Mostly fantastic, but glitches will leave you Stone Cold
Since its 2014 switch from 360 to Xbox One, 2K’s officially branded spandex-’n’-slams series has been synonymous with two things. Surgical attention to detail when it comes to making the videogame play like ‘real’ choreographed WWE... and, with regards to pre-release playtesting, the polar opposite. For the third year running, this franchise entry launches with more frustrating bugs than there are wrestlers in a Royal Rumble.
An entire review could be filled with these gremlins, but we’ll try to cover the key ones in a paragraph. Universe mode, in which you create your own shows and feuds, hamstrung by random crashes and the AI replacing matches with undeletable wrestler promos. Last Man Standing bouts in which the required prompt for you to regain your feet never appears, and so you lose in seconds. Promos where the important ‘taunt’ button does nothing. Referees sometimes refusing to count. And so on.
Those who’ve peeked at the score are entitled to wonder how all of this can still add up to an 8/10 game. Therein lies the Jekyll-and-Hyde experience that is WWE 2K18: when it comes to the in-ring action, it’s an exceptional grap sim. Smartly meshing the competitive elements of a real fighter with wrestling’s pantomime touches, the end result is a game where 80% of your satisfaction comes from winning; the other 20% from merely putting on an entertaining show.
That surgical attention to detail is critical to this. Accurate faces, entrances, and other cosmetic touches are all included, but it’s more subtle flourishes that lend a just-like-watching- Raw feel. Such as an opponent subtly repositioning themselves on the mat in order to take a top-rope move as you ascend the turnbuckles; squash matches, where a bout can be over in seconds if a vastly superior grappler takes advantage of an early momentum boost; and a neat new carry system from which you can transition into moves or launch a foe into interactive scenery, such as the ring posts.
The biggest changes apply to tag-team contests, and that’s good news; these were a weak point, often lasting forever as your clueless teammates failed to prevent opposition counterparts breaking up pins. Now, wear a foe down sufficiently, and he or she will roll to the arena floor after ‘hot tagging’ out, giving you a short window in which to pummel and defeat the surviving partner.
Related, and welcome, is the call to expand tag matches to eight men, should you wish. Yet while four-on-
“The menu for building your own shows is wonderfully user-friendly”
four slugfests should be a highlight, they come at a price: Crippling lag. Timing-based mechanics such as reversals and kickouts too often become a lottery, and the stuttering can be a quite-literal headache. This issue, like the others, is likely to be patched at some point; until then the match type is an occasional diversion rather than a constant must-play.
The big shows
2K18 divides its long-haul modes depending on whether you want sustained play as actual WWE superstars, or a pretend-o-version of yourself. The most development effort has gone into the latter, aka MyPlayer, which itself is split into two handin-glove options: MyCareer and Road To Glory. The first is predominantly offline, the second mainly online, both with the same principles: Win matches to unlock virtual currency to improve your created bruiser.
MyCareer is significantly improved this year by a more streamlined story, with specific goals that must be met to advance—yet it maintains a degree of freedom via the ability to roam backstage and talk to other wrestlers and authority figures. While everyone can have fun with that, the same won’t be true of Road To Glory thanks to the decision to hide unlockables, such as hairstyles, clothing, and other accessories, behind lootboxes.
Divisive as Road To Glory may be, there’s no debating that the mode in which you play as existing wrestlers, Universe, is brilliant—when those glitches aren’t raising their ugly heads. The menu for building your own shows and feuds is wonderfully user-friendly, with the engine now generating potential future rivalries for you while active ones play out. Like the look of any potential rivalry and by pairing wrestlers against one another, you can trigger cut-scenes which develop it further.
Universe is so good that without those bugs it’d cause 2K18 to threaten 9/10 territory; but they simply cannot be ignored having become a permanent launch characteristic of Yuke’s otherwise excellent series. This really is a true-to-life interpretation of Vince McMahon’s WWE. Right down to occasionally feeling like you’ve been superkicked in the skull.
far left Women’s matches are at long last on par with the men’s, making Sasha Banks vs Bayley worth constant revisiting. Left Cruiserweight show 205 Live debutants include Akira Tozawa and TJP, and there’s also a return for The Brian Kendrick.
Right Power Rankings within Universe are a tidy new feature that enables you to quickly see who’s hot and who’s the next Curt Hawkins.