It’s summer time again in South Africa and with the that marks another entry into the annual WWE 2K franchise. Now in its third year of proper publishing and Co-developing the yearly title, the sports simulation direction 2K Sports and Visual Concepts – with help from long standing developer Yukes – have charted is starting to become much clearer, so let’s see how WWE 2K17 fares and if it captures the experience that South African fans are accustomed to watching weekly on e-tv.
The first thing that makes an immediate impression this year is presentation. From the moment you load the game and are greater by the WWE banner intro video, to the cleaner, streamlined dynamic menus with models of your favourite male and female WWE Superstars strutting their stuff, to the use of in game models in the character selection and match-up screens so as to blend in more seamlessly with your created grapplers, a greater premium has gone into stepping up the overall presentation. Certain entrances have been reanimated to more closely resemble each WWE Superstar’s journey from the curtain to the ring and now modes like WWE Universe and MyCareer are further visually buffed with the inclusion of intros and pyro for shows like Raw, Smackdown and NXT, further immersing the player in the WWE television experience.
And on that subject, thanks to the continued input by Visual Concepts, the game itself is the best looking WWE game released yet. WWE Superstars like John Cena, Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Triple H, NXT newcomer and DLC exclusive – Shinsuke Nakamura, pre-order bonus Legend – Goldberg and more have never looked better and others like Chris Jericho have been refined further and look near like their real life counterparts. While other lesser known Superstars, Legends and Hall of Famers may not look 100% life-like, they are still very close and even for ones who did not get full body scans like Brock Lesnar, The Rock and the late WWE Hall of Famer: The Ultimate Warrior still look very well modelled. Arena entrance sets for all shows are stunning to look at and now with the open-air arenas in the game, there are options to select to play your match during the day or night. The lighting and visuals of playing a match in the broad daylight are truly something to admire.
Unfortunately, despite recording some new lines, and doing a decent job of incorporating commentary into the improvements made to WWE Universe mode, when compared to the commentary found in NBA 2K17 (another 2K Sports and Visual Concepts product) and FIFA 17, the commentary found in WWE 2K17 is nowhere near up to par. The lines still feel stilted and don’t always completely match the action and the conversational and natural nature of the delivery found in NBA 2K17 is barely anywhere to be found. There has been some improvement in parts here and there, but overall, commentary is still an area in need of a major overhaul.
Gameplay is where the game truly shines though. Long gone are the days of WWE games resembling a fast paced arcade fighter, as the sports simulation rout first adopted in 2K15, captures the experience of competing in a pro wrestling match as never before. Every Superstar is assigned dozens of different attributes, skills and abilities which help separate each Superstar from the next and give large bulking goliaths like Andre The Giant, Big Show and Bruan Strowman and much different feel from smaller and technical competitors like Kalisto, Cesaro or Finn Bálor.
If you’ve played 2K16, you’ll be able to jump right into WWE 2K17 with very little learning curve. Stamina, Reversal limits, varying depending on Superstar selected and replenishing over time, and the Submission mechanic introduced last year all return as before (and now there is an alternative button based submission system for those who do not prefer the default method). Taunts have been tweaked this year whereby instead of simply being window dressing only adding slight momentum increases, they now serve to “wake up” your opponent back to his feet, taunt the crowd for a temporary boost to momentum received or taunt opponents for a temporary boost to damage inflicted thus adding another strategic element to gameplay. All this serves to slow down the pace of matches and get players to start thinking strategically about their next actions in much the same way you would see in the real WWE. Even the A.I. has been improved so they behave a little more strategically and if you a veteran of the series, wins are now not always a sure thing. On screen prompts will appear when you play any match or encounter any situation for the first time so even new comers will have little difficulty getting accustomed to the controls and nature of matches like the Royal Rumble match or the Ladder match.
Speaking of Ladder matches, they have received an overhaul this year as developers Yukes have made it easier than ever to place the ladder directly under the belt/briefcase and have now incorporated a wheel based mini-game for when you attempt to unhook the object atop the ladder, and have even incorporated ladder bridges and another button press mini-game for when the player attempts to push over the ladder and disrupt the opponent from winning. Another aspect receiving a major overhaul this year is multi-man matches featuring 3 up to 6 competitors. Whereas for far too many years, multi-man matches have resulted in a cluster (you know what) with everyone in the ring at once resulting in chaos, this year a new roll-out mechanic has been added whereby if someone in the ring takes a big move, they will roll out of the ring to the floor and recovers for a period of time, much like real multi-person matches you will see on WWE television. Once you’ve recovered to a certain point, you will have the option to get to your feet quickly and return to the action, resulting in a temporary penalty or you can recover fully and receive a momentum boost. This helps to reduce the chaos and greatly adds to not only the enjoyment of these matches but adds extra elements of drama which is appreciated.
