Story - 70%
Graphics - 85%
Audio - 78%
Gameplay - 87%
Replayability - 90%
Get ready wrestling fans because WWE 2K18 is here. The annual 2K Sports release has arrived with the bold tagline of “Be Like No One!” and promising a brand new set of features and improvements to make this year’s game better than the last. Can we really be like no one? Is 2K18 an improvement over 2K17 or merely a lateral movement? And the most important question over all others…Is it fun? We’ll break it all down and get to the bottom of it below.
The most noticeable difference right off the bat when you start up the game is the visual upgrade and boost to the graphics. The teams at Visual Concepts and Yukes developed a brand new graphics engine with that delivers spectacular lighting and helps give everything more polish, from skin textures, to the ringside area (including the awesome shiny looking steel steps) and entrance sets. While many base character models are essentially the same (how much different can they look when being fully body and facially scanned anyway), the new lighting almost gives them the impression of new models. Additionally some character models that needed extra attention in 2K17, particularly the female Superstars, got a lot of love and when combined with the revamped lighting, you’ll be hard pressed to find many Superstars and Legends on the roster that bear no resemblance to their real life counterparts. The roster has never looked better and this is easily the greatest looking WWE game ever released to the general public and the team has much to be proud about over the visual enhancements made this year to the series. Speaking of the roster, this game also features the largest ever on-disc roster (As well as the most up to date and complete roster ever of the current WWE Superstars at the time of release) in any WWE game with a staggering 174 unique on-disc playable male and female Superstars and Legends and nearly 30 more including alternate versions of certain character’s from different periods in their careers. By the time all DLC is released, the final number of playable characters will be as high as 213 which is just astounding when one stops and thinks about it.
Turning our attention to gameplay, there have been some notable improvements this year, adding to the solid gameplay foundations established since WWE 2K15 onward. Firstly there is the addition of the new Carry System that allows you to pick up and carry your opponent from four different positions and perform an attack or an environmental attack around different part of the ring (IE: Carrying somebody in a Powerbomb position and dropping them on the steel steps or out of the ring) or change your position mid-carry. If a player is on the receiving end of the carry, they are able to rapidly tap the button (a prompt appears on the screen) and if they are quick enough to fill the circle before the opponent executes an attack, they will battle out of the carry position and allow you a matter of seconds to reclaim the advantage. The addition of the Carry System does add a new layer to gameplay and an is fun to perform, especially in Extreme Rules or Falls count anywhere matches where you can use the system to throw your opponent off the stage or through tables. It is however a struggle sometimes to battle out of the carry against the AI, who always seem aware of when you’re close to escape and through you into a seated position at the last second, negating your efforts.
The Carry System isn’t the only gameplay improvement as now for the first time since 2K acquired the WWE license, we can play with up to eight characters on screen together. This opens up the possibility of 8 Man Tag Team Matches as well as eight Superstars in the ring together for Money in the Bank Ladder Matches, Battle Royals and Royal Rumbles. It’s fun no doubt, although at times things can get chaotic, especially when trying to pin an opponent with three other characters ready to run into the ring to break it up. Royal Rumble and over the top rope elimination matches have also been revamped with new elimination mechanics and a quick elimination system. These matches have been stale for years, but these new additions change things up and actually make them interesting. It is now possible for smaller characters to be eliminated quickly by giants as well as adding an element of unpredictability. If you are against the ropes, it is possibly to be quickly eliminated by a running clothesline or for that attempt to be reversed with a back drop over the top rope. The QTE mini-game for eliminating somebody in the corner or against the ropes has been revamped too with the player now having to rapidly tap the buttons as prompted to eliminate someone or escape elimination and if you can’t succeed in a short amount of time it is likely your opponent will win out and escape or vice versa, plus stamina plays a role in this as well. To avoid things getting too cluttered in these multi-man matches, the Rollout System introduced in 2K17 has been implemented so that after taking a big move in a Battle Royal, Royal Rumble; a Superstar will role under the bottom rope (or out to the floor to recover in Ladder Matches or other multi-man matches) to recover and receive a buff if you fully recover without opting out early or being attacked before completing the recovery. These new mechanics do make top rope elimination matches more exciting and a nail-biter as players can be eliminated at any time. While this can cause a lot of frustration as well, this is a good rebuilt of these match types, which with some minor tweaking, are exiting to play again for the first time in many years.
The Create-A-Match has been implemented back into the series after previously being featured on PS3 games under the previous publisher. This allows one to pick a number of different match types with varying numbers of competitors and mix and match custom settings and win conditions to the players liking to create their own match type. An example of this the ability to edit 8 Man Tag Team Matches to be won via elimination rules by pinfall or submission (with count-out and disqualification options available too) in order to recreate the Survivor Series Elimination Match which is not in the game by default. There are also thousands of new animations, many of which players will not even readily notice, but these add up make matches much smoother. This is implemented in the new Feeding System where downed characters will crawl to the ropes, crawl under the bottom rope to the apron, pull themselves up into a seated position in the corner, roll out of the ring, etc. This not only makes matches look more natural and mimics WWE matches on TV more accurately than ever before, but it also practically gives players an opportunity to fights their opponents around different areas of the ring and ringside area by utilising parts of their move-sets available in those different positions that wouldn’t always present themselves in matches without players having to manually set their opponents into position themselves.
