Sports games are a little on the weird side, especially when it comes to reviewing them. Most other games get dinged for a lack of originality, especially if they just iterate on the same basic formula every year. Sports games, though, tend to get a pass. It’s the iteration that we all really want – those slight improvements that help us to feel like we’re inching ever closer to the real thing. If that’s true for standard sports games, it’s doubly true for sports entertainment. When it comes to games like WWE 2k18, we’re just hoping for forward momentum rather than a huge change in the game.
One Step Forward
To say that 2K’s WWE games have had an uneven history is an understatement. While some of the games, like last year’s 2k17, have been fairly good, there have also been some huge missteps. That’s why it’s nice to report that 2k18 is one of the better wrestling video games put out in the last few years. In a rare move from 2K, there’s nothing but progress in this one. There’s little if anything cut from last year’s release, while the bulk of the new material is welcome.
No Steps Back
We’re lucky as players when the gaming industry has its goals align with our own. In a year that’s been filled with games that remove basic functionality in order to get more money out of players, it’s nice to see a game like WWE 2k18. All of the control improvements from last year return, including the options to switch back to legacy controls. The models look better than ever before, there’s more to do with customization, and the various modes are even more fun. This is pure, fun wrestling gaming with nothing cut.
The New World Order
The iterative stuff is definitely the most fun in this game. In a call-back to games like the venerable Smackdown series, you can once again walk around backstage during the career mode and interact with wrestlers. Your create-a-wrestler is once again gifted with something resembling a storyline, and the systems put in place to unlock moves and outfits makes it feel like there’s a real sense of progression.
If you’re more interested in the standard wrestlers, there’s still a lot to like. The line between gaming and simulation continues to blur with the ability to lift opponents into a series of new holds, each of which can expand your offensive repertoire. Backstage brawling also returns from last year’s release, though in a much-improved form. There’s even a host of little quality of life upgrades that are in place to satisfy those who want a little more out of their video games.
You’re not going to hear a lot about WWE 2k18 from the gaming industry, and that’s fine. The game’s a quiet improvement over last year’s model and a good indication of what we’ll see in the future. Sometimes, all you really need is a new iteration to bring back the joy to bodyslamming your opponents.