And for the first time in many years since the THQ published games, returning to the series is the ability to take the action backstage. Either start a “brawl” backstage or take the action to the back during Extrem Rule or Falls Count Anywhere matches. While the backstage area is limited, it still offer plenty of options and objects to interacts and punish your opponent with. Fight through the backstage hallway or take the fight to the locker room or the office of one The Authority. This was always one of the more enjoyable aspects of earlier games, in particular the ability to fight backstage from the ring and less to how it was presented in the later THQ games, so it’s a welcome addition to the WWE 2K series and help vary things up.
The Creation suite has been improved and added upon further for yet another year. Created your own custom WWE Superstar down to their shape, height, weight, attire, move-sets and entrances with every last aspect of each able to be modified as per your desire. Import logos or even photos of your own face to create a custom wrestler that look exactly like you thanks to some details face morphing tools. There are plenty of hair, body and clothing options to choose to the results could be near limitless and like a Oan power ring, the only limits are seemingly your own imagination. Create an arena and create a championship belt return with now more props and options for you to create your own custom arena or championship belt. If you wish to recreate the new championship titles recently introduced in the WWE like the WWE Universal Championship, Samckdown Tag Team or Smackdown Women’s Championships or even the new WWE Cruiserweight Championship; they are very easy to recreate or download from the online Community Creations. New this year to current gen (or returning to the series) is the ability to even create your own entrance or show opening videos thanks to new ”Abode Premiere-like” editing tools. Use in game graphics, custom logos or limited replays from matches to edit unique videos.
MyCareer once again allows you to take your custom Superstar, or even likeness of yourself, through a career in WWE beginning with your training in the WWE Perfomance Center all the way to your retirement and possible induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. You begin with limit stats, skills and abilities and through the course of your Career you will earn virtual currency (VC) which will enable you to upgrade. This year depending on how you perform in the Performance Center tutorial, you can either be sent to NXT for extra seasoning or be promoted directly to the main WWE roster of RAW and Smackdown. New this year is the ability to rise through the ranks by boosting your popularity and notoriety through putting on highly ranked matches, adding exciting moves to your move-set and even designing your own merchandise and t-shirts which will earn you addition popularity and VC. Another addition is the new inclusion of backstage and in-ring promos which allow your to address the WWE audience or call out and challenge other WWE Superstars. This plays out as a text based game whereby your pick one of four options in a limited time which will either draw the pleasure or ire of the crowd. Regardless of whether they hate your or love you the aim is to the game as strong a reaction as possible by stringing certain responses together to get a boost and improve your performance versus that of your opponent, which will have the benefit of helping to shape your character’s personality and whether they are taken as a crowd favourite or a heel. This can be down in more limited fashion via backstage interviews with Renee Young. Another highlight this year is the ability for your MyCareer Superstar to become a “Paul Heyman” guy and receive tutelage from the aforementioned advocate to “The Beast Incarnate” and former NCAA, WWE and UFC Champion: Brock Lesnar. Along the way you can then decide to fully align with Paul Heyman, or cross his and face the wrath of Brock Lesnar himself. It still is somewhat of a grind to get to the hallowed corridors of the WWE Hall of Fame or even to just level up your MyCareer custom Superstar but these little touches help break up the minority a little and further simulate the WWE experience.
WWE Universe mode remains largely the same, but the addition of promo battles, new cutscense and improvements to rivalry implementation and tracking make it one of the Universe mode offerings thus far.
Online is fairly stable as with even a 1MB ADSL line, it is still able to remain somewhat competitive in an online match without, although lag is still a problem, it isn’t completely impossible to take advantage of an opening and have a chance. Playing with a better line might render lag near unnoticeable. You can download numerous custom Superstars or new attire for your on-disc roster via Community Creation, although be warned that will need update file 1.02 to ensure your save data doesn’t corrupt from some downloaded custom items.
WWE 2K17 proves to be a strong competitor in the WWE video games arena and captures the experience of competing in that 20×20 foot square circle better than any other effort before it. Although some areas are not completely perfect and probably still needs further years to become a “masterpiece” and juggernaut on the level of NBA 2K, this series is heading in the right direction and the fun playing through matches near alone justifies its purchase if you have any interest in WWE. For your chance to play as the The Beast, The Cenation leader, The Viper, The Phenominal One, The King of Strong Style, The Demon King, The Architect, The Guy, The New Day, The Certified G’s, The Texas Rattle Snake, The Great One, The Game, The Stinger, The Madness and so much more, check this one out.
Reviewed on: PS4
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC (autumn next year)
Age Rating: 16
Publisher/Developer: 2K Sports/Visual Concepts & Yukes
Estimated RRP: R845
Release Date: 11 October 2016
- Models & presentation
- Fluid gameplay recreates the feel of WWE matches
- New mechanics added to Ladder and multi-person matches
- Commentary still needs work
- Occasional input lag and minor glitching