The Wrestling genre is an interesting one. It doesn’t sit in the arcade corner of the likes of Street Fighter and yet doesn’t fully embrace a realistic sim approach either. Instead it sits in a neat corner in-between, seemingly designed to satisfy both crowds. With WWE still booming, it’s no secret that fans look to these games as their gateway to being part of that universe.
The 2K series has had somewhat of a rocky start. Some praise it for its realistic models but many hate it for its slow fighting style. The slowness is still there but thankfully refined over the years. Unlike 2K16, the latest one boasts a slightly more responsive mechanic. Grabbing, pinning, and even stamina just flows better here and overall improves over its predecessor. Other elements such as grabbing tables or interacting with the environment also work and don’t glitch out as much.
WWE 2K17’s main highlight comes from its career mode. Players can create and customize their own wrestling with a surprisingly deep amount of options. We’re not just talking about characters here with the usual face, or muscle mass, but video intro and victories that are further improved with a Highlight Replay system. But while the customizations are deep, the career mode itself suffers a bit. For one it feels like a massive grind fest. Unlike the good old PS2 games, players here need to keep building their way up to reach the big major matches. Some may enjoy this crawl to fame system but I just can’t help but feel that I’m wasting time just to get to the good parts.
The parts I did enjoy are definitely in its multiplayer modes. The game offers up to six player ring matches which is a godsend in today’s lack of couch co-op world. Even though its chaos on screen there’s something satisfying in seeing that chaos shared among friends in one room. The chaos is somewhat organized thanks to an improved lock-on mechanic. Just by tapping on the analog stick players can target their closest and lay waste. But sadly the almost slow-mo feel to the game sort hurt it. This is mainly due to the amount of mo-cap done which while adds realistic animation but hurts the overall pacing of each match thanks to the added key frames. Still I can’t deny the amount fun shared especially with the re-introduction to backstage matches (a staple missing for many years).
On the presentation front WWE 2K17 is a sight to behold. Character models, facial animations, and more appear stunningly real. This is also helped thanks to an improved lighting engine which helps flesh out the detail. The PC version takes an extra step thanks higher resolutions and consistent framerate. My 980ti chugged running this game at 4K but even with its low FPS, the detail stood out. It’s also worth noting that someone who enjoys using the PS4 controller can play it with someone who prefers the Xbox One controller instead. The versatility helps when playing on the couch.
Matchmaking is somewhat disappointing. Players who want to play a specific game will have to wait until someone chooses a particular game mode they want which can take somewhere between forever to zero matches. Adding a simple server browser (which Smackdown on the PS2 had) would have been an easier way to jump in specific matches. Matchmaking may work for shooters but for wrestling with its diverse game modes, it ends up hurting it instead.
WWE fans looking to live out their wrestling fantasies will most likely pick this up review or otherwise, but to those who cling and hope the genre returns to fast paced gameplay of the Smackdown vs Raw days may wish to tap out. It will take a while before we get there but with the return of classics such as backstage fights and a refined wrestling mechanic, 2K17 is set on the right path.