[Hands On] WWE 2K18 Preview & Developer Interview: Wrestling is back, baby!
Wrestling is back baby!
Wrestling games are back. I don’t mean back, as in, it’s another year so here’s another proverbial sports game. I mean that in the sense that 2K is setting the bar for the WWE and sports entertainment.
(Apologies for the rough audio in the interview above. We recorded this interview in the "quietest" part of the WWE Archive warehouse, but with large industrial fans trying to keep the press cool, it really messed with our audio.)
Last week I had the pleasure of flying to NY and visiting with some folks from the WWE and the 2K Games dev team, specifically Creative Director Lynell Jinks and Game Designer Ramelle Ballesca. We, myself and other press, were taken to the mysterious WWE Archives, located somewhere in Connecticut, in an unmarked building that is completely inconspicuous. Within that building is a treasure trove of memorabilia, props and old items used throughout the WWE’s history. Inside, there were typically warehouse shelves, but instead of being filled with palettes of food or items like electronics, they were filled with scaffolding, steel cages, and caskets. Yes, caskets. There must have been over 30 of them, all from previous events involving the Undertaker. There was an old megaphone, signed by Jimmie Hart, just lying on a box. I even got to stand next to a full-size ring and hold a championship belt. Needless to say, it was like a childhood dream.
My reminiscing is not why you’re reading this, you want to know about WWE 2K18. During my 6-hour hands-on experience I got to really feel out the game, try tons of matches and play (and unlock) tons of superstars.
Let’s start with the roster, it’s massive. There are over 185 superstars to choose from, from past legends like the Andre the Giant and Razor Ramon to more current stars like John Cena and cover star, Seth Rollins. Some characters even have multiple versions, just to be as authentic as possible. Bret “The Hitman” Hart, for instance, has two versions, a ‘97 and ‘98 version. For those of you who don’t know the story, back in 1997, Bret Hart was involved in what has become known as the “Montreal Screwjob” at the Survivor Series Pay-Per-View. It was here, that Bret was informed he was going to win the match against Shawn Michaels for the WWE title. However, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon along with the WWE official in the ring covertly planned a different outcome, without Hart’s knowledge. Late in the match, Michaels put Bret into his own signature move, the Sharpshooter and the official claimed Hart had tapped out and rang the bell. The title was rushed to Shawn Michaels and he was quickly escorted out of the arena while Bret looked stunned in the ring, having no clue what just happened. When confronted by McMahon, on the outside of the ring, he spits in his face and was subsequently out of the WWE. By the next night, he was in the WCW, the WWE’s largest competitor. While in the WCW he was no longer “The Hitman” and had different entrance music, thus the difference between the two in-game characters. That’s just a taste of the detail 2K has put into 2K18.
It doesn’t stop there either. The team at Visual Concepts (NBA 2K18) who do most of the sports games at 2K, worked with Yukes Interactive and have designed a completely new graphics engine. This engine was possible because the team decided to leave behind legacy consoles like the PS3 and Xbox 360. Now, with new, more powerful hardware, the dev team could create a more robust wrestling game with more detail. I do need to point out that during our playtest, we played on PS4 Pros and it clearly showed. The game’s framerate was solid and the graphics were incredibly crisp and clean. While this may seem trivial, the team built sweating into the engine, meaning as the matches go longer, the wrestlers will get sweatier. You’ll visibly see them become shinier and to that degree, even show more fatigue. Another aspect I noticed, was dynamic changes to the skin. For example, in one match I played as the Ultimate Warrior and for anyone who knows the Warrior, he damn near has an 8-pack. So it was cool to see that when he bent over to pick a wrestler up off the ground, his stomach changed from ripped round packs to thin rolls, the kind of rolls only one can achieve with almost no body fat.
Fans of options shouldn’t be disappointed when it comes to match types either, all their favorites are present. From Elimination Chamber (new and old), Cage Matches (chain link fence style and the old school blue cage), Hell in a Cell, Ladder Matches, Tables, Ladders and Chairs (TLC) and everything else. Though I was sad not to see a casket match or buried alive, which I did bring up to the developers in my exclusive interview, see their response above.
As for the My Career mode, the team has really gone the extra mile, allowing players to travel backstage again, with even more areas to explore. The backstage areas are massive too and you can seamlessly go from one area to another with split camera work, just like on TV. You’ll even encounter friends and foes in the back, either chilling on some crates talking or giving an interview, which you can interrupt. But it’s the story that players really care about and the devs told us that they’ve replaced 99% of the dialogue which included over 50,000 new lines. Even the ring announcer had over 5,000 new lines.
What would a “my career” mode be without a create-a-character mode or as it’s known, MyPlayer? This is a feature that players have come to love, mainly to build wrestlers that may have been overlooked and not included, but with over 185+ characters, that may not be an issue. Either way, if you wanted to create a unique character, perhaps yourself, the starting templated have been drastically overhauled. This was something that the team heard loud and clear. They’ve given players new heads and features that look more realistic than ever before. While we can’t say specifically who, as of right now, some of you will love the idea that you can create a certain figure, who just about everyone knows. After the 13th of October, we can speak more openly about that. In any event, there are literally so many options in the MyPlayer setup, that it could take hours even scratch the surface. Just trust me when I say it’s deep and creative.