Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
We all know not to expect the world from each annual WWE iteration. For over a decade now Yukes’ WWE titles, be they published by THQ or 2K, have been largely minor updates. Rather than the major engine overhauls, new fighting systems, and other exaggerated claims made by the studio, each release brings baby steps upgrades, some good, some bad. This year is no different, and in many ways, WWE 2K18 doesn’t move forward, but takes several steps backward.
I should begin with the new features of the game, which won’t take a great deal of time to go through. Outside of the ring there’s the new MyPlayer mode, which incorporates a new career mode, and an online element. Here you use a trimmed down version of the creation suite to create a new wrestler using limited options. From here you start life in the WWE Development Centre, move on to NXT, and eventually make it to the big time on Raw, Smackdown, and end up going all the way to Wrestlemania.
It’s familiar stuff, for the most part, and as you earn in-game currency you an unlock more upgrades and customisation options. A big change is the addition of the backstage ‘story’ sections. Here you can wander around the backstage area talking to staff and superstars, possibly finding extra ways to build up heat or fan approval. You get the chance to rub shoulders with WWE superstars, and it could be a great addition, that is, if it wasn’t a lazy, shoe-horned in waste of time.
These sections are absolute filler, with terrible dialogue (text-based, there’s no VO here) that rarely, if ever, suits the larger than life stars uttering them in a silent, awkwardly animated manner. Control is clunky here too, and the sections amount to little more than going to the one person who can advance you to the next fight. It’s just pitiful.
When in the ring, the mechanics are much the same as ever, and there has been little to no improvement on the clunky controls, poor hit/collision detection, and overall feel. As always, it is possible to have some truly great matches that feel like they’ve come right from the real life show, but all too often matches are buggy affairs that highlight what seems like a major back step in opponent AI. I’ve lost count of just how many times the AI has wigged out, walking around in circles, failing to pin me or other opponents when the opportunity was wide open, and being unable to navigate even the most simple obstacle in the ring. In multi-man matches, this is only exacerbated, and results in a total mess.
Oh, don’t think this dodgy AI is any less godlike when it comes to reversals, though. Oh no. In this regard, your opponents are just as ridiculously able to reverse your attacks and grapples with alarming regularity. Reversals for you, however, are just as difficult to pull off, as you have to time your button presses to what seems like the exact nano-second.
There are some new additions to combat, more notably the new carry mechanic. This lets wrestlers pick up and carry opponents so they can dump them on the ropes, throw them into the turn-buckle, easily power bomb them through a table (a very welcome addition as this was a clunky nightmare previously), and even throw them right out of the ring. Weight detection is included, so you won’t see Finn Bálor hoisting Big Show around, and in writing, it a good feature. Sadly, the AI breaks out of this far too quickly, meaning for the most part, you’ll ignore it, or find it unusable in the midst of a fight.
8-man matches are here, but are a shocking display of just how inexperienced the team are at optimising the game. 8-man matches, particularly Battle Royal, display some shocking slow-down, the likes I’ve not seen on the PS4 before. It’s terrible, and makes any match types with this number of stars in them a nigh-on unplayable chore.
I’ve been mostly negative so far, and with reason, but that’s not to say WWE 2K18 doesn’t have its moments and good aspects. For one, the roster is excellent, one of the largest ever, with a good smattering of current stars, up and coming NXT names, and a great selection of past legends. Many of these are locked initially, and you’ll have the grind currency to unlock them (or buy the Accelerator DLC to unlock everything). The gird is real, and in truth, is quite painful, requiring a massive amount of play and dedication to unlock everything, but for fans, this won’t really be a concern as they’ll be playing for hours and hours anyway.
Then there’s the creation suite. Of course, this is, as always, one of the most in depth and flexible creation suites around. It really is impressive just how much control you have over your avatars, but it’s still missing a couple of key features. First, you still can’t use your own music for entrances, a big element of any wrestler in the WWE, and even more troubling, there’s still no return of the create a finisher option.
Finishers are the big ticket item of any WWE star’s repertoire. It’s what fans want to see, and what makes many stars popular. Randy Orton’s RKO, Untertaker’s Tombstone, Shawn Michael’s Sweet Chin Music, Triple H’s Pedigree, Edge’s Spear, and so on, they’re all universally recognised parts of a star’s makeup. Being able to create your own finisher for your superstar is a major missing piece that’s been in the series before, but has been missing since 2K took control. Bring it back, guys.
Once again, 2K and Yukes has delivered another inch-step forward, as the developers cling, stubbornly, to an ageing engine that desperately needs to be put out to pasture. As it stands, WWE 2K18 is still a decent wrestling sim for fans, but one that just can’t shake its shortcomings, and no amount of extra features or presentation will change that. If you’re not a WWE fan, you’re likely not going to be reading this anyway, but you’ll also find a confusing, clunky game that surely won’t appeal. If you are a wrestling fan, you’ll get some enjoyment out of this, but you’ll also likely be filled with disappointment of what could, and should have been.