WWE 2K18 makes some important improvements over its predecessors, but is it enough to breath new life into a stagnating franchise?
Ever since 2K Sports acquired the rights for the WWE video games, the franchise has been in a bit of a rough path. Every yearly instalment makes improvements over its predecessors, but they also stumble over quite a number of issues, both old and new. With WWE 2K18, 2K Sports and developers Yuke’s have been talking about all the new features and improvements that will be included in this year’s game, and to be fair, on paper all of them sound good enough to collectively pull the series out of its slump. Unfortunately, though, that is not the case. WWE 2K18 is an ambitious game, and it features a number of much-needed improvements, but it doesn’t pull off everything it attempts to do properly, while a general lack of polish across the entire game doesn’t help much either.
If you’ve been playing 2K’s WWE games for some time now, the first thing you’ll notice is the enhanced graphics engine. Gone are the early-PS3 era visuals of WWE 2K17 and all the games that preceded it. 2K18 isn’t a technical marvel by any means, and even in its current state, its visuals can be described as ordinary at best, but they’re still a massive leap over what we’ve been used to seeing from this series. Character models have more detail to them, as do the crowds and the arenas, while the animations are smoother than they’ve ever been. But every so often you will still come across visual bugs, such as sudden and jerky movements or bizarre facial expressions, but the overall quality of the graphical component has seen a marked and much-needed improvements.
"2K18 isn’t a technical marvel by any means, and even in its current state, its visuals can be described as ordinary at best, but they’re still a massive leap over what we’ve been used to seeing from this series."
The headline addition to this year’s game, though, isn’t the new visuals. It’s the MyCareer Mode. Using the game’s MyPlayer feature, you can create and customize their own WWE superstar, and MyCareer lets you use this superstar in an all-new RPG-like career mode. MyCareer sees you coming up out of nothing and rising through the ranks, all the way to Wrestlemania stardom, while interacting and fighting with other stars and personalities along the way. On paper, it sounds like a great idea, and if executed properly, MyCareer could have been the undisputed highlight of the show. Sadly enough, that’s not the case at all.
WWE 2K18’s MyCareer mode is an unpolished and uneven experience, and while playing through it, I couldn’t help but feel that this admittedly excellent idea for a game mode had only been half-realized. Roaming around in the backstage areas feels like nothing but unneeded bloat at times, and that’s down to the fact that none of the supporting elements really work too well. Interactions with other superstars and characters rarely ever goes beyond rudimentary and poorly-written single sentence exchanges, and this poor quality of writing proves detrimental to a lot of other important parts of the experience.
For one, when conversations with other characters do end up becoming a little deeper than the banal and trite exchanges that otherwise dominate the rest of the experience, the writing just works. It’s immature and juvenile rather than being snappy and smart, often being bad enough to induce groans or all the wrong kinds of laughs. The fact that none of these lines have been given voice over treatments also does MyCareer no favours. Dialogue choices, meanwhile, are just as sloppily done, which hurts the Promos more than anything else. Promos end up becoming a boring and elementary game of reading comprehension, turning what should otherwise have been an important part of the experience into nothing more than a chore.
"WWE 2K18’s MyCareer mode is an unpolished and uneven experience, and while playing through it, I couldn’t help but feel that this admittedly excellent idea for a game mode had only been half-realized."
Thankfully, however, the actual act of fighting is still really good in WWE 2K18, as it builds on the already solid foundation of its predecessors while bringing in a number of its own major improvements. The new carry system is perhaps the best among these improvements, allowing players to grab hold of downed opponents and carry them across the ring in one of four different ways. Testing this mechanic and combining it with different fighters can be a blast, especially in modes like Royal Rumble and Battle Royale, where eliminations are so important.
Speaking of which, eliminations have also received a minor but significant tweak. The mechanic is still QTE-based like it was before, but it’s much more responsive and much easier to get a grasp on, and in the thick of chaotic and crowded fights, it’s no longer as confusing as it was in last year’s game. Meanwhile, WWE 2K18 also features 8-man battles (though not on the Nintendo Switch), and these fights are usually appropriately chaotic and enjoyable. The roster, meanwhile is another major plus point, just as it has been in the past. With over 170 playable wrestlers, in fact, this is the biggest roster even in the series for a third year running.
Outside of the ring, the Creation Suite also has to be commended. The creation and customization tools at your disposal are quite impressive, with so many options for players to choose from. Creating custom matches is also a thing once again in WWE 2K18, and while the tools aren’t nearly as vast and complex here, it’s still a fun distraction for when you want to play by your rules. The great customization tools that you have at your disposal, though, often serve to highlight how contrastingly limited they are in the MyCareer mode, which is based on randomized draws from loot boxes. This involves a lot of grinding, while the fact that a lot of the upgrades and customizations are only aesthetic in nature doesn’t help much.
"Thankfully, however, the actual act of fighting is still really good in WWE 2K18, as it builds on the already solid foundation of its predecessors while bringing in a number of its own major improvements."
WWE 2K18 is the kind of game that would have been much, much better if it had been allowed to stay in development for another year or two. It’s clear to see that the developers had a lot of pretty good ideas, ideas which they were unable to execute properly. While the action in the ring is still as solid as ever, a lot of WWE 2K18 is a case of one step forward, two steps backs. MyCareer is especially disappointing, given how much potential the mode had on paper, while a number of other issues also hold back the game in a number of key areas.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Improved visuals; A number of improvements to various fighting mechanics; Eight man battles; Creation Suite; Large roster.
MyCareer Mode is a disappointment; Juvenile and banal writing in MyCareer Mode; Poor dialogue choices make the Promos a chore.
WWE 2K18 may still be an a fun game for you if you've been a fan of the series over the last few years, but if you were expecting it to pull the series out of its prolonged slump, you're going to be disappointed.