WWE 2K18 review: Far from a slobberknocker

2K, WWE /

While WWE 2K18 makes a few strides in the graphical department, gameplay and the various modes leave a bit more to be desired in this newest installment.

Developer: Yuke’s, Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Platforms: PC, PS4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: October 13, 2017 (Deluxe Edition), October 17, 2017 (retail), Fall 2017 (Switch)

As one of the more literal forms of a collision between sports and entertainment, pro wrestling really requires big slices of both to be truly successful. The WWE 2K series, throughout its many incarnations, have tried to reflect this with games that either redefined the sub-genre or languished in mediocrity. This year’s entry is the fourth under the 2K umbrella and sees the series spinning wheels and creating a total package that shows more ring rust than it does prowess. While there are things to like about it, WWE 2K18 feels like just another obligatory jobber match rather than a big WrestleMania main event.

One of the game’s biggest strengths lies within just looking at it. The presence of Visual Concepts and the developers solely working on current-generation hardware this year is pretty prevalent here. Character models are looking the best they ever really have within a WWE game.  It’s all thanks to a new lighting engine that more realistically reflects what you’d see on TV every week, and really makes everything stand out from the arena affects to the wrestlers themselves. Superstars like AJ Styles, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton look pretty accurate, and the attention to detail can’t really be called into question. Entrances seem to be improved and really showcase the improvements done to character models this year.

It’s not all perfect though, as some of the women on the roster, like Ember Moon for example, still look pretty rough, all things considered. While their motion-captured entrances are fine for what they are, it’s some of the facial scans and hair physics just look off. It’s not a new thing for these games, but with all of the other improvements to character models and entrances, it would have been nice to see some progression in that department. It’s also hard to spot those previously-stated improvements when actually playing the game. If anything, it looks like last year’s game, just with the updated models and such.

WWE 2K18
2K, WWE /

In fact, that’s not the only thing that hasn’t changed much from last year. The gameplay and controls of WWE 2K18 are mostly the same and come with their same set of pros and cons. There are improvements to carrying opponents and tag team scenarios that freshen up thing when those opportunities arise. The reversal system is still a great implementation and adds that extra layer of strategy when facing an opponent’s onslaught. Depending on the character’s rating, they’ll get a certain amount of reversal stocks and once they’re out, whoever’s on offense is free to impose their will until it fills back up. Using them wisely is key to having success in the game.

Match types have also largely gone unchanged, but still present a good variety for players to get themselves into squared-circle shenanigans.

On the flipside, the weird submission system that uses the right analog stick is also back and is still very confusing. It’s basically a chase game between who’s locking in the hold and the recipient of it that cuts off the flow of things and can be pretty daunting. Thankfully, there is an option deep in the menus for an alternate system that requires button-mashing that’s admittedly better, but not by much. All in all, if you’re looking for a large gameplay improvement with 2K18, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Gameplay glitches and bugs are also back in full force, ranging from the absolutely hilarious to ones that will crash the game. While it’s funny at the moment, a full retail game releasing with this many problems is just unacceptable in 2017. These issues will likely get fixed in a patch down the line, but it makes things look like more of the same from this series rather than a stride towards improvement.

Match types have also largely gone unchanged in WWE 2K18, but still present a good variety for players to get themselves into squared-circle shenanigans. Whether you want to fight inside of a steel cage, Hell in a Cell or the new and improved Eliminated Chamber or even have no structure and just go crazy with tables, ladders and chairs or just flat-out fight backstage, the options are there. The new Match Editor can help create some pretty crazy scenarios like an Iron Man match where points are scored by putting opponents through tables, but it isn’t quite expansive or deep enough to be seen as a feature that will often be used.

WWE 2K18
2K, WWE /

Customizing a MyPlayer is nowhere near as fun and expansive as creating a wrestler the more traditional way…

The Creation Suite is also back and may be the best part of the game this year. Though mostly unchanged, it’s arguably still one of the best customizers in all of gaming. The amount of detail one can go to create a wrestler is still second-to-none, and it includes zany options from clothes to bodily features. There are also new options for clothing to make it glow or even create a blacklight effect, which are nice touches. Creating arenas, custom entrances, videos using in-game clips, championship belts are also options that offer a great deal of depth for the more creative types. If you can think it, chances are you can make it in WWE 2K18. Going on Community Creations can be a treat if looking for some of the biggest names that aren’t in WWE or are just flat-out imaginary thanks to some very talented folks.

As wide and expansive as those options are, they come to a screeching halt when it comes to MyPlayer. This year, the feature is tied to a new online multiplayer mode called Road to Glory, and a bit of a disappointing MyCareer mode. Customizing a MyPlayer is nowhere near as fun and expansive as creating a wrestler the more traditional way, as options are extremely limited when starting out. This is thanks mostly to a new loot box system that, while not presenting real-world money as an option, is still pretty frustrating. The boxes are purchased using Virtual Currency that’s earned just by playing the game, and VC can even be won back in a box that typically contains either cosmetic items or upgrades to a MyPlayers’ attributes.

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WWE 2K18’s Road to Glory pits players in one-on-one scenarios in match types and arenas that change daily. The goal is to get a good enough total match rating (done using stars) to qualify for special events themed after WWE pay-per-views. While an ambitious idea for the series, poor matchmaking and the previously-mentioned loot box system hold things back. MyCareer, meanwhile, throws the player into the ring from NXT to the main roster with all sorts of gameplay challenges and rivalries along the way.

The poor writing is the star of this mode, whether it’s just in normal interactions backstage or using the abysmal and largely inconsistent promo engine. The latter is even more disappointing considering how many thought there was room for improvement, but in the end, it may have actually gotten worse in WWE 2K18. You may be throwing out a few zingers to tick off evil authority figures in one line and then trying to get the fans to boo you the next, and multiple instances of this make the feature laughable at best.

WWE 2K18
2K, WWE /

Universe Mode also hasn’t changed that much in WWE 2K18, either. It essentially serves as the game’s General Manager mode where one books matches and rivalries for shows. It’s pretty straightforward, but also gets very repetitive over time and the promo engine doesn’t exactly make things more tolerable. Thankfully there’s a huge roster of over 200 Superstars and managers to work with right out of the box, but if there was one complaint to be made it’s that there are a bit too many clone characters that are supposed to be reflective of a previous era.

These could easily just be palette swaps, but for whatever reason, they’re treated as actually character slots in order to pad out things to make it “the biggest roster ever.” Still, it’s a pretty big cast that even includes the cruiserweight division of 205 Live, some new additions from NXT and the infamous Hardy Boyz are making their way to the game later as DLC. The game’s soundtrack is pretty lackluster, even if produced by The Rock himself and featuring the likes of Bruno Mars and Joe Walsh. There’s always the option of having WWE entrance tracks play on a loop in the menus, which is a much better alternative.

WWE 2K18 sees the series spinning wheels in <span style=. 2K Sports. . WWE 2K18. 5

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.