Every year we have the same conversation. Will this be the year that a wrestling game goes above and beyond, matches the optimistic expectations of the internet community whilst making an easy to play yet accurate parable of the television product?
WWE2K17 does try to go a lot further in to the television aspect than before, although a lot of the cues you may recognise from older titles. It’s certainly not shy of content when it comes to superstars. Once again the roster has grown to be the biggest and most inclusive of any game. The popularity of NXT has given 2K17 another batch of new superstars, along with new Hall of Fame entrants and legends of wrestling. In total there are 156 playable wrestlers, twenty of those being DLC, and 25 women in total. We’ve come a long way.
That’s all well and good but we need the action in the ring to be as plentiful and as fun as the options we have approaching it. So here are some things that haven’t changed. The game is normally a little bit behind the television product so we are still stuck with a single three man commentary team consisting of Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry “The King” Lawler. There’s no brand split and therefore no independent commentary teams, which is a bit sad for those of us who have been waiting for Maruo Ranallo and Cory Graves. The arenas and sets are also locked in to their previous incarnations and the past year of pay per view shows.
The mini games in the ring return with the submission wheel, which can be turned off, and new games for specialty matches. The ladder match, for example, has a lock pick style game for briefcases/belts. The reversal system returns but has a much more fluid and realistic approach rather than the constant dosey doe you could get locked in to in previous titles.
That’s where the refinements get better though. The in-ring action isn’t the a huge leap from the regular progression of years past but it is improving. Of course there’s still some issues with clipping depending where you are in the ring but the movement feels better, the attacking feels better and even if it is incremental, it plays better. Without a complete engine change or update there’ll never be vast improvements, but as the teams get more comfortable, new features (old to some of us) will come to the fore.
Going backstage is something we used to do a lot in the Attitude era of wrestling games. SmackDown 2 even had a brawl at WWF New York, remember that? WCW’s last game release by EA was completely backstage… And was rubbish. But in WWE2K17 the backstage area returns. Along with the promo section in career mode being improved, you can even trash the set in a brawl, mess up the locker room throw people in to the electrical equipment, battle in the gorilla position and even gatecrash The Authority’s office, much to the stern parental disappointed looks from either Stephanie McMahon or Triple H. It’s small but its moves like this that help get the whole picture of wrestling, not just the fighting game element. This will hopefully translate very well to the WWE Universe mode.
There is enough nostalgia as well with the promise of WCW sets, Goldberg on pre-order, and a hall of fame showcase that brings last years inductees (including previous pre-order icon Sting) and some of their greatest matches. Clash of the Champions 1988 with Flair vs Sting should be a cracker.
The career mode sees a lot of improvements, updates in staff, and different decisions in career path outside of standard “please the boss” progressions with the introduction of Paul Heyman’s management. The creation mode seems to be vastly improved and a lot easier to use as highlighted by the below video. There also seems to be a wealth of arenas including lots of NXT based stuff which will please everyone.
NXT is going to be a big focus in the career progression and in the new additions to the game. Most of the superstars now have come from or are still in NXT. The Takeover events now with their dedicated arenas will have a much bigger prominence and with the talent and audacious nature of their biggest stars (Nakamura and Asuka) there is a certain giddy joy in being able to play as some of the best wrestlers in the world. Especially just watching their entrances so well replicated. I could personally watch Nakamura’s for hours.
Which is why this could be a game remembered best for what it brought together, rather than its individual talents. A WWE game with AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and the cream of NXT along with many others I’ve not named. We’ll see when the time comes to review it but with all the fundamentals in place, it can only get better.