There are only 2 things in my life that I have great passion for, my wife and wrestling. The happiest day in my life was being surrounded by 80,000 people in the New Orleans Super Dome to witness Daniel Bryan lifting the WWE World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania 30; my wedding is obviously a close second. It’s taken me 3 years of being part of Invision to finally be granted the liberty of reviewing the latest WWE game, a rather daunting task for anyone obsessed with sports entertainment. I’m a very pessimistic individual, so I went into this game expecting it to be hugely disappointing, similarly to how I go into every WWE PPV; the wrestling community isn’t a very confident one, and surprises are often hard to find.
My first 3 hours on WWE 2K17 was spent in the Creation modes, which are simply amazing. Seriously. I’m not one to spend hours of my life trying to re-shape each orifice and limb of my custom superstar, but I honestly could have spent all day creating every one of my favourite Independent wrestlers. Never before have I found character creation so deep and easy to use, especially considering I have very little patience. Now the next step is to upload your creations and share them around the world, likewise you can download wrestlers that others have painstakingly slaved away making, and honestly some of these efforts are incredible. At the time of writing, WWE Cruiserweight Champion TJ Perkins is missing from the roster (as is his belt), however I was able to download someone who looked remarkably like him, complete with an almost identical move-set. Just from scrolling through other players’ efforts is just astonishing and a real glimpse into the sheer extent at which you can go into creating your favourite guys and gals who didn’t make it in. WWE 2K17’s Creation Modes are the easily the best thing about this year’s game, there’s no doubt about it, and something which can only get bigger and better in the future.
MyCareer is back and sadly once again misses the mark. Back in the heyday of WWF/WWE video games, the career modes were creative, fast paced, daft and hugely rewarding, and all of this can be achieved in 2K17 … well after half a dozen hours or so anyway. After a brief tutorial, you’re thrown into either NXT or the main roster with a goal in front of you, typically the tag team championships. However seeing as I was paired with a complete useless jabroni called Jayden Jet, I sacked him off immediately and set my sights on the U.S Championship instead. I really wish I hadn’t. You begin at rank #10 and you must work your way up that ladder by winning matches, putting on great performances and dominating all of your rivalries, but after 5 hours of doing all of those I only managed to get up to rank #5. During that time, I was involved in a 3 month feud with Dolph Ziggler that didn’t lead anywhere and barely affected my ranking at all, actually come to think of it that’s a very accurate simulation of WWE’s current TV programming, well done 2K! Ultimately there are 2 ways to achieve greatness in MyCareer, become The Authority’s dog, or become a Paul Heyman Guy, however to be considered for any of them you need to win at least one championship, so perhaps after 12 hours of wrestling I’ll get there. MyCareer is a lot better than the most recent of reincarnations, however it’s still lacking a real sense of actual fun. It’s far too long winded and no different nor more enjoyable than simply playing the Universe mode, which to everyone’s surprise is … pretty fun!? Finally, the wrestling gods have heard our cries! Universe mode has been given a bloody much needed makeover, which now makes the franchise’s major playing mode actually enjoyable, which hasn’t been for the past half a dozen entries. Import your custom superstars, belts & arenas into your own universe and make it completely unique to you, rather than the generic one on offer; I downloaded all of the old Attitude Era arenas and transported myself back to 1999. The brand-new Universe mode is as exciting as you make it and for the first time, it’s actually worth putting the hours in for.
2K17’s gameplay too has been nicely spruced up, ironing out all the creases of the past couple and adding a couple more essential gameplay elements that avid fans have been asking for. A new submission move mini game now takes over, which makes for a more hectic and terrifying experience when both delivering and escaping those devilish holds. It adds another degree of difficulty to the otherwise repetitive gameplay, though it is difficult to get used to and personally not my cup of tea. Gone is the awkward stance of your wrestler when he/she goes for their finisher outside of the ring, only to realise that they can’t perform it, so now you can assign a second finisher, exclusively for those hard floorboards J It’s not just you who can do things a little more cleverly, but now your opponent knows how to contribute and react to a match properly. Whether it’s by well-timed taunting, bum rushing you in the ring when you’re about to win or, in one instance, clobbering me with a sledgehammer and getting themselves disqualified, something that totally took me by surprise and gave that otherwise crap match a purpose going forward. In short, everything movement/personality/wrestling related is the best by far and 2K seem to have finally found their groove. There’s nothing like a change of scenery, and 2K have nicely let us take our matches outside of the ring and smash faces into everything laying around behind the scenes. This delightful inclusion is exciting and hugely enjoyable as not only is it a request that’s been pleaded for many years, but it’s pulled off excellently! WWE 2K16 gave promo’s a crack and it worked … OK, however 2K17 has stepped up a little, giving you a bit more freedom on how your wrestler carries themselves on the mic, but it’s still awkward, cringey and a bit goofy, again rather accurate when comparing it to the most recent episodes of RAW. Players select 1 of several lines for their chosen wrestler to say. Pleasing the crowd will score you big points, more fans and help your push within the ranks, but when you’re up against a rival, things get a little awkward. The dialogue is very sketchy, rather lame and often a little confusing, I was booed several times for calling Randy Orton a goof ball and commenting on John Cena’s stinky breath. As there is no recorded dialogue for it other than the largely poor commentary from Cole, King and JBL, it’s a weird experience to have to sit through.
WWE 2K17 is a great achievement from 2K and the best entry into the popular franchise for quite some time. Everything related to the wrestling & presentation is a huge improvement of everything that came before, and the creation modes are by far the greatest I’ve seen and the easiest I’ve used. Once again MyCareer falls a little short, it’s definitely a better product than last year’s and clearly a great level of thought and creativity has gone into it, but it’s ultimately just a boring Universe mode where you only control 1 wrestler. Universe mode on the other hand has been superbly revitalised with a much needed make over, meaning for the first time in god knows when the game’s main source of content is actually worth playing through. Maybe we’ll never get that perfect wrestling game, a combination of great gameplay and explosive narrative, but bah gawd WWE 2K17 is the darn closest we’ll get to it for the time being.