The reason for this is that you have to earn enough in-game currency to purchase the move packs that will grant you the more damaging and more exciting manoeuvres. This makes sense when you think about it, but isn’t actually explained anywhere.

Also curiously unexplained is the method in which you’re supposed to move up the rankings so that you can challenge for a belt. You’d imagine that successfully winning matches, coming up on top in rivalries and becoming a master on the mic in the game’s new “Promo Engine” would be enough to shift you up to that number one contender position, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In fact, nothing you do ever seems to improve your standing on the roster. You can play as a decent heel for an entire year of in-game time, putting on five-star matches and winning every time, defeating every rival that the game throws your way, and still be ranked #10 for the NXT singles strap. It’s even worse when, during your match, The King and Michael Cole are shouting about how you’re ranked #6 in the entire WWE when you quite obviously are not.

Even the rivalries don’t make sense. Big Cass shows up as a strong ally on your relationships list, but then you’ll be put in a match against him. He attacks you with a baseball bat during your entrance, beating you senseless. The match is ruled as a no contest, but your relationship with Big Cass randomly improves as a result and now he’s your best buddy. Then before the next event and with nothing else having happened, you get thrown into a rivalry with Aiden English because he woke up one day and decided that he hates you.

MORE NEWS FROM THE WEB

Progression in MyCareer appears to be down to popularity, which appears to be gained mainly as a result of cutting promos, given that the popularity points you gain or lose from matches seems to be entirely random. You can put on a five-star match against someone the crowd hates, win by a clean pin after landing your finisher, and lose fans as a result. Despite this, the reliance on promos would be workable, was it not that the promo engine is a complete mess.

Step into the ring as a heel and kick things off by tearing the crowd a new one, and you’ll get the boos that you were looking for, along with a bunch of points. Tell them they’re all idiots with your next selection (sort of like Y2J would do) and you’ll be told that you’ve made a poor choice and lose points. Tell them you’re calling out the current champion – who’s a strong babyface, so would be a natural rival – and they’ll go silent and you’ll lose points. Tell them that you love them really and want to buy them all a drink and they’ll boo you and you’ll lose points. The same happens if you’re playing as a face, too.

Selections that make logical sense somehow don’t make sense to the game engine, even if you’ve boosted your mic skills stat to the sky before attempting to talk to the crowd. You absolutely can’t win unless the game decides that this time, your promo is going to go well, which it very rarely does.

The developers’ intentions are clearly good and there’s potential here in spades for a rich and deep simulation of the WWE experience, but there are enough breaks and nonsensical events occurring here that it all becomes utterly baffling – even to a long-term fan of the spectacle and the associated games, such as myself – to the point that you’ll eventually put the controller down and just give up trying to work out what’s going on.

WWE 2K17 Review

WWE 2K17 is also held back by legacy issues and some long load times. Going into an event, you’ll get that particular show’s opening video and theme playing on screen as loading goes on in the background, only to hear Michael Cole waxing lyrical about what a great place Columbus, Ohio is as you watch a bunch of truly ugly crowd shots. Then you’re thrown back to the card, press a button to move on to the first event, and then have to wait for the game to load for just as long again.

Having to wait thirty seconds for the same Renee Young interview set piece from last year to load so that she can ask you a single (but silent) question that’s unrelated to anything is also frustrating. Some of the new RPG-like features – such as making in-game currency out of selling t-shirts or making tweaks to your moveset – are also affected by the years-old structure of the code. Doing something as simple as changing your finishing move or switching your character’s shirt requires you to load the entire Create-A-Superstar system, just as you would have had to do a decade ago.

These downsides are a real shame, given that the in-ring action provided by 2K’s giant wrestling sandbox is closer to the real deal than you’d expect it to be. Not every match is perfect – some are glitch-filled monstrosities – but there’s more scope than ever before to have a real WWE-style brawl featuring your favourite current roster characters. Failing that, a decent selection of past masters are available to allow you to put together your dream match, too.

Diamond Dallas Page vs. the members of D-Generation X in a handicap match at a Wrestlemania? No problem. Kevin Nash vs. Scott Hall in a cage to see if the medium-sized man can truly beat the big man? That’s there for you too, if you want it. For fans of sports entertainment, there’s an abundance of content on offer (though the current post-split Smackdown Live and RAW arenas aren’t included, hilariously) that will likely push WWE 2K17 up the list when it comes to multiplayer action, even if Stevie Richards and the bWo are – criminally – nowhere to be found.

If grappling with a few buddies and reliving classic matches is your bag, then you’re well catered for. If singles action is what you’re looking for though, the long loading times combined with the sheer number of bugs and glitches that persist throughout the WWE Universe and MyCareer modes means that this is nothing but a botched finish.

This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.

WWE 2K17 Review
Middling

While WWE 2K17’s fighting action is slowly getting to the point where it’s a real contender, pretty much everything outside of the matches themselves – including the new Promo Engine, which is nonsensical - is riddled with glitches that degrade the experience to the point of frustration.