I am a wrestling fan. I have been been playing wrestling based video games for more than a decade. I have been watching WWE for far longer (also WCW and TNA). So much so, that I ended up buying the NXT edition of the game this year (and got a sick Finn Balor statue). But even for a fan like me, who “is a certified G and a bona-fide stud” (+2 if you got that reference), WWE 2K17 may seem shallow.
With WWE 2K17, 2K have tried coming closer to the original WWE product, and while that’s an appreciated effort, it just doesn’t feel enough. With lots of variety but little context, its a mile long but a foot deep.
(+) As good as the real thing
Having said that, WWE 2K17 improves on almost everything that was present in WWE 2K16. As a wrestling fan, I appreciate the slower tactical pace of Wrestling and it pleases me when that pace is matched in WWE 2K17. Both you and your AI opponents sell moves better. Characters are slow to get up and take support of the ropes when getting up later in the match. The match itself has an ebb and flow as both you and your opponent would dominate phases of a match. The biggest benefactor of this little tune up are the multi-player matches (Ladder, Tag team) where if a character is hit with a strong enough move, he would roll out of the ring, giving the rest of the players to do their thing, and forget about him for a while. This is so line with what happens in real matches and feels so natural, that I was surprised it wasn’t done before.
Then there is the ladder placement. Anyone who has ever played a Ladder match in any of the earlier games, knows the frustration of placing a ladder, climbing to the top and then realizing that you are not in line with the Title/Briefcase/Contract. The game now provides a marked area in the ring, into which if you place your ladder, you are good to go. Further the taunt system has been given a overhaul with different taunts giving you either a damage buff, momentum buff, or taunts your opponent to stand up in a groggy state, once again aligning itself with how taunts are used in actual WWE shows. Plus you can now taunt from the top rope, which I thought was a stupid miss in the last game.
(+) Not Kicking out of that
Finally finishers and signatures hold more meaning in this iteration, than they did in the last. During my previous escapade, WWE 2K16 needed me to use my finisher at least twice to beat even mid-carders. This time however even in my rookie year, I am able to pin people sometimes even after my signature, which is again a relief, and much closer to real WWE matches.
All of these mechanics come together the best, when you play in the legend mode. The legend mode is not illogically difficult, but harder and requires the most skill. In return it also creates the best matches, like the one I had with Samoa Joe, a 5 star meele which saw both of busted open, 3 pedigrees and 2 muscle busters. The hard mode creates the tension and suspense about its results, which may not be present on the easier ones if you are good with the game. If you want the best out of your WWE MyCareer and Universe mode, I suggest you play it on LEGEND.
(+) Creating your own Legacy
The Creation Suite is back to almost full power. You can create Superstars, Arenas, Entrances, Entrance Videos, Victory animation, Championships, Shows. Its all their (Except for create a finisher) and almost everything is detailed enough to help you make that perfect wrestler that you have always dreamed of. In fact the Creation Suite is so robust, detailed and expansive, it made me think whether 2K should consider releasing the creation suite on PC, and let players import their creations over to the console. Something like how Big Ant have done with with Don Bradman Cricket Academy. The depth of this all can be scary sometimes, and you might spending way too much time creating stuff, than playing the game, if you get addicted to it.
The UN-lockable too, have been well streamlined. Now everything can be bought by a single Virtual currency which is conveniently called VC, instead of SP to buy Skills, EXP to buy attributes and VC to buy UN-lockable in WWE 2K16. Every match that you play whether its in MyCareer, WWE Universe or in Quick Match mode, you will earn some VC, which can then be used to buy stuff for your CAW or other UN-lockables. The requirement of beating a wrestler at a PPV before you unlock his move-set is also replaced by the VC wall, which is way more convenient than targeting each wrestler on the roster one by one, just so you can use his move-set for your CAW.
(-) Too long, too boring
With no Showcase mode, this year the responsibility of offering a single player experience falls on MyCareer and Universe mode. The problem is both modes are too grindy and generic to incite any kind of long term commitment to both modes simultaneously. The MyCareer mode in particular remains the grind fest that it is, with you playing through meaningless matches upon matches in your quest to become WWE champion. This is perhaps the one area, where I was hoping 2K would do well to move away from the curve of an actual WWE superstar, atleast offering an option to simulate your matches, and letting you skip to the important ones.
The grind becomes even longer when you consider the extremely high loading times each match has, and the UN-skippable intro to each show which you have to sit through. This adds an unnecessary overhead to each match, to the point where you are able to complete just about 3 matches in 1 hour. For a mode which inherently requires so much of your time, this kind of wastage is just unacceptable.
What makes the MyCareer more bearable though, is the fact that there is much more content pushed into it. There are much more cut-scenes (most of them involving Paul Heyman) and video-packages which sell the journey, but it’s not enough from making it monotonous. The MyCareer was one of my favorite modes in WWE 2K15 and WWE 2K16, because it showed immense potential, but the slow crawl at which it is improving yearly is frustrating.
(-) When will it end
The WWE Universe does little to quench that frustration. It provides you with an opportunity to place yourself in the shoes of multiple superstars. It lets you skip as many or as little matches as you want. Lets you edit the roster any way you like. Lets you create, edit or delete shows and lets you do the same with championships too. All this though is once again crippled by the huge loading times the game has, and in this case is multiplied by the amount of matches you play each show. So if you have setup a great PPV card, with 7 dream matches you are looking at 2-3 hours of your time, most of which is spent at looking at loading screens.
This is when you start to feel tired of playing god, or a rookie on his path to greatness; and the other cracks in the game start showing. Commentary is still as awkward as last time, collision detection is still pathetic, the online mode is just a laggy crackpot, and the matches are full of glitches. The longer you play WWE 2K17, the lesser you like it, and for a game which asks you to put hours upon hours into it. Let’s just say it doesn’t work out very well for them.