WWE 2K17 is the latest entry in the annual franchise and is a bit of a mixed bag. There is a MyCareer mode that you can sink your teeth into where you start at the WWE Performance Center and work your way up the ranks. There is also a WWE Universe mode where you can control a plethora of things and see how you would fare running your own federation. Then you have your creations suite, the online mode and more that should keep any WWE fan busy for quite a while.
The first mode that I gravitated towards when I first booted up the game was the My Career mode. In this mode you create your own WWE Superstar and then you have to work your way up the ranks. You start at the WWE Performance Center which essentially acts like your tutorial and you have to go through a couple of matches as well as a couple of promo sessions so the trainers can judge you and see what your next step should be. If you do well enough you will immediately be called up to the main roster. If you still need some more work then you will be sent to NXT. One of the big problems here though is that you don’t get to choose. If you get selected to go to the main roster you do not have the option to decline and go to NXT instead. This is problematic because not everyone will want to go to the main roster right away, especially if you are an NXT fan. Additionally there is actually an achievement for winning the NXT Championship so if you go to the main roster you’ll bypass your chance at that achievement altogether. It just doesn’t make sense.
In between matches you will have your hub screen where you can do a number of things. You can change things up whether it be your ring attire, your appearance, your move set and more. You can see at a glance what your ranking is and how far away you are for competing for a championship. You can see what your T-shirt sales are and how much money you have made so far from them. There is a section where you can see who your current ally and rival is. There is also the “Heyman Guy Challenge” but you can’t do anything with that until you win a championship on the main roster. Finally you can see your current situation with the Authority but you won’t be able to do anything with that until you compete for one of the championships on the main roster. As you make your way through NXT you will compete on the weekly NXT shows and for some strange reason you will compete on Main Event as well. Then of course you will have a chance to compete on the NXT Take Over shows as they happen.
As you are going through all of this you will notice that some of the gameplay seems to be a bit refined but there are still definite problems. 2K Sports introduced a new submission mechanic a few years ago that was met with mixed results. This year they still have that in the game but they also give you the option to use a different submission mechanic which is greatly appreciated and I chose to use that one. The reversal mechanic on the other hand still seems to be busted. I had hoped they would improve upon it from the past couple of years but that didn’t happen. It still only seems to work on occasion. Whenever the button prompt appears on the screen you are almost always told you are either “too early” or “too late” no matter how quick you push it. There is a good bit of luck in successfully pulling off a reversal and being able to hit that window that appears to only be a split second long. I am hopeful 2K fixes this problem in WWE 2K18 but I have my doubts. Other gameplay elements in the game seem to work pretty well. There were times when I had trouble getting my wrestler to climb a turnbuckle but my success rate doing that was far higher than the aforementioned reversal system. As you go through your career you will earn virtual currency which you can use to upgrade your wrestler with upgrades including movement speed, striking speed, being able to take more of a beating and things of that nature.
In addition to the My Career mode in WWE 2K17 is the WWE Universe mode. The WWE Universe mode is essentially your chance to control your own federation. The default champions in the game are the people who are the champions in WWE in real life (unless there are recent changes that couldn’t make it into the game) but you can take the championship off them and put it on your favorite wrestlers if you want to. If you want to go completely from scratch you can create a bunch of your own superstars and not do anything at all with the WWE roster. One really nice thing they did this year was give you three save slots for WWE Universe mode so you can go completely wild in one of your files using your own superstars, for example, and then have another one with the WWE roster. Once you decide what you want to do in that regard it is time to run the show or rather, the universe. When Raw comes around, for example, you get to choose which matches you want to play or simulate. One change that was made this year is that you have to go through the match order as it is presented. 2K did it this way to try and make the commentary more cohesive but that is a mixed bag in and of itself. Promos are a big part of the WWE and now they are a big part of WWE 2K17. In addition to your matches you will need to cut promos which will help to determine where you are a face (good buy) or a heel (bad guy). It is a fantastic concept but you don’t quite have the control you need with promos. You can select the sentiment that you want to express but you don’t really have control over what your wrestler says which can be annoying and leading to unintended consequences. WWE 2K17 also allows run ins now which add another layer of chaos. My character was on the way to the ring to fight Bo Dallas but before I knew it he jumped me during my entrance. I was able to quickly recover and laid the smackdown on him with a steel chair but it was surprising when it happened the first time. You can do the same thing at times whether it is interrupt someone’s entrance or involve yourself in a match you aren’t in to try and help determine the outcome.
Unfortunately there is no “Edit Universe” button anymore but whenever there is something you can actually edit you will see the “Edit” option. If you want to change some things about WWE Superstar Bray Wyatt, for example, you can change some of their skills, their personality, how the crowd reacts to them and more. There is a calendar menu where you can see all of the shows in a given month, although unfortunately the calendar hasn’t been updated to reflect today’s product. What I mean by that is that Smackdown is still scheduled to take place on Thursdays but in real life it moved over to Tuesday nights back in July. At the bottom you will also get a snapshot of some of the rivalries that are currently taking place which is something I really like as it helps me keep track of things. You can also create your own pay per views where you can have your created superstar defend a championship that you created as well and add that into the mix of the real life WWE championship belts. If you can’t tell by now there is a ton of stuff to do in the WWE Universe mode and if you are a fan of these types of modes then you will be kept busy for quite a while.
