After all these years I still consider myself a wrestling fan, largely thanks to the entertaining resurgence of professional wrestling reviews and discussions on YouTube and in podcasts, so it’s always an anticipated release each year when my love of videogames combines with the WWE for their annual blockbuster.
As discussed on numerous podcasts, Adam and I have a history of spending days at a time creating our own wrestlers, storylines and events in the various game modes that have appeared in each new iteration of the WWE videogame product, so having so many new and reimagined features return to the 2K Games produced franchise got me keen to get my hands on WWE 2K18 to tell you all about how much I love it.
Unfortunately, for the past month I’ve almost felt like I’m forcing myself to play it, waiting for it to get good enough for the rave review I wanted to give you. Just as disappointing as a ring out finish in a title match, time is up and the review is here:
One of the strong points of WWE 2K18 compared to the last few years is that the My Career mode genuinely feels like it's telling a story, with your Create A Wrestler starting in the Performance Centre as a new recruit having already found success on the independent circuit. From there the on screen and backstage stories unfold as you try to build a Hall of Fame worthy career as a WWE Superstar, from NXT through to SmackDown and RAW... but the story itself isn't really given a chance to flow smoothly enough to really be enjoyed. Side-quests and feuds totally undermine what the story feels like it should be, and the overall plot ultimate feels thin.
For the most part the key players in the My Career are true to themselves and are well done, even though the entirely text based delivery makes for a more difficult adaptation from seeing them on TV. Unfortunately the open roaming and Promo sections of the game don't always allow for continuity for the whole roster, and it never really feels like the wrestlers are actually really characters in the story so much as familiar set dressing.
For picking up the game and just playing it, this game is still a whole heap of fun. The wrestling matches and character creation are as good as they've ever been and the match types allow for some really great moments. What drags the score down in this criteria is the My Career mode again, as the constant repetition, loading screens and generally agonising pace (it took 4 and a half hours to actually play my first full match as documented on our YouTube channel) really suck the fun out of things in between those great moments.
This is definitely one of if not the best looking wrestling game ever made. The HUD and menus are all well designed too, and everything is visually on brand and clear. A few of the wrestlers look a little wrong and some of the Create A Wrestler combinations still cause clipping or don't animated quite right, but mostly a very visually impressive game.
In a new direction for WWE games, the soundtrack doesn't feature any of the Wrestlers' entrance themes that are in the game, instead it's a personally curated soundtrach of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's favourite work out and pump up songs.
There are genuinely some fantastic songs here, but there's only 11 of them, and for a game that takes so long to play and often in long sessions, 11 songs gets old fast.
The concepts for this game, the features, the style, the roster and the new gameplay changes and possibilities are legitimately exciting. If it had been executed properly, this game would be one of my favourites for sure. Top marks for the overall ideas!
There are bugs that have made me stop playing for a day or two out of frustration. The huge new roster is totally locked down to the current active superstars until you use huge amounts of the in-game currency to unlock each Legend, the Create a Wrestler options for appearance and move-set are locked down to the point of insanity until parts are first unlocked by random loot crates and then purchased with the in-game currency and the My Career starts you off so far below the overall attributes of the worst wrestler in the game, and then strangles the pace at which you can buy any advancement so you're constantly in matches against guys with a rating 150% higher than you.
Not just the same game as WWE 2K17, there are genuinely exciting improvements. I'll score it Good because I'm trying to stay positive here.
Game modes for everyone! There's a great online multiplayer, but more importantly you can enjoy this game on the couch with friends, the way wrestling games ought to be played.
This category was tough to score. It's addictive because I keep coming back, but not really in a good way. I want to play more because I want it to be like it is at its best, but I keep running into something that makes me realise I'm not having as much fun as I should for the time I'm investing.
As fantastic as this game was at the Expo and Convention gameplay demos, some of the most exciting features are actually too poorly implemented to make them worthwhile. Stick to the Play Now and WWE Universe modes and you'll be fine, and hopefully things will be better next year.