The commentary team for the game has been changed up again with Michael Cole being now joined by Byron Saxton and Corey Graves (who were all the then current announce team of ‘Monday Night Raw’ at the time of development) at the commentary table. They recorded their dialogue in the same room together and there are some exchanges that benefit from this, as Cole will ask Byron a question which will prompt Saxton to respond and Graves is as sharp as on TV, especially when hassling Byron Saxton. However, as good as the commentators are, the commentary itself during matches still feels disjointed at times, calling the wrong moves or match types occasionally and going silent for short stretches at other times. The flow has been improved a little, but commentary is a still a far cry from where it should be in WWE 2K18, especially when compared to games like NBA 2K18, both which are worked on by divisions of Visual Concepts. It is tougher using WWE announcers as they travel weekly and have limited time off to record their lines together, but better solutions as well as better implantation of the commentary, to where it sounds more natural like on TV and captures the same energy, need to be achieved as WWE games still lack in this area in comparison to sports games available currently. Thankfully crowd audio and authentic crowd chants have been added which help immerse you into the matches and capture the atmosphere of a WWE event. Listening to the crowd chanting in NXT area, or singing along to the entrance music of “The Glorious” Bobby Roode or Shinsuke Nakamura is such a great little touch that greatly adds to the presentation aspects of the game.
MyCareer has been redesigned this year, now falling under the MyPlayer mode along with another new addition: Road to Glory. You start by creating your player with limited options initially via the MyPlayer creation wizard, and you can customize further after the initial creation of your MyPlayer. Eight different fighting styles with their own pros, cons and attributes via a branching progression system (much like the attribute system available to your MyPlayer in NBA 2K) have been implemented, meaning players will have to think carefully about how they want to proceed when creating your MyPlayer. MyCareer this year features a longer story narrative that for you to experience and free roaming the backstage area. You are able to talk to other WWE Superstars, Legends, General Managers and WWE Chairman: Vince McMahon himself or start fights, demand interviews from Renee Young or accept side quests which net you VC and further your path to dastardly Company Man or beloved Fan Favourite. The addition of backstage roaming has been long requested by the WWE Games community, and while fun at first, becomes a slog as MyCareer progresses as you have to walk from one side of the backstage to the other to talk with a producer to start your match and walk to the parking lot after every show to proceed to the next week. Even when running, it feels like you’re running slowly. Having said that, the story is fun, even if your responses to interactions with producers or WWE COO: Triple H doesn’t have any noticeable effect on the story’s narrative. If this is how MyCareer will operate going forward, it feels like a good first reworking of the mode which with further refinement in future games could become truly amazing and the first thing everyone wants to do in the game. Road to Glory takes your MyPlayer into online combat with other MyPlayers as you compete in different one-on-one stipulation matches daily to rank up XP and earn stars to compete in regular Pay-Per-View special events (happening alongside the real life shows) and allowing you to win exclusive clothing items to use for your MyPlayer. Levelling up your XP also gains you different value loot cases that unlock boosts to use in your Road to Glory/MyCareer matches as well as VC, new moves and clothing parts. This mode is extremely addictive and constantly has my interest and with regular exclusive rewards and opportunity to improve your MyPlayer, it’ll keep players returning for most of the next year. The servers are stable and even with a weak connection, you should have little problem staying competitive (your MyPlayer skills and attributes notwithstanding.)
Universe mode returns with a new Power Rankings system that can give stat boosts to Superstars tracking high on the rankings and a goal system that affects the types of cutscenes you can experience with Superstars. Your PPV calendars and feuds can now dynamically adapt to whatever calendar you arrange and rivalries have been refines with the addition of potential rivalries that can simmer over time and at different intensities. The possibilities of quick one sided matches (referred to as ‘Overwhelming Offense’ and available in Universe or Exhibition modes) where one wrestler dominates another in quick fashion has been added this year to mimic these type of matches that occur in WWE and is perhaps one of the most satisfying additions added to WWE 2K18.
Finally you are able to truly “Be Like No One” with the Creation Suite allowing players to create their custom WWE Superstars, male or female, with no shortage or body morphing and clothing options. Unlike MyPlayer creation options which limit many of the parts until you can unlock them in Loot Cases and purchase them with VC, the regular Create-A-Superstar mode has no limitations except for your imagination. The creations look even more spectacular this year than ever, with many custom Superstars on Community Creations (from which you can download) looking near identical to their real life counterparts. Create-An-Arena, Create-A-Championship and Create-A-Video all have more options this year to tinker with and the Highlight Reel makes a comeback allowing you to pause, zoom in and change the angle of match highlights and use them in your Create-A-Videos.
WWE 2K18 feels like the most complete wrestling game from the WWE franchise to date. As much as the gameplay will be all too familiar to anyone who has played these games regular over the last several years, the additions further add to the experience and with some tweaking to the options and match sliders, players can have some epic matches. While some bugs have been reported early, an update has already sorted several of them and future updates will likely take care of the rest. Anyone on the fence or a fan of WWE past and present should give this one a try. With the best graphics and best gameplay yet, the future is bright for the WWE 2K franchise.
Reviewed on: PS4
Available on: Ps4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Age Rating: Pegi 16
Publisher/Developer: 2K Sports/Visual Concepts/Yukes
Estimated RRP: R899
Release Date: 17 October 2017
- Visual overhaul and improved lighting
- Gameplay remains strong with new additions
- MyPlayer mode & Road to Glory
- Sever stability
- Commentary still lacking compared to other games
- MyCareer story (while longest and best yet) isn’t as engaging as I’d have liked.