WWE 2K17 Review

Dom Richards

It’s been a busy couple of years for the development team at Yukes, they have gone about completely changing how WWE games are played ever since 2K Games acquired the WWE license in the early part of 2014. Gone are the days of the fast and frantic, arcade styled games and in their place we have a slower and methodical simulation of “Sports Entertainment”. WWE 2K17 is a game more about refining these changes, as opposed to introducing any major overhauls as the previous two instalments have. There are a few welcomed tweaks to the gameplay this year but also a very questionable decision with regards to the removal of a very popular feature. WWE 2K17 was officially announced on the 31st of May this year, and as per the last few instalments, a pre-order bonus was announced, this year being WCW legend Bill Goldberg. An impressive 150 playable wrestlers were announced over a number of weeks when 2K would do a weekly roster reveal with a mixture of current stars and legends, again with some questionable choices made. WWE 2K17 was highly praised in all the early access plays and was heralded as perhaps the greatest game since WWF No Mercy. Did it manage to achieve this prestigious prediction, or like every Billy Gunn push, did it just fall flat?

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The Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar, is the cover star for WWE 2K17, this decision caused wrestling fans to be excited about reliving some of his greatest moments throughout his career in the much-acclaimed Showcase mode. The last two WWE games had some incredible moments thanks to the Showcase mode, and it was a great way to get old fans back to buying these games. This year, however, there was no Showcase mode in WWE 2K17, a decision which is beyond stupid if you ask me. The Showcase mode added something extra to the normal modes that we have grown accustomed to. It gave us objectives to carry out in the match which resulted in cutscenes from memorable moments of the matches featured. The Showcase modes were my favourite parts from 2K15 and 2K16, and I just cannot see why it didn’t return for WWE 2K17. Brock Lesnar has had some incredible matches over his two stints with WWE, and they could have easily featured a minimum of 10 for us to play through. I really think their decision not to include the Showcase this year will result in a good number of fans not bothering to pick it up this year. There was nothing new to replace the Showcase mode either, just an improved Universe mode and Career mode.

Career mode in 2K16 had a lot of promise, but the end product wasn’t very interesting. It made some very strange decisions for your character and the voice acting was terrible. This year, there is a new feature in Career Mode which can be as important as your wrestling ability, your Promo skills. There is a new text-based system which is how the new Promo system operates that actually works pretty well. Promos are a massive part of Pro Wrestling with some wrestlers basing their whole career around their promos as opposed to their in-ring skills (ahem, Rock). The Promo system works in two ways: self-promotion or promo battle. In both you need to choose from four different quotes and responses, some will make the crowd cheer and some will make the crowd boo. You need to be careful what you do pick though as the crowd could not react at all if you pick non-coherent sentences. I actually had a lot of fun trying to work out what to say to get some good heat (wrestling jargon for being booed) from the crowd. There also seems to be a large variety of text options as I have yet to see the same options over and over again, which is great since if it was just limited to a few phrases then it would get boring and predictable very, very quickly.

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You learn all about the new Promo System at the NXT Performance centre where you start your career. Depending on how well you do at the two trial matches and the two promos will decide if you get sent to NXT or straight to the main roster. I personally wanted to go to NXT and start from the bottom, so I intentionally underperformed in my matches to ensure I start my career from the very beginning. This isn’t plainly obvious though when you do start at the Performance Centre, so during my first playthrough I was very confused as to why I went straight to RAW after my trials. Unlike last year’s Career mode, this year your wrestler can also hold more than one Championship; not a massive improvement but a nice little touch as this can happen from time to time in WWE. The biggest addition to Career mode, however, is the option to be ‘A Paul Heyman Guy’. If you choose to align yourself with the creative genius, then he will set you challenges for your matches and accompany you to the ring. If you pass the challenges set by Heyman, you will get paid in VC, which is WWE 2K17′s in-game currency. You will use this to increase your attributes and buy in-ring skills such as the ability to pin your opponent straight after certain moves, and you can use the currency to buy the ‘OMG’ moments which range from Suicide Dives to performing a Superplex from the top of a steel cage. VC is also how you buy the game’s additional in-game content (not DLCs) such as legendary wrestlers, old belts, etc. Overall, Career mode is mostly fun, but compared to FIFA 17′s incredible “The Journey” mode it feels very basic. If any ‘sports’ game should get a compelling career mode right, it should be WWE.

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The other game mode in WWE 2K17 is Universe mode which is 2K’s version of a Manager mode, of sorts. You take on the role as the head booker of WWE content, creating feuds and picking matches. It is very basic, so dont expect the same level of detail as you would find in Adam Ryland’s TEW (the true wrestling version of Football Manager). The new Promo system is also in Universe mode, so you can book Seth Rollins to go to the ring and talk about how great he is, or have Enzo and Jericho battle it out on the mic. This is the only new feature to Universe mode apart from having three different save slots, which actually is a good little feature as you could have one truly original Universe mode and then another where the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock are back, kicking ass and taking names.

