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WWE 2K17

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Developer: YUKE's (EU), Visual Concepts (US)
Release Date: Oct. 11, 2016


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PS4 Review - 'WWE 2K17'

by Redmond Carolipio on Nov. 21, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

WWE 2K17 is the latest installment in the wrestling game franchise.

It must be excruciating to make a wrestling game. How else to explain WWE 2K17, which appears to have all the requisite pieces for sports entertainment nirvana, yet can't stop repeatedly stumbling over itself?

Pro wrestling is probably one of the hardest things to capture in a gaming experience because of its inverse relationship with the elements of traditional sports. Basketball, football or even mixed martial arts are about the essence of athletic competition, while showmanship is a luxury. Wrestling is a show first and foremost, built around characters (who are also amazing athletes) engaging in theatrics focused around epic physical combat. It is performance art at its most extreme. This makes the standards for a game about it unique because as people in show business and the art of performing will tell you, there's less room for mistakes.

WWE2K17 struggles with that balance. It doesn't truly embrace its own identity because it tries to be several things at once. Is it a dynamic fighting game? Is it a pure pro-wrestling game? Does it think it's NBA 2K, trying to serve as a pro-wrestling simulator? I asked myself these questions every time I sat down with it and was maddened by the all of the highs and lows of the experience.

My first thoughts start with the roster, which was assembled before WWE split its talent stable between "Raw" and "Smackdown." Most of the stars a fan would expect to see are there: Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and, of course, the cover man, Brock Lesnar. The rejuvenated women's division is well represented with Sasha Banks, Bayley and Charlotte among the most popular names. Even NXT names like Asuka (the women's champ), The Revival (a tag team) and Samoa Joe are around. If you're looking for Shinsuke Nakamura, he's downloadable. You'll also have access to legends like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ric Flair and the Ultimate Warrior. I actually liked the roster, though I can't for a life of me figure out if there are any fans ready to roll with Viktor or Konnor of The Ascension in a solo match. Who would do that?

The roster is solid, but hardcore fans will notice strange things when some of them get into the ring. For instance, Sami Zayn is supposed to have a timed fist-pump to coincide with his theme music saying, "Let's go!!" but he does the fist pump well ahead of schedule. It's a small detail, but it's one of many inconsistencies you'll see.

That's not enough to truly injure the experience. The game's commentary and voice, however, is another story.

Michael Cole, Jerry "The King" Lawler and JBL handle the in-ring commentary, and it sounds like they've been given orders to be as general, vague and as non-specific as possible, forced to randomly say things like, "I can't wait to see these two go at it," or "Oh, what a move! We've never seen that before," or something else that sounds read from a cue card. To be honest, I'm not sure I can directly quote what they're saying because it all seemed to blend together the more I listened to it.

I've played sports games for decades, and this is the first time I've gone into the options screen and turned the volume for "voice" all the way down. It's some of the most disjointed and awkward commentary I've heard in a while and does a disservice to the real-life team … which, actually, isn't a team anymore because of the brand split. Wrestlers known for great entrance promos aren't much better. The team of Enzo Amore and Big Cass automatically inject enthusiasm into a crowd in real life, but their game versions belt out their on-ramp shtick with the energy of people trying not to wake up a baby in the next room. The New Day is a little better but nowhere close to the electricity of something you'd hear at a live event, or even on TV. The sounds of WWE 2K17 as a whole are disconnected, and it's been like that for a few editions now.

Actually, playing WWE 2K17 can be a stressful endeavor. Those who have played the past couple of 2K iterations of WWE won't like the fact that some of the more annoying gameplay mechanics are still here. At the forefront is the overreliance on pressing the right trigger to counter or reverse an opponent's move. On harder difficulty settings, even players with average-to-good timing could find themselves being beaten into paste for 10-15 minutes without getting any offense in because the oversensitive counter system keeps saying you're "too early" or "too late." I feel bad for brand-new players because there's going to come a point where they'll be slaughtered because of the counter/reversal system. That's not fun. You're also going to see some strange AI glitches in matches that involve more than two people. I once had to reset a match because Kevin Owens was stuck running in place. I can't explain it, but wonkiness like that happens more than it should.

My final thoughts go to the game's MyCareer mode, which attempts to expose the player to as many facets of the wrestling business as possible with a created wrestler. One great thing it exposes you to is the intricate and exhaustive player-creation feature, which gives you control over every possible detail, from the height of someone's eyebrows to the lighting for their entrance. It can be quite cumbersome, but it's almost like working on a car engine, where you can really take ownership of your creation … as long as you create a dude. You apparently can't import or create a custom female superstar into the MyCareer feature, which feels like a true disservice to WWE's legion of women fans.

An argument could be made that there aren't enough women on the main roster to support a career mode, but I can't buy it. There's a slew of them in NXT (which MyCareer almost completely avoids — you jump to the main roster immediately), and some of them have had better storylines, matches and momentum than the fellas. Why not try and create something with that, especially since women's wrestling is enjoying its best moments in years? Instead, you have to create a dude who has to slog through cringe-worthy promo minigames, take part in matches every week and worry about The Authority, which hasn't been a thing in WWE for months.

WWE 2K17 is the first wrestling game I've truly waded into in a while, and I'm reminded as to why it's been so long. I play the basketball, football and MMA games because it's basically what I see and experience on TV. As a fan of WWE who has viewing parties for major PPVs, I can't say that what I played touches on what I get from WWE programming every week. It resembles it, but it's got a long way to go before I see it the same way I see the real thing: art, done well, providing the perfect escape.

Score: 5.0/10

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