WWE 2K17 Review: An Imperfect Reiteration

In my humble opinion, WWE 2K16 served as an important step in the franchise's history. Opting out of arcadey button-mashing, they jumped off the boat in search of a more paced, realistic simulation product. Complex, complete, and fun, it exceeded my expectations. For better or worse, they key question if you're thinking about picking this one up is: were you expecting change? Because 2K17 is not the next step in evolution. As a matter of fact, it feels like a reiteration that doesn't get everything right.

Last year, the WWE 2K introduced a number of significant changes that truly altered the way you played the game. The reversal system, updated pinfall and submission mini-games all accounted for a more satisfying experience. Luckily, the aforementioned features have returned. However, minor cosmetic touches have been applied in order to improve the in-ring action.

First off, wrestlers are able to interact with the squared circle in more crisp, realistic fashion. When taunting next to a corner, the superstar will stand on the ropes and celebrate with the crowd. In ladder matches, you can exclusively place the ladder in certain spots in the arena, meaning that the days of climbing to find out it's not in the exact position required to grab the damn briefcase are over. Switching targets, an issue that has been problematic for a couple of releases, has been resolved. Now, a simple press of R3 will allow you to focus on a specific wrestler involved in the bout. As insignificant as these additions might seem, they all add their grain of salt.

The most talked about addition to the game is undoubtedly the backstage brawls. Absent for multiple years, taking the fight behind the curtain allows you to fight in the gorilla position, a hazardous hallway, the locker room, and the Authority's office. It's pretty straightforward but greatly entertaining. Hitting opponents with trash cans until you can powerbombing through a table will never stop making me smile.

Presentation-wise, I can't help but have mixed feelings. On one side, 2K stuck with the successful approach they utilized last year. Realism is still a priority. While playing, the camera makes the same cuts you see in the WWE product, and wrestlers actually express emotions. Anger, frustration, and cockiness (I'm looking at you, Jericho). Character models still look pretty good all around, and whenever the camera zooms in, you can see scars and face marks. Also, there are less loading screens during entrances, which you can disrupt by attacking your opponent while he is walking to the ring and begin the match outside the ring. So...presentation is great, except for what has been this franchise's nightmare for the past 10 years.

Commentary. It's still not good. At all. While you can tell Michael Cole and Lawler recorded more individual lines for each wrestler, you still get a lot of repetition. JBL's commentary is equally atrocious. At times, it feels like the crew only recorded a couple of lines that are repeated over and over. I usually say it should be fixed by next year's entry, but who knows at this point? WWE might simply enjoy the fact that their game's commentary is horrendous.

Back to the positives, let's talk about fan feedback. 2K really did listen, and they made sure WWE 2K17 builds on its already impressive roster. Key omissions such as the four horsewomen and the Dudley Boyz finally make their mark. Besides them, you still have a massive roster composed of the current roster, newcomers (AJ Styles, Nakamura) legends (Goldberg, Trish Stratus), and the recent NXT call-ups. Other top-level characters like Eddie Guerrero, Tye Dillinger, and the Club have been announced as DLC. Overall, I have no complaints.

MyCareer makes its return, and considering the Showcase mode is gone, it's the heart and soul of the single-player experience. Sadly, the mode still feels incredibly slow and tedious. I appreciate that it takes you from NXT all the way to the Hall of Fame. But after a bunch of tag matches against nobodies, you probably won't feel compelled to get your ring. 2K17 wants you to get invested in the business side of things (T-Shirts sales, fulfilling objectives to become a Heyman guy). In my opinion, it should be about the chaos and fun found in its real-life counterpart. At this point, I wholeheartedly believe the franchise should return to scripted narratives similar to the one found in "Days of Reckoning 2". Some interesting additions are made in here, like the interactive promos. Nevertheless, it doesn't feel developed enough for it to be impactful.

Another important thing to consider is the fact that this game feels outdated. This isn't 2K's fault at all, They're working on tight schedules, and when a substantial alteration is made late in the game development process, there isn't a lot they can do. In this case, the brand split is nowhere to be found. Lastly, online allows you to compete in a variety of matches against other players. Sadly, the mode is still plagued by lags that prevent you from kicking out from even the most basic pinfalls.

The Good
- Minor Gameplay Improvements
- Massive Roster
- Great Looking Superstars/Divas
- Whole Lot of Customization

The Bad
- Atrocious Commentary
- Outdated Presentation
- Laggy Online
- Boring MyCareer

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