The next thing I want to talk about is the authenticity of WWE 2K17. They get a lot right in this area but they also got a lot wrong. When you are going through NXT in the My Career mode they have Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and JBL doing commentary. For WWE fans this is unacceptable and is blasphemy. The commentary team for NXT is Corey Graves and Tom Phillips and it is a bit mind blowing that 2K doesn’t have them in there so that will immediately take you of the immersion that 2k Sports is trying to create. With that said lets move on to the wrestlers themselves. Most of the character models looks pretty nice. Unfortunately that isn’t true for all of them and you can clearly tell who got more attention. Some of the entrances are screwed up as well. WWE is all about spectacle and a part of that spectacle is the grand entrance that WWE Superstars always make on their way to the ring. So if you are a WWE fan (which most people who play this game probably are) it can get really annoying when the developer screws it up.
Sasha Banks, for example, comes to the ring and does a hip swing with her arms outstretched and acts like she is the best in the world and comes to the ring with a certain swagger and confidence. In the game she has the hip swing but her hands are on her hips and it just looks wrong. In real life as she gets to the ring she gets on the ring apron and then holds on to the middle rope and leans forward and showcases either a piece of jewelry or a championship belt right in front of the camera and then does a move where she goes right to left showcasing it. In the game they kind of have that but they rush through it and they don’t have the proper camera angle. Once again it takes you out of that immersion they are trying to create. They screwed up the New Day’s entrance too with the quick speech that Big E makes before they come to the ring. Not only did that feel rush but they didn’t even get the words right. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. I know for a fact there are some WWE fans on the development but I think they should probably hire someone to make sure this type of stuff doesn’t happen. This is one of those things where if you are a casual player you won’t notice any of this. If you are a big WWE fan though you certainly will and it will annoy you how they screwed this stuff up and the last time I checked the WWE games are marketed towards WWE fans so this becomes a problem. It is also a bit weird that in the MyCareer mode they have the show openings but only have part of them. If you are going to wrestle on Main Event, for example, you see the show opening before the show starts which is a really fantastic idea by 2K Sports. Being a WWE fan and watching the shows I am very familiar with all of the openings and they cut away to the arena about five seconds too early and it is just strange. They also don’t have the new sets for Raw or Smackdown but I’ll give them a pass on that one as the sets are still relatively brand new and the developers didn’t have any time to put them in the game. Giving credit where credit is due though the overall tv presentation is done well and when you are wrestling on Raw it really does look and feel like Raw.
WWE 2K17 also features some online modes with 2K Tonight and WWE Live, Team Up and Private. In the 2K Tonight mode you can’t use any customized elements. Essentially the way it works is that you can join the next match by winning the current match. Next is the WWE Live mode where you can pick the match type you want and then go into a warm up session as you wait to be matched with someone else and for the match to be set up. Once everything is good to go you will be taken to your match but you don’t want to just screw around during your warm up session. It appears that you get a little boost to your earned prestige depending on how well the session went. The Team Up mode should be pretty self explanatory where you can invite friends to join you in a 2 or 3 man tag team against other opponents and then Private is where you can have matches with your friends but the only way they can join is through invitation only. Unfortunately in my experience the online mode has some latency at times which can throw off some of your timing and might end up costing you the match.
One thing WWE fans will definitely notice when they boot up the game is the lack of a Showcase mode in WWE 2K17. This is going to be a major disappointment for a lot of people and 2K didn’t put anything in the game to replace it, it is just gone. In previous titles the Showcase mode was the storyline mode for the game, the campaign if you will. In one of the games the Showcase mode took you through the Attitude era, for example. In WWE 2K16 there was a Stone Cold Attitude Era showcase and it was a lot of fun reliving some of the biggest moments of the Texas Rattlesnake’s career. The omission of a showcase mode this year leaves a big hole in the game and can be pretty baffling, especially since they could have done a pretty neat one with Brock Lesnar (the cover superstar) and his whole Suplex City thing.
I briefly went into some of the commentary in the game above but it warrants some more discussion. Commentary in the WWE can be really important as it can help add to the emotional impact of what you are seeing on the screen. As legendary commentator Jim Ross would say, the commentators are basically giving you the lyrics to the music the wrestlers are creating in the ring. Keeping that in mind the commentary in WWE 2K17 can be horrendous at times. Much like other sports titles on the market there are times when the commentary either can’t keep up with the action going on or is flat out wrong. There was one instance where I just did a match and all I had done up to that point is punch a guy and the commentators started going on about how my opponents career might be over because of what just happened to him. The commentary is largely uninspired and dull. I suppose one could argue that is true to life (especially where Michael Cole is concerned) but it can really take you out of the moment here.
WWE 2K17 is a bit of a mixed bag. In general the gameplay seems to be pretty refined in most areas. The TV presentation style they use for shows like Raw and Smackdown mirrors what we see on television every week. The My Career and WWE Universe modes can be pretty deep and will keep you busy for hours. The authenticity of certain things leaves much to be desired though and that is going to be a sticking point for big WWE fans. The lack of a Showcase mode also hurts. The online mode seems to have some latency issues from time to time which can be detrimental to your experience. I didn’t experience that every time but it is definitely something worth noting. When you add all of this up it is enough to put WWE 2K17 on the List of Jericho but not everyone is going to want to drink it in.
All in all WWE 2K17 is an ok experience. If you are a fan of WWE 2K16 and like what it brought to the table you will probably enjoy WWE 2K17. If you haven’t enjoyed the game the last few years than WWE 2K17 will do nothing to change your mind. If you find yourself in that situation and are a big WWE fan then I would highly recommend you rent this game first to see what you are getting into. Hopefully the shortcomings in WWE 2K17 can be addressed and WWE 2K18 will be a better game for it.