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WWE 2K17

Score: 55%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Yukes
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 6 (Local and Online)
Genre: Sports (Wrestling)/ Simulation/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

As the years roll by, itís hard not to think that the pro wrestling genreís best days are far behind it. Long gone are the glory days of WCW vs. NWO Revenge, WWF War Zone, and even the likes of Def Jam Vendetta. Now, it seems all thatís left are the major licenses, and with the arrival of the current console generation, the iterative process has undergone a rather painful reboot. The bar wasnít set all that high during the last gen, which makes it all the more brutal. It really hurts, too, because WWE 2K17 has all the potential in the world and does very little to actually achieve it. Thereís a good fighting system under the hood, but itís so riddled with mechanical oddities and so hamstrung by its needlessly steep learning curve that all but the most dedicated of wrestling fans will take one look and decide itís not worth their time.

WWE 2K17 is lacking from several perspectives, and to my shock, that includes style. Thatís particularly odd, considering the bombastic gaudiness of sports entertainment as a whole. Events, when witnessed through the miracle of television or experienced firsthand among a rowdy stadium crowd, have an anarchic spark to them; sure, itís scripted and goofy, but you canít help but lose yourself in the spectacle of it all. WWE 2K17 is missing this spark, and while the rendering of its superstars and the animation work is somewhat close to the real thing, nothing about it screams "next-gen." The drab visuals ultimately end up lending an unwelcome sense of sterility to what should otherwise be exploding at the seams with over-the-top personality.

WWE 2K17ís lack of charm extends to its audio presentation. Its licensed soundtrack exists on a razorís edge between middling and annoying, which I suppose is a decent enough representation of the franchise as a whole. Theme songs and entrances are handled well-enough, but I guess itís a foregone conclusion that they canít secure authentic voice talent across the board. So it has to make up for all of that with sound effects, which generally get the job done without any muss or fuss. Heavy landings on the canvas stand out as always, and given the theatrical, limited-contact nature of the fighting, it wouldnít be reasonable to expect the nasty fleshy impacts associated with authentic martial arts games.


Gameplay:

Superstars, candy asses, and jabronis everywhere. It's time to get in the ring and pay the piper. WWE 2K17 is the next step in the iterative process from last year's allegedly middling entry (I only recently got it through Games With Gold and still have yet to actually play it). While I can't speak to what's improved or not, the mode offerings on hand are nice and diverse. That being said, the quality is disparate throughout.

The comparatively drab sports simulation presentation does a fair job of partitioning off different kinds of gameplay modes. If you're looking to simply jump headlong into the ringside action, you can access a wide variety of match types from the landing page; whether it's a simple one-on-one match or a full-blown 6-Man match, the variety is welcome.

I've never been a big fan of lengthy from-the-ground-up career modes, and WWE 2K17's MyCareer does nothing to alleviate that stigma. While I can see it having some appeal to the hardcore fans who want to engage in some fantasy fulfillment, it's a really grindy, borderline-boring experience.

What I love most about pro wrestling is the feigned self-seriousness of it. My admiration of these performers goes beyond their physique and willingness to hurt themselves for our entertainment. I love that these men and women are somehow capable of saying the most ridiculously asinine things without collapsing into laughing fits. While itís definitely unfair to fault this game for excising the not-so-gamey elements of pro wrestling, it becomes a legitimate grievance when so much of what's in this game is expressly designed to deliver an accurate portrayal of all that encompasses WWE.

Of course, you can take your action online. However, be aware that every complaint of "lag" is likely legitimate, rather than a crutch. In this game, timing is everything, and the pervasive latency issues undermine not only the already problematic reversal mechanics, but even the likes of kicking out and breaking submissions are affected. It's a real problem.


Difficulty:

WWE 2K17 thumbs its nose at newcomers at its own peril. If itís been a while and you want to learn how to actually play the thing, you are out of luck. Thereís no tutorial; for a game with this many moving parts and complex gameplay systems under the hood, such an omission is both confusing and inexcusable. Playing this game for the first time is like being stripped naked, hurled into shark-infested waters, and told by someone with a sh*t-eating grin on his face: "Try not to die." So as you fumble about with the unresponsive controls, the game makes its half-assed attempt at explaining its mechanics as you play. In lieu of actual demonstrations and practice modes, you get a smattering of unhelpful text boxes that appear ostensibly when each major mechanic comes into play. Itís one of the most egregiously bad cases of telling instead of showing.

Game Mechanics:

Pro wrestling has always been a mix of strikes, grapples, submission holds, and elaborately goofy showmanship. WWE 2K17's controls can be acclimated to, but I have to harp once more on the fact that the game has no interest in showing you how to execute all those moves you've seen on the small screen. So if you want to learn all the complex, technical stuff, you'll either need to consult an external source or simply discover it by accident. That's shameful, especially when you consider the fact that ultimately, it's not rocket science.

Are you ready to get mad at the reversal system all over again? Itís been reworked for this yearís outing, and it seems that they still canít get it right. The most striking difference about its implementation in WWE 2K17 is that reversals now fall under two categories: minor and major. A minor reversal is a quick escape from a potentially dangerous situation, while a major reversal will have your superstar dole out some damage on top of the escape. Timing is everything, however, and the game remains extraordinarily wishy-washy on its detection of successful timing. Its visual cue is in dire need of reworking; while I understand the necessity of keeping reversals tricky (lest every match be reduced to a series of the same reversals over and over), the mechanic's scattershot functionality renders each successful reversal unsatisfying and each missed one yet another frustration.

WWE 2K17 is mighty snobby for a game that isn't particularly good at its core. The foundation has been set for building for years now, and we have yet to see anything resembling a compelling structure for the competent but maddeningly obscure systems that power the game. While the feature set is largely in place, the exclusive nature of the game will alienate everyone who isn't a yearly patron for the franchise. Ultimately, I'd advise everyone but them to just keep waiting; they're bound to get it right before too long.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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