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Be Like No One: The Official WWE 2K18 Smark Henry Review

Screenshot from 2K

It's been a week since WWE 2K18 has been released, and after exploring the game as much as possible since getting my copy, I'm pretty confident that it's been worth the wait. Heading into the release, 2K really did its job in hyping up all of the improvements from the previous installments of the franchise. From the new carry system to the more dynamic MyCareer mode to the largest in-game roster, there really was a lot to look forward to in 2K18. It also helped that 2K stepped it up with this year's Cena Nuff Collector's Edition—as if last year's NXT pack was a low bar to clear.

Now that I've had some time to go through the game, it's time for our official review on WWE 2K18!

Be Like No One? More like play as everyone.


As a fan of the WWE 2K franchise, what I've always looked forward to with every new release is the updated roster. I love seeing the new Superstars 2K adds to the games, seeing how I can set them up for their signature and finishing moves, and how their entrances have been recreated in the games. I'm also particularly fond of seeing the default teams and stables and determining how many more I have to add (or break up) to update the game with what we currently see on TV.

That said, when I finally popped WWE 2K18 into my PS4 and saw all the playable Superstars at my disposal, the first thing that literally came to my head was, Damn, I don't even know where to start. Sure, I can always go for my favorites like Daniel Bryan and Kevin Owens as a takeoff point, but I just had to play as Kurt Angle or as Bobby Roode or TJP. When I finally made up my mind, I started going nuts with all the different match combos and team-ups I could think of.

Literally the first thing I did because I'm so tired of Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion

WWE 2K18's expanded roster really is its biggest selling point, and for good reason. Once all the DLC Superstars are accounted for, you have over 200 different options to choose from. It's a great problem to have when you're playing by yourself. But when you're playing with friends—like we're bound to at the upcoming Chrismark Party (see what we did there?)—it affords you a second, third, or even fourth option in case somebody picks the Superstar you were intending to use.

Finally, 8-man matches!


Since I mentioned the multiplayer mode, I might as well bring up the upgraded feature that now allows you to have as many as eight Superstars in a match. I actually tried this one out, putting together a dream elimination tag match featuring the Bullet Club alumni in WWE (Finn Bálor, AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows) against Evolution.

Come on, you know I had to.

And that's where the game's bugs first started manifesting itself. The game's engine just slows down during 8-man mode, and the difference in speed is really noticeable if you play a match with less Superstars immediately thereafter. It doesn't help that in these multi-man matches, the A.I. referee starts forgetting how to do his job. Seriously, imagine how frustrating it is to pin your opponent and hope to score an elimination only for the referee to just stand there. You have one job, ref! Can you really not be bothered to fucking count?

But among all the things that irked me during 8-man mode, this one was the worst:


Here I was as Karl Anderson trying to set up Randy Orton for my signature Spinebuster, only to end up literally running in place. WHAT. THE. FLYING. FUCK.

A more fluid gameplay experience


Before I end up wanting to deliver a Spinebuster of my own, let me switch gears and talk about the actual gameplay. It's much more fluid this year, which says a lot given that 2K17 went a long way towards streamlining a lot of the bugs that 2K16 initially had. Plus, playing the game feels much smoother now, rather than seeing Superstars just stumble into random actions. In short, it actually feels more like human beings wrestling in the ring.

That brings us to the carry system, which is one of the best improvements in this year's game. For starters, it's incredibly fun to learn because it isn't too difficult to get the hang of it. A simple R1 + right thumbstick motion allows you to initiate the carry motion already, and from there, you can pick where and how you want to inflict pain on your opponent, as long as you don't take your sweet time—looking at you, refs.

Getting out of the carry system is actually manageable thanks to 2K bringing button-mashing back into the fold. They actually started this already last year with the alternate submission system, which adds a bit of sophistication to the button-mashing tendencies I enjoyed from the WWE games I grew up with from the previous decade. Much like the alternate submission system, you just have to repeatedly press a specific button—for the carry system, it's circle—before your opponent does a move on you so that you can counter the grapple. I'm pretty sure this feature still has some room for growth in the next few years, but on its own, it isn't bad and I approve of this feature very much.

About time we had some MyPlayer archetypes


Of course, you can't talk about WWE 2K18 without mentioning this year's MyPlayer and MyCareer modes, so let me show you the MyPlayer I created for this year.

You still get to earn VC (virtual currency) from making new shirts every week, so shill as much merch as you want!

While creating this year's MyPlayer, I spent a good 15 minutes wondering which wrestling style I'd like to have. You'll have eight choices this year: Brawler, Striker, Technician, Showboat, Strong Style, Powerhouse, High Flyer, and Giant. Each choice gives you a preset list of attributes and skills befitting the fighting style. Think of it as choosing your archetype as a player in NBA 2K where you get to choose if you want to be a 3-and-D wing, a stretch four, a pass-first point guard, etc.

