Another year, another WWE videogame hits the market and another year of fun and frustration. I was really hyped for WWE 2K17 will all of the improvements that they were showing off over the months. WWE 2K16 was a huge improvement over WWE 2K15 so I was hoping that 2K17 would be a major improvement over WWE 2K16. Long story short, WWE 2K17 is very fun at times, but unfortunately, this is one of those years where the game takes more steps backward than it does forward.
The first thing that most fans will notice about this years game is that 2K has decided to skip a Showcase mode this year. The Showcase mode was a single player mode in which you relived various eras and rivalries of WWE history. I know some fans were really disappointed about the removal of this mode but in my opinion, I am fine with it as I never finished them. I would play a couple of matches of the Showcase mode and then never touch it again. Now there was a reason for skipping out on Showcase mode this year and that was so they could put their time and attention into other game modes. There were a lot of additions to this years game and for the most part, all of these updates and additions are fantastic, but unfortunately, like most years, there are a variety of issues that keep WWE 2K17 from fully reaching it's potential.
The first addition to this years game is the brand new ladder match. The ladder match is one of my favorite gimmick matches in WWE history as I am always a sucker for huge spot fests. The biggest problem in years past has been that the ladders all slide around the ring like it's an ice skating rink. This means that in ladder matches with more than two people, matches would just drag on and on because it would be almost impossible to set the ladder up properly without someone moving it away from the belt hanging above the ring. Money in The Bank matches were 100% unplayable because of this. This year ladders can only be placed in certain spots around the ring. Once the ladder is set up it will stay in place which easily allows you and the other wrestlers to climb the ladder for the prize above. There is a also a new mini game for pulling the briefcase or belt down which is so much better than it has been in previous years. You can also pull a huge ladder out from under the ring and set it up as a bridge on the ring apron and the barricade. With the ladder bridge you can pull off some pretty insane stunts like laying someone down on it, climbing to the top of the ladder in the ring and then pull off ridiculous Jeff Hardy style dives to the unfortunate opponent laying on the ladder. Overall, the ladder match is a huge improvement over previous years and is probably the one match I have played the most in this years game.
Speaking of previous ladder matches, one of the biggest problems with those matches is that it would just become a giant cluster with six people in the ring at once. This year adds an amazing new feature and my favorite new mechanic called the "roll out" feature. When you watch multi-man matches in the WWE like Triple Threats, Fatal Four Ways, or Ladder Matches, you never see the wrestlers fighting with each other the whole time. Usually in a Triple Threat Match, one person involved in the match will take a big move and then roll out of the ring to the outside and the two left in the ring continue to fight. This has now made its way to the WWE videogame with great results. In the past, multi-man matches were damn near unplayable due to the fact that characters never left the ring and it was an endless match of broken up moves and pins. No more. Multi-man matches are so much fun now. Now, when wrestlers in the match take a certain amount of damage, they will roll out of the ring and lay on the floor. From here you will see a meter filling up on your HUD. You also have a choice to make. You can either stay out on the floor while the meter fills and re-enter the match with a buff, or you can choose to enter the match early with a debuff. This adds and extra element to these kinds of matches as you have to really think about what the best course of action would be. Can you afford to stay on the outside for the entire duration, or is someone about to score a pinfall forcing you to rush in with the debuff. This also can lead to some pretty tense moments in matches like the Money in The Bank match where one guy is all alone on the top of the ladder and you just barely rush in the ring in time to knock them off the ladder. It's elements like this that make matches feel like you are watching an actual WWE performance.
Another match type that has gotten an overhaul is the Falls Count Anywhere match, which features the return of something that fans have been begging for years to come back. Much like the classic Smackdown games on the PS1 and PS2, you can now take the fight backstage. You can now fight from the ring, up the ramp and then drag your opponent backstage to continue the fight. There are a couple of backstage areas including the gorilla position hallway, the backstage hallway, the locker room and the Authority's office. All of these areas all have weapons strewn about and have interactive areas to dish out plenty of pain to your opponents. Backstage brawls are incredibly fun and I am thrilled that they have returned. The only bummer is that it's limited to only 1 v 1 matches instead of multi man matches like previous games. If you don't want to fight backstage, there is also a new crowd fighting mechanic where you can brawl all over the arena and into a small area in the corner of the arena with a bunch of weapons. It's a great new feature which adds more depth to the Falls Count Anywhere or matches like Extreme Rules or Last Man Standing.
