I love wrestling, it’s probably one of my favourite things. Unfortunately, in the last few years, I’ve not cared for the 2K WWE games. They always seem to hit way below the mark and fall short of what I would like or have come to expect out of a wrestling game. All you have to do is go back to the noughties to see excellent examples of what a wrestling title should be, games like Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain or WWE: Day Of Reckoning. These were games that put fun at the forefront of everything, with authenticity and realism coming second. So here we are, another year, another 2K wrestling title.
I’m honestly happy and surprised to say that 2K have made some really impressive changes to this year’s edition. Thanks to a new clause in superstar contracts, all wrestlers had to go through an extensive mo-cap session, meaning that each character entrance and animation set is incredibly lifelike. This coupled with a new lighting system means that the entrances look fantastic, with a few of them attaining near photorealistic graphics - Finn Balor is one such example.
The enhanced animations make controlling wrestlers a much less homogenous experience. Each individual wrestler moves like their real life counterpart, on top of that, the movesets are also recreated pretty damn well. It's the kind of detail that really hardcore wrestling fans are going to notice.
Submissions and reversals have been given somewhat of a facelift. The submission system now involves a mini game where players have to rotate a bar within a small circle; those who are put into a submission must escape the bar of their opponent. It's a nice attempt at innovating the button mashing of previous years, but it still falls far short of what the UFC games offer. The reversal system has a slight new addition in mid-move submissions that players can perform for additional damage to their opponent. The best example of this is when an opponent picks you up for a body slam. If you hit the reversal right, you'll fly over the back of them and transition into a swinging neck breaker. It's something that adds a more tangible element to the game, making it feel like you're actually controlling a wrestling match.
The usual array of modes are on offer, ranging from straight singles matches to a full Royal Rumble. The level of customisation is staggering, with players being able to fine tune everything from arena choice to the belt that's up for grabs. Unfortunately the multiplayer doesn't follow suit, offering players very little in the way of choice. Myself and a friend were incredibly disappointed to find out we couldn't play a two-on-one handicap tag match, along with a whole load of other stipulations that aren't included.
Multiplayer also seems to suffer from the age-old issue of terrible netcoding. This is something 2K get wrong every single year, it makes both grappling and countering incredibly frustrating, almost to the point where it feels counter-intuitive. This is mostly because you are having to estimate what the lag input will be before hitting a trigger. This pretty much sullies the entire experience for the most part as you lose the fluidity that makes wrestling so fun. This is one of the aspects of the series that still needs a lot of work, and I don’t believe it will be fixed until they create a new engine for the title.
One of the most impressive aspects of this year’s entry is the roster. A lot of effort has been put into creating a lineup that features both new and old talent, and for all the Attitude Era fans there’s Stone Cold Steve Austin and American Badass Undertaker. found the fact they they locked several NXT wrestlers behind a £79.99 special edition, incredibly infuriating, especially as they put Shinsuke Nakamura in that bundle. I severely hope they release him as DLC post-release.
Career mode is back again, with somewhat of a fresh take on things. The underlying framework is much the same, start low on the roster and build your way up earning championships as you go along. This time around players are able to perform promos, which can be done between matches and rely on players to pick from a set of statements in a certain time. The crowd then judges your promo skill, rating you good or bad. Better promos earn you more points and heat for your character. When you do finally capture your first championship you also have the chance to become a Paul Heyman guy. Paul Heyman is what’s known as a manager in the WWE, he currently accompanies Brock Lesnar to the ring. This mode has him become your manager, taking you under his wing to be an anti-authority figure within the WWE.
Pre-release there was quite a big deal made about the fact that P-Diddy, Puff Daddy or whatever diddy he goes by these days was on board to curate the game’s soundtrack. It's surprising as there's only about 8 officially licensed tracks in the game, so it feels kinda half arsed to be perfectly honest. On the flip side, there's a whole bunch of wrestler entrance themes you can use instead, they are far more awesome.
Are glitches in 2K17? Yes! Yes! Yes! The glitches present in 2K wrestling games have become a bit of a running joke in recent years. They often end up bordering on the silly side of things, rather than causing frustration. The usual array of clipping bugs are here including wrestlers clipping through the ring, wrestlers clipping into the crowd, wrestlers clipping into weapons and my personal favorite: wrestlers clipping through themselves. It never happens often enough to infuriate but it does remind you that 2K are still using the same engine they've had for years.
2K17 is a big step in the right direction, it feels like 2K have taken a lot of fan feedback into consideration and truly attempted to craft a wrestling game worthy of the WWE brand. New ideas and innovations help move the franchise forward, but a lot of the same bugbears are still prevalent. Until we get a new engine I believe we are always going to be waiting for that truly amazing wrestling game experience. Until that happens, 2K17 is a nice bridge between that gap.
WWE 2K17 (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
New ideas and innovations help move the franchise forward, but a lot of the same bugbears are still prevalent. Until we get a new engine I believe we are always going to be waiting for that truly amazing wrestling game experience. Until that happens, 2K17 is a nice bridge between that gap.