Take the Fight Backstage in WWE 2K17!

Amid the booming music, servers carrying hors d’oeuvres trays, various wrestlers walking the “red carpet,” I managed to get a little time with WWE 2K17, releasing October 11, at an exclusive press event in New York City. I sat down with another solo writer and tried out a few of the modes

For our first regular ol’ event match, I went with Seth Rollins, among five wrestlers available for the demo. Hits were traded smoothly, and it seems all the features Nick wrote about in his review of WWE 2K16 were present for better or worse, such as last year’s submission mechanic. Regardless, it controlled well, though for my first crash with a wrestling game, I was surprised at how long felled wrestlers spend on the ground, creating openings for their opponents to jump down upon them.

Next, we moved onto a backstage brawl. Mark Little, Executive Producer from 2K, seemed really excited about this mode as fans have been asking for it for the last few years. Although the entirety of our match was contained within the hallways and offices outside of the audience’s view, he said that certain game modes will allow transitions between the ring and backstage to create the authentic flow fans have come to love.

In smaller quarters, there were certainly different opportunities for me, as Finn Balor in his not-gross regular form (that demon get-up is something unpalatable), to knock my opponent against walls and hit him with office chairs. I distinctly tried to pick up a large potted plant too, but was unsuccessful. My favorite part of this mode was the running commentary—as long as the cameras are rolling, the show must go on!

Lastly, back as Rollins again, and my seat-mate as the new NXT champion, Shinsuke Nakamura, we took on Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose in a ladder match. The goal, as wrestling fanatics likely know, is to grab a ladder, get it on stage, and use it to grab a case of money dangling from the ceiling. Of course, you can also just hit your opponents with the ladders. To address Nick’s criticism of targeting in the previous game, pressing R3 on the Playstation 4 controller allowed me to cycle between targets easily, the names appearing above my head. However, if someone is between you and your chosen foe, they will still absorb the blow, so realism is not sacrificed there.

I was actually quite impressed with the flow of the fight in the ladder match since there are a lot of moving parts not present in common fighting games. Aside from having the ability to fight in the ring and ringside like a normal match, the ladder(s) presents new opportunities. You can wail on and grab opponents who are standing on the it, fight someone competing at the top of it, and for the scorched-earth approach, just knock the ladder down from the side, leaving whomever is trying to open the briefcase dangling for a few moments. It created an air of organized chaos that I imagine was a challenge to simulate.

Little would not fess up to the final number of wrestlers, but he assured me it’d be over last year’s whopping 120-wrestler roster. And beyond that, he’s amazed at how the Create a Superstar feature (Divas are no longer separated) has been enhanced thanks to community feedback. He said that in order to make the game easier for newcomers to pick up but intuitive for hardcore players to immerse themselves, the control system has been completely streamlined, using the same buttons to perform similar actions in context. Apparently, no features have been cut, so this is just more of the wrestling action you love.

It looks like it’ll be an exciting year for WWE 2K fans—well, not fans of 2K15, which Little even told me wasn’t built properly. Besides the existence of the new modes, the demos played rather nicely, and visuals for the most part looked clean. I thought Ambrose’s hair looked a bit scuzzy, but according to my Google image search afterwards, no, that’s just how it looks.

With the game two months away, if I may offer one criticism, it’s that there’s a certain dearth of life in the wrestler’s facial animations. Their bodies aptly perform their showboating introductions, especially Nakamura, but something about the way their faces animate while egging the audience on seems robotic and uncanny. Hopefully, that all gets refined come October. For your perusal and potential entertainment, I’ve included what photos (above) I managed to take before I exited in anticipation of Lil Jon takin over DJ duties. Enjoy!