by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
It’s not all about the wrestling
Professional wrestling has always been more about the theatrics than the wrestling itself. The crowds are brought in by the whole package... the flashing lights, the music and the performances of the athletes in the square ring. I’ve spent a couple years away from the WWE 2K series, and was looking forward to seeing the improvements in the annual series. The lights, music and action are there, but in many ways, WWE 2K18 just doesn’t have the same pizzazz as the real thing.
If you want to jump into the game and play as one of your favourite stars, then WWE 2K18 allows you to do so. One thing that WWE 2K18 does right (and has in the past), is the massive number of playable modes. Everything from simple one-on-one matches to full on eight-on-eight battles can be played. Royal Rumbles and a range of tournaments are available and further tournaments can be customised to your liking. And the tag team modes seem to have received an improved tagging mechanic, allowing the tagged character to enter the ring with a physical advantage over the fatigued opponents in the ring. The system also makes it easier to win while one of the wrestlers is enjoying a break outside the ring.
The list of playable wrestlers is just amazing. It literally took me ten minutes in my first match to decide who to play after going through the roster. And, in-game, each wrestler has a couple of finishing moves. As an old-school wrestling fan, it was great to pull off some of Sting’s signature moves against the like of the Undertaker... good times. All the current breed of pro wrestlers can be selected as well, so if you want to play as AJ Styles or take on Brock Lesnar, then you can. Unfortunately, many of the wrestlers on the roster are locked when you begin, but can be opened with in-game credits won by performing well in the ring.
Be the wrestler
But if you want to become a wrestler – one with your own identity, then the MyPlayer/MyCareer mode is be where you will want to head. MyCareer allows you to create a wrestler with limited visual customisations and then select what style of wrestler they wish to be, both in physical styling and attitude. Although you probably won’t get an avatar that resembles yourself (although with my couch body, I wouldn’t really want to), you can get one that fits your antagonistic or diplomatic attitude. If you want to create a female wrestler, though, you’re still out of luck. As mentioned, initial customisations (including visual and special finishing moves) are limited, but the customisations can be increased by loot boxes purchased with in-game currency. Unfortunately, the contents of the loot boxes are random, and so you are at the mercy of the WWE gods as to what falls out of the packages.
Learning the ropes
For newcomers to the series, the MyCareer mode does a good job of walking through the basics and then moving onto the more complicated moves. Unfortunately, you will need to wade through some meaningless conversations to get this done and it does take the gloss off somewhat. MyCareer is full of bland conversations. So much so, that I found myself zoning out to the chatter and skipping over much of it. And with such a great soundtrack, I found it surprising that 2K decided to keep the dialogue unvoiced. I could understand that there would be no voiced dialogue for created characters, but for the stars of the show, I would have thought a little effort could have been made to have voice-overs. It is quite possible, though, that those stars refused to read the dull lines.
This drawn out mundane conversation flows through to the Promo system. The Promo system requires you to select dialogue choices on a particular topic. After selecting the topic, dialogue choices open up requiring you to maintain a similar tone throughout the promo scene. This is generally easy enough to complete, but again, fails to be interesting. After learning the ropes, you get to showcase your wrestling avatar and the skills learned in the ring. You’ll start out in the lower ranks, but a few good wins will enable your character to move up through the NXT ranks towards the big time, hopefully making it there and getting a shot at a title.
Once in the ring, WWE 2K18 plays reasonably smoothly, letting you compete with some of the best in the business. Strikes, Irish whips and leaping off the turnbuckle all feature, as well as the opportunity to reverse attacks. Frustratingly, I found the reversal feature (where you reverse an opponent’s attack) was quite touchy. Pre-empting the reversal move often came with a ‘Too early’ call, whilst pressing the required button once it appeared often resulted in a ‘Too late’ message. And although the action in the ring flows quite well, I did get annoyed early on in my character's career after being pinned down when weakened by numerous signature moves and not being able to counteract the hits. Watching as your character pulls off one of his (or her) signature moves is a joy to behold, though.
Sights and sounds
Like the real thing, WWE 2K18 is a visual and audio spectacular. From the moment the lights start flashing as a wrestler enters the arena, the atmosphere is electric. The crowd cheers (or boos) for the stars as they enter. Wrestlers generally look like their famous namesakes, although the lesser known stars of the competition don’t seem as detailed as the superstars of WWE. The developers have definitely taken some care as to how the game looks, as the small details have been improved. In a previous iteration of the series, I had an issue with characters with long hair, but this has been vastly improved, with hair dangling and flinging around as it would in real life. Each WWE superstar has their own choreographed entrance, and it all fits in with the razzle-dazzle of the entertainment event.
This quality generally flows through to the audio, but WWE 2K18 is somewhat of a mixed bag. The choice of soundtrack music is superb, with a mixture of musical genres collectively providing for an upbeat experience throughout. Stars enter to their own entrance music and the commentary of Michael Cole in particular, is superb. The commentary is buoyant and certainly keeps the crowd entertained. But, as mentioned earlier, the lack of voice-over in the MyCareer mode is disappointing.
Champion by default
All in all, I was hoping for more from an annual title. I initially found myself playing with low frame rates (even on my decent machine) before finding a solution, but it certainly didn’t help the other issues I have with the game. The banal conversations in MyCareer and the frustratingly unresponsive controls took a heap of fun out of the game. The huge roster, the great variation in match types and great audio-visual spectacular can only do so much. Essentially, WWE 2K18 is the same as the previous iterations, which is a little disappointing. OK, so the sport hasn’t changed apart from an increased roster, but if you have a previous installment of the series, you may as well stick to it, unless having the latest crop of pro wrestling stars is of utmost importance to you. But, if you’re looking to get into some wrestling for the PC, then the monopoly 2K Sports holds on licensed wrestling games means that even though WWE 2K18 has a heap of issues, it is unfortunately still the best available.
Heaps of game modes and a massive roster
Full of lame conversations, controls can be unresponsive