By Adam Salzer
Hello, everybody! As promised I am here with my review of WWE 2k17. Note that I have only played the PS4 version, so that is what I'm basing my judgment off of.
Let's get into it, shall we?
The first thing you'll notice when you start the game is that the game opens...oh, wait, no, the first thing you'll notice when you start the game is the HUGE Day One "update" that takes, or at least took me, an hour and a half to download and install. Annoying, for sure.
But once that's through and the game starts, the first thing you'll see is the WWE opening bumper video, the "Here, Now, Forever" video, and I think that's a nice touch for a game touting itself as "the most realistic WWE experience ever."
Then the title screen appears:
While harder to tell from a still photograph, you may be able to notice that, unlike in years past, this is not a still photograph of our cover athlete, Brock Lesnar. Instead his character model strolls across the back of the screen, and then appears in a puff of fog, they're big on fog this year, to taunt you a little bit before disappearing again. This is repeated for the entirety of the time you spend on the title screen or menu screens, a superstar walks across the back, poofs to the front, poses, and then poofs away. It seems to be fairly random, though when I spent all of Tuesday playing I saw Bray Wyatt and his lantern at least ten times.
They have changed the menu screen since last year, it's much cleaner looking this year. instead of screens full of boxes each sub-menu has its own box, and any options within that sub-menu stay within that box. So from the "PLAY" sub-menu you pick "One-on-One" let's say, and then, within that same box, you pick your match type.
Speaking of match types, making its return this year is the Backstage Brawl, which I am thrilled about. The basic level is one hallway, but from that hallway you can throw your opponent into a locker room, The Authority's office, the interview area, or another small room that, I believe, leads to the stage. I haven't managed to make it out the other door in that room yet. It's pretty great.
So you select your match type and it brings you to the character select screen. One nice thing to note this year is that, thanks to the Women's Revolution, there is no more Divas menu, all the superstars are listed as superstars and are not separated by gender:
For the record no, I did not play as R-Truth, because fuck that. But anyway, here you see Naomi, Natalya, Nikki Bella, and Paige listed alongside Murphy, Neville, and R-Truth. Also a nice touch is when you select your superstar they appear in yet another puff of fog and you'll hear Lilian Garcia say their name.
Sadly the "Custom Superstars" and "Downloaded Superstars" menus still exist, making it a pain in the ass if you want to just have a random match and don't care who's in it. If you want Goldberg, or if you, like me, got the NXT pack and want to select Apollo Crews, Nia Jax, or Shinsuke Nakamura, you'll have to go down and select that separate menu.
Also from the character select screen the "Match Options" menu returns, where you can select the arena to fight in and if a title is on the line. Interestingly this year you also have the option to select your referee.
I'm not 100% sure WHY this is an option, but there you have it. Choose your referee. Once you select everything you need/want to select it's to your standard matchup load screen, however this year the commentators, who sadly are still JBL, Cole, and King, will make some generic comments about the match coming up. Again, it's a nice touch to add to the realism of the game.
One thing I must mention about the character select screen, just like last year when you create an arena you have to create a show for that arena in order to select it as a playable arena in any mode. Sadly, just like last year, custom shows and downloadable arenas don't appear to be accessible to the random selector that assigns an arena to a match when you select the match type. So if you pre-ordered and you've redeemed your Goldberg pack, and you want to use the Halloween Havoc or Monday Nitro arenas that came with him, you're going to have to select them manually, same goes for any created shows you make with custom arenas, they will not show up automatically in exhibition mode.
Before we get to the match itself I want to make mention of some of the headshots that come up in the character select screen. Some of them are really good. I, personally, think The Miz' is the best one in the game.
Then there are some that are...not so great...
It's a little hard to see in the picture I took from my TV, but Vader up there looks like he either has one robot eye or a real bad case of conjunctivitis. Dana Brook is about to eat your soul. DDP looks drunk, ironically. Konnor has no pupils or irises whatsoever (and looks like a rejected Mortal Kombat character), Seth is wearing a bad wig, and Titus looks like his dog just died. That or he just took a long look at his career.
Not great, is what I'm saying. However, once you get into a match, thinks look quite beautiful. Take a look at Rusev, for example.
Although the whole "belt over the jacket" thing still looks ridiculous, the model itself is quite good.
Now that's not to say the game is visually perfect, there are still a number of glitches and bugs that will be worked out with future patches, I'm sure. In one falls count anywhere match Tyler Breeze suplexed me outside the ring and I got stuck on the barricade for about a minute until something finally caught itself and I "fell" to the floor. Elsewhere I've seen a video of Naomi getting her head stuck in a cart in a Backstage Brawl and, while quite enjoyable to watch, it doesn't quite hold up to the "most realistic WWE game to date."
When you start a match you'll notice that the star meter from last year's MyCareer mode has returned, and is now in every single match you do in the game. Exhibition, MyCareer, and Universe mode, every match will have that star meter, and every match will earn you VC. This is important because instead of taking time to create a Showcase mode this year, and have unlockables that are related to that showcase mode, instead you'll get the chance to purchase superstars, arenas, and championships we've seen in previous games.
