WWE 2K18 features a curated soundtrack (by none other than Dwayne The Rock Johnson himself). The soundtrack can be hit or miss, but thankfully, you can turn off songs you don’t like and keep those you do in the options menu.
WWE 2K18 has a lot of dialogue, in fact, at a previous press event, we were told that 99% of the dialogue from last year, has been replaced or re-recorded for this year’s game. Over 50,000 lines of dialogue were recorded, that included speech for the career mode and announcers. Speaking of announcers, maybe it’s just me, but I miss Good old JR, his rapport with Jerry “The King” Lawler just made matches sound way more exciting than there actually were, which was his specialty. There was something special, stupid and entertaining about listening to JR introduce Kane to the ring. “My gawd King, through Hellfire and Brimstone, it’s Kane!” For a man with plenty of things that can hold him back, nothing stopped him from giving 110% and making every match exciting. Instead, we have the combo of Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, and Corey Graves. While Cole has been around for a while Graves and Saxton, to me, just don’t work, they don’t add any friction or weight. Whereas someone like JBL or the King would argue with Cole, taking the “heel’s” side of things, in this game’s commentary, everyone just repeats what they see and compliment each other. It would be nice to see, or hear in this case, some off the cuff, arguing, about the wrestler in the ring. For example, if I was using Shawn Michaels, Cole could say something positive about him, then have Graves or Saxton jump in and just go down a path of insulting Cole for taking Michaels side and so forth. Making the commentary interesting and at times, funny. Think of it like getting into a random car in GTA and listening to funny radio shows or commercials, that was half the fun of just driving around.
Right now, the commentary, despite so much of it, is the weakest link. It sounds repetitive and disjointed most of the time. I say right now specifically because Visual Concepts has said that every month, the announce team would come in and record brand new dialogue that will be added into the game as part of frequent updates. So, each and every month, i.e. 12 months a year, we’re going to get new dialogue, which, if true, could completely change my opinion.
As for the rest of the sound, it’s all really solid. Entrance music sounds great, sound effects, like a chair being slammed over someone’s head sound true to life and even the grunts of fatigue sound good. As I’ve said, my biggest complaint is the commentary, which hopefully will be remedied in the months to come.
WWE 2K18 offers so many features, between match types, venues, and customizations, it’s literally impossible for me to cover them all in a single review unless you want to read 80+ pages. With that being said, I’ll just cover some of the highlights I found to be interesting and if you want more, head over to the game’s official website for a bullet point list of all the stuff the developers crammed into this game.
- Venues: Because the WWE now owns ECW, NXT, and WCW, there are venues for each of these companies and thus, no shortage of places to wrestle. The attention to detail to each of these venues is incredible, perhaps my favorite is the WCW Bash at the Beach. But the lighting, due to current generation hardware, allowed the devs to create more realistic effects and giving not only entrances but arenas a more dynamic feeling.
- Match Types: You name it, it’s there, with the exception of casket matches and buried alive matches, just about every type of match a player could want is available in 2K18, in some situations, there are even two versions. Fans of the 80’s and early 90’s may remember the old, blue cage with the big squares, while newer fans may only know of the chainlink cage, regardless both are available. 2K even included both variations of the elimination chamber, new and old. But yes, old match types like no holds barred, TLC, ladder matches, and more are available to players.
- MyPlayer: Gamers can create virtually anyone they want with the new and improved create-a-player. Base or starter heads have been remodeled and made to be more realistic, as opposed to previous years where they are damn near frightening. With the new and improved graphics engine, the created characters actually look like they belong in the same ring with the actual WWE roster and don’t stand out like sore thumbs, assuming you don’t make characters like Goku from Dragonball Z.
- Story: Back for another year is the MyCareer mode or storyline of the game. This aspect of the game may be the most broken or at the very least, not constructed very well. The game has serious issues of having you do things that contradict actions you just did, prior to a match or the previous day. I also don’t know if they are trying to make a good story by having your rival come up and interrupt your promo, only to ask you to be their partner. Is that a twist or just a poorly constructed story. Aside from “questing” or side missions being poorly executed, the game has some serious timing issues too, again, referring back to the collision problem. I’m not entirely sure why, but those issues seem more prevalent in the story mode than in just single matches. In any event, this is usually the section of the game most people want to play. Once a day one patch is issued, I’ll have to go back and play more to see if any of these issues get resolved. Be sure to check back for that.
Last but not least, Road to Glory, the new online, multiplayer mode.
At the time of writing this review, my collection of matches limited as the game had yet to release. In any case, the Road to Glory is the online mode where players take their created wrestlers and play against other people’s created wrestlers. Like games of Call of Duty, you earn points and virtual currency (VC) from wins, but you’ll also level up. You’ll start as a “Prospect” and fight your way to “Hall of Famer,” think of it like prestiging, without starting over. Another cool aspect of the game is the real-time gameplay within Road to Glory. If you go online to play on a Monday, you’ll be wrestling in a Raw Arena. If it’s a Tuesday, it’s a Smackdown themed arena and for other days that don’t have a live WWE show, you might wrestle at an NXT or even a WCW Nitro event. The cool part comes when it’s time for a monthly Pay-Per-View. You can either to wrestle in that event by either buying your way in with VC that you have earned or completing a set of challenges. If you’re on the card, you’ll be pitted against a superstar who is actually on that card in real life. If you win, you win epic loot that can range from VC, cosmetic items for your character or boosts. Boosts are extremely helpful but are time-based, meaning they only last for a certain period of time. One boost may increase your wrestler’s stamina, another may increase strength and so on. These boosts can really change the game when playing other players online. As for whether or not it makes the games feel unfair or cheap, I don’t know, I didn’t earn any when I attempted Road to Glory, but I’ll be sure to add that in my update.
WWE 2K18 is riddled with odd glitches, but that doesn’t mean they are happening all the time, everywhere. One night I was playing, I didn’t incur any issues, whatsoever, then the next, I have the issue with the Undertaker and the shelf. Did it make me enjoy the game any less? Not really. The story issues, that’s a bit more complicated. Yes, the glitches and even the odd story missions can be a bit distracting, but none of it really breaks the game. I don’t see anything that can’t truly be fixed by a patch. Again, a day one patch has been issued, I just haven’t had the chance to install it and try all of this over again. I will and if it truly updates the game in positive ways, I’ll change my review to reflect that.
WWE 2K18 is not perfect, but neither is any game. It’s not broken, it’s flawed. But even flawed games can be fun and more importantly, can be fixed. My time with WWE 2K18 was and still remains fun. I love the roster, I love the options, modes and even the create-a-wrestler (MyPlayer) options. I’m not lying when I saw it is the best wrestling game to date, it just needs some TLC (in this case, that means tender, loving care) before it’s a truly “great” game. Right now, it’s a good game and I firmly believe any wrestling fan will love this game and the depth and history it provides.
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.