Review - WWE 2K18

Every year I do it to myself when this game comes around, that's getting way too excited for a series that has been with me possibly longer than any other. I've always been a fan of this brand of sports entertainment. As a kid, I sat glued to the TV watching the likes of Hulk Hogan, Legion of Doom, and Ultimate Warrior do their thing. but I really got hooked when coming back to it after a break and seeing Stone Cold Steve Austin for the very first time. Even now I get goosebumps when Stone Cold makes a rare appearance at a big pay per view, or just when watching old clips such as that one time he helped the underdog that is Mankind win the championship on an old Raw is War when facing The Rock. Everyone outside of the WWE loop of fans is always quick to point out that grown men like myself shouldn't get enjoyment from watching big sweaty men grapple in a ring, but with WWE, I honestly don't care what none fans of it have to say. It's your loss for judging a book by its cover, as over the years I've experienced moments of utter pleasure when watching my favourite WWE superstar finally get their moment, while being watched by millions around the world. Moments that as a fan never leave you, so if the downside it being told I enjoy watching men grapple, then so be it.

Starting this review on somewhat of  a downside, WWE 2K games have slowly been on the decline for the last few years if we're being honest with each other, with this year coming across as the most basic when it comes to modes on offer in the game, or at least that's how it felt to me when spending time with it. We once again have the biggest roster of superstars when it comes to up and coming superstars, right the way through to RAW/Smackdown and legends of the past. That being said, I can't understand why guys like Matt & Jeff  Hardy are only getting into the game via future DLC. They've been back in WWE since Wrestlemania (March), so is there really a good enough reason for them not to be ready for a game that released in October?
Back when WWE 2K17 released last year, it was also decided that the game would drop modes such as Showcase so the team could focus more of their time on other modes within the game. Many fans like myself were hopeful that we might actually see a bit more effort going into modes such as MyPlayer and Universe back in 2K17, with both modes for the last couple of years having the chance to be something special, but never actually being much when fans got their hands on them. With modes such as Showcase now missing the last two games, surely this was the year that the team behind the game finally gave fans an experience and career mode that would keep us entertained for hours.

MyPlayer sees you taking your created wrestler from the early days of  NXT, trying your best to make it in this business and make yourself a somebody. While this career sees fewer moments of nothing going on with your character over the last few career modes in the past, the faults found in this mode gave it a sense of the the team behind it just rolling out a game where they seem to just be bored with it all now, therefore giving us a product that is littered with faults and errors that have ruined the game for me. While the prospect of roaming around backstage at each show, interacting with superstars and making friends or enemies sounded cool on paper, what you get is something that feels like your playing a wrestling game from the PS2 days, and not in the good way either of when WWF/WWE games were fun to play.

When a game spends so much time on nailing the look of the brand when it comes to arenas and wrestlers, it baffles me as to why they would then build a career mode that is told purely by text, with zero voiceovers from anybody, even the guy you create. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, with the game being so text heavy and the game being what many class a triple-A game, the text used is some of the worst I've seen in any game, with moments of superstars using my name rather than the guy I was supposed to have a beef with. So say The Rock was talking about a 5 match series I was having with Dolph Ziggler quite early in the game, only Rock would tell me how Toeknee would deserve a beating, with Toeknee being my character speaking to him. This wasn't a one-off either, as it happened with almost every interaction with these guys backstage, making me dread ever having to interact with these guys and girls.
Then just the backstage area itself, having to run around this lifeless area which would sometimes suffer slowdown and make it look like my guy was auditioning for a part in Baywatch as a slow-motion running extra. It come across as no effort went into making each show look different at all, with the same setting used for all the shows and even the pay per views backstage each month. Zero effort all round is really what I started to feel the more time I put into it.

Then we had moments of the game just seemingly forgetting what went on for the last 30 minutes, and making a match or promo duel against someone who I just spent the last three matches making my tag team partner a total waste of time. I spent three weeks impressing Randy Orton so he would team with me, which he did after playing out the storyline of me stopping him get beaten up on a 2 on 1 run in from The Usos. Next week I was meant to battle this Uso in the ring in a promo, only for the game for some reason to switch that Uso for Orton when it played out. A baffling promo battle followed where myself and my brand new tag partner told each other how bad we wanted to beat each other up while I sat there wondering if I missed something. Getting backstage once this finished I was told how bad Jimmy Uso had just made me look in that promo battle, only for Orton to then team up with me to face a team featuring Jimmy Uso the very next week. Once again, this sort of thing wasn't a one-off thing, as this has happened over and over again while playing through the mode, with me beating up Kofi Kingston for a whole month in the same backstage brawl only a month or so earlier. I then had Zack Ryder say the following to me below.
This was what pushed me over the edge I think, with like I said earlier, just feeling like the makers have given zero f**** about a much-loved franchise, and put out a broken game that has already sold really well since it launched. This after taking out modes that fans really enjoyed with the promise of it giving them more time to focus their efforts on these very modes.

