It’s All About The Game Until It Isn’t: WWE 2K17 Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - October 13, 2016

So last year I extolled how great WWE 2K16, if you’re expecting something similar this year, don’t. Where last year’s entry into the long-running series was the pinnacle of the franchise with tight gameplay, an excellent single-player story, and stunning graphics, this year removes more than it adds from the winning equation. 

This year’s entry includes three game modes: MyCareer, WWE Universe, and Free Play. You’ll notice that Showcase mode is noticeably absent from the modes that come on the disc. It’s the equivalent of games like Titanfall that opted out of a single-player campaign to put increased focus on the multiplayer aspect of the game. It’s a massive misstep for 2K since its absence is so obviously glaring. But, that’s not to say that 2K won’t sell you Showcase Mode in the Season Pass or through direct DLC purchases because they will. It’s an unfortunate reality of the current gaming landscape that companies rely so heavily on DLC to bring the “full game” to life.

The lack of Showcase Mode aside, the other two game modes have had some changes added that allow for deeper customization. The MyCareer mode is still not where it needs to be from a comparative 2K games standpoint frankly being the behind the times in terms of depth. Unlike the NBA 2K series which attempts to tell a concise narrative story, albeit not always successfully, it’s an impressive undertaking for a sports game. Wrestling is predicated on telling stories with characters that the audience cheer or boo; it’s tailor-made for gaming writers to do something interesting with. Instead, like the last two year’s versions, is another bare bones affair with some mildly creative bits interspersed between long stretches of generic feuds. While the addition of everyone’s favorite manager Paul Heyman is welcome, it’s too similar in execution to last year’s Authority storyline beats.  If 2K is going to continue with the MyCareer mode next year, they need to put more effort into creating an interesting, engaging, and worthwhile mode as adding a new coat of paint every year is not the answer.

 

WWE Universe has also similarly only received minor tweaks none of which truly change the overall quality of the mode. The only major addition to note is the addition of the promo system. Like any good wrestling fan knows, promos are an important part of any wrestling show as it allows the true character of the wrestlers to come through. From “Austin 3:16” to “You Can’t See Me”, some of the most memorable moments in the history of wrestling have come from promos. WWE 2K17 attempts to replicate cutting promos through the use of a text-based system that takes all of the fun and emotion out of promos. Honestly, 2K’s work on the WWE games has always felt like an afterthought compared to their fantastic work on the NBA series, and the promo system highlights that. Since there is no spoken dialogue during any of the promos, even for your created character in MyCareer mode, it results in a character talking to the screen with the audience cheering or booing in the background. It’s another glaring misstep since many of the wrestlers were brought in for motion capture but apparently not for voice capture. Maybe next year they’ll put a tad more effort into actually making the promo system a compelling addition rather than WWE’s version of Zork

Aside from the promo system, most of the other gameplay remains the same albeit with some minor changes. No longer can ladders be setup all over the arena but rather in several predetermined areas around the arena. It takes away from some of the most comical uses of the ladders but adds a certain amount of rigidity to the game that wasn’t present previously. There is also an added backstage brawl mode that allows for two wrestlers to fight one another all over the back of the arena in the locker room, hallways, and other spots. It’s a welcome addition that has been absent from the franchise for quite some time but honestly wears out its welcome after several plays.

The presentation is where WWE 2K17 truly shines, however. Gone are the ugly menus and bland presentation aspects; 2K has gone to great lengths to make sure that the game’s interface is top notch. Before every show in WWE Universe mode, it plays the Raw, Smackdown, or NXT intro, reinforcing the idea you’re watching an actual episode of the show. The character models are still as inconsistent as ever with some wrestlers looking shockingly close to their real-life counterparts and others leaving me wondering if they had ever seen the person they were creating in-game. And as always, the commentary is the worst in-game commentary of any sports game on the market with so many of the same lines recycled it boggles the mind. Also, for some reason, the commentators refer to the women wrestlers as guys in several lines of commentary while in women’s matches, another sign of further laziness on 2K’s part.

For all that 2K got right last year with WWE 2K16, this year feels like backward progress. Gone is the Showcase Mode, at least from the retail disc along with the heart and soul of the game. Wrestling is about telling a story or reliving the journey of a favorite wrestler from rookie to superstar, and WWE 2K17 does neither of these things very well. It’s more open yet more restrictive at the same time with little thought put into some of its more interesting aspects. As WWE 2K17 sits in my Xbox One, I’d rather just play the copy of 2K16 from Games with Gold from September.

Final Say: Skip It

This post was written by
Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He's a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You'll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.
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