Many wrestling fans have dreamt of a repeat of the days of wrestling games on the Nintendo 64. Under THQ, there were two separate developers for their wrestling titles. The Nintendo 64 had AKI, and the PlayStation had Yukes. The Smackdown franchise by Yukes was much more fast paced, but lacked what games like WWF No Mercy had in terms of gameplay. When AKI went under, THQ stuck with Yukes for years as they continued to develop the games in the series. 2K Games then bought out the WWE portion from THQ and has stuck with Yukes to develop the titles to this day. While the titles have been solid under 2K with Yukes, they finally got everything right with WWE 2K17.
There are always sports games that are full of modes that end up being useless. A lot of sports games have the card collecting games that you don’t really touch. WWE 2K17 has nothing like that. It literally has everything you could ask for out of a modern day wrestling game. Not to mention this version includes the deepest roster of past and current wrestlers to date. The entire game is dictated by virtual currency. This currency can be used to upgrade your customizables,wrestlers, and other various things. This allows for an unprecedented amount of replay value.
While the main menu may be a little bland, the overall presentation in the game is made to resemble an actual televised event. Featuring commentary from Michael Cole, JBL, and Jerry “The King” Lawler, WWE 2K17 does an excellent job of mimicking a broadcast. Unfortunately, that means you have to listen to the three. The commentary is repetitive, and at times, does not make sense with what is going on. While the game was developed before the brand split, it would be nice to see the next iteration feature split commentary. They even do the NXT coverage. Maybe the split could be patched in somehow as the intros and the overall feeling of the game seems somewhat dated.
The most important mode, the career mode, adds some depth this year as you can become a Paul Heyman guy, establish a rapport with the Authority, and the conduct promos (which is definitely the coolest feature). You can schedule promos during a show as well. You will get random interviews as you try to establish yourself as a face (good guy) or heel (bad guy). It is like a mini game that has been added on top of the big picture. There’s no voices, just dialogue. As for creating wrestlers, the depth is unprecedented. It is almost too much to take on, so you can do a quick move set with your created wrestler. If you have a camera, you can create your own titantron video, just don’t go jumping on any tables to make it.
The WWE Universe mode returns and this allows you to basically be the GM. You run the shows, the storylines, the rivalries, everything. You can watch the shows and promos, or just simulate. There are a number of different matches, and there is finally a backstage match. You are basically in a hallway and have a locker room and an executive room you can go into. Movement and the feel of the environment feel a bit strange. You can interact with certain objects, but it tends to get stale pretty quickly. Every other major match type you could think of is in the game, including online.
As for creating your wrestler, you are able to upload it to a server. The wrestler then becomes downloadable for virtual currency. If you currently check, there is quite a bit of variety available. Everyone from CM Punk to Batman can be found as a downloadable characters. This also adds to the replay value to WWE 2K17. While there are a ton of modes to play, the most important aspect of any wrestling game is how it controls in the ring. WWE 2K17 is Yukes’ best in-ring performing wrestling game to date. The grappling system is not overly complicated, the hits and animation are fluid, and you will even see wrestlers fall into the ropes. The counter system is still the same, but it feels like there is more time to pull it off. Every once in a while attempting a grapple would garner no response, but it might have been my fault for jumping the gun.
The character models, the arenas, and even the audience are about as real as it gets in WWE 2K17. The character models have always looked good in this series, and it certainly shines as a whole this year. It helps that the animations are more fluid, but there are times where the action seems to get too fast or something gets goofy. There have certainly been some videos on the internet showing some ridiculous visual glitches, but I never encountered any first hand. Every so often, there will be clipping between a character model and a belt, but otherwise everything looked, performed, and most importantly felt correctly in the ring.
The online multiplayer functionality in WWE 2K17 played just fine. You can try to host literally any type of match including a fatal four way. While waiting for opponents, you get to take your aggression out on Seth Rollins in practice mode. There’s no lobbies, and finding a one-on-one match is fairly easy, but getting the bigger matches can be more time consuming and difficult. Private matches exist too, along with WWE Today. Some modes will let you use customizable wrestlers while others will not. No lag was ever encountered and the few matches I played were just as smooth online as the game was offline.
WWE 2K17 is the best wrestling game I have played in years. The amount of depth in the game and the tighter gameplay in the ring all add up to an excellent experience. Is it a classic like WWF No Mercy? I would not go that far. The commentating is annoying and repetitive as well as there still being some graphical glitches out there. The ability to conduct promos and become a Paul Heyman guy is really cool; not to mention all the different modes and matches that can be played. There are aspects that could be incorporated better, such as weapon use and run-ins during matches, especially if you are in a rivalry. Then again, breaking out of your victory animation and causing more damage to your opponent is a good start.