The WWE 2K is one synonymous with many feelings. Feelings of stagnation, complacency and plain old not trying hard enough tend to dominate the conversation when talking about the yearly sports entertainment title. Those fans may be right and there isn’t much you can say to refute those feelings. However, Visual Concepts and Yuke’s Co. Ltd looked to make WWE 2K18 stand out just a bit more. New lighting effects, improved facial and body scanning, a MyCAREER that mirrors NBA 2K…can these improvements sway the court of public opinion on these games?
Game Name: WWE 2K18
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed on Original Model PS4,) Xbox One, Steam, Nintendo Switch
Publisher(s): 2K Sports
Developer(s): Visual Concepts, Yuke’s
Release Date: October 17, 2017 (PS4 and Xbox One Early Access: October 13, 2017, Tentative Fall 2017 for Nintendo Switch)
Price: $59.99 (Standard); $89.99 (Deluxe Edition); $149.99 (“Cena ‘Nuff” Edition)
The last game I personally reviewed was WWE 2K16 back in 2015. That game was as much a step in the right direction as WWE 2K15 was, and WWE 2K17 played it safe in my opinion, only making moderate changes to keep things as efficient as possible. This is okay, as long as there are some changes in the following year. This is where WWE 2K18 comes into play.
I may be the only person, or one of few, to say this, but WWE 2K18 feels like a breath of fresh air compared to WWE 2K17. The game looks infinitely better from the opening screen to the transitions and even to the entrances and wrestler models. It’s safe to say that this game looks and feels good. Visual Concepts taking charge of the scanning courtesy of Pixelgun Studios, the same company that scans the NBA players for NBA 2K, is definitely a blessing without the need for disguises. John Cena looks like John Cena, Naomi looks like Naomi, Alexa Bliss looks like Alexa Bliss and Shinsuke Nakamura looks like Shinsuke Nakamura. Hell, Kurt Angle looks damn good in this game, and it’s pretty much an 11-year younger version of himself (16 if you count the hair.) Most of this can also be attributed to the new lighting effects that have been implemented. These effects give the illusion of being real-to-life, and that’s not a bad thing…it’s a good thing!
The wrestling is a lot smoother as well. The most notable difference is when loading up a charged finisher at a down-prone opponent. If your finisher is hit from the rear, such as Kurt Angle’s Olympic Slam or Nikki Bella’s Rack Attack 2.0, your opponent will face away from you when they get up, allowing you to hit the finisher cleanly, without having to strike the opponent to turn them around. This takes away an easy reversal chance from your opponent, and this is an immense change that I have fully praised to several people.
The revamped carry system is also a welcome addition to the game, much simplified compared to when it was implemented in WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2007‘s Total Control system. As opposed to having to equip Total Control moves, all Superstars are able to use the four carry positions (Powerbomb, Fireman, Shoulder, and Cradle,) as well as specific moves carrying specific carry properties. The carry mechanic is simply a combination of holding R1 and flicking the Right Stick either up, down, left or right. To cancel a carry attribute movie into a carry, you simply hold R1 while performing the move. From there, depending on if your superstar has the required skill equipped, you can either do a contextual slam using Square or use a combination of the left stick and Square to interact with select objects in the environment. What I really enjoy about the carry system is the ability to mash out the Circle button to try and break out of the carry, and it largely depends on how much stamina and life you have when trying to mash out, as well as the weight of your opponent. It’s a fun addition to the game; one that I’ve been taking full advantage of, without a doubt.
One of the new additions to the game is the ability to have 8-man matches. This is the first time that this is available (Nintendo Switch owners will NOT have this feature,) and on the PlayStation 4, it kind of sucks. The frame rate slowed down significantly, to sub-30fps levels at times during the match, no matter what match it was. I couldn’t get over this fact, and to make matters worse, 6-man matches tend to suffer if the referee is rendered in the match as well. The framerate doesn’t keep constant in these matches either. On a positive note, the frame rate typically stays at a nice brisk 60fps in matches such as the 6-man Royal Rumble or TLC/MITB style matches. For comparison purposes, the PC version maintains a solid 60fps across the board, no matter the match (this to be discussed in a future article on The Outerhaven.) In addition, it is imperative to remember that in the 8-man matches on PlayStation 4, due to the system’s limitations, only four characters can be human controlled, half the number of what is allowed on the PC and Xbox One (eight.)
A lot of longtime WWE Games fans make it a policy to let you know that WWE No Mercy is, as dated as it is, the best WWE game of all time. I’ll always be inclined to disagree because SmackDown vs Raw 2007 or WWE Day of Reckoning 2 took that spot easily. Much like in the previous games, weight detection, stamina and reversal stocks can be turned off if you want the arcade experience to take precedence over the move towards the simulation aspect. I personally don’t like turning it off, because I’ve become accustomed to playing simulation style. Fans of the arcade experience still get their wish, they just have to remember to enable it in the settings before jumping into Play Now.
