I have a confession to make. I am a wrestling fan. I’ve been one since I was a toddler. From the moment I saw Hogan, Andre, Macho, Flair, and Steamboat battle it out, to the current scene where NXT just about trumps the main roster and NJPW matches are sublime, I’ve been in love with pro wrestling (aka. “sports entertainment”). It might be worth noting that I’ve also been playing wrestling games since I was a kid. I had Pro Wrestling for the NES, and then WWF Royal Rumble for the SNES. From there, I was grabbing wrestling games left and right — WWF War Zone and SmackDown! for the PlayStation, WCW vs. nWo: World Tour and the incomparable No Mercy for the Nintendo 64, and so much more. The most recent wrestling game I bought was WWE 2K18, but I almost totally skipped on it.
No Mercy is the best! No Mercy number one!
Like almost every other wrestling fan who plays games, I have also noticed a certain drop in the quality of WWE 2K offerings as of late. It doesn’t help matters that some of the best wrestling games in history existed a decade ago, and newer products hardly compared. The aforementioned No Mercy as well as SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain are often touted as kings of the ring. Meanwhile, the Fire Pro Wrestling series, a Japanese import, has so many awesome features and options. Had it been graphically impressive, I would never even look at WWE 2K titles at all.
And so I’ve had little to no choice but to play the WWE 2K series of games. Yukes has been churning these out like clockwork for almost two decades now. The problem, though, is that the more recent titles emphasize too much “realism” and “simulation.” You know you’re playing wrestling games, but they pale in comparison to the “fun factor” that the older titles provided. For instance, I would much rather have a brilliant, back-and-forth beat ’em up with my opponent than to engage in rest holds.
So yes, I know the frustration that many die-hard wrestling fans-slash-gamers have had over the years. That’s why I almost skipped WWE 2K18. There was a good chance that barely anything was changed from the previous year. It was, more than likely, just a roster update. It would probably have more simulation-type mechanics than I’d care about. Why waste my time and money on it, right? A recent sale, however, made me rethink my decision. Because the game was a lot cheaper, I gave it a shot.
Even Roman Reigns is more over than some of these mechanics
My worries were indeed real. Yes, the system felt the same. Yes, they added a new “lift/pick-up/drag” mechanic which I barely cared about. And yes, the roster did get another yearly update. I almost wanted to return to the store in frustration and refund the game. Then I remembered that we have pretty terrible consumer laws here in the Philippines. I wouldn’t be able to refund a game after I opened the sealed case. Oh well.
So I gutted it out. I never gave up, like a Doctor of Sluggishnomics. I was going back to the same old franchise which I picked up in some years and ignored in others. WWE 2K18, I already knew, wouldn’t be a masterpiece, but I still had to find the time for it.
A few exhibition matches were in order, and I found out they were fairly ho-hum like in previous titles. WWE 2K18 didn’t really offer anything fresh to me in this regard. I didn’t even touch WWE 2K18’s My Player and Online modes just yet, those were never on… The List. What was on my sights, however, were the customization options and Universe Mode. These were the main draws of any wrestling game for me. These would put butts on their seats — particularly my butt, my seat.
Communities, Creations, and CAWS… oh my!
I was never much of a content creator. I love making Create-a-Wrestler (CAW) personages, but I just wasn’t any good at it. Kinda like sports — I sure do love basketball and track, but then the asthma kicks in and that’s that. Making CAWs, and these creations looking pretty bland is my WWE 2K franchise asthma. You might laugh at that image above, but I can assure you, that’s the most downloaded Velveteen Dream CAW for WWE 2K17. That’s probably because it was the first and only one in existence for a long time. I made that CAW when Velveteen Dream, then known as Patrick Clark (who I was a fan of on Tough Enough), made an NXT appearance with his new gimmick. That terribly wide-eyed and giddy Johnny Gargano is also mine.
So yes, in every WWE video game, I made some CAWs for personal use and I shared one or two every now and then. For the most part, I relied on the wealth of talent that is our dear community. Make no mistake about it, no matter how mediocre the WWE 2K series gets, our player base of CAW craftsmen are never just B+ players. They are The Architects. They are The Man (or Woman)… WOOOOOOO!
This year instantly grabbed amazing versions of CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, Marty Scurll, Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Pentagon Jr., Ronda Rousey, Mandy Rose, Liv Morgan, and their Absolution/Riott Squad pals. I also downloaded Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, who was conspicuously absent once again in spite of playing a major role in NXT. Another major change this year is that I could now pick a good menu selection pose for CAWs. Whereas before, you can only do it for your ring attire, this time around I can choose an entrance attire plus their facial expressions. I definitely ensured each CAW I had posed and looked differently. Once I filled up my entire CAW roster of 100 creations, I then nabbed logos and arenas. I was ready to kickstart my Universe.
