The WWE games have been a constant in my life since 2003 and I have purchased each instalment since Here Comes The Pain. Many changes have happened between the games of old to those of present, different developers, publishers, gameplay mechanics, roster, visuals and so much more. The past few games have often felt like roster updates with minor updates to gameplay and the inclusion of a new game mode or the omission of an old one. Can 2K18 break the mold of the past few years and be a shining example of what these games can be?

The whole single-player section called MyPlayer can be split into two areas, the story mode titled MyCareer and then the online aspect, Road to Glory. I was disappointed to see that in MyCareer, dialogue is purely text based with no voice-overs whatsoever, this dampened the immersion. When your forced to watch the dialogue be mouthed into a microphone whilst the superstar flails their arms a little to try and convey emotion it’s off-putting.

Not only that but the stories you experience are lacklustre, feeling mismatched and shoved together. Fighting random superstars with very little in the ways of rivalry building. One week you will have a match with your rival then for the following weeks you will be completely separated and put into a mix of multi-man and single matches that feel throwaway with no real consequences behind them.

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MyCareer also separates your created superstar from other game modes and forces players to create a MyCareer specific character in which the majority of customisation options are locked behind a loot box / microtransaction system. This ruins the experience by limiting creativity, these games and more specifically the story modes in the past were targeted towards the creative. Those who wish to play ‘as themselves’ and create this larger than life character they can go be, instead you settle for the options available and hope to unlock things later on, starting off far from what you want.

Road to Glory is the best part of MyPlayer, and it’s the online competitive multiplayer mode which I never thought I would say. In the past, the online aspects of the WWE games have been filled with lag, people who quit when things don’t go there way and frustrating matchmaking times. This year matchmaking seems more refined, less time waiting for a match, skill-based dependent on your level and is an all-round better experience. It has its issues in that lag can still arise, and the risk of quitters still present but in my numerous matches played I encountered one match with obvious lag and nobody quit early. The reversal system seems buggy to me, as if the timing is different for each player and when your absolutely sure you timed a reversal correctly but your character does nothing it just feels off. However, that could just be a player skill issue A.K.A me being shitake mushrooms, just something to be aware of.

The online mode affects your superstar in that you can earn free loot cases which contain various clothing items, moves and currency to progress your MyPlayer. Every match participation and victory will reward you with stars that help you qualify for the PPV events. These PPV events run parallel to their real-world counterparts and allow players to complete challenges and go against the WWE superstars competing in the real-world event. This creates an incentive to play and keep doing so week in, week out. If you don’t have enough stars you can buy your way in with the in-game currency, so don’t get too stressed about having to play constantly.

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The regular exhibition mode features some new additions in the form of 8-Man matches which I have been clamouring for since 2003. The idea of being able to do the Classic Survivor Series Style matches just sings to me. Unfortunately, the larger multi-man matches come with frame-rate issues when too much is going on. Not only that but the manual targeting is awkward, so its definitely worth jumping into the setting’s and changing that. Turning to face an opponent and try to strike them only for your character to still try and attack a different target is frustrating.

The Royal Rumble features new elimination mechanics that focus more on player skill and reflexes as opposed to simple button-mashing. A welcome addition if you can manoeuvre the field of other superstars to actually be able to eliminate others. Elimination Chamber matches now allow for entrances and really help set the tone for the match. Watching the superstars enter the chamber as they look around the structure, preparing for war, builds up the immersion.

The AI is confusing at best it seems, playing a Money In The Bank Ladder match that I have to win to progress is painful. I don’t know whether it’s a difficulty issue as well but it shouldn’t be when I’m on normal settings, but the AI can reverse seemingly everything, with my prompts literally flashing up and disappearing. When trying to fight smart, maybe take the fight to the outside a little or take a rest, I’m getting targeted by the AI at random moments. There are two other goals I need to accomplish, perform an OMG moment and perform a move using the ladder, should be relatively easy but they are not. Every time I try to set up the ladder for a move, another superstar comes and picks it up. I throw one into the ladder in a corner and get ready to hit a move, as soon as I grab the opponent, another one picks up the ladder I was literally about to throw someone onto. I have tried this match half a dozen times, I can’t progress until all three goals are completed.

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My character is 70 overall and admittedly I’m in a match with many 80+ superstars, however that is the highest I can currently be. You can only increase attributes with currency and points, which gives me the option to either pay real money, grind the Road to Glory or restart MyCareer. All options aren’t pleasant. So it’s almost as if I’m being forced to play many more hours to just progress past one match or pay more money. When the 80+ overall’s constantly reverse my moves and get me heavily damaged before everyone else, I’m at a severe disadvantage.

Once again, the Creation Suite improves, more customisation options, more items, more moves, more music, just bigger and better. You can create superstars, move-sets, entrances, championship titles, arenas, custom matches, victory scenes and much more. The creation suite is perhaps the strongest mode of the series, allowing players to just have at it and be creative.

WWE Universe mode allows players to take over as the main booker / general manager of WWE programming. This is my favourite mode to jump into and experiment with, being able to set your own rosters, shows, days that shows are scheduled, rivalries, matches, championships and more. You have the tools and options available to basically run WWE, without all the stress and worry that comes with running the real-life company.

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Bugs are present and happen way too often, everything from characters being eliminated from the rumble but somehow being in the ring to visual bugs that lead to hair piercing the character’s face. The most common was attire that would no-clip in and out of other clothing or into the superstar, not a good look.

There has been a visual upgrade yet again this year, superstars are more detailed and the crowds look better than ever. It’s hard to think that each year it can look better and yet it does. The superstars are looking more like their real-life counterparts than ever, with some maybe still missing the mark. Various talent still don’t look the part in terms of facial features and again, Renee Young is still a victim of bad design. A little close inspection on some textures brings to light the jagged lines of the ring and ropes to give an example.

The game soundtrack features 11 tracks and contains a varied line-up from Kid Rock to Bruno Mars to Disturbed to The Blues Brothers. It’s unfortunate however that you will listen to each track dozens of times over on your way through the game that it gets a little stale. That’s where the jukebox comes in, you can customise your playlist from not only the soundtrack but the superstar entrance themes too. I use the jukebox with every instalment and it helps break up the monotony of hearing the same songs playing whenever you go back into the menus. Commentary is still very forgettable and can still go unnoticed, the only times I truly picked up on it would be if my name was mentioned, other than that it’s the usual schtick with banter between the commentators.

STORY: 4.5/10
VISUALS: 7.5/10
SOUND: 7.5/10
GAMEPLAY: 7/10
GAME DESIGN & INNOVATION: 8.5/10

A game that has true potential but unfortunately riddled with immersion breaking bugs and confusing AI. It looks better than ever but still features visual discrepancies compared to the real-world. The soundtrack accompanied with the superstar entrance themes is a pleasant worthwhile inclusion year in, year out. The story mode is un-inspiring and dull which for a WWE series game should not be the case, hopefully next time they can lay the smack down and deliver a better single-player story experience. One saving grace is the Road To Glory mode that is the best online mode in the series to date. The other is the creation suite that offers tons of customisation options allowing for players to do what they want and be creative. Above all, it has the key formula set, but in execution there are issues that need work on.

OVERALL: 7.0/10 – Good

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

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