Hardcore Gamer was recently invited down to Connecticut to play WWE 2K18 for an entire day, and had a lot of fun not only playing the game, but interviewing folks as well. Being able to play 2K18 after experiencing all of the revamped features from 2K17 revealed a familiar experience, but also a dramatically-improved one in a lot of small ways too. We focused our time on playing as many different kinds of matches as possible and didn’t opt for any MyCareer play since it couldn’t be carried over later on anyway. WWE 2K18’s biggest core changes to the regular gameplay involve having 8-person matches for the first time in over a decade and a massive increase in the backstage area.
With backstage activities like brawls and ambulance usage being high points of WWE programming thanks to the long-running Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns program, that was our first goal. The actual backstage brawl portion starts off the same as last year, but the environment has been revamped completely. Instead of one long hallway, it now has several corridors off to the side. In the largest one on the left-hand side, you have a gigantic parking area and security office that brings with it some of the most exciting action we’ve had in a game in quite some time. Dragging opponents around now carries with it more risk than before, since you can now escape their grip by mashing circle/B and turn the tides by grabbing them quickly if you’ve got fast reflexes.
Succeeding with this mini-game allows you to send folks into cars where you can do a ton of damage if you so desire. Putting them into a car door allows you to slam it onto them, while going towards the hood activates an OMG moment. With Braun, it was a powerbomb on the hood and through the windshield of the car, but that might vary for lighter-weight competitors. This area houses a giant equipment truck that is both incredible and a bit disappointing. You climb it via a ladder on either the left or right-hand side, but you clip through the actual ladder itself, which will hopefully be fixed up in time for the game’s launch. When both wrestlers are on it, you can do a bit of punching and kicking, but can’t do grapples outside of an OMG moment which for Braun was another powebromb. Tossing folks off of this was thrilling, but it was disappointing to see that dives aren’t possible off of it, at least with a super heavyweight. Trying it with a cruiserweight may yield different results, but there no button prompts for that, so time will tell if that is in the final game.
The area also features a forklift you can raise or lower for diving attacks and a security office full of windows. You might be able to smash folks through that, but in our time with the game, we only had a chance to grab the silver and red chairs and attack people with those. Like prior games, making stacks of chairs and throwing people onto them adds an extra layer of fun to hardcore matches and this whole area gave the game a bit of a Lucha Underground stunt show appeal. Having this area along gives WWE 2K18 its best backstage interactions since the SmackDown vs. Raw games many years ago. Small touches in the backstage area, like interrupting an interview with a random wrestler and sending them scurrying help add to the chaos — at least for the first couple of times.
The new 8-person matches add mayhem to the already-crazy 6-person matches. Tag team matches are definitely the most controlled version of this setup, but strangely, Survivor Series matches aren’t included. Perhaps this is something that can be added in via a patch later, since it would really just be an elimination match stipulation – akin to something that would fit in with the new create a match option. This may sound like a grand suite of match creation — but its current form would really best be described as create a match type. You can go through the regular match options like prior games, only now, you can name a certain setup – so if you want to have something where no matches have a countout option or can only end via knockout, it’s possible with the match creation tool. This system should be great for those who want to have paths of destruction for guys like Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman, and can be an easy way to set folks up for your in-game Universe with long winning streaks.
The revamped Elimination Chamber was a personal highlight and has been recreated in WWE 2K18. Fans of the first design, however, can still use that if they prefer. Chamber pod breaking with the spear is possible in both versions, but the tilted design of the new pods means that wrestlers are leaning against air and going into the pod at an angle that doesn’t look correct to the eye. The animation for everything seems to have been tailored for the older version, so it looks fine there, but maybe this small issue is something that can be resolved in time. The rubberized surface on the chamber itself has been recreated perfectly and sounds realistic — and the new chamber also looks a little nicer for a video game even if the other version is quite a bit larger.
The graphical overhaul from last year’s entry is impressive, with the WrestleMania 33 set not only being one of the best sets ever on a show, but also in a game. Like WrestleMania 31 last year, it can be used during the day, evening, or night and results in each lighting setup feeling different. Being able to play with every character in this version allowed us to see Batista’s entrance and between that being spot-on and his character model being one of the best ever produced for the series, fans of his are in for a treat when he is eventually sold as DLC outside of the Cena Nuff edition of the game. There are more transitional animations here than before too, which allows matches to have a slightly more realistic flow.
Our time with WWE 2K18 was largely positive. The game does seem to have some rough edges — such as the ladder clipping and iffy new chamber animations — that can hopefully be ironed out with time. Fans of the series will find enough that is familiar to jump back in without an issue, while lapsed fans hoping for a return to more out of the ring chaos will be overjoyed when they experience the revamped backstage brawling. We’re looking forward to enjoying a more robust experience ourselves when the game releases on October 17 — and it dropping as a same-day release on PC is outstanding news for the franchise as a whole since it should lead to it selling better and not suffering from being months-old by the time it hits PC.