From an enhanced Elimination Chamber to advanced big man maneuvers.
Die-hard wrasslin’ fans know that there’s nothing quite like the art of pro-wrestling.
It’s not something you can easily replicate in a game since the matches – even the most basic ones – can contain so many moving parts that they wind up resembling a hybrid of a fight, a dance, a partnership, and a story. WWE 2K18’s Executive Producer, Mark Little, is determined to chip away at this beast until the ultimate experience of working a fully realized and complex wrestling match is created.
During my brief hands-on with WWE 2K18 last week, I was able to experience some of this year’s changes and improvements, all done in the name of giving fans the closest thing possible to a playable match. For last year’s WWE 2K17, multi-man matches (including ladder matches) saw some significant tweaks that allowed for easier ladder placement along with a “roll out” feature that made for less clutter in the ring – the latter also helping create a cool resemblance to the way real Triple Threat and Fatal Fourway matches are constructed and executed in front of live crowds.
For 2K18, I got to experience a new overhaul within the context of the Elimination Chamber match, in which the AI kicked in to create space within the ring, alleviating the usual chaos, so that pinfalls could be attempted and signature moves could land. As we battled for dominance using the likes of Seth Rollins (cover boy!), AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, John Cena, Baron Corbin, and Randy Orton (whose tattoos, like in real life, got a touch up), battles raged both inside and outside the ring, giving us some much needed elbow room so that we weren’t stepping all over one another.
Another new feature added, meant to enhance both gameplay and story, is the notion of the quick pin – the idea that one player can land a schoolboy roll-up or a crucifix-style leverage pin, ending a bout quickly, just like the matches on TV sometimes. To aid this, there are now 12 different new match interference scenarios – from run-ins to walk-ins to just entrance music blaring – that will create a targeted distraction and open up a quick pin window. After the bell, the loser, still with full energy, will then have the option of beating down whoever it was that just scored the “fluke win.”
The art of selling a move, from basic takedowns to devastating drops, was also part of 2K18’s touch ups, with over 80 new animations added – new “sells” – to really bring out the specific personalities and movements of the superstars. Coupled with this is a new match directive that dictates, based on time and various energy levels, the intensity of the sell. As the bout goes on and fatigue sets in, the sells become shorter and less intense. Think of how superstars sell, say, a hip toss in the first few minutes of a match compared how they might 20 minutes in. The smaller, shorter sells also allow for moves to be nailed more easily in a faster succession.
Players will also find that kicking out has gotten a little trickier. One thing that avid franchise fans noted, coming out of 2K17, was that it was too easy to predict when to click the X or A button to prevent a pinfall. Now the kick-out window placement is not only harder to predict, but the speed of the rotation quickens depending on the strength of the executed move. It’s these kinds of little changes and updates, whether done at the behest of casual fans or hardcore ones, that all work together to create a more rounded wrestling experience.
I didn’t get to experience any of the backstage brawling segments or scenarios, but this next addition to the game will most assuredly enhance out-of-ring rumbles and behind-the-scenes skirmishes. Depending on the size and strength of your superstar, and your opponent (naturally), you can lift your foe and hold them up (in four different positions – Powerbomb, Fireman’s, etc) and carry them to an interactive landing spot (ring steps, corner buckles, outside ringpost, etc) and – WHAMMO! So, for example, Kevin Owens’ powerbomb on the ring apron and Seth Rollins’ “Buckle Bomb” are now part of the new list of inventive offensive maneuvers for other superstars. This new Grapple/Carry system also lends more realism to Big Man/Little Man matches.
As expected, with a new installment of the WWE 2K franchise comes a bump up in the graphics department, and while the new upgrade to sourced lighting, along with skin/hair texturing and refinement, doesn’t mechanically help create a more gratifying match, it’s still a crucial element. The first gameplay I was shown during my visit to 2K featured Eric Young vs. Bobby Roode: two NXT grapplers with vastly different entrances and looks (smoked-filled spookiness vs. blinding grandeur) and the results were awesome. Players will undoubtedly note the more pronounced, enhanced lighting on the superstars that work to highlight their physiques and costuming.
It’s possible that we’ll never get something that perfectly resembles a wrestling match, and that’s fine, but as long as the drive is there to narrow the gap and bring out the little intangible nuances that make wrestling so awesome, 2K will continue to excel with regards to the bell-to-bell playability. I wasn’t able to poke around in the MyCareer mode or see if anything new resided within the Create A Superstar section, but the tweaks, big and small, to the match mechanics made for a fun venture.