Another year and another entry in the WWE video game series, does the 2017 release offer up anything worthy of a ringside seat?
Off the bat, I will tell you I did not like the game at all and not for a single reason, but for a host of them and fixing them would require significant work. Nothing was broken per say, just not working as one would expect and you will notice it the moment you attempt to craft your own fighter in the MyCareer mode. The amount of options that you have available is incredible and crafting your own wrestler is not something you can force your way past as each decision you make can impact the gameplay experience that you encounter down the line. As you progress through your characters creation, you can choose not only how they look, but what type of fighter they are going to be, which will define how you play, before you even step foot into the ring.
Once your character has been created you are placed into a training space, on day one of your journey and directed to interact with your trainer, who helps you get ready for the long journey you are set to start on. Moving around this space and the others as you progress, feels like trying to drive a car, as it sinks into a pit of tar, it is horrid, but as you don’t need to fight here, it could be forgiven and seeing as how you can walk up to fighters like The Rock, maybe it is not so bad. What does make a problem is that the game tells you to speak with characters, but provides no direction as to where they might be in a space and if you don’t know anyone outside of the really popular ones, like me, being told to speak with someone and having no idea who they are or what they look like is a struggle.
Once you step into the ring though, things get a lot better, movement is fluid and attacking and throwing your opponent feels satisfying, though in the career mode, that matters little if you can’t play the game. The first match the game threw me into, was one I wanted to do, as it asked if I was rusty or ready to go, the problem is, it explained nothing about the controls, how to play or anything, it just let me get beat. I was defeated so resoundingly, I never landed a single blow on my opponent, but at the end of it, I was praised for kicking ass like I was known for, which pointed out that the game did not care about the initial stages. What else hurt was that speaking between the characters is handled by text boxes, which is not too bad, in a one on one sense, but when the game has you building promos for yourself and the entire process is done through a very lame and painful text selection menu, it becomes old fast.
The core part of the WWE series has always been fighting and while its really strong here, the outside content is not great. Creating a character for yourself, while detailed is frustrating as the game struggles to keep up with your choices, there were more times when I would select an option, only to have to wait a while before it would load up and if I did not like what it was, I would then have to rinse and repeat those steps onto other options. The other modes are more of a variation on ones from previous games and nothing really stands out, the career is where the game directs you towards and it’s a shame that it is so lacking. My biggest gripe though, is with the games performance, I can say that once you are in the ring and fighting, the game runs flawlessly, however its everything else that it struggles at. The load times are just shy of being horrendous, but they are still painful, the problem is that in the career mode, you spend more time in load screens than you do playing the game at times.
From a presentation point of view, the game is a strange mess, the presentation efforts for matches is incredible, the team has delivered the spectacle and pageantry that fans around the world know as WWE. The character entrances are a sight to behold, the people around the ring interact with it well and even the crowd gets in on the action, changing and responding to the action inside the ring. The problem is when the fighters are not in the ring, they look and feel more like a PS2 game, the animations are clunky, the lip syncing to the worlds looks more like a bad Chinese dub than the English language.
Audio wise, the lack of voice from the wrestlers is a disappointment and given the number of them, I can understand why they don’t speak, but in the MyCareer mode alone, there is no spoken dialogue from anyone, which is a shame. The commentary is fine, but is overpowered by the music track selection the game offers, which is a solid and will please most people, but the default settings make it hard to make out the rest of the audio.
WWE 2K18 is the first time in a few years that I have sunk any time in the series and I can’t see a lot of changes, the wrestling feels as solid as ever, but almost every other part of the game seems rooted in its early 2000 roots and refuses to change. Fans of the series may notice many more subtle changes than I, but for most players it will be another entry, devoid of anything really new.