LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! You are about to witness the longest-running franchise in all of sports entertainment hit the ring. The beast incarnate that is the WWE series. Weighing in at a combined total of more than your collective moms and hailing from Yuke’s unknown, prepare yourself! For a ride! TO SUPLEX CITY!
Although you might be better off taking a detour this year.
Ever since 2K landed the rights to the WWE franchise following the demise of THQ in a No-Holds Barred Bankruptcy I Quit match several years ago, the results have been mixed. As if it were following Star Trek movie logic, each successive game was either brilliant main event stuff or middling mid-card filler. WWE 2K17 is that mid-card entry. It’s the No-Chin Music of a James Ellsworth finisher with a band that hardly feels tuned up at all, running in the background.
On the surface, WWE 2K17 looks good. The visuals are as uncannily accurate as ever, the combat has been tweaked once again and the creation options are second to none. But the second you boot it up, the biggest problem makes itself know right away: There’s an overwhelming lack of direction here. Say what you like about previous WWE 2K games, but the Showcase mode has always been brilliant stuff.
The WWE brand knows how to tell a tale, and reliving the glory days of the likes of Triple H and CM Punk in a manner where every punch thrown told a story was the kind of magic that made the idea of sports entertainment so fascinating. But this year, there’s none of that. There’s no look back at the legends of the WWE through the hazy goggles of nostalgia and a slick video package, as WWE 2K17 focuses instead on your career inside the ring with your chosen wrassler.
MyCareer is an absolute grind, a plodding journey to the top of the card that’s about as engaging as that training video your company forces you to watch. When it comes to narratives, the WWE has given birth to some great feuds over the years. Think Chris Jericho;s battles with Shawn Michaels from 2003 that saw the Heartbreak kid have a retina detached. Daniel Bryan versus the Authority, a feud that saw the underdog finally claim what he was due or even Brock Lensar’s war with The Undertaker.
Stories and rivalries which shaped the industry in meaningful ways. Content that is otherwise non-existent in WWE 2K17. And really, it has the chops to be more than that. But instead, MyCareer devolves into matches without consequences and promos which miss the mark entirely. Promos in particular feel completely disconnected, mute sessions where your wrassler either panders or insults a crowd based on vague options and writing that should have been shoved into a shredder.
It’s monotonous stuff done to the sound of silence and feels like an idea being thrown into the beta stages of testing. Sure, there’s some effort attached to it but promos are far from complete in WWE 2K17 and the entire system needs a lot more practice on the mic before its ready for the ring. Manwhile, the combat may have been refined further but numerous other problems still persist.
When a WWE game nails combat, it’s meant to be a balance between shifting momentums that has the crowd on its feet. An idea where the outcome of a bout can be decided with a canny use of an elbow to break out of an F5 or a sneaky rake to the eyes to turn the tides. The outcome of a bout is always meant to be in the air, until that one signature move sets up the opposition for a trademark finisher to end the fight on a high note.
And really, WWE 2K17 doesn’t stray too far from the template set by WWE 2K16. But along the way, something was dropped. There’s a lack of that crucial momentum to the in-ring experience feels slower than the Great Khali’s ring entrance, while reversals suffer greatly. Sure, the window to pull off a Reversal may be a tad bit wider, but the connection between button prompt and keeping a keen eye on the animations of the onscreen wrasslers is totally disconnected, creating a confusing window of time within which to act.
And that’s a shame. There’s at least been some effort to extend the ring antics beyond the four corners, to take the fight backstage and through the crowd itself. But it all ends up feeling like you’re controlling an inaction figure at times instead of the titan you see on TV every week. Maybe it’s indicative of the current TV product, which is itself battling to create weekly drama that fails to balance nonsense with high stakes.
After WWE 2K16 took a massive step forward in the right direction last year, WWE 2K17 feels like it fell backwards off of a steel cage, creating an experience that is mediocre at best. The Yukes template is starting to show its age, something that no glossy layer of high definition visuals can hide. It’s time for something new, something fresh to give the dated mechanics a much-needed shake-up. Basically, WWE 2K17 isn’t the best game there ever was, ever is or ever will be.
But hey! At least we’re finally getting that Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg rematch to one of the worst Wrestlemania matches of all time because of WWE 2K17, right? That’s got to count for something.
Last Updated: November 10, 2016