With the announcement of WWE 2K18 I’m reminded of why WWE games are becoming more and more stale. I’ve been playing WWE games since WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64 and no matter what I’ve always found myself getting every game since then. This is even despite the fact that every year I know less and less of the wrestlers on the roster. I don’t keep buying the games to stay up to date though. I keep buying them for several reasons that I will go over shortly.
Before I get into my buying habit I think I should go over the new and improved features WWE 2K18 is offering:
- Improved “Creation Suite”
- Along with all the usual improvements to create-a-superstar, this year will see the return of create-a-match, which was part of some of the older WWE games. I can imagine it will be much bigger this time around, similar to how create-an-arena was.
- A new system that will bring fighting styles and a progression system with upgrades for your created characters. I can imagine this will be a system that also ties to you over your entire WWE 2K18 experience no matter who you play as.
- This mode has been expanded to reintroduce backstage free-roaming, a popular feature that hasn’t been part of the series for some time now. It is also promised to be more story based and less tedious than its previous iterations.
- Road To Glory Mode
- A brand new feature that puts players’ MyPlayer characters against each other in hopes of qualifying for the big WWE pay-per-view events.
- New Graphics Engine
- The new engine boasts new and improved lighting, more realistic skin textures and some new camera angles and effects.
- New Commentary Team
- This time the game will use a 3-man team to narrate your matches made up of Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and Corey Graves.
- General Improvements
- Of course they will be improving many of the little things and behind the scenes elements to make sure the game runs smoothly.
- Nintendo Switch
- For the first time in years a WWE game will be making its way to a Nintendo system.
- Kurt Angle
- This year’s pre-order bonus will be the “Wrestling Machine.”
As you can see WWE 2K18 is set to be a beast of a wrestling game with a long list of additions and improvements. So why am I not excited?
Just like any other sports game
Replace the word WWE with any other big sports brand like FIFA, NFL, NHL, etc. and you could read this list of features in almost entirely the exact same way. This is what I mean by stale. I think it is a shame that the unique, wonderful and often wacky world of wrestling has been put under the “sports simulation” genre. It has so many unique and fun elements that should put it in its own sports genre just like the sport is itself.
The WWE always goes on about how its product is “sports entertainment.” It’s entertainment because when they say a show will last two hours, it last two hours. In the boxing world you could hype a match up for months but it could end in the first round. Don’t get me wrong, that is still an explosive and entertaining result, but most WWE matches can go from anything between a few minutes to well over an hour. It’s a spectacle just like watching a film or TV show — you get what you pay for. I feel like the games should embrace the spectacle instead of the simulation like they used to, because quite frankly, since the games started to embrace this “sports simulation” style of gameplay I feel the quality of the product has degraded. (And don’t get me started on the state of their TV product.) The WWE games should play to their strengths.
Why I keep getting the games
I keep buying the games every year because I love creating a WWE superstar. I love playing as a big beefy man and watching him throw other guys around the ring. I love being cheered and booed, I love winning titles and briefcases after trampling over several other spandex-clad men to climb to the top of ladder. I love creating my own shows with my favorite wrestlers. There is so much I love about playing and watching wrestling and even though I can still play the older and more superior games, I cannot deny that the new releases are bigger and more flashy every year. The new games still have that heart to them, they can still be fun despite all the new faces and more complicated controls.
It just feels like the games are losing most of their fun in this layer of faux seriousness they keep adding to each new release. Even though I will likely still get WWE 2K18, I want this to be a message to the developers of the games: Embrace the fun again. Instead of a 3-man commentary team, you should just stick good ol’ JR on there and let him do his thing. Instead of a more realistic career mode that is included with just about every sports game, just give us a proper story mode without all the grinding. Pack the roster with all the best wrestlers old and new. Let me have fun with the WWE “Universe.” Embrace your roots.