As one of the only people I know to have a subscription to the WWE network I can comfortably say I was looking forward to the latest release of 2K Sports’ WWE series. The marketing and previews would have us follow the line of “be like no one” but would the game manage to live up to that moniker?
Firing up WWE 2K18 you’re greeted by the expected opening screen, your gateway to getting stuck into a quick match or going into the MyUniverse and MyCareer modes to invest in more time, building up the show and wrestler of your dreams respectively. Diving into the quick match you’ll already see one of the more important updates to come with the game, that being the amount of active competitors you can add to a match, with the Rumble getting quite busy with up to 8 wrestlers taking up space in the ring at any one time.
Of course, with a new iteration in the series you’d expect an updated roster of said wrestlers to make their way into the lineup, and fan favorites like AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, a collection of NXT talent, and more make their welcome introduction to the game (DLC and custom creations notwithstanding). With both these new competitors and those we’ve seen before, some wrestlers have their models greatly updated with some, like poster boy Seth Rollins, or WWE stalwart Randy Orton, looking particularly good. Unfortunately for each one of these amazing models comes a Kevin Owens or Edge (and let’s not get started on some of the female talent and their hair…) who really don’t look like they should at all. Hopefully they’ll find improvements as the series progresses like others who have been through those growing pains.
It is a pity that some of the models do stick out, as the game’s engine has had quite a few updates to make sure that this is one of, if not the best looking wrestling game released so far. The new lighting is especially impressive and one needs only to play through the first few moments of the MyCareer mode to understand why they chose to use Bobby Roode as their champion to defeat, for his entrance is truly glorious.
Speaking of MyCareer, in this iteration you won’t find yourself as tied down to either being a heel or face. Instead you’ll find yourself between being a company man or fan favorite. This shift helps make promos a bit easier to keep coherent and lets you be a bit more flexible with your material but the way your character moves around the ring while you decide which pretty awful line they’ll use next, still needs some work.
Between these promos and your regular sanctioned matches you’ll find yourself wandering around the improved on, but still not quite great, backstage areas. Movement can be sluggish and prone to some clipping issues, more noticeable in the backstage brawls, at times, but it is still a very welcome feature to those that remember the wrestling game greats of yesteryear.
That said, you may also find yourself growing familiar with the loading screen. It seems that in the effort to make things look as good and as expansive as they are, quite a bit of loading needs to go on, and honestly this can be a major detraction if you’re looking to sit down for a while in the MyCareer and MyUniverse modes.
MyUniverse has been improved on over the last iteration of the game, but can still feel a bit grindy and repetitive after a while, but proves to be one of the better resources for picking up the in-game currency. A currency that you will need to stock up on if you’re looking to unlock certain veterans on the roster, but also to improve your character with better options for their move set and ring gear. If you’re more into your random chances you can buy the fast becoming ubiquitous loot crate for a chance at unlocking more rare and more expensive items. At present the game has no way to pay for more of the in game currency and I found that you accrued it at a more than reasonable pace, so here’s to hoping that that balance is maintained.
All these tweaks and adjustments are great to keep you coming back to the game and playing more, but that would not help if the in-ring action and gameplay was lacking. Fortunately the developers have not missed out on refining the action as you’ll find several new features waiting for you. While the same stamina, reversal and body damage mechanics are present you’ll find that there are quite a few more contextual interactions available to you.
From a new minigame to eliminate those in the Rumble, to special interactions depending on where you are in, or indeed outside of, the ring. But perhaps the biggest change up is the new “lift” system. Using an extra input as you move into a grapple you can now move your opponent into a multitude of different positions to carry them around and maneuver them into position for a great deal of actions. Those who have tried to put an AI through a table in a tables match will know how frustrating that could be in previous iterations but now with the ability to hoist your opponent over your shoulder this becomes so much easier. This also feeds into the Rumble experience as being able to lift others and maneuver as needed is a great boon there.
Overall WWE 2K18 is a fine example of a good wrestling game. It looks amazing, but just lacks enough improvements overall to really stand out among the current crop of 2K’s beyond those good looks, unfortunately leaving it short of being quite like no one.
Features include: Knowledge of all things geeky. “Over 9000!” achievement points in World of Warcraft. Groantastic Puns. Marking out for canadian heels.
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