Nothing is constant in life, except for death, taxes and 2K’s WWE games being middling at best. Ever since the WWE license was handed over to the developer and publisher, the results have been somewhat mixed. For every solid idea that the series has managed to implement, its also somehow found a way to shoot itself in the foot with some truly awful gimmicks.
This year, WWE 2K18 aims to rise above that. New visuals, all the superstars you could ever ask for and a table for each of them to crash through. On the surface, WWE 2K18 should be the best there was, the best there is and the best WWE game that there ever will be. Unfortuantely, not even kayfabe can make WWE 2K18 hide the fact that it’s a jobber dressed as a main eventer.
Part of this problem comes from the fact that WWE 2K18 is once again last year’s game with incremental updates. The biggest trick that it has up its sleeve is a new carry system, which admittedly, is fantastic for wrestling nerds. If you’ve ever dreamed of setting up an opponent in a Fireman’s Carry or in a Powerbomb pose that can be used to devastating effect on a conveniently placed Spanish announcer’s table at ringside, then you’re in luck.
Provided that you set up your opponent correctly and manage to weaken them sufficiently, then this new addition to a familiar set of controls adds a hidden layer to the sports entertainment of the WWE. Everything else though, is just there, only not as good. It’s the same attack patterns, strikes and submissions as before for the most part, which I can understand given the stupidly massive roster within WWE 2K18 of over 170 wrestlers.
That’s a forgivable setup, and you could excuse your superstars of having a more limited moveset than John Cena, if the blows actually felt like they connected from time to time. Hit detection can be sluggish, the reversal system still requires god-like precision to pull off and the AI often finds itself caught in collision issues thanks to the wonky graphics engine.
An engine which proves that not all superstars are created equally.
While you can set up a dream match between the likes of John Cena and Triple H, marvelling at just how damn good their digital likenesses look in the ring as they drop spinebusters and Attitude Adjustments, the same can’t be said for performers who happen to be lower on the roster card. Hell, Seth Rollins is on the cover and he looks like a PS2 fan creation in comparison to Bobby Roode’s glorious recreation.
It is such a glaring difference, that fans have decided to use the comprehensive superstar creation suite to redo Rollins, ending up with better versions of the Kingslayer than what 2K’s Visual Concepts studio and developer Yukes can pull off. It’s a sad state of affairs and while I’d imagine that Aiden English isn’t the first pick for any team, it’s just too damn hard to not notice the lack of care or quality afforded to certain superstars under the new and improved lighting system.
Just like the WWE itself, there’s clearly been a ton of work that has gone into perfecting ring entrances, moves and highlight reels. But when you’ve got performers whose hair apparently comes from the PS2 era of the WWF games and an engine whose frame-rate dips whenever you have more than two superstars in the ring, the results are grating to say the least.
Thing is, these are all faults that I could live with. WWE 2K18 is still a fundamentally solid game underneath the hit detection glitches and doll-like wrestlers being marched out like Stepford Wives, and it is packed to the rafters with match types. From Hell In A Cell through to tornado tag team bouts and the iconic Royal Rumble, WWE 2K18 has it all.
What it doesn’t have, is a career mode that doesn’t make me want to hammer rusty bullets into my eyes.
Last year’s career mode in WWE 2K17 was largely considered the absolute worst that the series had ever produced. A plodding journey from NXT up and comer to the main event at Wrestlemania, as players had to deal with numerous loading screens, a truly awful promo script system and a rigid path to glory. If there was anything to be salvaged from that mode, was that players could at least guide their custom abomination through the motions of being crowned the WWE Universal Champion.
This year, you don’t even get that. The stock standard promo system of playing a babyface or even the most heinous of heels is still there, as players have to grab a mic and spout out lines that sound like they come off of a Steven Seagal direct-to-DVD film, while your chosen superstar is built from the ground up with a sparse selection of faces and ring gear.
That’s because this year, loot boxes have made their way into WWE 2K18. Credit where credit is due, these boxes can be unlocked with a Virtual Coin in-game currency that can be earned without the need to steal dad’s credit card, but the rate at which you get your hands on VC is utterly and painfully slow. Even worse, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get what you want, as the random contents are locked to boxes of varying degrees of quality.
It’s an utterly bizarre direction to take, although I’d imagine that an earlier iteration of WWE 2K18 had VC up for sale in digital marketplaces, before that idea was scrapped following the uproar over NBA 2K18’s reliance on the loot box craze. The primary point here, is that WWE 2K18’s career mode is stilted, slow and a painful grind without the charm of seeing your chosen wrestler work his way to the top.
The backstage exploration is neat, but its appeal quickly wears off as you realise that all that it truly does is add more loading screens to your road to Wrestlemania. Sweet Andre the Giant, I wish I could make this year’s career mode join the Vince McMahon Kiss My Ass Club. Outside of that botch of an option, WWE 2K18’s custom superstar creation suite is still the gold standard.
The tools available are nothing short of astounding, allowing players to download their own faces into the game and create a superstar who truly is the spitting image of them. All facial options can be adjusted, the attire available is comprehensive and the options to further craft everything from your entrance through to your in-ring arsenal results in hours of time being spent on fine-tuning your superstar.
The options then are near limitless. What you create is yours, while WWE 2K18 also allows you to get your hands on custom creations that so far range from Homer Simpson to Jason Voorhees. It’s a magical bar, that I wish the rest of WWE 2K18 was able to reach for. And if you don’t believe that, then I’ve got two words for ya…
Last Updated: October 23, 2017
2K’s fifth WWE game has all the style and none of the substance of WWE games of old. All show and no actual in-ring talent, everything new in WWE 2K18 is quickly superseded by an uneven graphics engine and a career mode that’s certified G for Grody.