WWE 2K17 Gameplay Preview
During the 2016 GameStop Expo, I got the chance to play an early demo for WWE 2K17. Unfortunately, the game was not playable at 2K’s booth during E3 this year, so I was happy to get a chance to play the game during the GameStop Expo. The gameplay demo for the PlayStation 4 version at 2K’s booth allowed for a standard one-on-one exhibition match, or a Backstage Brawl for the hardcore wrestling fans.
One area where the developers deserve a lot of credit with this latest installment is how quickly some of the newer WWE Superstars were incorporated into a game this time around. Shinsuke Nakamura only debuted in WWE/NXT a few months ago, and he was already fully playable in the demo. The turnaround time for how 2K has incorporated so many of the newer talents and NXT talents into the game is truly impressive and commendable. AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura were both selectable during the demo, and the developers captured their entrances just about as perfectly as you can ask. Other playable characters for the demo included Kevin Owens, John Cena, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. Including DLC, this could very well be my favorite roster for a WWE game ever when you figure in the likes of AJ Styles, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Asuka, and then wrestling legends such as Bret Hart, Brian Pillman, British Bulldog, Dusty Rhodes, Sting, and Goldberg in his first WWE game.
A lot of features gamers might remember from WWE 2K16 are back here. Charged finishers are back. Breakouts where players can take control of their characters during the entrances and get their matches started more aggressively are also back. Heels can even perform a run-in on their opponent during their entrance. Overall, the game has a a good amount of features that really make this an impressive WWE/pro wrestling simulation. The demo featured a lot of focus on the in-ring action in very subtle ways. This includes interaction with the referee. The referee might actually physically insert himself into the action a little bit more by getting in between an opponent if the other one jumps out of the ring. In short, referee AI has improved a great deal for 2K17. Physics and animation for the game overall worked pretty well. Physics and motion were always among the major issues for some of Smackdown vs. Raw titles, and it seems to have been smoothed out for the most part with the more recent 2K series.
The controls do have a bit of a learning curve. Performing reversals and getting the hang of chain grappling works well enough. Each wrestler has a reversal meter with how they can store up and use an amount of reversals. Honestly, having a limit to the amount of reversals you can do in a wrestling game seems counter-intuitive. In terms of flaws, the controller mini-game that comes up with submission moves isn’t the greatest. One element I believe some of the older Smackdown vs. Raw games deserve credit for is having a decent submission and rope break system that both worked rather well. Learning how to do holds and moves on the ground takes a bit of getting used to. Adding a pinning combination to a move such as a German suplex or the Styles Clash is pretty simple.
The graphics and character models that were available for the demo all looked impressive and top-notch. However, some models for the previous WWE 2K games have had mixed results. Some looked really detailed and impressive, others, such as Diamond Dallas Page in WWE 2K15, looked less than impressive.
At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, the gameplay for WWE 2K17 still doesn’t surpass the heights of WrestleMania 2000 and No Mercy, or even Fire Pro Wrestling Returns. However, it has plenty of other features that give it a lot of appeal to hardcore wrestling fan with its huge roster mixed in with icons and legends along with newer stars. Still, some elements of the gameplay seem a bit over-complicated. Animation and physics work great. The way match psychology figures into the gameplay with stamina and fatigue setting in work really well. But I still think the AKI games had a great level of simulating matches mixed in with fluid grappling, striking and controls that no wrestling game has truly ever been able to reach again. The closest, in my personal opinion, being the Fire Pro series.
WWE 2K17 arrives on October 11. The game will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows PC.