WWE 2K17 (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 30.11.2016

Review for WWE 2K17 on Xbox One

Once again, it's time to enter the squared circle with WWE 2K17. Thanks to its trademark staggering roster and bevy of features, this series has never found itself hurting for content. However, the quality of the moment-to-moment game design has had its ups and downs. At its core, pro wrestling is a competition, and video games based off the sport have to be fairly designed and balanced. It's a formula that demands constant refinement, and that's no small task. This is further compounded by the yearly release cycle, and the necessity to include tons of content. Finding the happy medium between ambition and refinement has always been an arduous task. How does this latest entry in the WWE saga fare?

Over the past few years, the WWE 2K series has implemented numerous fixes and changes to improve the wrestling action. One of the most important additions is undoubtedly the counter gauge. Blocking a punch or reversing a grab costs a portion of the meter. If a wrestler uses all of their energy to avoid basic attacks, then they're going to be left wide open to the aptly-named, the Finisher. Landing a huge reversal can also cause opponents to lose focus, making them unable to counter for a short time. The stamina gauge ties a cost to all actions, so wrestlers can't constantly spam attacks. This also helps in the "storytelling" element of a wrestling match. Hitting big moves can take a lot out of both combatants. A star-based ranking system rewards players who use a diverse array of techniques, and don't immediately try to squash their opponent.

WWE 2K17 further refines the game with its "roll-out" system. Previously, matches with more than two wrestlers tended to be chaotic. Everyone is punching each other out of the big moves, running into one another, and it became difficult to follow. In this game, if there are at least three wrestlers in the ring, after one of them gets hit with a major attack, they'll roll out of the ring. They're essentially taken out of the action for a little while. On the bright side, after recovering, they'll re-enter the ring with a slight buff. In emergency situations, such as to break up a pin, the wrestler can recover more quickly, at the cost of a slight debuff. This is a fantastic and long overdue change for the franchise. In previous games, not enough attention was given to the impact of moves. When someone was thrown off a ladder or through a table, they'd inexplicably recover almost immediately. Matches with more than two participants now flow better and are more enjoyable to participate in.

Screenshot for WWE 2K17 on Xbox One

For anyone who has ever wanted a taste of what it's like to be a pro wrestler, there's the career mode. After a short tutorial, created wrestlers make weekly appearances in the WWE Smackdown and Raw programs, as well as the Pay-Per-View (PPV) shows at the end of each month. While participating in matches, the created wrestler is encouraged to cut promos, develop their abilities, and move up the ranks. Eventually their hard work and determination is rewarded with title reigns. While this is going on, the wrestler connects with the audience: whether they wished to be loved as a face, or despised as a heel. They'll also cooperate with some wrestlers, and feud with others. The RPG elements are handled nicely, and the bonuses that come from T-shirt sales are a good incentive for wrestlers to occasionally change their look. Aside from stat upgrades and skill bonuses, points can be used to unlock classic wrestlers, as well as different rings and championship belts.

While the tutorial is an unfortunate truncation of how just how much effort it takes to become a part of WWE's roster, the rest of the career mode perfectly captures the doldrums of being stuck in the mid-card. After a short stint in WWE's Performance Centre, Adam Grisly formed a tag team with Brody Tyson. Together, they performed in a handful of matches, and moved up the ranks. It's a sensible system, since the top-ranked tag team is given an opportunity to win the championship belts. Unfortunately, ever since Adam got into a feud with Finn Balor, he's only been wrestling in singles matches. Oddly enough, this helps his tag ranking, but not his singles ranking.

A good feud requires strong promo work. Everything that happens when the bell is rung is only part of the story. Promos serve as the basis, the reason for why these individuals are fighting. Unfortunately, the promo system in this game just doesn't cut it. When a wrestler cuts a promo, they're given a few seconds to choose from four lines. Since Adam is a heel, he's going to use a lot of disparaging words to cut down his opponent as well as the audience. At the same time, he also has to explain why he wants to fight Finn Balor. The reason is simple, Finn is the United States Champion, and Adam wants a shot at his title. The promos in this game tend to be incredibly vague, and use a lot of words to say absolutely nothing. Instead of simply challenging Balor for the belt, Adam goes into a long-winded diatribe.

