There is much to be admired in this year’s WWE entry. The lighting is spectacular, the roster is as varied as ever and there seems to be a genuine desire for the game itself to recapture the glory days of N64 and PS2 efforts. Despite this, there are too many negatives to be able to recommend this to casual fans.
Starting up a game of WWE2K18 presents the major issue with this and previous year’s efforts, the loading times. For any game like this, you need to be able to get into a match quickly, when the mood takes you. Unfortunately, this year’s seems to do all it can to stop you actually getting into the ring. Let’s start with the main single-player mode. The career mode. Here you take a created superstar from NXT through the storylines of a WWE career until they hopefully have their Wrestlemania moment. This is the dream mode for many players but for some reason the game has never managed to get this simple concept correct. You start with a lengthy process of creating a superstar, this could be its own game mode as the variety of options are as varied as ever, unfortunately, it is anything but user-friendly and most of the good moves or costume pieces are locked behind loot boxes, in-game currency and progression awards. In reality, this means you start the game looking and acting quite vanilla compared to the over the top wrestling stars you interact with. The solution to this and most criminal omission from the recent games is the ability to play a career mode as your actual favourite star. What other sports game forces this upon you? Imagine booting up FIFA and instead of being able to play as your favourite team, you were forced to not only create every aspect of a fictitious team but play with them effectively only having one leg. This is how career mode feels.
The bag addition to career mode is the ability to walk around in an RPG-lite effort backstage meeting other superstars and carrying out small quests. Unfortunately, despite how good this sounds it is hamstrung by the main issues the rest of the single-player game is. Illogical writing and abnormally long loading times. Add these together and the career mode becomes a frustration rather than a campaign you can savour. Unfortunately, the two seem to go hand in hand. After only three matches it is possible to win the NXT belt. The problem is, it may take you two hours to have these three matches as the game decides to put you in front of the WWE Logo loading screen for about two minutes after every decision is made in the career. You spend ages walking or jogging around the backstage area for no apparent reason only to be hit with a loading screen every time you feel you are making progress. It is enough to make you think the game was never playtested and makes you wish for the simple menus of previous entries. Instead of making me walks aimlessly backstage force me to get to what is good about WWE2K18, the in-ring action.
In the ring, the game flows better than ever before and the wrestlers have a genuine weight behind them. Punches, kicks and collisions all feel weighty and the collision detection has improved despite not being perfect. For example, context-sensitive chair shots are crunching yet you may be as likely to hit the floor instead of your downed opponent as your character will miss unless you have it lined up correctly. A simple auto-aim or aim-assist here would have worked wonders. Despite this, there is a genuine joy to be had when you are in the middle of a match. That is if you can get used to the A.I. In WWE2K18 the computer-controlled characters make more comebacks than a prime John Cena. Countless times they will kick out at 2 after three of your finishers only to mount a quick offensive and beat you with one of theirs. While the difficulty can be welcome to stop this becoming a procession the annoyance of the A.I. countering a finishing move more than once begins to grate. Luckily the game comes with sliders that let you crank up which moves have the desired effect. A quick suggestion would be to max the damage for foreign objects and finishing moves and before long you will be having a more realistic match. There is also the horrific kick out and submission mechanics to resolve. a simple change in the menu screen lets you replace the mini-games with more traditional button presses so you won’t lose every time the opponent puts you in some kind of hold or pin.
Despite all the negativity, there is much to like in WWE2K18. The graphics are phenomenal and use of realistic lighting elevates the game to TV broadcast levels. Seeing your favourite character come down to their exact ring entrance never fails to generate a smile or wave of nostalgia. The WWE Universe mode is the worlds largest wrestling figure playset that allows you to play at being the booker and create your own rivalries and feuds. If you ever felt you could do a better job than the current WWE creative team then this is the mode for you. Set up the champions and the belts on each brand then pick the winners each week. This is the mode that should be refined and focussed on each year instead of the hopeless career mode. Make the WWE2K games a sandbox where fans can control or reverse the decisions they see on a weekly basis and you will strike gaming gold. Ditch the poorly written and pointless career mode and make the Universe mode the star attraction, you will appeal to the core fanbase almost immediately.
So this year’s game is much like the previous incarnations. Excellent fun in the ring but horrific in everything else it does. It seems to be getting closer and closer to the real WWE every day.
Get it here
WWE 2K18 (PS4)