WWE 2K18 is the latest entry in 2K Sports' long-running series of wrestling entertainment simulations. The new game features a huge roster, a revamped career mode, 8-man matches, and several more refinements. But has it changed enough to warrant the yearly purchase?
WWE 2K18 has a decent array of new modes and features, but the most obvious step up this year is the expanded roster. This year's game boasts over 170 Superstars, the largest lineup in the series history. And that's not counting DLC wrestlers! Most of the new characters are women and people of color, which is a step forward for diversity as well.
As always, a significant portion of the playable Superstars must be unlocked with currency earned from completing matches. You can also opt to buy the WWE 2K18 Accelerator for five dollars. It unlocks everyone straight away, providing access to all those sweet Superstars. Unlocking everyone for free would take forever, so the Accelerator remains an essential purchase.
MyPlayer – a solo campaign with online matches
Since the history-based Showcase mode remains MIA, MyPlayer acts as WWE 2K18's primary single-player mode. After creating a custom character using a newly streamlined process, players will find themselves in the main MyPlayer menu. There you can choose between the single-player MyCareer and multiplayer Road to Glory modes, as well as manage upgrades, boosts, and (ugh) loot crates.
Last year's MyCareer was structured in a profoundly confusing way, making it difficult to progress towards title matches. This year, the whole mode gets a big overhaul. Between matches, you'll now freely roam the WWE training facility and backstage area. There you can have short conversations with a variety of Superstars, accept quests, and customize your wrestler.
The NPC conversations are extremely limited, though. And there needs to be more stuff to do besides going on to the next match. Still, walking around and seeing which Superstars pop up between matches is a nice break from fights and promos. And you'll never be at a loss for how to make progress, so MyCareer is a lot better on the whole.
MyPlayer also houses the brand-new Road to Glory online multiplayer mode. There you can play one-on-one matches against other players using custom Superstars. Progress is shared between MyCareer and Road to Glory. Stars earned from completing matches also help unlock free weekly loot crates and entry to the monthly PPV event. Oddly, you can't fight AI opponents while waiting for a Road to Glory match, unlike in other online modes.
This year has seen a number of games affected by the disease of loot boxes, and WWE 2K18 is no different. In MyPlayer mode, players are strongly encouraged to buy loot crates with currency earned from matches. Loot crates contain unlockable custom wrestler parts, clothing, moves, and more.
At launch, loot crates can't be bought with real money. But the currency used to buy them is earned painfully slowly. It's obvious that 2K Sports plans to add the option of buying loot crates with microtransactions at some point in the future. And yes, tying so many items to a gambling-style mechanic like loot crates is bad for consumers.
WWE Universe is the WWE 2K series' season mode. Players can simulate or engage in all of the nightly matches and pay-per-view events that make up a real year's worth of WWE programming, from Monday Night Raw all the way to Wrestlemania. If you just want to play the big events, you can jump straight to them. Every wrestler, show, and championship can be edited to your liking.
WWE universe mode gets a few enhancements this year, such as a new story system, cut scenes, power rankings, and a Superstar goal feature. It also supports both real-life pay-per-view calendars and custom PPV calendars. Still, WWE Universe basically looks and functions like it has for the last few years. It's a solid mode but risks feeling stale if you play from year to year.
WWE 2K18's multiplayer features have received a shakeup this year. In the last few games, matches were limited to six Superstars at once. This year, 8-man matches have been added, meaning up to eight local players can compete in the ring. Three 8-man match types are included by default, and you can also create custom 8-man matches. These fights get extremely hectic, but they're fun to watch and could make for chaotic party entertainment.
The online modes have been dramatically overhauled. In addition to the custom wrestler-focused Road to Glory mode we discussed earlier, several more online modes are found under WWE Online. The WWE Live multiplayer queue features five match types – a fairly reasonable selection, although all but one-on-one matches are likely to be ghost towns like every other year. A sixth match type, team Up, allows two sets of three players to face off against each other. As always, you have to form a full team to even start this mode, so nobody plays it.
For the first time in recent years, WWE Online has a quick play feature. The feature only supports three match types, and you have to pick the type before getting matched up. This has the potential to keep those three match types populated, though the types not supported by quick play will still be underpopulated. Still, quick play makes joining matches easier, so it's about time.
As always, joining any WWE Online queue automatically pits you against an AI opponent during matchmaking, which is better than staring at an empty lobby or matchmaking screen.
Last year's Create a Wrestler mode was a significant improvement over WWE 2K16's, and this year's continues to make strong progress. Images (used for tattoos, etc.) can now be stamped in a cylindrical shape around shoulders and other body parts. Body types can now be blended together to create new types, designs can be applied to hairstyles, and body parts can glow. Thus players can make even stranger and more detailed custom wrestlers.
The number of customizable game elements has increased as well. In addition to superstars, entrances, championships, videos, arenas, and celebrations, players can finally customize matches once again. Custom matches were last seen in WWE 2K14, so it's good to have them back.
The all-around level of customization in this installment truly impresses. And it's very easy to share and download creations. If you haven't played a recent WWE game, you'll be moved by the vast selection of custom wrestlers. Real-life wrestlers, videogame characters, superheroes – they're all a quick download away.
This year's WWE game has a lot to love, from the huge roster to the revamped MyCareer mode. But it also suffers from the same old issues, such as the lack of a proper comprehensive tutorial, stiff and unintuitive controls, rough character models, and a general lack of polish. WWE fans should still enjoy WWE 2K18, but it becomes more of an acquired taste every year. 2K Sports and developer Yuke's really need to focus on playability issues over simply pasting enhancements onto this decaying game engine.
- Over 170 wrestlers - the most ever in a WWE 2K game!
- 8-man matches add lots of sweaty chaos.
- MyCareer now has free-roaming sections and online matches.
- Still no decent tutorial.
- The free-roaming portion of MyCareer sometimes slows down severely on Xbox.
- Loading times are excessive and really slow the pace of the game.
WWE 2K18 costs $59.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam. A Nintendo Switch version will follow by the end of the year. The Deluxe Edition, which includes the Season Pass and bonus characters, rings up at $89.99.
Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.
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