It's that time of year again, when WWE's yearly offering drops to video gaming platforms, and for the first time in a good few years I was very excited to see what was on offer from the folks at 2k. I have to be honest, I was somewhat disappointed in the previous couple of instalments of the game. It felt very much like the same engine had been given a fresh coat of paint, and a different narrative was thrown into the story mode. However, with new features and the biggest roster yet, this year's game looked to be full of promise and hopefully a genuine departure from last year's game, while still retaining the better elements of WWE2K17. For the most part, I would say that WWE2K18 achieves that aim, and in some areas absolutely exceeds expectations.
First off, graphically this seems like a step up from the past two iterations of the 2kgame. The characters look realistic, and for the most part seem to move with realistic physics. The facial expressions are very life-like, and the characters on the roster all seem to be very accurate. The roster itself is incredibly deep, not only in terms of the starting characters (which includes the NXT , 205 Live, Raw, Smackdown and some legend rosters), but the unlockable characters are numerous and excellent, including multiple version of The Undertaker, Sting, Triple H and others while also including the likes of Mr Perfect, Lex Luger and many others. It's a deep and satisfying list of characters which means that players can easily replicate their favourite matches from yesteryear, especially when supplemented by the community creations feature which allows players to download CAWs from the sprawling WWE 2K community. Obviously the quality is erratic, but it doesn’t take long to find the better replicated versions of those missing form the game itself.
In terms of gameplay, WWE2K18 owes much to its predecessors. The basic controls are very similar to those in the 2k16 and 1k17 games, so they are not unfamiliar but there are various tweaks that have been made. The ability to use more than one system to apply and escape submissions (I was never a fan of the "wheel" method, so this was a particular delight for me), as well as the addition of mid-move changes which are very welcome. The match modes in the exhibition function are mostly the same as the usual wrestling games (Hell in a Cell, Extreme rules, Single, Tag team etc. are all present), but the backstage brawl function form 2k17 has been given a bit more fleshing out and feels much more open than last year, so that's a definite improvement. The WWE universe mode is much the same as what we've come to expect, but does allow for a “season” type mode with all the usual bells and whistles.
However, the big change for WWE2k18 is the MyPlayer mode, which is essentially the career mode function. Like in previous years you start at the bottom doing work at the performance centre with a custom character, before moving on to NXT and beyond. however, where in previous games you could get stuck in a series of endless matches on NXT, here there is a more RPG-style structure in place, where you can interact with various superstars and personalities backstage, get into feuds, make different comments, cut promos etc. The lack of actual voiceover was a bit jarring at first, but it certainly evokes memories of the career modes on the lies of Smackdown 2 for the PS2, and the classic Here Comes the Pain. For me it's certainly an improvement, and the story takes you on an enjoyable journey through your WWE career, as well as enabling you to unlock various custom logos, costumes and items for your superstar. I definitely think this is an upgrade on previous years, and really does add a layer of realism, to the whole story mode function.
All in all, WWE2k18 is a very enjoyable game. It's not re-inventing the wheel in terms of wrestling games and if you are looking for something completely different you may be disappointed. However, if you’ve had issues with the more recent WWE2K games, you might be pleasantly surprised that many of those issues have been resolved; plus with new functionality and a massive roster there is a whole lot of fun to be had.
WWE 2K18 is rated PEGI 16 and is available now on PlayStation4, Xbox One and Windows PC