Almost all of the other games modes have gotten an update as well, with my favorite being the unlockables in the game. In previous games, you would unlock content via the Showcase mode. Since there is no showcase mode this year, you now unlock content with VC (virtual currency) that you earn in game. What makes this fun is that the 5 star rating system that was only in My Career in previous games is now utilized in every match you participate in, including exhibition matches. After finishing a match, you will receive a rating up to 5 stars and earn points for everything you do in any match as well. Those points are then converted into VC that can be used to unlock content or upgrade your character in My Career mode. Speaking of My Career however, Unfortunately, My Career once again is just a slow, uninteresting grind that doesn't feel like a career at all. You will simply be forced to play matches against the same wrestler week after week after week while you watch your popularity rise. There are rankings in the game but it seems like no matter how many matches you win, you never move up in the rankings. Feuds also appear to be broken as I have won every match during a feud and yet the game says that I "lost" the rivalry. It can be a fun way to upgrade your created superstars but sadly, I don't ever get the feeling that I am living out a WWE career. WWE Universe mode also returns which has gotten a major overhaul in terms of presentation. Universe mode has new menus which are way easier to navigate this year and the addition of opening videos and pyro to shows is a fantastic feature as they do a great job of capturing the feel of real WWE shows. This is the mode I usually spend most of my time in as it's so much fun to be able to essentially create your own wrestling experience including your own custom rosters, championships, weekly shows and PPV's. Aside from the presentation upgrades, the mode itself is pretty much identical to how it's been in previous years.
With both WWE Universe and My Career one new feature that I like is the new promo engine feature. Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Ric Flair, CM Punk, Enzo Amore. What do all of those Superstars have in comon? They are all masters of the microphone. If you watch a WWE show you will always see Superstars cutting promos in the ring, but something like this has never really been in a WWE game before. This year, you can now go out to the ring and let everyone know what's really on your mind. During a promo, you will be presented with four different statements that you can either say to the crowd or someone else if they are in the ring with you. The idea is to splice all of your statements together to cut a coherent promo for the audience. I really like the idea of the promo engine but the results can be pretty dodgy at times. The options you are given can be extreme vague at times so it's unclear if your statement will excite the crowd or piss them off. For instance, if you are cutting a promo to promote yourself, one of the statements may say something like "My time has arrived" or "I will not be overlooked". You would think that would be a pretty neutral thing to say or something a babyface (good guy) would say, but then all of a sudden you start cutting this scathing promo saying something like "My time is now and I don't need any of you idiots!" thus pissing off the crowd and earning heel points in the process. There is also the fact that you need to be aware of what kind of crowd are are in front of. There are four types of crowds. Respectful, Disrespectful, Hardcore and Family Friendly. You aren't told what kind of crowd there is for that night so you have to rely on what they chant during your promo. The problem is that I cannot understand a single thing that they are chanting. Then there is the issue of the promos themselves. All of the statements you make are just generic face or heel statements and they aren't tailored to any of the superstars in the game, so it can be pretty weird seeing The Undertaker or Bray Wyatt cutting a promo about how he's mad that his cereal didn't have any marshmallows in them. The promo engine is a good foundation for something that can be updated in the future, but it's pretty hit or miss as it stands now.
It wasn't until I actually started writing this review that I realized just how much they added to this years game. Most of the new features are very welcome additions and the game is still fun, but I'm starting to sound like a broken record at this point. The one thing that is holding the WWE games back is the constant bugs, glitches, and issues that plague these games year after year after year, and WWE 2K17 is no different. For one, I have had to restart matches as the opponent and the referee will be caught in this endless walking loops while my character refuses to get off the ground. There is also the issues with WWE Universe mode where editing your card will then add a bunch of random matches to the card that you didn't want. There is also an issue where my created wrestler shows up as invisible in any cutscene in WWE Universe mode. Then there is Lilian Garcia's ring announcing, which is completely broken and the commentary which is absolutely atrocious. I downloaded the new Smackdown Women's championship and after I retained the championship, Lilian says "Here is your winner and the NEW...." there are also small issues all over the place like when both wrestlers are in the ring during the pre championship match announcements, Lilian will say "making his way to the ring". It's small issues like this that put a damper on the entire experience. There are even serious issues like major slowdown during 6 man matches involving created wrestlers and in one instance, one created wrestler just disappeared from the match completely forcing me to restart.
