WWE 2K18: 5 first impressions

WWE 2K18 has been available via early access for less than twelve hours, but these five first impressions have already stuck out about the latest WWE game!

(Photo Credit: Marco Verch)

As of roughly midnight Eastern Time, WWE 2K18 became launched for those who purchased the deluxe edition and received early access to the game. Being one of those lucky few, I’ve spent all night playing WWE 2K18 and seeing the obvious strengths and weaknesses of the game that have already appeared. While there are some definite flaws, overall the game feels spectacular. Much of the strengths are as strong as ever, and the weaknesses are mostly trivial so far. As a disclaimer, the one thing I don’t cover at all here is Universe Mode. I’ve done very little with it so far, but will cover it more once it’s been explored. 

  1. 1 Character models and graphics look excellent

    One of the biggest improvements that’s expected from year to year is the graphics and character models of all the superstars we know and love. We got glimpses of this during the run up to the game’s release, but once it’s on the screen and being played, it’s clear that this really is a next level in graphics. The hair physics are at their best, and while some entrance attire still gets a little glitchy at times, it usually doesn’t distract from the overall product. 

    Even in just the little bit I’ve seen so far, some of the entrances are top notch. Some of the more elaborate entrances in WWE today, such as Shinsuke Nakamura or Naomi, and ones with very specific character motions, such as The New Day and Breezango, come off as good as they ever have. Despite their complexity, the entrances feel very close to the real life version, and give you a true feeling of the energy the superstars have when performing those entrances. 

    Very few glitches have popped up so far, but that can easily change in time. Facial models are solid, but lose a bit of luster when someone is supposed to appear to be talking. This became most obvious with the model of Jojo as a ring announcer, as the zoom in on her at one point showed her face completely stoic despite the obvious sound of her talking in the background. It’s a minor issue, but it does bring you out of the moment briefly. 

  2. 2 MyPlayer/MyCareer Mode still drags terribly

    On the surface, the MyCareer Mode and its parent MyPlayer feel spectacular. Essentially, MyPlayer begins with the custom creation of a new superstar that will be headed to the WWE Performance Center and then NXT to begin a career within WWE. During the creation, the selection is fairly limited. This makes sense, as a new recruit would likely be stuck with a simple base at first before being able to expand over time. 

    Once a basic character model has been chosen, you get limited options for hair and eventually pick one of twelve very basic attires. Rest assured, this can all be changed in the future, but they keep it simple at first. One of the best additions, especially for players not familiar with the series, is the selection of a style. You can pick from eight fighting styles: high flyer, showboat, striker, technician, brawler, strong style, powerhouse, and giant. Your choice of fighting style will actually give you a range of height and weight options that are appropriate for that style. For example, you can’t work a giant style at 5’ 6’’ tall, but you can be that height as a high flyer. 

    The very beginning of MyCareer places you in the WWE Performance Center under the guidance of head trainer Matt Bloom. This section serves as a solid tutorial if you’re not familiar with the controls, and is probably the best place to start in that case. There are also a series of NXT and WWE stars that pop up in the performance center you can go have brief (extremely brief) conversations with. It’s a small thing, but it feels special to be walking around the performance center and stumble upon Tye Dillinger, Bobby Roode, or even The Rock. 

    This realism was a good thought, but it loses its novelty quickly. The biggest flaw in MyCareer is definitely the amount of loading, down time, and just miscellaneous nonsense before you do your actual playing. It feels a bit like an RPG, but an extremely limited one. Once you’re on NXT, you can walk around the arena and speak to various people before the show. After speaking to the producer, you have your segment or match, and then are required to walk back to the parking lot area and speak to the attendant to progress to the next week. 

    Again, this is fun at first, but gets tedious before long. One improvement so far is that you progress quicker in NXT. Within four weeks, my character had become the NXT Champion. It was a struggle in WWE 2K17 often to just make it out of NXT, and this issue doesn’t seem to be there. Unfortunately, the amount of in between scenes and loading times make MyCareer drag and lose a lot of its energy pretty quickly. Hopefully, this will get better as the mode progresses, but we’ll see. 

  3. 3 The creation suite is as magnificent as ever

    The highlight of WWE video games tends to be the creation suite, and this year’s installment continued that trend. The entire creation suite consists of nine modes: superstar, move-set, entrance, championship, show, arena, video, victory, and custom matches. Superstar, move-set, entrance, and championship are returning options that are your classic custom creation options. On top of being able to make new versions of each thing, you can edit what WWE already has on the game. This means you can fully edit attire, move-set, entrance, etc for current superstars like Braun Strowman or AJ Styles. You can also edit details on the designs of current titles such as the Universal Championship or Cruiserweight Championship. 

    Less known than the former options, show and arena lend themselves more to Universe Mode. Creating a custom show gives you a fully customized weekly show, including the show images, video package, and even replay screen design, which can be used in Universe Mode. Creating a custom arena will make it available in Universe Mode but also usable in the regular exhibition mode. Creating a custom video and victory are really just sidekicks to other modes. A custom video can be used as a superstars entrance video, and you can save clips throughout the game to add to these, or the video can be used for a custom show. You can also create custom victory celebrations for after a match to add to superstars. 

