Luke spends his time playing video games, binge-watching TV and hanging out with his German Shepherd, Ziggy and Bernese Mountain Dog Pandora.
Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
October 17, 2017
Yukes, Visual Concepts
WWE 2K, like any other yearly sports franchise, isn’t going to reinvent the wheel when it comes to gameplay innovations or drastic updates. The nature of these titles is that an updated roster is paramount, along with enough new modes and variation to previous problems to justify another purchase. Regardless of this, wrestling fans (like myself) are pretty likely to buy it every year anyway, but thankfully WWE 2K18 has refined just enough to make this a worthy buy, even for those skeptical of these annual releases.
I have to say, the roster that’s included here is astounding. It is gigantic and full of the superstars you’d expect, plus a huge range of NXT superstars, Cruiserweights, legends and, most importantly, women. Just scrolling through the list of 176 (!) superstars takes a while, and their entrances, personalities and wrestling styles have been mostly integrated very faithfully to the main product.
There are some exceptions to this (long hair still doesn’t look right and some of the women just… their faces don’t quite look right), but most of the time I can confidently call this the best looking and most well produced WWE title to date. Entrances in particular are just fantastic, whether its Bray Wyatt slowly marching to the ring with his fireflies in the crowd or the glorious Bobby Roode on his elaborate spinning pedestal. The crowd even interacts, chanting “TEN” as Tye Dillinger bounces down the ramp or singing along with Shinsuke Nakamura’s iconic music. It captures the atmosphere of a televised broadcast incredibly well, so much so that, at a glance, you can be fooled into thinking it’s an actual event.
Despite the very positive addition of Corey Graves on commentary in WWE 2K18, the announcers are still very hit and miss (mostly miss), to a point of being pretty laughable at times. They’ll repeat lines over and over, ask questions to the others that get left unanswered or ignored and sometimes even refer to things that aren’t actually happening at all. It’s a shame they can’t get this right still after all this time, as it’s a pivotal part of the WWE experience for those watching at home.
Action in the ring is also stronger than its ever been. Since they implemented the limited reversal system a couple of years back, there are tactics required that force matches to have a back and forth quality that you’d expect to see on Raw or Smackdown. There have been tweaks to the gameplay to add further to this, including momentum swings, quick pins to catch your opponents off guard and variations to the submission system.
” …I appreciated the freedom in being able to craft my own exciting in-ring stories…”
You’re also able to modify the kinds of moves you do in the ring, with a new carry system that allows you to pick up your foes in different ways and actually move them, whether it be into a slam, into the turnbuckles or onto the barricade outside. There is more choice than ever before in how you want to do damage to the superstars opposite you, and I appreciated the freedom in being able to craft my own exciting in-ring stories out of even the most simple match-ups.
Getting pinned still feels like one of the more frustrating mini-games in the experience due to my terrible timing, but as always I managed to adapt to the timing after a few embarrassing defeats. The Royal Rumble elimination mechanic however finally feels like it makes sense, along with the fact that multi-man matches now don’t feel as chaotic with improved targeting and clear indicators.
The list of match types available is actually exhaustive, with all sorts of stipulations and combinations available to create and recreate your favourite WWE moments. It all comes together to create an experience that is perfect for fans; it’s not all about getting the victory, it’s about putting on the most entertaining performance possible, and it makes things incredibly relatable and exciting for fans. Every near-fall, every ref bump and every interference is engaging and true-to-life, with memorable moments occurring often.
The creation suite in WWE 2K18 is the most ridiculous and expansive it has ever been, with the ability to make the tiniest tweaks on everything when it comes to superstars, entrances and more. It’s a little intimidating actually, which made me thankful for the streamlined version that allowed me to jump in and make a character quickly straight away. With every item having a crazy amount of depth in how you can modify it, you could easily waste hours with your creations, and theoretically create any superstar you want.
There’s already a solid version of new recruit and future Women’s Champion Kairi Sane that somebody has created and shared, showing just one example of the possibilities when it comes to keeping your own roster up-to-date thanks to some super talented gamers out there.
Once you’ve made your wrestler of choice, it’s onto the career mode, which has been modified for the better. No longer will you have to grind in NXT matches for months and months before getting anywhere with your attributes. Now, heading to red or blue brand is much quicker, complete with backstage interactions with superstars, producers and trainers.
It would have been nice to have more voice acting for this, as reading text and seeing the mouths move weirdly does get old very quickly, but the fact that there are side-quests to accompany the main storyline of your wrestler is definitely appreciated and makes things vastly more interesting than in previous years. Overall it still feels like a work in progress. The writing is poor, with cliché lines that in no way match the personalities of the wrestlers you’re talking to. For fans, it’s cool to see the evil Bray Wyatt chilling backstage until you talk to him and get some stupid piece of advice like “it’s important to impress the Authority”. Uh, thanks?
The inclusion in of loot cases to get new gear or moves for your character in the career mode feels like a misstep as well. You can’t drop real money on it which saves it from being an icky cash-grab, but if I want my superstar to have a specific finishing move or even a particular piece of clothing to enhance my look, I have to wait for the “luck” factor by using in-game currency, cross my fingers, eat my vitamins and hope for the best. It’s disheartening seeing so much locked behind this system, making move-sets in particular feel quite limited in this mode for the first few hours.
Accompanying this is Road to Glory, where you must compete against others online in daily match types to earn a spot in a Pay Per View event, but the first PPV event isn’t active as of time of writing, so I haven’t had the chance to check it out yet.
Universe Mode in WWE 2K18 has been left basically untouched since last year which is a bit of a shame, as it still takes a while to get anywhere interesting. The promo system is also back and is still painfully boring. Choosing lines of dialogue that match the tone of your previous line feels more like work rather than a fun video game mechanic, and even then the result at the end just feels unearned. Again, no voice acting here means that the wrestlers just do this odd pantomime with crowd reacting in the background. It feels awkward and embarrassing; wrestlers interacting with one another in these scenarios makes for great television, but they haven’t nailed it in a video game still – not even close.
Improved in some ways and lagging behind in others, WWE 2K18 remains to be one for the fans. The presentation is stellar and as close to an episode of RAW or Smackdown that I’ve ever seen, and the gameplay has been refined just enough to improve upon the solid groundwork 2K have been building over the past couple of iterations. Unfortunately, the games “career” modes need a total overhaul, with some core elements that just don’t work the way they’re intended. Still, for those who like to create and just want to wrestle without all of the extra noise, WWE 2K18 is still a decent romp – just don’t expect it to change the universe.