WWE 2K18 (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 04.12.2017 2

Review for WWE 2K18  on Xbox One

In his trademark white shirt, red tie, and black gloves, Adam "The Atom" Grisly makes his way down the aisle. Hailing from Middleburg, Virginia and weighing 233 pounds, he has spent his entire life working towards this momentous occasion: his first match on Monday Night Raw, the WWE's most popular wrestling program. A sheet of sweat embeds itself on Adam's forehead. The anticipation, the energy, it's all so overwhelming. Suddenly the music changes and the thousands in attendance respond with a deafening roar of cheers. Adam's opponent, "The Big Show" has arrived. As soon as the towering giant enters the ring, the newcomer assaults him, trying in vain to get an advantage. However, it's all for naught, as a single devastating punch knocks Adam out. Too bad for The Atom, he's spending his RAW debut staring at the ceiling. Let's review 2K's latest entry into the WWE series.

There are times in life when a pivotal decision has to be made, one that defines a person. All Adam "The Atom" Grisly ever wanted was success, even if it meant selling his soul to corporate overlords. Was becoming a 'Company Man' the right decision? That remains to be seen. After all, the only other path available to him was that of a 'Fan Favourite'. That meant appealing to the crowd, playing the underdog, and being the most charismatic and talented wrestler in sports entertainment. Adam doesn't believe he's that person, so he's following orders, doing favours, and biding his time. Alone in the locker room after a humiliating defeat, The Atom took solace in the fact that he made his opponent look good, and maybe next week he'll get his turn.

WWE 2K18 is the latest entry in one of the longest-running wrestling videogame franchises. It boasts the largest roster yet, new moves, and a plethora of other additions. Strictly in terms of content, there's hardly any room to complain. However, when it comes to this genre, it takes more than a massive roster and dozens of game modes to hold the player's attention. There needs to be fantastic in-ring action, compelling storylines, and unique features. Due to its yearly release schedule, the WWE 2K series has had a lot of opportunities to tinker with its formula. Now if only they had the time to actually perfect it.

First off, the wrestling has seen some improvements. Some of the changes are a little more subtle than others, and coming to grips with all of the added mechanics takes a while, but overall it's a good effort. In order to give matches a better "flow" numerous animations have been added. To give an idea of what to expect, if a wrestler falls down near the edge of the ring, they'll recover by grabbing onto the ropes and pulling themselves up. Moves are "sold" more effectively, so if someone takes a massive slam, they're going to be feeling it for a long time. Hits to the head and legs look more convincing than before. There's also the ability to drag or carry opponents, such as towards the turnbuckle for a superplex, or the announcers table for a back-breaking slam. Utilizing this feature isn't all that intuitive, but seeing as how every button on the Xbox One pad is used for something, there aren't really any options to simplify things.

Screenshot for WWE 2K18  on Xbox One

Further changes include the submission system, which has been given an optional control scheme. Now players simply have to mash the appropriate button in order to escape submissions. The A.I. is also less likely to exhibit strange behaviours, such as failing to perform moves after grabbing their opponent. Unlike previous games, up to eight wrestlers can compete at the same time, which is great for Royal Rumbles and other largescale matches. However, in order for these massive bouts to occur, the frame rate has to take a significant drop, which sucks away some of the atmosphere and impact.

Speaking of the Royal Rumble, this match type is far more exciting than in past entries. There are now more ways to eliminate an opponent than before, so less time is spent awkwardly attempting to shove someone over the ropes. Other match types such as the Elimination Chamber and Backstage Brawl have also seen slight improvements. Even the fans who prefer to sit back and let AI opponents battle it out will appreciate all of these minor fixes. Overall, matches are better paced and more natural, which makes them more enjoyable for spectators as well as participants.

The MyCareer mode is where guys like Adam Grisly can make their mark in the WWE. At first, it almost feels like newcomers are strapped to a rocket, as they blast their way through the Performance Center. In about a month, they've already won the NXT championship belt, and are well on their way to a spot on the Smackdown or Raw roster. This is where the brakes are immediately slammed, as players struggle to lead their created wrestler out of the undercard and through the glass ceiling. To add to this, the choices they make will determine if they're 'Company Man' or 'Fan Favourite' material, which has an effect on the storyline.