MyCAREER in WWE 2K18 is handled a bit differently than in previous years. The MyPLAYER Wizard is a quick and easy way to just get started and right into the game, similar to NBA 2K‘s MyPLAYER starting screens. You input your basic info, change your appearance, select your archetype and size, select your gear, your basic moves and then your Entrance and Victory scenes. After doing this, you can fine-tune everything before you get started with MyCAREER. The most important change to notice is that instead of boosting your attributes individually this year, you boost them in groups using VC.
Catching up with NBA 2K‘s formula of archetypes, you create your MyCAREER superstar with one of 8 archetypes, High Flyer, Showboat, Striker, Technician, Brawler, Strong Style, Powerhouse, and Giant. Each archetype, much like in NBA 2K, has two specific stat groups that your superstar will specialize in. This means if you select Showboat, your Stamina and Reversal cap will be the highest of all the 10 attribute groups. Being accustomed to this from NBA 2K makes it easy to transition, but for those who are strictly WWE 2Kers, there will be a period of adjustment, especially with how WWE 2K18 MyPLAYER Kickstart works this year, where instead of a straight shot to 90OVR, you get 10 free attribute boosts, which, dependent on the way you use them, can get you from 50OVR to 60-65OVR in one shot, including the 20 provided attribute points.
Superstar customization in WWE 2K18‘s MyCAREER mode is a little bit of fun, and I mean that in both a good and a sarcastic way. Let it be known that I despise loot boxes that aren’t exclusively for cosmetic purposes. WWE 2K18 alleviated that by allowing loot crates (tell me that this isn’t an attempt at a crossover with Loot Crate,) to be exclusively purchased with Virtual Currency (VC,) that can only be earned through all modes of gameplay, not through microtransactions. However, Loot Crates only fall after completing side quests, as well as by purchasing them at the MyPLAYER main menu. Bronze crates get you your basic gear, bonuses and small chunks of VC, Silver and Gold net you better chances at rewards. What does this all mean?
A large chunk of moves, as well as apparel options, are locked behind loot crates and rewards for increasing either your Fan Favorite or Company Man level. You start with about 30% of the available moves, and in order to truly make your superstar, you have to not only unlock but also buy them. This isn’t MUCH of a problem if you play a good amount of WWE 2K18, and can get three, four or five-star matches (sorry Dan Mutzler, no 6-star matches here,) however, it can feel slow and plodding compared to previous years. Maybe it’s because even though the values are essentially the same, the VC amounts are smaller numbers, so they feel like a slower burn. However, once you’re able to begin unlocking more moves, clothing and the like, the more MyCareer opens up to you, especially with Signature Shirts. Signature Shirts rely entirely on your creativity, and your VC bonuses, much like last year’s MyCAREER go up and down based on how long you have had your signature shirt, so change it up frequently. The bonuses can help with earning VC, so let your creator flag fly and make some dope designs, whether through the in-game options, or the WWE 2K Logo Uploader.
WWE 2K18‘s MyPLAYER’s character creation and the WWE 2K Creation Suite are completely separate entities, and you can not import or export between the modes. This could be a turn off to some, but for me, it’s familiar territory from NBA 2K, so I haven’t a complaint about the separation. It also keeps things interesting for WWE Universe Mode, which we’ll talk about a little later in the review.
WWE 2K18‘s MyCAREER itself is decently repetitive, but it is what you make of it. The majority of MyCAREER is you running through backstage areas and talking to various superstars and agents to complete objectives and side quests on your Road to WrestleMania. In fact, a lot of MyCAREER is running to your producer, cutting a promo or having a match, and going to the parking lot attendant to move on to the next week. Your decisions throughout the mode will determine just how easy or how hard that Road to Wrestlemania truly is. After going through NXT and winning the NXT Championship, you have two routes that you can pursue: Company Man or Fan Favorite, built by two different attributes: Influence and Popularity, respectively. These attributes are filled by your actions in the ring, during promos in the ring as well as interviews with Renee Young, and through Side Quests throughout your journey. Each route offers different bonuses based on the level reached. It is slightly easier to gain influence to raise your Company Man level, but it’s also worth it to work on both routes, as the bonuses can benefit each other in different ways. Being able to get your hands on certain perks, such as getting buffs by talking with Mr. McMahon while also being able to cut a promo with Renee Young on-demand, can help immensely with improving your Superstar throughout MyCAREER. In addition, you can create up to 3 different MyPLAYER Superstars, so each experience will be vastly different to the next.
Going back to your decision-making, your decision making means the most when you get to specific points in MyCAREER. Moments such as Money in the Bank and the Royal Rumble are key matches that you must clear before moving on, and again, your decision making makes it harder or easier, based on how you decide to approach things. Butter up to the Authority and things will be a moderate cakewalk. Align with Mick Foley or Daniel Bryan while making decisions that benefit the fans, and life will become quite miserable for you throughout your career, such as starting #1 in the Rumble or barely making it to Money in the Bank. These matches also have requirements that you must pass before you can continue on, so pay attention, despite the MITB ‘OMG Moment’ objective not being the clearest of them all. This is far removed from WWE 2K17‘s extremely linear and arduous MyCAREER, where it seems like getting up the ranks was a job within itself. The only gripe that I have is the Royal Rumble event, and how much of a difficulty spike that it experiences. Many players have complained about the difficulty of the Royal Rumble, but as I mentioned, the difficulty is largely based on the decisions you make as a Superstar. I decided to be a fan favorite and get under Shane McMahon’s skin, so my Rumble requirements were more difficult than someone who kisses up to the Authority.