While you can try working through an offline career that tries to make sense, the new mode this year is Road to Glory, a mode where you take your created character online to qualify for pay per views too. To do this you must earn enough stars in matches, or just use the in-game currency to buy your way into this PPV, but once again we hit a slight annoyance with it. Not the game this time, but this time the community playing it. I shared a road to glory match on Twitter recently to explain why this mode was the reason I've tended to avoid WWE online matches in the past when not playing with people on my friend list. The match if you watch it was not a one time deal either, as this has happened over, and over, and over again, with in-ring matches having ground stomps replace the trolley bashing seen in the video. Sure you can reverse them every now and then, but with these being limited you will find yourself at some point open to such cheap attacks and victories. It just stops this mode being anything but fun, as I've never minded being beaten if the match was fun, but when it's done in such a cheap way you just think to yourself what a waste of your time that was. More so when as a Dad of two my gaming time is limited as it is.

Playing matches in both these offline and offline modes will see you earning currency and attribution points, which you can use to boost your stats and also allow you to buy moves which you unlock through loot boxes. These loot boxes also give you things such as boosts that can be used in online matches), and new superstar parts and moves you can purchase after unlocking them. Before you run off screaming "oh noes, not loot boxes" and go into meltdown, fear not. These loot boxes can only be bought with currency you earn in the game, so don't panic.
The only other main mode the game has is Universe, a mode in which you can play GM and take controls of shows (even ones you create) and play or sim your way through all the main shows including pay per views, building the WWE you would if you had the power of Vinnie Mac. I tend to only give this the time of day because of the few achievements the game has for it, beating Taker at Wrestlemania and so on. As an actual mode that I would find myself loading up over MyPlayer, well that just never happened. For those that have enjoyed this in the past though, everything is still there for you to do, with like I said earlier, the biggest roster to date.

In terms of looks and how the game plays, well that's a mixed bag too. This is why leading up to the game we get less and less gameplay and more entrances that we can ooooooo over. It's great to see the likes of Bobby Roode get in the game with his iconic music and entrance, but in the ring, nothing has changed that much at all. It is still a solid experience, with a control system that welcomes in both newcomers and old timers
Finally, online. Something I touched upon briefly when chatting about Road to Glory mode earlier, so obviously those same annoyances bleed over into this too. With mates this game can be super fun, with enough match types here to keep things different when jumping on for an hour or two with them. It's also when you don't suffer lag of any sort, something that tends to ruin any other match when jumping in with totally random people. Mix this in with a few who like to do the Road to Glory cheap win style of play, and you have zero chance of having any sort of fun at all. I've given it chance after chance, but I'm still yet to come away from an online game where I can honestly say I've had fun with it. Creator downloads are here again too, with the good side of the community doing their very best to add in a bunch of things the game lacks, be that the recent Shield shirt designs, to giving gamers the chance to beat up Donald Trump.

Overall: Those looking for just a quick glance at what I thought, this is all you need to know. If you played 2K17 nothing has really changed, with the series if anything taking steps back rather than taking many leaps forward. A patch of some sort is needed to fix issues in MyPlayer, although that won't fix issues such as making the modes on offer feel like someone put some effort in. As a WWE fan though what other options do we have if we want to take care of our wrestling gaming needs? It's this reason that the game has and will continue to sell well over the next few months. Personally, I think it needs a few years away to give the game a fresh new look and more time and effort spent on it and the modes we do have left. Things can just get stale, and a year to throw some new ideas into the fold could see the game return with some fresh new ideas before becoming something that fans will stop caring for. Online will always be the same and is out of their control sadly, that's just the gamers we are today. Less about fun, more about victories no matter the cost.

Decent sized roster
In the ring, the game plays as well as always

Errors and mistakes popping up all over the place in MyPlayer
Universe is still a mode that fails to keep me hooked
Online community ruin what should be a fun experience