While this seems fine at first, and the game does give you a starting bank of 200,000 VC, once you start MyCareer mode you will realize that the VC is more valuable elsewhere. This gives you two options: Play Exhibition and Universe matches until you unlock everything and THEN start MyCareer or, as I plan on doing, spend the $30 on the Season Pass and use the Accelerator to unlock everything. It does slightly hamper the enjoyment of the game when I have to choose between unlockables or beefing up my dude in MyCareer.
Also of note as you look at that shot above, is that they can't seem to decide who they want to group and who they want to separate. We've got single purchases there for two Ricky Steamboats, two Rocks, two Shawn Michaels, etc. but then each Sting is separate. Plus you have a group Steve Austin and a solo Steve Austin AND a group Undertaker and a solo Undertaker. The only thing I can think of is that the groups count as one roster slot but multiple attires? But still, you can't have Shawn Michaels vs. Shawn Michaels, but you can have Sting vs. Sting vs. Sting? Weird.
Also of note the sheer amount of titles that are unlockable.
Compared to the dearth of unlockable arenas.
Again, these are all things we've seen before. There is no unlockable content in WWE 2k17 that wasn't in last year's game, until the DLC appears later this year.
Alright, so back to the matches themselves. The gameplay is only slightly changed from last year. They tightened up reversals a bit, making them slightly harder to pull off, timing wise, but the buttons are all the same. The only other thing of note is that the submissions have changed, and are no longer specifically mapped to a press and hold of the grapple button. This is still the case when the opponent is on the mat, but when standing holding the grapple button now initiates a strong grapple.
Also of note, if you're playing against Xavier Woods and you grab Francesca, you cannot strike anyone with it. Hitting the strike or grapple button merely results in this:
Just in case the video gets removed, that is Rusev playing the trombone.
You can also see the star meter we talked about before, up in the top left corner there.
Alright, enough about Exhibition mode. The meat and potatoes of the game, as it were, is the MyCareer mode and the Universe mode. Universe mode feels much the same as previous years, though this year we have three save spots, if you feel the need to have more than one universe going. The example given by WWE games was one where maybe in Slot 1 you have the game set up with the defaults, Slot 2 can have a brand split going, and Slot 3 can be your CAW fed. I've never been a big user of "GM Mode" so I mostly just go through and play the matches as a way to use different characters. So my judgement of Universe Mode will not be the deepest. They have made improvements from last year that allow the shows to flow better from match to match and from show to show. Player select is now in the match preview screen as opposed to having the entrances and then a stop down while P1 decides if he wants to participate, simulate, or skip. Plus they've brought in the opening videos and pyro for the shows as well. It's small things that add up.
MyCareer mode has received a big overhaul and is much deeper than the last two years. After creating your superstar you have a warmup match against another generic guy, then Albert tells you if he likes you or not. In my case I was then given a "tryout" against Samoa Joe, which I won, and then promo practice by myself and against Enzo. Albert, for some reason, thought I was good enough to go straight to the main roster, thereby completely wasting the "Double XP in NXT bonus" I had purchased with the NXT edition, that dick. I used almost all of the 200,000VC startup bonus I'd been given to up my dude to an overall of 80 to avoid becoming a jobber on the main roster, but me and my assigned tag partner, Mr. Generic number 2, lost our first three matches before I was given a singles match, which I won. I then found myself in a match against the WWE Champion, Seth Rollins, which I won, so on the next show I used a promo spot to call him out. The Authority came out and put me in a tables match with him, which I also won, putting me in a rivalry with him. A rivalry with the WWE Champion, when I'm going for the tag titles with Mr. Generic Number 2, within my first month on the show. Who am I, Kevin Owens?
Personally, I enjoy the new promo engine, though it does take a little to get used to, and I feel that they can really build on it in 2k18 and beyond. I look forward to what they do with MyCareer next year as they continue to expand it in each subsequent game.
I also hope they bring back Showcase mode or some other way to earn unlockables, as just purchasing them feels like a cop out to me.
The creation suite is so deep that I haven't really had a chance to get into it beyond creating my dude for MyCareer and creating an arena at the behest of a viewer on Twitch. Creating an arena was ridiculously fun once I stopped trying to make something that actually resembled anything WWE would use on television. If you're on PS4 and it's still up on Community Creations search "SyrianLE" to find the arena I made.
I did, however, notice that in playing matches in my created arena there was a significant slowdown in gameplay, to the point where, in a ladder match, I was unable to pick up a ladder or climb it. This also happened in a singles Falls Count Anywhere match, where we ended up walking off the stage, but still stayed floating at stage level, until the prompt came up to go backstage. Again, glitches and bugs that will be fixed, hopefully, in upcoming patches.
All in all, since this article has certainly gone on long enough at this point, WWE 2k17 is a load of fun, and is definitely an improvement on last year's game overall. While showcase mode is a glaring omission, and the unlockable system leaves something to be desired, as a whole the game is very fun and very playable, and I think it should be picked up by WWE fans who play videogames. Once again this is based solely on the PS4 version of the game, so if you have a 360 or PS3 you may want to check reviews for that specific system first. The last last-gen game I played was 2k14.5, and it was garbage.
Overall grade: B+, there's room for improvement, but the game is solid, fun, and you should definitely pick it up, if you're not 100% sure maybe rent it from Redbox first, but definitely give it a shot. And remember...
Kane watches over us all...
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