The Promo Engine has been improved as well. Promo Engine 2.0, while keeping a lot of the corny charm of the promo text, takes the promo minigames one step further by allowing for chain combos, as well as maintaining consistency throughout your promo. A nice visual touch is the fine movements of individual superstars. You’ll find that Enzo Amore moves and shuffles like only Enzo can, the Undertaker is as menacing as he can be, and Braun Strowman climbs into the ring like the monster he is. The dialogue is still hilariously bad, but at least it is now coherent, which is a net positive. The point of promos is to achieve the perfect promo, which is achieved by keeping with the same tone and theme throughout the promo.
Road to Glory is to WWE 2K18 what MyPARK is to NBA 2K. Road to Glory is the online component to MyCAREER, where you take your created superstar and complete challenges every month to earn exclusive gear and bonuses that can only be found in RtG. You also earn loot crates every week just for playing the mode and acquiring the necessary amount of stars needed. Bonuses earned through the Loot Crates can be applied to your superstar, and they offer buffs and debuffs according to which bonus you apply. The challenges, which change every month, are also tied to WWE’s PPV schedule, with the first RTG PPV event being the recent WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs event this past Sunday. The challenges begin the day after the SmackDown go-home show airs, so for the upcoming Survivor Series PPV, the qualifiers begin on Wednesday, November 15th at 2 am local time. I was unable to find many matches for RtG over the last few days, but the ones I did find were fairly smooth and suffered from no hiccups.
The online modes are standard fare for WWE 2K titles up to this point. Quick Play gets you right into a match with a random opponent, Team Up allows you and two other players to participate in tag team matches, WWE Live allows you to play matches based on the event taking place that day, and Private matches are for you to set up matches exclusively with friends on your friends list. Online modes only support up to 6-man matches, however. Much like the online matches in RtG, WWE Online is a fairly smooth and clean experience. Because it is a peer-to-peer connection, your mileage may vary, considering the myriad of variables that can exist, such as Wi-Fi vs hard-wired, DSL vs Fiber Optic vs Cable/T1, degraded cables, busted routers, etc. However, the servers have remained stable, so there isn’t much to complain about.
Community Creations haven’t changed much…except for the Logo Uploader. The Logo Uploader has eschewed the codes that used to be the way you uploaded images to the server in favor of logins according to your platform of choice. Once you log in to your respective network (Nintendo Accounts will not work until WWE 2K18 launches for Switch,) you’ll be greeted by a screen which allows you to select the size of your respective image. Each image size corresponds to a different custom creation part. Images sized 512 x 512 pixels can be used for everything, however, 1024 x 1024 cannot be used for custom superstar parts.
Custom Arena creation has changed in comparison to last year’s version. Visual Concepts has added several new arena templates, in addition to keeping some of the iconic arena templates, such as the famous SmackDown ’01 arena with the fist, the Ovaltron from the first 2 years of SmackDown, the 2002 and 2006 versions of the pre-HD Raw arena and more. You can even change the crowd pit configuration to have different weapons and places to jump off of when fighting in the crowd. Want 3 announce tables? Select the current RAW arena, enable double announce tables at ringside and you’ve got your wish.
WWE 2K18‘s Universe Mode is essentially the same as it’s been throughout the last few years since its implementation, with a few substantial changes, including the inclusion of potential rivalries and built-in squash matches, adding to the realism that the game hopes to reflect from the live programming. Rivalry intensity has also been added to the rivalry side of things, so you can have anything from a friendly rivalry between faces to a heated all-out bash fest between two rivals on the opposite side. Players also have control over how strong the rivalry is.
Passive rivalries are just as important, as they begin the set-up for the next round of rivalries. If you feel like, that is. Passive rivalries created within universe mode will either be automatically slotted into the empty slot, or you can bump up the rivalry yourself. While the rivalry system isn’t completely new, and this change doesn’t seem like it changes a lot, players will experience a deeper Universe Mode than in previous years thanks to this, as well as the staggered PPV schedule that WWE has adopted.
WWE Network Events are also staggered by brand after the month of July, with each brand having their own PPV. WWE 2K18 allows players to place their PPVs anywhere they would like on the Sunday slots in the calendar, with rivalries taking effect and lasting as long as there is time before the PPV.
Review Disclosure Statement: The PlayStation 4 version of WWE 2K18 was provided to us by 2K Sports for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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The beauty about WWE 2K18 is that it doesn’t change much, but the things that they did change matter. Presentation, match flow, as well as keeping MyPLAYER’s creation suite and the main game’s creative suite separate matters…A LOT. Yeah, there are some flaws in the game, and that comes with the territory of yearly releases, but to indicate that the small changes weren’t enough would be giving this game a disservice, and for what we got, it’s a decently engaging edition of WWE 2K.