by James Toal
For full disclosure, The version of WWE 2K18 I’ll be reviewing is the Deluxe Edition which was sent to me via 2K Games.
Another year has rolled around, which means it’s time once again to check out the latest entry in the WWE 2K franchise. With last year’s game, WWE 2K17, I managed to fully get back into WWE video games after a long hiatus in which I was also taking a break from pro wrestling. With the promise of even more improvements and features advertised in the newest release, was it worth the wait? Let’s take a look.
First impressions for me truly count, and the first thing you are greeted with when you finally start a match is the significantly improved visuals. The trailers helped to prepare me for what we were going to get, but actually playing it and watching diverse and unique entrances on TV look almost photo realistic is astonishing. I can appreciate the effort, especially because with previous entries some playable models got more attention than others e.g. Brock Lesnar or John Cena. There are no big “what the hell were they thinking?” moments (Google image search Dana Brooke 2K17 if you want some nightmares). I was impressed with the amount of detail that went into getting this right, which was then supported and enhanced by new lighting and effects helping bring your character to life.
Noticeable improvements to the gameplay helped lure me in and keep me hooked with new ways to grapple, interact and attack your opponent. While you may argue that it’s just the same game under a different name, on some aspects I would agree. However, based on the amount of content that has been added to the game, I would be inclined to say that this year’s entry stands up on its own pretty well. Some aspects are positive but do come with caveats. A big deal breaker might be the fact that these games are notorious for being host to hilarious glitches. If you’re the person that feels these are part of the fun, then you’ll have an entertaining time. However, it’s hard to excuse the number of glitches in this series, even if it does add to the fun in certain game modes.
One of the most ambitious modes added is the option to have eight men all in one match. Yes, you can almost achieve your dream of a Survivor Series elimination match… with just a few men short. The big problem with this mode is that the frame rate heaves in this match type, compared to a 6-man match it just tries so hard to keep up with every character on screen. Sadly, it leads to a lot of slow movement and in my case, led to me quitting the match as I wasn’t patient enough to try and finish what I had started. Strangely, the Royal Rumble match mode can handle 8 men in one match, I’m not sure what’s happening in that scenario but it’s a damn shame that it falls short on what could be an exciting and bonkers stipuation.
The second biggest edition to 2K18 is the My Player mode. At first glance, this may seem like the normal “Career Mode”. But for this year, we’ve now got a backstage area we can explore, talk to fellow wrestlers, engage in side quests, and choose from a selection of matches for that week your character can wrestle. This mode succeeds in its attempt to feel like an actual narrative journey for you to go on. Different choices lean you towards the Company Man persona which may give you better opportunities (depending on the arse that you kiss to get there) or the Fan Favourite which focuses on entertaining the fans instead of towing the company line.
This was all very intriguing, no more does the career mode feel like a waste of time grinding through the same scenarios over and over again. What does let this down is seeing the limitations of what 2K can add given the small amount of time they have to finish the game. You don’t have to go too far into the career mode to see repeated animations or dialogue. Hell, sometimes the dialogue doesn’t even match what the wrestler should be saying. You walk up to a vicious and cocky wrestler like Asuka, hoping for a side quest or a tip to help you progress through the game. Instead, you get a line where she really wants a big pizza and some cake? The Empress of Tomorrow just told me she’s weak to junk food, I’m really not sure how to feel about that.
Lastly, WWE 2K18 now has loot cases. Wait! Don’t splurge hate on microtransactions just yet. These loot cases aren’t purchasable with real-world money at the time of writing. You actually pay for loot cases by earning virtual currency in the game. No paywalls, just play the game to earn credit. Frankly, this is an unexpected inclusion to me, 2K could’ve easily added the option to let the player throw money at the screen, but in this case, they decided against it. I feel like I could’ve ignored these cases entirely and just use the credit I’ve earned to purchase any item I want. I later found out that the use of cases is to unlock cosmetic features for your wrestler. Since it’s not asking me to fork out my wallet, it’s not too bad.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time with the newest WWE game, the welcome improvements and quality of life adjustments leave me wanting to continue playing even after more and more games are released this year. With what might be the most realistic wrestling game in the world, I’ll be looking forward to recreating iconic matches from WWE history, and throwing Enzo Amore through any table I can find.