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Thankfully, the ‘Four Horsewomen’ (Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Bailey) make their debuts in WWE 2K17 after disappointingly missing out in 2K16. Women’s wrestling has been completely changed thanks to the efforts of these four incredible wrestlers, as well as a good number of other workers and backstage personnel (Sara Del Rey), but the Four Horsewomen are front and centre of the ‘Woman’s Revolution’. WWE 2K17′s roster has to be the most up to date offering in years, with only a few new wrestlers missing out on still being included in the game (Del Rio and Cody Rhodes). It has always been a hard task for Yukes and 2K to get the roster as up to date as they can since most of the wrestlers are scanned for the game around Wrestlemania. The Brand Extension doesn’t feature, but that was never going to happen as it was only in August, but this is easily worked around as you can create it yourself, of sorts, in Universe mode by assigning wrestlers to specific brands.

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WWE 2K17′s gameplay is amazing, the matches are as close to the real thing as you are going to get. Yukes set around refining the gameplay as opposed to making any major changes, and for a wrestling fan,  these small tweaks shine. Your opponent will now roll himself into a better position if you ascend to the top rope, and ladders now can only be placed in a couple of specific positions, making so that you don’t have to spend five minutes trying to place it perfectly. The limited reversal system is back from last year which is a great feature, meaning you and your opponent can’t spam the reversal button and instead need to tactfully use it. You will need to take some damage and wait for a good opportunity to reverse a move, so the matches do feel authentic. For example, if you have one and a half sections of your reversal gauge filled then it makes more sense to take a few moves until you charge the second slot than reversing the move and then having no reversals left. Another new tweak is the introduction of taunt effects. Taunts in all previous wrestling games were really only used to boost up your momentum bar, but now they have a real purpose. Press left on the d-pad and you will do a momentum taunt, which means for a short period of time every move you do will reward you with more momentum than usual. Pressing right allows you take more damage than you usually can for a short period of time, which is great towards the end of a match. Pressing up will make your opponent stand up, which also works while on the second and top rope. The downside to these taunt effects? There is no limit. It’s a shame Yukes couldn’t limit these to just one of each, possibly two, or the ability to earn them by doing something during the match. The best addition though has to be the option to turn off the awful submission wheel system. It was a horrible distraction and completely put me off submission finishers last year. Now you have the option to change it to a button hitting system, but it’s not just the button mashing of old. You will be prompted to hit certain buttons for a 2 or 3 second period, which is a million times better than the wheel system. One of the most rewarding parts of the WWE games is targeting your opponent’s limb and then making them tap in agony at the end of the match, this time it’s easier than ever.

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The match rating system also makes its way into exhibition matches for the first time. Many of you may have been thinking when you learned that the VC in-game currency also unlocks the various legends, etc. that you will have to share your Career mode points to unlock Andre the Giant. Well, this is the get around, and you will earn VC in any match type you play, including online play. This is a nice little extra and is a nice little reward for having those epic matches in Exhibition mode. Speaking of matches, all the usual match types are back like 1v1, tag, cages and ladders, etc. WWE 2K17 also brings back the Backstage Brawls, but these are quite limited and you won’t be playing many of them. There are a few areas to fight in with a few environmental ‘OMGs’, but overall, these fights are very repetitive and, well, just boring.

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The character models are much better, but they are still a long way off from the realism that we see in FIFA 17 and PES 2017. The current roster looks great, especially the likes of Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Goldberg (if you preordered). The main issues come with the wrestlers that haven’t been scanned, so Dusty Rhodes, for example, looks comical compared to Randy Orton. Some of the hair on the wrestlers is also comical (DDP for one), but there is a slight improvement from last year’s instalment. Yukes are confident of the improvements though as the pre-match screen now features the in-game character models instead of a stock picture, which is a great way to make your created wrestlers feel more real. The seriously deep creation suite has some nice new features to play with, including the brand new ‘create a video’ where you can give your created wrestler their very own entrance video. The face scan system from 2K16 is back this year, but like last year it seems we have to wait a month or two for the app to be released. There are a bunch of new hair and clothes to clad your wrestler in, but one thing Yukes have removed is tattoos. Last year you could use the real wrestlers’ tattoos on your created wrestler, which again was a great way to make them feel more realistic, but this has been taken away this year. Therefore, if you want to cover your superstar in ink, you’ll have to jump on over to the community creation hub and download some.

Developer: Yukes, Visual Concepts

Publisher: 2K Games

Formats: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC

Release Date: 11th October 2016

Score: 80%