Screenshot for WWE 2K18  on Xbox One

Much like any other job, WWE Superstars have to follow the orders of their superiors. Every week, they're given a new task, whether it's win a match, lose a match, or cut a promo. In any case, they're expected to deliver a stunning performance. The storyline doesn't progress if the wrestler fails to do their job. Every event is bookended by the backstage. This is where guys like Adam can chat with co-workers or find out what's next on the schedule. Being able to walk around this area seems like a cool idea, but it quickly devolves into an agonizingly slow process. Navigating a simple menu would have been much faster and more convenient. The backstage is also subject to a lot of slowdown, which makes navigating even more arduous.

Turning a nobody into a legend is not just a matter of booking; it also requires a high level of physicality and skills. In other words, there are RPG elements. Winning matches earns the player virtual currency (or VC), which can then be spent on stat increases, new clothes, or practically anything else. Spending points for unlocks isn't a new feature in this series, but never before has it been such a grind. If Adam wants to invest a single point into the strength of his punches and kicks, he has to spend about 1,200 VC. On average, the rookie earns around 300 VC for every match. That's a lot of work for one point.

Part of the reason why Adam dresses so plainly is because customizable gear is locked away behind loot crates. Occasionally these mysterious bins will appear as rewards for story progression, but most of the time they have to be purchased, and they're prohibitively expensive. Also, since VC is shared between stat boosts and gear unlocks, there's no way that The Atom can justify vanity-appeasing expenditures. Besides, in order to earn a little extra cash, he has to wear a custom-designed T-shirt. There is profit in merchandising, but not nearly enough.

Screenshot for WWE 2K18  on Xbox One

Between the grind for VC, the constant load screens, and the boring backstage segments, MyCareer is nothing more than a slog. Players simply aren't going to have the patience to work week after week for the small morsels of interesting narrative. Not to mention their created wrestler is forced into a bland move-set with no special abilities, unless of course they can afford the abominable VC requirements for everything, and score a few lucky drops from loot crates. Thankfully, none of the other customization modes suffer from this unforgivable limitation. Any wrestler created outside of the MyCareer mode is allowed full access to the entire suite of clothes, skills, and moves.

The WWE Universe Mode also makes its return, allowing the freedom to create a unique WWE program. Decide on the roster, the matches, and then micromanage everything as they see fit. Again, this is a solid addition to the series, and it benefits from a handful of added features. Rivalries, both friendly and otherwise, will develop between Superstars. This lends an interesting dynamic to the program, as rival wrestlers might interrupt each other's matches to get a cheap shot in. Customizable championship belts and even arenas allow imaginative wrestling fans to basically create their own federation.

Screenshot for WWE 2K18  on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Although WWE 2K18 brings a number of changes and improvements to the long-running series, its handling of the MyCareer mode is truly baffling. Whatever ambitious qualities it might have had are buried under a snore-inducing grind. Almost everything from boots to suplexes is locked away inside loot crates. If the player wants to craft their own wrestler and guide them to glory, they're better off sticking to create-a-superstar and participating in the WWE Universe. Otherwise, their avatar is going to be a poorly-dressed schmuck with a very limited set of abilities. Take this critic's advice, and just ignore MyCareer entirely. The other gameplay modes are where the entertainment is at.

Developer

Yuke's

Publisher

2K

Genre

Sport

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Universe mode is the only thing that keeps me going back to this series year after year. Haven't picked up '18 yet though. Were there significant upgrades to the Universe mode? 

Shame to hear about the MyCareer... loot-boxes are becoming one of the single-worst things to happen to these games. Like, do wrestling games really need it? The enormous grind for the low VC points seem like a push to buy upgrades with real-money, by discouraging the act of trying to work for it.

Universe Mode didn't get a massive overhaul, but it does feel a little more dynamic with the new rivalry system. Sometimes after a match ends, the participants might respectfully shake hands, or one of them will start attacking their downed opponent. 

I've also noticed that there are more run-ins. While defending the title in a "Falls Count Anywhere" match, I had my opponent beaten pretty badly, but then Roman Reigns ran in and hit me with his finisher. I nearly lost the match due to his shenanigans.

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