Release Date: October 17, 2017Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PCDevelopers: Yuke’s, Visual ConceptsPublisher: 2K SportsGenre: Wrestling
Ah, another year, another WWE 2K release. Another year of attempting to rebuild the wheel. Well, the gameplay is the same for the most part. The 2K system has been a bit divisive due to how slow and heavy it can be. Personally, I’m a fan of the more realistic gameplay mechanics, such as wrestlers having extra fatigue in multi-man matches and tired wrestlers having to physically recover after hitting their finisher and crawling over for the pin, knowing that every second counts. It’s frustrating, but very rewarding.
This year, the only real addition to that front is the ability to carry your weakened opponent around with fireman’s carries and powerbombs before dropping them. This is excellent for putting them through tables without having to plan out your positioning beforehand as well as tossing people out of the ring.
This brings me to one of the things that makes me so damn happy about this game: Yuke’s and Visual Concepts finally worked on the Royal Rumble. For real, the Royal Rumble has always been my favorite thing about WWE, and in a series known for massive rosters of real and created combatants, it’s the perfect showcase for chaos. Unfortunately, video game Royal Rumbles for the past decade have been about walking into the ring, shoving a guy into the ropes, then struggling for ten seconds in hopes of blandly throwing them over. Wonderful.
Now things feel more lively, not only due to the carrying system, but because you can now clothesline people out of the ring with more ease than years before. No more endless struggles or having to waste a finisher to hit someone so hard they go flying to the outside mat. It’s about damn time.
Speaking of “about damn time,” we finally have eight guys in the ring at once. Back in the Attitude Era, a damn Dreamcast game was able to toss in nine guys at once. It took the current gen long enough to catch up to that. You’ll experience some slowdown here and there, but it is what it is.
Still wish they’d allow inter-gender stuff like the old days, but that’s a pipedream. My Ryu vs. Chun-Li ladder matches will never come to be.
The roster is the biggest ever, hitting nearly 200 wrestlers once all the DLC is said and done. Not only do you have the current roster, dozens of legends, and NXT guys, but the Cruiserweight division was added to the mix this year. Fitting, since Neville is this year’s token outdated-by-release roster inclusion.
One of the big selling points is the graphics upgrade and, yes, stuff looks fantastic for the most part. A lot of the big names look better than ever and Dana Brooke is no longer the WWE 2K17 monstrosity that went viral last year. Some of the legends look like half-assed created wrestlers (Sid and the Freebirds come to mind), but on the whole, it’s a huge step up.
Unfortunately, the pizzazz of WWE 2K18 mostly just comes in the graphics and massive roster. It’s style where the substance is either barely touched or in serious need of some TLC. …Tender, love, and care, I mean. The original definition. Almost forgot this was a wrestling-themed piece for a second.
The create-a-wrestler function is as good as its ever been. You even have the ability to add glowing effects, which is one of those ideas so perfect you wonder why nobody thought to implement that until now. But like Universe Mode, it’s not a huge jump from WWE 2K17.
I will give the game credit for the ability to create a match type, which is where you essentially save a set of rules. You can’t go too crazy with it, but it’s a good way to have a desktop shortcut for easy selection instead of fiddling with the match menu every single time.
The developers continue to try and figure out the formula for a one-player career mode with MyCareer, building on the last couple installments and turning it into a mode that still doesn’t quite work. As you build your created wrestler up from NXT to the main roster, you cut a bunch of promos, interact with people backstage to do sidequests, and ultimately have to do matches over again because you didn’t get enough stars in your performance. All the while, wrestlers have worse dialogue than on TV and you have to deal with the needless disaster that is… *sigh* …loot boxes.
Loot boxes are paid for with in-game currency instead of real currency, so there’s that, but it still puts a bad taste in my mouth.
Once again, there’s no 2K Showcase mode, but even if that was there, it just shows the problem with the WWE 2K games’ one-player campaigns. It used to be that you got the choice between being your favorite wrestler or a man of your own design. Nowadays, you’re either stuck with having to mess around with a created wrestler or – when they do have 2K Showcase – you’re stuck playing a fixed set of guys.
But in the end, WWE 2K18 has the same issue as its predecessors. It’s not really meant to be an annual game. They should be doing these every two years, improving by leaps and bounds and finally doing something about the bugs that plague the engine. If you have WWE 2K17, you should probably just wait a year. If your last game was WWE 2K16, then sure, why not.
Gavin Jasper should probably get around to dressing Braun Strowman up like Colonel Sanders in this game and rename him the God of Protein. Follow Gavin on Twitter!
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