WWE2k17 is the latest entry in the now long line of WWE wrestling games.
Despite being a lifelong wrestling fan, the last wrestling game I played with any passion was back on the Playstation with WWF War Zone. It was a ton of fun with just enough combo moves and timing to be challenging but not impossible. It was fast enough to not be boring and the character creation was half the fun.
The WWE games have come a long way since then and unfortunately, so far, WWE2k17 does provide as much fun as a game that is 20 years old. Of course, it’s probably more fair to say it doesn’t live up to a memory that is 20 years old…but either way…
It’s better to call WWE2k17 a simulation than a fighting game. If you’re looking for an arcade-style fighting game with move combinations and finishers, you’ll be very disappointed. Instead what you’re given is a game that asks you to interact every now and then but otherwise, just sit back and watch like you do on any given Monday night. It’s just not that engaging.
But on the plus side, the list of characters to choose from is very long. You’ll find your favorite wrestlers from yesterday and today, and what you get are some very interesting “dream matches” – like Rick Rude vs Randy Orton. Or Randy Savage against John Cena. I mean, the list goes on and on, and that’s fun to think about and unlock but not so much fun to actually play.
The basic controls are pretty simple…one button grapples, one button punches; other buttons do things you’d expect like run, climb and pin, although the move set for any given person isn’t that extensive. But the shoulder button is by far the most important because it’s your counter/block button. Thing is, you only have about a half second to press that button at the right time to get out of an attack. It’s way too hard and way too frustrating to be fun, especially if you’re playing the computer.
Even you get really good at timing, once you hit your move (on offense or defense) you usually just have to sit and watch while the sequence finishes. You can’t kick out once the move is applied, and likewise, you can’t extend the move either. Once you execute, you have to wait…and that means you’ll be waiting a lot. Wait…hit button real quick…wait…hit button…
And then there’s a bunch of little mini game type things that you have to play in certain situations, like submissions or pinning where you have to pay attention to little power meters, or spin your analog stick or…just weird things that take you totally out of what little action that was happening on the screen.
I don’t mind that the game is difficult, challenge is good. But there needs to be a reward for overcoming that challenge and WWE2k17 doesn’t give you much in return…shy of just watching some very dated looking characters execute a move.
Speaking of which…graphics. Look, it’s not fair to compare Playstation graphics to Playstation 4 graphics, okay? This game looks good, very good. But some of the modeling is just weird (like with hair) and then the lack of facial expressions makes everything just look like mannequins hitting each other. It really reminded me how important over-acting is to wrestling. I play other PS4 games that look more real than just about anything so why can’t that quality be everywhere? I just want to see the look of pain (or pride) in my character’s face.
I’d like to think for every simulation game there is an arcade counterpart, and I’d like to think WWE would take advantage of that. For every high-priced AAA 2k game that WWE puts out, they should put out a Wrestlfest-style arcade game that is decidedly lower rent but still fun to button mash. Or hey, at least an arcade mode within the simulation game, right?
I don’t feel that WWE2k17 is a bad game, it’s just not the game I expected. After jumping back into wrestling games after a 20 year hiatus, I’m just disappointed to find the fun I remember isn’t there. I love the extended roster of modern performers and legends but the game grind just isn’t that engaging. It’s a game I’ll play every now and then when I think, “yeah, I got a wrestling game, lets play,” but then after one or two matches, I stop playing after being reminded how boring it is.