The history behind the 2K takeover of the WWE license has been contentious, to say the least. WWE 2K15 wasn’t the best received. While WWE 2K16 and 2K17 were better received critically, fans had a lot of points of contention with both titles. 2K plans to change that this year with WWE 2K18, putting forth the claim that the upcoming title is the “most realistic and comprehensive wrestling game to date.” The question remains: “do the fans want this?”
2K Games held a special development summit where they revealed information leading up to the newest entry in the WWE 2K series. According to executive producer Mark Little, WWE 2K has incorporated years of fan feedback into this year’s title. The developer gave a light rundown on the general features and upgrades that the game will get. In addition to upgraded visuals via a reworked graphics engine (which 2K claims has been in the works for 2 years,) WWE 2K18 is slated to have new modes, a new story for MyCAREER, an expanded creation suit, 8-man battles and match types (traditional Survivor Series, perhaps,) and enhancements to the grappling system. With these in mind, WWE 2K18 looks to be a change in direction for the series.
The Brand Split that occurred in 2016, along with the recent Superstar Shake Up created some changes into the landscape of WWE. With the introduction of the Cruiserweight Division and 205 Live, storylines and plans obviously went through some changes. 2K has stated that WWE Universe mode will be evolving out of the static nature of its predecessors. The “One WWE Network Event” per four weeks formula is going away in favor of what intends to be more fluid and organic, with surprises to “match the current pace of WWE’s TV and PPV schedule.”
Other changes include their new graphics engine, which features dithered rendering, new skin shaders, real-time reflections and physically based rendering, adding a greater element of realism to both the characters and the environments.
The commentary booth is also receiving a change. Gone are Jerry Lawler and John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield, instead, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton join Michael Cole in the booth. Working with the NBA 2K team, which is known for its authentic commentary quality (based Kevin Harlan,) Cole, Saxton and Graves (the former Monday Night Raw trio, Saxton is now on SmackDown,) have spent extra time to work, as well as recording in the same room as each other, similar to NBA 2K17’s dev cycle with the aforementioned Harlan, ESPN’s Doris Burke, Greg Anthony, Clark Kellogg, Steve Smith, Chris Webber and Brent Barry.
MyCAREER is also being built up with a more serious story focus (here’s hoping it isn’t Livin’ Da Dream all over again.) The last game was heavily scrutinized for its “somewhat sprawling nature,” this year’s attempt will be “more concise and narrative-driven,” and will include what is touted to be one of a set of new online content for MyCAREER, “Road to Glory.” This new mode is set to be the end-game of sorts for MyCAREER, something that hasn’t been in place for previous entries into the series. Among other changes to MyCAREER, the Promo Engine has been upgraded to be a bit more accurate, with superstars going through a “brand new progression system” which yields unlockable upgrades and perks after matches.
The roster has also been increased in size, but no word on if it’ll just be repeats of characters like previous years or a fully fleshed out roster. Superstars will also have archetypes, which feeds into the substantive Create-A-Wrestler mode. Archetypes were introduced in SmackDown vs Raw 2008 and were somewhat reintroduced in NBA 2K17, so it is possible that the latter will be the model for this new archetype system. The core grappling and submission system have been reworked and overhauled, along with the dragging system being overworked and a new carrying system, which much like SmackDown vs Raw 2007’s Total Control mode, will lead to moves such as powerbombs, cradles, and environmental moves. Also being touted is a new “position feeding” mechanic, which allows players to “sell” their position (typically known as ‘playing possum,’) similar to SmackDown vs Raw 2008’s ‘Possum Pin” mechanic, with the ability to launch moves from grounded or groggy states. Needless to say, I’m waiting for all the ‘RKO out of nowhere’ compilations to hit YouTube.
To round out all of the proposed changes, backstage brawling has been expanded with a one-v-one online option, and three times the interactibles and places to fight in the arena, 8-man match types, a reworked Royal Rumble, Battle Royal, and Ladder matches, as well as the introduction of an 8-man tag match, intergender matches and interactive items/win conditions, the latter two which will be part of the new create-a-match feature.
There are plenty more to come in terms of actual gameplay footage, which presumably will debut during SummerSlam weekend in Brooklyn, New York, as well as Gamescom the following week in Cologne, Germany.
WWE 2K18 will release on October 17th on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with two versions of Kurt Angle as the pre-order bonus for the game.