Screenshot for WWE 2K17 on Xbox One

The lack of specifics and any real storylines are what hurts career mode the most. Finn Balor has a persona known as "The Demon King". He wears a wickedly disturbing outfit and swings a chainsaw around when he enters the arena. None of this personality is present in his feud with Adam Grisley. They fight each other on Raw, and then they fight each other again on Smackdown. It's also important to note that Balor lost his belt to somebody else during this feud. That belt was the entire reason why Adam started feuding with him in the first place! A good feud elevates both combatants, and some of the most well-known feuds in wrestling history don't even involve championships. However, there is neither a belt nor a storyline to give Finn and Adam's feud any meaning.

The WWE Universe mode allows players the opportunity to develop their own weekly shows and PPVs. They're free to determine the talent and the match types. Why settle for a mundane singles match when the wrestlers can brawl it out backstage? Time in-between matches can also be filled by cutting promos. It's a neat mode in that it allows players as much or as little involvement as they want. They can actively take part in every single match, or allow the game to simulate everything that happens for several months at a time. Another great aspect is that customized characters can be placed on the shows. The most dedicated players can essentially build their own federation, and then handle all of the booking. All told, this mode isn't particularly deep, but it's still interesting and fun to play around with.

Screenshot for WWE 2K17 on Xbox One

As is the standard for the franchise, the robust customization system is well worth checking out. Some fans get a lot of value out of creating their favourite characters from other media, and then watching them duke it out in the ring. The customization is very thorough, even allowing for digital photos to be used in creating the perfect face. It takes a serious amount of work, especially for anyone who wants their wrestlers to have a non-generic move set and an intricately-produced entrance. Conversely, sharing creations online is quick and easy. It's too bad that create-a-finisher didn't make the cut this time around. Gouging an opponent's eyes nine times in a row, before finishing them off with a devastating slap in the face? That was quality entertainment.

Technical issues have constantly beleaguered the WWE 2K franchise, and if this entry is any indication, they aren't going away anytime soon. Aside from the lengthy load times, the biggest problem tends to be the A.I. opponents. There are moments when they either forget what they're supposed to be doing, or they perform actions that are completely at odds with common sense. Occasionally the A.I. will repeatedly go for a grab, but then not follow up with anything like a suplex or a submission manoeuvre. They'll grab, hold their opponent for a second, let go, and repeat. Usually all it takes is a punch in the face to solve this issue. There was also the time when Adam and Brody were wrestling the Usos in a tag team match. At one point, Adam distracted the ref, so his manager could slide a steel chair into the ring. However, Jey Uso grabbed the chair, then immediately clobbered the ref with it! Maybe that was Jey's method for making sure that Adam didn't get a chance to use the chair, too bad it cost him and his brother the match.

Screenshot for WWE 2K17 on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Without a doubt, the wrestling action in WWE 2K17 is some of the best the franchise has seen in a very long time. All of the improvements result in matches that are more fluid, more entertaining, and are generally very balanced and satisfying. It does a fantastic job at coupling deep sub-systems with arcade-like appeal. However, the career mode is hobbled by an absence of compelling storylines. The WWE Universe mode and it's plethora of customization options are massive time investments, and the freedom to build the perfect roster is very cool. Promos are a great idea. It's a shame that there's a little too much guess work involved, and the results tend to be disappointing. The lack of polish isn't game breaking, but the long load times and occasionally baffling AI can get annoying after a while. Still, if pro wrestling fans are willing to persevere, they'll find a lot to like.

Developer

Yuke's

Publisher

2K

Genre

Sport

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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