Review in Progress: WWE 2K18 Might Be The Best Wrestling Game to Date
Be Like No One!
Platform: Windows PC, Xbox One (S & X), PS4 (Slim & Pro) and Nintendo Switch
Developer: Visual Concepts and Yukes Co. Ltd.
Publisher: 2K Games
MSRP: $59.99 (regular) and $79.99 (Deluxe)
When it comes to the WWE and wrestling, there have been several moments throughout the company’s history when you think they’ve hit their peak, but instead, they do something exciting that keeps them in the limelight. In the early 80’s it was Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper or Andre the Giant. In the late 80’s it was the rise of the Ultimate Warrior, Jake the Snake the Bret Hart. The 90’s saw the rise of the so-called “Attitude Era” with Shawn Michael Michaels, Triple H and of course, Stone Cold Steve Austin. The 2000’s have also seen the rise of amazing talent like the Rock, John Cena, Randy Orton. Today, the WWE has done it again, with stars like Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar and so many more. Like the main product itself, WWE’s video games have gone through similar ups and downs, like WWE No Mercy (up) and WWE Smackdown (down). This year, with WWE 2K18, the company is looking to be back on top, giving fans a game that offers the largest roster any wrestling game has ever seen, a brand new graphics engine and an online mode that co-exists with the WWE’s real-time schedule. Lace up those boots, it’s time to wrassle!
The developers, 2K’s Visual Concepts in collaboration with longtime WWE partner, Yuke Co., have thrown out the kitchen sink with last year’s WWE 2K17 and have made 2K18 a brand new game, with a brand new graphics engine.
The team at Visual Concepts decided to drop support for legacy hardware (ex. PS3/Xbox 360), which meant they could focus all their effort on the current generation, while also pushing the limits with newer hardware like the PS4 Pro (which I reviewed) and the Xbox One X. The game is stunning and when the camera is pulled back during several moments of a match, you’ll forget from time to time that you’re looking at a video game and not the real thing. I don’t know if this is considered a thing or event a marketing term, but WWE 2K18 features what I call, real-time sweating (if they like that, they can pay me later). While the game does have a feature for fatigue (which can be toggled on or off), as a match progressively gets longer, the wrestlers will actually get sweatier. For example, I played a match as Mr. Perfect Curt Henning and after I won, I was walking up the entrance ramp and he was just covered in little beads of sweat, it was one of those moments where you actually say “wow” out loud.
The sheer amount of attention that each wrestler has been given should not be overlooked. There are over 180 wrestlers, with more coming as DLC, that look spot on to their real-life counterpart. Everything from facial features to general mannerisms have been captured so that when players select their favorite character, they look and feel as authentic as possible. Visual fidelity is one area where this game won’t let anyone down.
WWE games have always had sort of an odd history with their mechanics, specifically the movement and targeting system. While I’m happy to report that for the most part, that has been addressed, it hasn’t been totally fixed. Is the new system is a major improvement? Yes, but it’s still flawed. Several times during a few matches, my character, when walking around, would quickly flip-flop, left to right and back, trying to figure out where to look or focus. This is was particularly odd when I was only playing a single match, with only one opponent. The only other person in the ring, was the ref, who should be ignored unless I intentionally want to focus on him, in which case I’d just hit R3 (click the right thumbstick). In any other case, he should be totally ignored and my attention should solely be on my opponent.
The targeting system, while wonky on its own, works pretty well for matches with a lot of people, like Battle Royals, Royal Rumble, Elimination Chambers and anything with 3 or more people. Clicking the right thumbstick each time quickly cycles through your opponents making the game easier to play and less frustrating, removing that feeling like you’ve lost control.
I’ve also had a few clipping issues, some are minor (getting tangled in ropes for a split second), others were major. While the biggest offense didn’t actually affect the match, it looked really odd for the last 2-3 minutes of the fight. Playing as The Rock, I was battling the Undertaker and towards the end of the contest (a backstage brawl), I picked up a shelving unit of some sort and beat him down with it. When I dropped it, it somehow got attached to his arm. So when he got up, it literally became an extension of his arm and wouldn’t come off. The only issue that arose, was when I tried to pin him, I had to come from a certain angle, as to avoid the shelving piece itself. So far, that’s the only “major” technical issue that I’ve seen in my many hours of playing.
While I don’t know the exact number, there have been a lot of new animations added to WWE 2K18, making the game feel more realistic, including transition animations. For example, when an opponent is down on the mat, reaching down, picking them up and getting them set up for another move, seems more fluid than years past. Even wrestler’s entrances seemed to have gotten better, which is amazing when you consider the sheer number of entrances this game features, with the previously mentioned 187+ wrestlers, each character has their own unique entrance. Some of them come off a little stiff, but for the most part, most of the animations seem ripped right from real life and that’s probably due to the fact that, if possible, Visual Concepts had everyone they could recreate their own movements. Obviously not every wrestler featured in the game could recreate their own entrances as many of the former superstars are deceased.
(The GIF above is from NeoGaf. I wanted to share this since I wasn't able to capture my experience when it happened with the Undertaker, the image above represents a pretty accurate variation of the same problem.)
The last bit of complaining I’ll touch on, in regards to the gameplay, is the collision detection. Much like the issue I had with shelving unit in my backstage brawl, there are still some lingering issues with collision in 2K18. Like any other sports game, be it NHL, NBA or more specifically, Madden, collision with other characters on screen tend to always look awkward. 2K18 does improve this over previous years, but there are still issues. In games like Madden, where there are a bunch of characters on the screen crashing into one another, players can be distracted by the mess and issues are easily overlooked or missed.
When there are only 2 or 3 characters on screen, like with WWE 2K18, and they are doing more than just running into one another or tackling each other, you’re more likely to take notice.
In wrestling games, there are so many complicated move sets and actions performed compared to other “sports” titles, so it may be slightly unfair to hold WWE games to the same standards of a Madden or NBA game or perhaps, vice versa. Regardless, I don’t want to make it sound like there are just collision issues all match long and that it’s something that will distract you from playing, that’s not the case, this is a review and I just have to point it all out.