The mid-to-late 1980's can easily be called the "Golden Age of Wrestling" given the incredible boom professional wrestling received. With roughly half-a-dozen wrestling organizations duking it out for televised rights, it ultimately came down to the National Wrestling Alliance and Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation. By the mid-80's the WWF dominated the airways and it was then that I was first introduced to greats like Hulk Hogan, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Brett "The Hit Man" Hart, Andre The Giant (oh Fezzik), Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Ric Flair, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and the velour-covered Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase (though there were many, MANY more). Being a child of the 80's I was inherently drawn the the utterly horrible action and over-the-top acting and boy did I love it.
That is, until the late 80's/early 90's when I realized that video games, anime, and Dungeons & Dragons were far cooler than a bunch of oiled-up, sweaty man-boys in spandex playing grab-ass in a big ring. Admittedly I played a wrestling game or two back in the Super Nintendo days, but beyond that I largely grew out of the sport. Fast forward some 20+ years and WWE 2K17 rolls across my desk and I was really, very, extremely apprehensive about covering it. I tend to stick to driving games for my dosage of "sports titles" mixing in an NHL title or two when I feel the need, so I was really not looking forward to covering a wrestling game.
In fact, simply starting WWE 2k17 up in my Xbox One was embarrassing, as was nodding my head to the stellar soundtrack (while cheesy, wrestling DOES have the best soundtrack of pretty much any sport). Even worse? After spending a rock solid hour navigating the super in-depth wrestler creation tool and struggling with the horrible camera angle on some of the up-close changes (see: http://screencast.com/t/E1ige9Cjvq ), running through the tutorial was an utter disaster that carried on over to the regular game. For those like me with a severe aversion to quicktime events, stay away from WWE 2k17; the game is built on them.
I was shocked really, as I went in expecting more of a fighting-game style of gameplay where the game is built upon a series of intricate and elegant button-combos and in ways, it is, but with an overly-liberal dosing of "look, I have a quarter of a second to tap the R trigger, otherwise I am stuck in a stun-lock." I threw my controller. Multiple times. Choose a style and stick with it; full QTE ala Ryse: The Son of Rome, or down-right button-mashing fighter goodness, ala Street Fighter V. Not this hybrid crap. The controls, to a new WWE user, are so bad and awkward that they made me entirely forget any embarrassment that I had with actually playing a wrestling game.
Crap-for-controls aside there are about a million different things to do in WWE 2k17 and that is where the fun really starts. You have you obligatory quick start games, career modes, etc, and all contain the elaborately hokey acting that one comes to expect in professional wrestling. Say what you will, but WWE 2K17 really ticks the nostalgia trick, espeically with a roster that includes Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart, Ricky The Dragon Steamboat.
To back the excellent soundtrack comes some wicked graphics, at least, wicked graphics by way of character models. I found that the various rinks / arenas were pretty bland unless there were scripted events happening and given the studio behind WWE 2k17 is the same responsible for the disgustingly nice looking courts in NBA 2k17 (Author Note: Nick will know how hard that was for me to say ... I detest basketball), it seems like a big missed opportunity, especially given that the viewers are a massive part of the "experience" of wrestling. WWE is sort of like watching a couple super-models bash it out in a voxel-based Minecraft-esque box. A bit jarring if you ask me.
Terrible controls and mismatching quality difference between models and backgrounds aside, WWE 2k17 is (dare I say it) a pretty excellent game. With a little work on those controls and spending a bit more time on bringing the full experience to bear, I could actually see 2k's WWE franchise becoming one of the best sports franchises period. Until then? It is a solid title with just enough familiarity for an old codger like me to be able to pick up and play, and just enough new for veterans of the franchise to be able to justify picking up yet another annual sports title.
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Article by Robert