    Lastly, there is the new custom matches option. While plain on the surface, this feature can be handy if there are match types you much prefer. You can customize whether a match can be won by KO, submission, or pinfall. You can customize whether there’s a countout and how long the count will be, whether to 10 or 20, and you can add features like Iron Man into something like a Hell in a Cell match. These customized match rules and stipulation can be saved and then replayed multiple times in the future, handy if you’ve got a specific set of rules you prefer not to have to set every time you play in another mode. 

    It’s hard not to sound redundant when talking about the sheer variety of customization in the creation suite, but the sentiment continues to ring true. WWE 2K18 has also brought back the Community Creations feature where players can upload custom superstars, arenas, championships, images (to be used as logo graphics in superstar creation), and shows to be downloaded by other players. Since the game hasn’t been out long, the selection of download options is limited compared to what it will be in a few weeks, but there’s already solid downloads of Adam Cole, The Singh Brothers, custom attires for current stars like Seth Rollins, and titles like the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and ROH World Championship. 

  4. 4 The soundtrack gets repetitive, as does commentary

    Throughout the years, there has been one constant complaint for WWE video games, specifically the full games on consoles such as 2K18, 2K17, etc.: the commentary is terrible. There was some hope this year that things would change as it was revealed that the commentary team for the game would be Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, and Michael Cole. While it’s nice not to hear the repetitiveness of JBL or Jerry Lawler anymore, not even the smooth sounds of Corey Graves could save this commentary mechanic. It often makes little sense with the action, and tends to repeat itself... a lot. 

    I have some sympathy for this issue for two key reasons. The first is that commentary on a live show is already difficult. If WWE can’t consistently make their commentary good on a weekly basis, how can they be expected to record forever good commentary for a game? The second is that adding options just multiplies the amount of recording needed from each commentator exponentially. Recording voiceovers for video games is not a quick task, and every added line can add so much more work. I can’t be too mad about this one, but it’s clear that the commentary is just as mundane and formulaic as always. 

    Speaking of repetition, there’s the WWE 2K18 soundtrack. It was big news when The Rock was announced to be curating the soundtrack for the game. When I first started playing the game, I was instantly impressed by the soundtrack. The level of variety in going from “Black Skinhead” by Kanye West to “You Never Met A White Boy Quite Like Me” by Kid Rock was jarring, but in a way that made the soundtrack feel it wouldn’t become repetitive. Unfortunately, that inclination was dead wrong. The entire soundtrack consists of eleven songs, and after about an hour of play they start to get very tired. The soundtrack is as follows: 

    1. Black Skinhead by Kanye West
    2. The Boyz-N-The-Hood by Eazy-E
    3. Down With the Sickness by Disturbed
    4. Last One Standing (feat. Tech N9ne) by !MAYDAY!
    5. One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer by George Thorogood & The Destroyers
    6. Rocky Mountain Way by Joe Walsh
    7. Runaway Baby by Bruno Mars
    8. Smokin’ by Boston
    9. Soul Man by The Blues Brothers
    10. Straight Out The Gate (Feat. Serj Tankian & Krizz Kaliko) by Tech N9ne
    11. You Never Met A White Boy Quite Like Me by Kid Rock

    The best option early on is to go into the game options under jukebox. This allows you to select your soundtrack. You can include all of WWE’s entrance tracks that are loaded on the game in the jukebox, and this provides a much better balance. It still gets repetitive at times, but it offers more variety and is a bit less jarring than the eleven song mix chosen by The Rock. Again, this is a pretty minimal gripe, but still a clear issue. 

  5. 5 The actual gameplay is as great as ever

    I’ve had plenty of small nitpicks along the way so far, but I think it’s important to hammer home just how great the gameplay is in WWE 2K18. The heart of these games might be the creation suite, but the backbone is inside the squared circle. The moves feel as fluid and natural as they ever have, and moves can be executed from just about every possible angle. Whether it be from the apron, corner, or at a sprint, superstars have all the favorite moves you expect them to have and more. The matches don’t feel too difficult, but they offer a challenge. Of course, the difficulty and AI can be adjusted to make it harder or easier if desired. 

    The reversals feel organic, but they are still challenging to time properly. Now, one quick mention has to be made about a feature you will likely want to change immediately. A few years ago, WWE changed up their submission mechanic and added this weird moving circle option. It doesn’t behave like you want it to, and ultimately leads to more frustration than fun. However, this can be changed to a classic button-mashing mini-game where you simply need to watch if the button changes and tap that button instead. It’s a quick change, and it’s the much easier option to get used to in the game. 

    Match types such as Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber, and others feel correct when you envision their real-world counterparts. To avoid droning on a bit repetitively, I just want to be clear that there are no obvious issues with the gameplay mechanics so far. Some issues may arise with continued play, and that will be covered in our full RealSport review of WWE 2K18, but first impressions are clear. WWE 2K18 has some flaws, but at its heart it’s a fun and well-executed wrestling game that gives you great matches and nearly unlimited customization.

Have you already been playing WWE 2K18? What do you think of it so far? Let us know in the comments below!

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