|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Yuke’s and Visual Concepts|
|Pub: 2K Sports|
|Initial Release: October 17, 2017|
|Switch Release: TBA|
|Players: 1-8 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Alcohol Reference, Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Sean Engemann
I’m going to be honest here; The last time I watched a professional wrestling match, it was still called the World Wrestling Federation. Triple H, The Rock, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin were in their glory days, Chris Jericho had just come onto the scene as Y2J, and Stephanie McMahon was still the girl next door. It’s good to see my old idols represented in WWE 2K18, along with some kingpins from my younger years like Big Boss Man, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and Ultimate Warrior and all the current superstars that I am eager to acquaint myself with. It’s a massive roster, with dozens unlocked right from the start.
WWE events are as much about the show, the spectacle, and the roar of the crowd as they are about the wrestling itself. In WWE 2K18, the art of showmanship’s brush and palette are given to you to stroke the controls and customization options. This provides plenty of tools to play with, and every match and event is drawn out like you see when watching a live episode of Raw or SmackDown. It is a magnificent showcase of every element you would find on TV, but also carries with it a sluggish pace to compliment the simulation style of action, which heaves a lot of tedious weight around in between matches.
Most of this full-on soap opera script comes from the MyPlayer Mode, the beefy campaign that lets you create your own rising star, train in the rehearsal ring, work your way through the NXT league, and eventually go toe-to-toe with the biggest names in the WWE for a shot at a title belt. It has all the requisites of an overblown progression system, with skills such as striking, grappling, and acrobatics to improve, credits to accumulate and spend on new costumes, poses, and other personal flairs, and drama to build both in and out of the ring.
It’s all this excess showmanship that leads to WWE 2K18’s trudging pace. We go slowly strutting through the arena halls, forming alliances and rivalries with other stars by having overly dramatic conversations with equally flamboyant animations and elongated facial close-ups that would make the daytime soaps proud. Pair these with full match introductions and lengthy loading screens between almost everything, and you spend exceedingly more time watching than you do wrestling.
Fortunately, there are other modes in WWE 2K18 that get you right into the ring or even let you run-in early to take a cheap shot on your unsuspecting adversary while they’re still making their way down the ramp. Landing strikes and grapples are simple button presses, but mixing up the hit selection and manipulating pickups and facelocks is where the visual and tactical variety shine through. Moves transition smoothly between one another, and for the most part the entire orchestration of combinations feels authentic. There are still moments where the AI can’t decide which animation to choose, especially when writhing on the stage, where a few agonizing displays swap sharply back and forth. The timing and understanding of reversals is pivotal to winning a match, which will hand newcomers several early defeats until the telltale signs of an incoming strike are memorized.
The enhanced grapple system and the carry and drag improvements open up a lot more opportunities for the attacker, setting up stunning special moves like a Steel Cage Superplex or perfectly targeted springboard attacks from the apron. WWE 2K18 also makes table smashing and ladder matches more interesting affairs, allowing you to place them better for back breaking blows.