Building what’s Best for Business
My WWE 2K17 Universe Mode naturally had Raw, SmackDown Live, and NXT by default. I had an extra major show — WWE Global — which was basically New Japan Pro Wrestling plus other companies like Total Nonstop Action and Ring of Honor. I had two minor shows — Main Event (Raw and SDL), and Superstars (NXT and Global). Pay-per-views were a mix and match among all the four major shows.
With WWE 2K18, however, I had more room to play with. This is because of the yearly roster update. This time around, they included cruiserweight stars such as Cedric Alexander, Akira Tozawa, TJP, and Noam Dar. They also introduced NXT performers SAnitY– Eric Young, Killian Dain, Alexander Wolfe, Nikki Cross, and Sawyer Fulton. The roster also had the Iconic Duo, or should I say, the IIconics, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay. Because these amazing performers were already in the game, that freed up some much-needed space for more creations. These spots would eventually be filled up by revamped rosters.
My Universe Mode this time around had not four, not five, but six major shows! That’s right! Raw, SDL, and NXT were still in it. However, I also chose to make NJPW a separate entity. WWE Global was a mix of TNA, ROH, Progress, and Shimmer, at least based on the logos I chose when I made it. The sixth and final major show was 205 Live. If I could make every pay-per-view in honour of Rusev Day, I would.
But before I could even start, I had to plan ahead. I was running six shows, and so I had to note which ones would have a PPV and what the entire calendar year would be like. That image above is my tabulated breakdown of what my calendar year would be. The one below that is what the first month of my WWE 2K18 Universe Mode looks like. All this planning and organizing took several hours — from the time I started downloading CAWs, when I had been making my own, to getting all the shows, rosters, attributes, teams, and championships ready. I was pretty much crafting a cross-over event like The New Day vs. The Elite at E3.
Play Forever… clap clap clap…
There were definitely some hiccups along the way. My PS4 crashed a few times for certain downloads due to the sheer number of logos and images that the CAW had. Likewise, I was sorely disappointed after I downloaded and made a dozen custom championships only to realize that most of them won’t be tracked in Universe Mode. Basically, if a championship isn’t assigned to a show, it gets vacated every time you exit Universe Mode. I could do a long playthrough in one sitting, but the moment I turn my system off, I’d have to make sure that Hiromu Takahashi is once again the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Meanwhile, my WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship and Impact X-Division Championships have to be set to The Beautiful People and Shark Boy respectively.
I was not wrong about WWE 2K18 in that it was still the same, old, somewhat boring yearly offering from Yukes and 2K Games. I was not wrong that there would be certain features and simulation-type gameplay that I wouldn’t like. Likewise, I wasn’t wrong that there’d be some frustrations here and there. However, I was wrong in my belief that I would never enjoy WWE 2K18, nor invest a lot of time in it.
Even though I knew I had to play to make some sense or worth of my initial purchase, several hours in I barely noticed that time had passed. I was honestly enjoying myself. I was playing the role of a creator and a manager. Planning and setting up what I wanted out of my game definitely preoccupied my time. New customization options made me keep chugging through it, satisfying my OC tendencies. 60+ hours later, in the middle of Universe Mode’s calendar year, I knew I definitely got my money’s worth in spite of WWE 2K18’s flaws.
Anticipating something in spite of its “Bad Reputation”
Now, I’m just waiting for WWE 2K19, coming out this October. I’m guessing it would be the same old, tired formula that Yukes and 2K Games have been following. However, I already know it’d have a couple of saving graces due to its two pre-order bonuses, Ronda Rousey and Rey Mysterio. First, there would be a decent punk music for female superstars because of Ronda Rousey and “Bad Reputation.” Second, I would never again encounter system crashes when downloading Rey Mysterio and his 40+ logo tattoos. With that, I hope you’ll excuse me. I need to figure out how to keep the Universal Title on Brock Lesnar while also ensuring that he’s inactive most of the year. Goodbye, and good night. Bang!
I’m a contributor for various sites under the Enthusiast Gaming umbrella: Destructoid, Dailyesports.tv, PlayStation Enthusiast, and Flixist. Games. Movies. Travel. History. Warhammer. Dad jokes. All around nerdy stuff. You name it, I’ll happily chime in.
I don’t have any backed Kickstarter projects to disclose, although I used to be a CM for a local MMO — this was way back in 2006. I also used to be really good in Counter-Strike, and I mean “bunny hop to avoid AK-47 bursts and shotgun AWP you in the face” good. Then I got old.