I’ve been a fan of professional wrestling my entire life, and have been playing video games for just as long as well. So, when I read that 2K Games has tweaked the gameplay a bit in this year’s latest WWE video game to make it even more like the show that it’s based on (Fowler, Matt. “WWE 2K18 Hands-On: 6 Changes That Create a More Realistic Match.” IGN, IGN, 17 Aug. 2017, http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/08/17/wwe-2k18-hands-on-6-changes-that-create-a-more-realistic-match.) I’m definitely onboard for this.
After spending some time playing the game over the last two months, I’m ready to give an honest opinion about the game, as well as to discuss what works, and what doesn’t in this year’s simulation of the squared circle.
They’ve really outdone themselves this year I must say, starting with the availability of wrestlers to play as. Any WWE fan of any era will find somebody to play as here. If you’re a fan of the current roster, they have nearly everyone that you see currently featured on WWE programming.
If you’re a more 90’s fan, they have you covered there, from Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock to Sting and Goldberg, you have them to play as too.
The game’s roster even goes back as far as classic WWE Hall of Fame members like Ric Flair, The Fabulous Freebirds, and Macho Man Randy Savage.
The game has many different modes of play as well to keep you entertained and satisfied with your purchase. For starters, they’ve overhauled their career mode, where you create a superstar and attempt to rise through the ranks in the WWE. Starting out in an authentic simulation of the WWE’s Performance Center you learn the ropes of the business and try to climb the ladder and grab the brass ring as you attempt to rise in the ranks to become one of the all time greats.
There’s plenty of online modes to play as well if you want to test your might against your friends and total strangers from all over the world, with added daily challenges for you to try to complete to earn extra Superstar Credits, which can be used to unlock everything from additional wrestlers to new moves or outfits for your created wrestler.
And lastly there is the WWE Universe Mode, which simulates the week to week programming that we see on tv. It’s your sandbox to play your own version of the shows, as you play through a calendar year.
The improved gameplay, which drew me in, is just as advertised. Little tweaks to the game play, and new animations and camera angles/cuts really bring the show to life. One of my favorite additions to the game was the change that occurs when you have a larger athlete, say The Big Show, going up against a smaller man, like a James Ellsworth. In this year’s game, in such a match, the bigger wrestler gets more power for his size advantage, and the match can end in a matter of seconds much like it does on tv. Little touches like that bring the game to life for me as a fan.
It’s not a perfect game however, the large roster I mentioned before is almost entirely left as unlockable extras, earned by the Superstar Points you acquire playing the game. Which means that to play the large roster to it’s fullest you will have needed to log in some serious game time before you can play with everyone that you want to play as.
The career mode is still not the best, but it is greatly improved over previous years. One of the flaws I had found in previous editions was that you would spend most of your time in the game with management telling you there were no storylines for you. Which, was close to reality for most wrestlers in the industry, but it made for a boring game. This year, you get to advance along, but way too quickly, way too easily. I played the game on hard mode, and still within four weeks of making my debut, I had the NXT Championship. In another month of the game, I was on the main roster, so I didn’t feel the accomplishment that I should have when reaching that milestone in my virtual career.
On the WWE Universe mode front, they’ve put some work in the game to make it an accurate simulation, but not as well. It really fell apart when it came to storylines, which in previous years flowed from logical starts and had conclusions, even when you let things play out organically.
But in this year’s game, storylines and rivalries can start up, but may not even continue on the next week, let alone to the monthly Pay Per View event where titles are defended, rivalries come to a head and changes can happen out of nowhere. Leaving this gamer/wrestling fan scratching his head as to what the point of the previous week’s stuff was.
Also, to me one of the biggest flaws is, despite introducing the brand split between Raw and Smackdown in the game, the ppvs are strictly joint efforts every single month, which defeats the purpose of the brand split in my opinion.
All things considered, as a gamer and a wrestling fan, you’re not going to get much better than this year’s video game. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than the games were. I really feel like in another year or two 2K is finally going to get things together and when that happens, we’re in for a real treat.
WWE 2K18: B+