WWE 2K18 makes its entrance
As is its annual tradition, 2K Games is once again back with a new WWE game on consoles. Not only has it come to PS4 and Xbox One, but for the first time ever it’s on Nintendo Switch. For the 2018 iteration, 2K has once again modified some of the ingredients of the basic recipe used for years. Does this new mixture taste better than what has been given in the past? Let’s get on the ring and take a look!
Making its way down to the ring
On the whole, WWE 2K18 is a game very similar to last year’s version. Gameplay has been slightly tweaked and so has game modes like MyCareer and Universe. What is improved significantly is the starting roster, which offers a whopping 174 playable characters. These include current WWE Superstars, NXT Superstars, and WWE Legends. No matter which era you like best in WWE history you’re sure to find some of your favourite wrestlers.
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Greatly enhanced graphics
Another standout new feature of WWE 2K18 is its much improved graphics engine. The in-game character representations are most faithful to their real-world wrestling counterparts to date. Wrestlers’ entrances are also well done and fairly accurately mimic their mannerisms and gimmicks as they walk to the ring. There are, of course, a few awkward uncanny valley moments but that’s bound to happen on such a large roster.
Looking closer at individual wrestlers it’s nice to appreciate the added detail their faces and muscle movements. Large wrestlers like Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar have a convincing muscle mass that accurately replicates what we’re used to seeing on TV. The lighting has also been reworked, and now you’re able to see perspiration as wrestlers lock-up in the ring. All-in-all it’s a much more sophisticated look and much closer to reality than we’ve ever seen in past WWE games.
Eight wrestlers in the ring
Another great improvement in WWE 2K18 is the ability to have eight wrestlers in the ring at the same time. Ladder matches are way more exciting with a packed ring of eight, but the Royal Rumble matches benefit the most. In this every man for themselves match having a couple extra wrestlers in the ring really amplifies the experience. However at times, unfortunately, the added weight of more wrestlers does result in some temporary slowdown. 2K Games has been pretty good at releasing patches though and many of the issues have been resolved.
Speaking of the Royal Rumble, the match has also been improved through a few gameplay changes. The most significant is an adjustment to the wrestler fatigue system that feels more true to reality. A wrestler whose fatigue bar is low can now be eliminated by doing a simple clothesline near the ropes. This means you no longer have to go through a mini-game to eliminate wrestlers—or be eliminated yourself. With that said, the elimination mini-game is still present and is another way to eliminate opponents.
One of the other improvements made to the gameplay this year is an expanded backstage of the arena. It’s once again possible to have backstage brawls, but this time the playable area is much larger. Several new corridors and rooms have been added, including parking spaces. Better yet, all these places offer new contextual actions not possible while wrestling in the ring. That’s not all the backstage is used for either, as it plays a key role in the expanded MyCareer mode.
More lifting options
WWE 2K18‘s biggest gameplay change is the revamped lifting system. Each wrestler can now perform four types of lifts including over the shoulder, fireman’s carry, cradle, and power bomb. You’re able to carry your opponent for a few seconds too, giving you new contextual options like dumping them outside. It also enables you to slam opponents on the exact spot you want for follow-up moves like top rope elbow drops.
Overall, as well, Yuke’s has refined the wrestlers’ animations and attitudes to make makes feel more natural. Transitions between shots seem cleaner and therefore heightens the realism. Skilled players have the opportunity to perform wonderfully finessed grapples into power slams, then follow-up with leg drops or signature finishers. All in all everything looks much closer to what we see each week on TV.
Overhauled MyCareer mode
As far as game mode improvements go, MyCareer has been given the largest updates. The complete redesign focuses a lot more attention on behind-the-scenes exploration and interactions with other Superstars and WWE staff. For example, you can stage backstage ambushes on your opponents, while another wrestler may offer to be your tag team partner. You also have a lot more choices week-to-week as to what you want to do. Perhaps you’ll decide to interfere in a match to spark a new rivalry, or do your own in-ring promo to develop your character’s babyface or heel personality. Naturally, you can also participate in a weekly televised match.
Speaking of the promo mechanic, this year Yuke’s expanded the number of dialogue options to make promos more organic. It’s now way easier to make more logical and comprehensive speeches to bolster your character’s persona. There are still times though when promo responses seem out of sync with the attitude of wrestlers. That’s understandable though since writing dialogue to suit hundreds of possible characters seem pretty daunting.
Like its predecessor, WWE 2K18 clearly demonstrates the developer’s desire to create the ultimate WWE game experience. It also shows the limitations of the tools they currently have. Despite this, the character modeling and lighting improvements make WWE 2K18 the most visually pleasing WWE game of this generation. We’re still awaiting the total overhaul that’s been expected for years now, but that will have to wait. In the meantime we’re given the largest roster ever, expanded game modes, and new gameplay mechanics. It’s likely enough to entice most WWE fans back for another year.
+ Huge graphical improvements
+ More realistic and dynamic matches
+ 8 wrestlers in the ring at one time
+ Largest roster ever
+ Better promo system
– Still some bugs
– Occasional framerate dips
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5