While match types like the Ladder Match and Falls Count Anywhere matches have improved, other match types are incredibly stale at this point and are in desperate need of complete overhauls. The Elimination Chamber match is just a broken mess that hasn't been overhauled once since it was introduced in Here Comes The Pain, in 2003, 13 years ago. Steel Cage and Hell in a Cell matches could use some updates as well. These are two of the most brutal matches in WWE history, yet in the game, there is barely anything you can do in these matches aside from irish whipping your opponents into the steel. Other matches like the Royal Rumble match is really starting to show it's age as it hasn't been updated since Smackdown Vs. Raw 2010. It's really jarring when you play a match like the new Ladder Match with great new mechanics, and then go play something like Hell in a Cell or the Royal Rumble with old, out of date mechanics.
One of the reasons that the old WWE games were fun is because there were tons of ways you could modify certain match types. For instance, in previous years you could have a Falls Count Anywhere Iron Man match, or an Iron Man Hell in a Cell match. For whatever reason these options have been gone for a few years and while these match types are still fun, the point is that they could be even more fun. There are also some strange omissions in the game in terms of match types. You have the Dudley Boys in your game and there aren't any Tag Team TLC, or Tables matches? Really? This year the No DQ matches are Falls Count Anywhere, Extreme Rules, No Holds Barred and Last Man Standing matches. In previous years, the weapons wheel would show up in all of these match types. This year, it only shows up in Extreme Rules matches? Why? This is the type of stuff that drives me crazy each year. These silly little restrictions that keep showing up are things that can really ruin the fun of these games.
It's not all bad however as the creation suite is still as top notch as ever. I will even go on record by saying that the WWE games have some of the best character creation suites in the entire gaming industry. All of your favorite modes return this year including Create a Wrestler, Create a Moveset, Create an Entrance, Create an Arena and there are some new ones this year including Create a Video and Create a Victory. Create a Video is a very welcome feature as it allows you to create custom videos which can be used as either highlight videos or even entrance videos. There are a ton of options here as well including a huge variety of background videos, generic music options, text, and effects that you can add to create your video. This is a feature that I have wanted for a few years now as it's extremely important in my opinion to have these options for your created wrestlers entrances. In previous years, you were forced to use titantrons and entrance music of wrestlers that were in the game. To me, that completely ruins the created wrestler experience. I don't want Triple H's titantron and The Rock's music for my original wrestler, I want something... original. Thankfully this year there is a plethora of generic entrance music that one can use for their created wrestlers. Create a Victory is also another welcome addition that helps give your created wrestlers some personality. You can now give your wrestlers custom victory animations after they win matches and you can even select separate celebrations for when they are a heel or a face.
I love wrestling video games, and I love the WWE Games, but my biggest issue is just how inconsistent they are year after year. It seems like every year there is a ton of fun to be had, but then problems and restrictions start showing up that completely put a damper on the whole experience. WWE 2K17 is no different. The series takes two steps forward by adding in tons of new features, updating game modes and updating match types. Then it takes three steps backwards with all of the various problems that keep showing up. I know I am probably more critical of these games than I am of other games I review, but it's because I really love wrestling games and I really want these games to be great. If all of these small issues could be ironed out, these games could be put beside games like No Mercy, Day of Reckoning and Here Comes The Pain as some of the best WWE games ever made. Unfortunately, WWE 2K17 is just another good wrestling game. Why is being good disappointing? Because they should be great. CM Punk said it best. "Vince McMahon is a millionaire who should be a billionaire." That same statement could be applied to the WWE videogames.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember. My earliest gaming memories come from playing Lady Bug and Snafu on my fathers Colecovision and Intellivision respectively. It wasnt until I was 6 years old and played a Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine in a game room at a hotel that I truly fell in love with a videogame. I have so many wonderful memories of my dad and I playing Mortal Kombat on SNES every night after dinner. Throughout my childhood NES, SNES, Gameboy and Sega Genesis were the loves of my life. Here I am 29 years old and still as much in love with videogames as I ever was. And for the record... I enjoyed the Mass Effect 3 ending... sue me