It’s been a good couple of years since I’ve had the opportunity to review a WWE 2K game, as a lifelong fan of the industry and of course a fan of the videogames, it’s been frustrating on one hand, but on the other, the break has perhaps given me time to see how far the game has or hasn’t come since WWE 2K16.

This year’s instalment comes powered by an updated engine and as a result, much of the visuals such as character models, how each WWE Superstar moves and the detailed arenas packed with NPC’s in attendance, look fantastic for the most part. WWE 2K18 also has an absolutely packed roster, with a whopping 174 playable characters, with a mixture of Raw and Smackdown, 205 Live (though it doesn’t feature the actual show), NXT and a wealth of all-time legends. It’s easily the most generous roster we’ve seen in the long running series and with that in consideration, it’s amazing how each and every Superstar has had a lot of attention and care.

However, this is an on-going issue that I even reported on in previous reviews going two years back and beyond, but it seems even with the break I have had and the updated game engine, 2K still haven’t fixed those damn awful hair mechanics. It may sound stupid and petty, but seriously, it looks ridiculous, especially for those characters with hair from shoulder length. It moves in chunks and in a totally unnatural way and does break my immersion somewhat; it has even prevented me from being certain characters, just so that I can avoid looking at that stupid hair. It baffles me even more, that despite many being quite vocal about this issue, 2K still allows it to be present in their game, updated engine or not.

But most importantly, how does the game play? Well in truth, not a great deal has changed in all honesty, and in that respect, it’s not such a bad thing in my opinion, as I had very little issue with how the game plays in the first place. With so many ways in which you can target an opponent’s body part, interact with the environments, whether its throwing someone into the steel steps or the barricades, throwing them into the crowd, picking up weapons and taking the action backstage, there’s more ways than ever to tell your in-ring story just from a match, and that must be just about every fans dream with a wrestling videogame adaptation.

One of the key features introduced into this instalment is how you can pick up your opponent from a deadweight position and carry them around how you please (as long as they don’t escape). You’ve always been able to pick an opponent up from the ground and get them into hold, but now you can freely carry them into the turnbuckle, the steps or even throw them over the top ropes on to the floor, which is great from Royal Rumble type matches.

Speaking of Royal Rumbles, if you’re lucky enough, you can at times eliminate an opponent as soon as they enter the ring, so no longer do you always have to wear them down first before attempting an elimination, which fits the bill more naturally with a Royal Rumble or Battle Royal. You can now also have up to eight superstars in the ring at any one time now, with the previous being six. Whether it’s a Royal Rumble or tag match, the action can certainly get more hectic than ever before, even if at times the framerate does suffer as a consequence. More backstage areas have also been added, with even more interactive environments, such as fighting in the parking lot and even having the opportunity to throw your opponent from the top of a truck trailer, giving you that epic moment in your match as you attempt to get that illusive five star rating.

As always with this series, there is a wealth of match types for you to choose from. However, despite me still not being happy that the Showcase mode doesn’t return in its base game once more, you’re going to have to rely on the MyCareer and Universe mode for your dose of single player campaign fix. In MyCareer, you will first create your very own wrestler and take them through the ranks of an NXT upstart to hopefully a big main event Superstar at the grand stage of immortals, Wrestlemania.  Whether you choose to be a heel company guy or a face fan-favourite, each root will take you on different paths, which could warrant two playthroughs if you wish to see how each career path differs from the other.

While much like the match types, there’s even more ways than ever before to interact both in-ring and now with freely roaming backstage, it feels like a missed opportunity that the MyCareer mode at least doesn’t feature any recorded dialogue. I can understand this for perhaps the Universe mode with so many variables, but given time, I think this is something that could have been implemented well in MyCareer, perhaps in future titles we may see it and hopefully along with the possibility of having a playable female character in MyCareer (though you can create both male and female characters for all other modes).

The creation suite itself is possibly the most impressive set of creation tools that I’ve seen in just about any game. You seemingly have endless possibilities to how you want your Superstar to look and move, WWE 2K18 really does have an impressive level of depth, whether its creating a Superstar, move-set, finisher, show or PPV event, there’s really not much you can’t do in that respect within the game. It’s also worth noting that this game also gets in on the loot box plague, but thankfully the access to loot boxes are only acquired via in-game credits and not real-world money (at least for this instalment). The boxes grant you access to even more creation items and while I do like the feeling of unlocking a cool item to implement on my character to enhance his MyCareer, it does also feel somewhat restricted by having some items hidden away in boxes, rather than having them being accessible from the get-go. There’s also a new online mode called Road to Glory, where you can take your created wrestler online to face daily challenges, which will allow you to qualify for special PPV events, which is kinda awesome if you ask me.

The Universe Mode is probably also another area of the game that you’ll spend a lot of your time, even though it’s not progressed all that much. I always see this as an enhanced and developing exhibition mode, with storytelling features. Just like before, each show and PPV is packaged like its real-life counterpart, with feuds developing and ending over its course. Even though it feels very unnatural to read Brock Lesnar cutting a face promo that you simply wouldn’t see him doing in real-life, it’s great to see the Miz being dominated in a match, to then see his wife Maryse distracting the referee for him to pull off a typical sneaky victory to retain his IC title.

However, continued dodgy hair issues aside (which bugged me still back in WWE 2K15), WWE 2K18 isn’t without other buggy issues and discrepancies. Don’t get me wrong, I love the more updated commentary set-up of Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and Corey Graves and for the most part, it’s certainly for the better, but they soon start to recycle dialogue and some of it feels very random indeed. For example, I was playing as Nikki Cross and as she made her way to the ring, in a dark, smoke filled arena, the commentary team said that her “eyes tell a story”, despite her also wearing sunglasses at the time.

The game does also suffer from some very odd glitches from time to time, as I was also on the receiving end of one of the most bizarre disqualifications I’ve ever encountered with the series, and the match didn’t even feature the “bizarre one” Goldust. I was playing as the “Glorious” Bobby Roode against the current WWE Champion and the “Modern Day Maharaja” Jinder Mahal. Now, I know his character is known for some shady victories and even without his Singh Brothers being present in the game, he still manages to pull of one of the most head scratching victories of all-time!

As I was making my way to the ring as Bobby Roode, I was attacked on the ramp by Hideo Itami, a rivalry from the in-game NXT show, making its way into Smackdown, so far, so cool, but not for long. So after being attacked from behind, I managed to finally counter Itami and clobber him with my NXT Championship belt, this I might add before the match even began and before the bell rang to start the match. Yet, as soon as my belt made contact with Itami, who’s not even officially in the match and before it even began, I was disqualified, rendering Jinder Mahal as the winner! Oh, and I forgot to mention, that this was a no disqualification, Tables Match at a PPV! If this was real-life, I am pretty sure that this would qualify as what just happened moment.

WWE 2K18 is certainly a mixed bag of tricks, because despite it continuing to have some unaddressed issues, the game is still a lot of fun to play and has a level of depth that you won’t likely see in its genre. It’s still disappointing that some of those issues are still present, in what should be a top-end scoring game. If 2K finally get rid of some of these niggling issues once and for all in future releases, this is a series that could easily reach the 9 scoring zone, but for now, while we will still be having fun for the following months, WWE 2K18 chokes a little as it desperately claws its way to the top of the proverbial mountain. And 2K, for next year, please fix that god damn awful hair, please!



Author

Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

Gamimg has been my life for 30+ years and will always be my passion. I have a BDes Hons Games Development and Digital Media, and I hope to one day turn my passion for gaming and writing into a living. My favourite gaming series are Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I love football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. I can also often be found wondering the outskirts of Raccoon City. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake