WWE 2K18 Review
The motto of World Wrestling Entertainment is “Then, Now, Forever.” It’s something wrestling fans read before every WWE television show, be it on the WWE Network or on normal TV. The slogan is supposed to symbolize the history and legacy of the storied wrestling promotion, but in turn, these words also apply to the WWE 2K18 experience. “Then” represents a few sticking points from last year that 2K18 fixes, “now” encompasses the new features found in this year’s game, and “forever” signals issues from previous years that unfortunately persist. WWE 2K18 makes great strides to improve the experience, but the series has a little more work to do to get the three count.
The biggest change to the core gameplay is the Carry system, allowing a player to move an opponent around the ring or backstage area and use the environment for offense. Carrying is implemented flawlessly into the control scheme, requiring that I only hold down RB/R1 when grappling in order to start the carry, then press any button to finish the move. Countering a Carry is easy too, as a small meter appears during a Carry that, if my opponent can mash a button enough to fill it, breaks the Carry before I can follow through.
The Carry mechanic offers more strategy during a match, particularly outside of the ring when I can drop some poor sap into the ring apron edge or announce desk, but it doesn’t always work how it should. Plenty of times I’ve tried to drop someone onto an object only for the game not to recognize how close I was to it and perform a normal move. When it works it looks and feels great, but it’s not as precise as I would have liked.
Carrying also adds a lot to the top new match mode in 2K18, the Backstage Brawl. The backstage areas I fight in are depraved playgrounds with plenty of weapons to use and objects to throw my opponent into, some doors even opening to new areas when I force someone through them. Most importantly Backstage Brawls adds a new spice to matches by taking them out of the ring, meaning I’m no longer forced to look at the same arenas with the same fans for every single match. If I want to mix things up, I’ll beat someone up behind the scenes.
“WWE 2K18 makes great strides to improve the experience, but the series has a little more work to do to get the three count.”
My favorite new addition, however, is the 8-Man matches and the insanity they bring. I’ve been playing 6-man matches forever, but the addition of two extra wrestlers somehow makes things even better without becoming too chaotic. The drop in frame rate to support these two extra bodies is absolutely noticeable, but it’s not slowed down to the point of being unplayable either. I’ll happily sacrifice a few frames per second of motion in order to add a fourth tag team or two more single competitors into a Ladder Match.
The 8-Man structure shines brightest in Royal Rumble mode, where the improved Rumble AI benefits even more from the extra two bodies. Opponents will focus more on beating an opponent down before attempting eliminations instead of just doing the same “throw over rope, struggle, repeat” loop from previous games. I’ve also gotten farther in 2K18’s 30-man Royal Rumble than ever before thanks to having two more jerks to eliminate when the ring fills up. This could be the year I go the distance and win from entry #1.
There are a ton of ways to play outside of the new 8-Man matches, including the MyPlayer career mode bundled with Road to Glory online challenges. MyPlayer is a standard “start from the bottom and eventually win the title” storyline that doubles as a great tutorial, while the Road to Glory mode offers great online competition…if it worked properly. It seems the greatest opponent to my created MyPlayer is the dreaded Dr. Online Connection, as I’m still waiting for my first Road to Glory online match as of this writing. I don’t know if the servers are having trouble or my Internet suddenly stinks, but Road to Glory just did not want to connect me after multiple tries.
MyCareer does bring a “popular” industry trend to WWE 2K18 in the form of loot boxes, specifically called “Loot Crates,” but fear not denizens of the internet: they have yet to cost me an actual dime. The game heaps a ton of free in-game currency on me at the start of the game, and also regularly reimburses me when I buy a crate by making one of the received items more currency. Case in point: when I “bought” my first five Crates I started with 83,000 VC (virtual currency), buying five 10,000 VC crates one at a time, and when I was finished I had 67,000 VC. That’s how much I was reimbursed by the crates themselves; one of them even gave me 10,000 VC rendering the crate free of charge. These crates are more in the realm of Injustice 2’s Gear boxes than the pseudo-gambling boxes that have caused a recent uproar, and with currency being so plentiful you should never have to spend any real dough to unlock them.
“WWE 2K18 is as pleasing to the eye and ear as it is to the touch, as a ton of improvements has been made to the game’s presentation.”
WWE 2K18 is as pleasing to the eye and ear as it is to the touch, as a ton of improvements has been made to the game’s presentation. Character models are the most realistic they’ve ever been, some of them being dead ringers of the real-life counterpart. The women of WWE are particularly improved, as Naomi, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks all impressed me. However, the accuracy of the current wrestlers makes the “from scratch” models of those that couldn’t be scanned stand out even more. Granted this isn’t something the developers could truly fix, as it’s hard to scan wrestlers like The British Bulldog or “Macho Man” Randy Savage who sadly are no longer with us, but the disparity is tough to ignore.
My biggest issue with the look of the game comes from the crowd, who can really pull away from the immersion and realism 2K18 reaches for. The audience models look fine, and they animate well with outstretched hands and raised signs, but their reactions to entrances and certain moves throw off the whole mood. A good guy comes down to the ring to cheers, pumped fists, and clapping, but the bad guy entering right after is greeted with the same motions even while he’s booed. It’s strange hearing a cacophony of boos coming from a crowd who looks delighted to see the wrestler being jeered. It’s the same during a match, as every move pops the crowd the same way regardless of who’s doing it. I’d like to see some hands holding heads or shocked expressions when a hero is being beaten down, but this crowd unconditionally loves every wrestler that enters the ropes. Honestly, the crowd is the most unrealistic thing about WWE 2K18, as anyone who’s followed wrestling knows that a WWE audience loving everything they see is nigh impossible.
The biggest strides in the WWE aesthetic come in the commentary department, as 50,000 new lines from a new commentary team and ring announcer bring a fresh new sound to every match. Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton have a pretty good chemistry for disembodied voices, even when they sound like they’re reading off of a page. New ring announcer Jojo sounds great too, but the development team clearly did not finish her character model considering her mouth doesn’t move and the camera angles try as hard as they can to hide that fact.
The normal calls still aren’t perfect either, mixing repeated lines (I heard the same line advertising TheTruth.com during half of the entrances for an 8-woman Battle Royal) with some truly cringe-worthy scriptwriting. At one point during a Sasha Banks match Byron Saxton drops this line: “I love when Sasha Banks plays with people, what a tease.” My eye twitched when I heard it, and not just because of how the line sounds like it should have come from an overzealous Sasha fan on Twitter. These 50,000 lines of new dialogue eliminated the troublesome “Diva” term from the WWE 2K experience, finally recognizing the “Women’s Revolution” that the real WWE went through in 2015, but lines like this serve as painful reminders of that era. Two steps forward and one step back, and that step is more egregious when I consider it was completely avoidable.
WWE 2K18 brings a lot to the digital squared circle, giving the wrestling fan in me a lot to like. New mechanics and match formats offer different ways to take on opponents, the new graphics and audio enhancements bring a hint of realism, and there are more wrestlers from yesterday and today to play then I really know what to do with. There are some scars on this facade, but most of them are mere nicks in what is a full set of shiny armor and they won’t completely ruin the game for anyone. 2K Sports’ take on pro wrestling shows more improvement with every passing year, and WWE 2K18 raises that bar a little higher.
***A PS4 review code was provided by the publisher***
- New carry system works
- 8-Man format is great despite frame rate drop
- New character models are uncanny
- MyPlayer career mode is fun
- New commentary lines add to the experience
- Non-scanned wrestlers are easy to spot
- Audience breaks the immersion
- Some commentary repeats