I love this because it makes it easier for you to start putting your MyPlayer together. Picking any of these options gives you a default list of moves that fit your fighting style, while also skewing your stats to favor certain attributes. For example, I went with the Technician fighting style (as a Cruiserweight, a la TJP), which means that my grappling and technique stats should be higher.

Dynamic MyCareer


Once you put your MyPlayer together, you should quickly jump right into MyCareer mode because it is the closest thing we've gotten since Here Comes The Pain from 2003, where you could literally choose your own adventure. There's still a story you have to follow, and it still starts at the Performance Center and NXT. What's interesting is 2K18 makes you have such a quick stint at NXT that you could give Kevin Owens a run for his money. Hell, you're only really there for two months until you're called up to the main roster, which is both good and bad.

It's great because at least it doesn't take you forever anymore—something that really hamstrung 2K16 and 2K17. But it's also bad because the story feels so rushed. You'd just debuted on NXT and within two weeks, you're already challenging Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship. Imagine the outrage from the IWC if that were to happen in real life!

As soon as I got called up to the main roster, I finally had the option of choosing between being a Fan Favorite or a Company Man. Naturally, I chose to be a Company Man because admittedly, it's more fun being a dick. I found it pretty fun interacting with different Superstars, as long as they actually give you a choice of how to respond to them. If the Superstars backstage don't have any side-quests involved, speaking to them is no different from talking to the NPCs (non-playable characters) in the Pokémon franchise, where you just keep pressing A to see what they say next.

Kinda like here when I wanted to tell TJP how happy I was to finally see him in the game, but all I got was him telling me to go bug off. :(

The sidequests can be pretty fun because they're a great way for you to earn Popularity and Influence points, along with some VC that will always come in handy later on. It's also a handy way to get some licks in on random Superstars backstage, especially when you choose to brawl with them as part of your sidequest. At best, you rise through the ranks with each brawl. At worst, you get your ass kicked, but you get to put in some practice time—just don't talk to Allen Iverson about that.

Notice in the picture above, my MyPlayer's wearing a Ribera Steakhouse t-shirt. I literally marked out when I saw that it was one of the options for the logos you can slap on to a shirt. After all, I have a Ribera shirt in real life, so it seemed fitting that my MyPlayer would have one, too! You can also choose from different logos, including those of the game's sponsors like KFC, Snickers, or even Truth, the organization that's behind the anti-smoking campaign in the U.S.

What I love about this year's logos on shirts is that custom images uploaded by your friends show up as options, too. Thanks to Billy Añonuevo, I was able to give my MyPlayer this t-shirt:

My MyPlayer really turned to the dark side.


The Cena Nuff Collector's Edition

Before I end this year's review, let me give 2K a shout-out for hooking us up with the Collector's Edition of WWE 2K18.



Now, I wouldn't call myself a hardcore WWE memorabilia collector, but the Cena Nuff Collector's Edition is totally worth it for any WWE fan worth his salt. For starters, I love the box art design. It features the art from most, if not all of John Cena's iconic t-shirts over the last 15 years. As someone whose fandom coincided with Cena's entire run as an upper midcarder and main eventer, it felt good looking back at his career through his t-shirt designs alone.

Where it gets really interesting is in the collectibles. As an action figure collector, I love having a limited edition John Cena figure because I always knew that I had to have a Cena figure in my humble collection. Granted, the Cena Nuff figure isn't among Mattel's best work—it's essentially part of the Basic line, which is the brand's low-end series of figures. I haven't unboxed my figure, but you might find the "reversible shirt" of the Cena Nuff figure to be... interesting, to say the least. Don't just take my word for it. Check out these photos from the WrestlingFigs.com forum:



Honestly, I can get over that because the signed photo from Cena's 16th World Championship victory, along with the piece of the ring canvas from Royal Rumble 2017 is the real prize here. I've always wanted to have something like that in my collection, much like the pieces of the basketball cards with authentic game-worn NBA jerseys I'd lovingly look at whenever I'm in Shoppesville. Having Cena's autograph along with it in a plaque you can easily hang at your home or office just makes it so much sweeter.

*****

Overall, WWE 2K18 went a long way towards a smoother gameplay experience with the improved engine and graphics. While it's easy to nitpick on all the Superstars that 2K18 still hasn't added like Andrade "Cien" Almas, the Singh Brothers, and several of the Cruiserweights, having over 200 playable characters is nothing to scoff at. MyPlayer and MyCareer are way more interesting than they've ever been to the point that I look forward to playing the game mode now, unlike in previous iterations when it felt more like a chore to get through. Yes, there are a lot of bugs to fix, but I hope that's nothing a few patches can't solve once they're made available.

Given all of the updates and improvements, WWE 2K18 gets an A-.

*****

Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can also catch him every month attempting to keep order in a fancy suit as PWR's General Manager. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his Curiouscat account.

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