NOVATO, Calif. — Last week, 2K held a development summit at their headquarters, attended by a good cross-section of WWE 2K gamers, reviewers, and fans. After kicking off the summit by reading some of the less-favorable reviews of WWE 2K17, executive producer Mark Little and developer Lynell Jinks took some feedback from the people in attendance, and recommendations on what they, the fans and players, would like to see in future installments of WWE 2K.
Little made it clear that they hear and listen to all of the criticism of the games, and that they have an ongoing community feedback project that keeps tabs on what fans are unhappy with, particularly when it comes to the official community forums. They’ve even hired a community specialist who is responsible for cataloguing fan issues and complaints and working with the players directly.
The centerpiece of the summit, however, was a presentation about some changes, overhauls, and features players can look forward to in WWE 2K18, even though the game is still four-plus months from launch and has a long way to go before it is ready for delivery.
The presentation stated that the focus of WWE 2K18 from a developer standpoint was based on three areas: realism, creating the most comprehensive WWE experience ever, and a focus on multiple man and woman mayhem.
A whole new career
One of the largest complaints about WWE 2K17 — both in the room, and in the reviews and online feedback — was the repetitive nature of My Player and My Career. The My Career mode in WWE 2K17 was seemingly endless, with no clear rewards and no clear reason or incentive to continue playing. 2K promises a new My Player experience in 2K18, with new progression and upgrade systems that are designed to foster repeat gameplay.
The My Career mode will be shorter, with branching options and experiences. It will also introduce character archetypes with Fighting Styles, where you will determine if your create-a-wrestler will be a technician, a flyer, a giant … and these choices will put clear restrictions on what your character is and isn’t capable of doing within the game.
The promo engine — which left a lot of players disappointed last year — will be revamped, and there will be a free-roaming backstage. The backstage area will be three times larger than previous installments of the game, with a lot more interactive objects in the environments. Sadly, Little did confirm that there would be neither a House of Horrors nor a Wyatt Family Compound to stumble upon.
While not part of My Career, the WWE Universe mode will have an expanded, rewritten story system, so that storylines can persist through pay-per-views, can overlap, and more. The Universe mode is also expected to fully support the brand split, so you don’t have to worry about assigned wrestlers crossing the streams, so to speak.
2K promises a new online My Player game mode called Road to Glory, which they were unable to comment on beyond it being a good source of replay-ability, but my assumption is that it will be similar to the Road to Glory mode in WWE Super Card, a 2K WWE iOS game, where the object is to beat and increasingly difficult batch of online opponents to unlock greater rewards.
The new, expanded backstage area will also be available in online play, and the community creations search has been vastly improved, so you can actually look for specific creations that the community has uploaded, instead of scrolling through endless pages or hoping a desired uploader remembered to include a specific hashtag.
New creation options and new graphics
The creation suite in the game has received an upgrade, of course. There will be a new create-a-match feature, which will allow you to actually save a specific match type and be able to have it added to the list of match options, rather than having to re-create a specific match type every time you want to revisit it.
The create-a-video feature will now include a free camera, allowing you to save your favorite highlights from any angle you want, which was tremendous news to the YouTubers in the room. There will be new options to create-a-show, and to create-an-arena, in addition to the expected expansions and tweaks to the create-a-wrestler options.
As far as the look of the game, Little said that the WWE 2K team was tired of trying to catch up to the NBA 2K team in terms of graphics, so they decided to just outdo them, by rewriting their entire graphics system from the ground up. This is possible in part because this will be the first installment to not be available for the last gen, so the team doesn’t have to worry about creating what is essentially two different games.
There are new lighting, skin, camera, and texture effects. There will also be reflections on surfaces rendered in real time, and textures like ring gear and other surfaces have been rewritten to allow them to much more closely resemble their real-life counterparts.
We got to see a side-by-side video comparison of the new lighting, texture, and camera effects from 2K17 and 2K18. They showed a clip of Randy Orton’s entrance, using the WWE 2K17 model of Orton in both. The developers assured us that there is already a new model of Orton that has been created for this installment, but just going off the new graphics engine, the difference is clear and immediate. It also won’t help anyone who has been creeped out by the uncanny valley aspects of past installments. The skin on the models is less plastic-y looking and shiny, the fabric on the trunks and material on the boots looks like the real deal to a shocking degree, and the game looks closer than ever to looking like an actual WWE television broadcast … at least in this short clip that we saw.
A whole new sound
Without a doubt, the biggest knock on WWE 2K17 was its abysmal commentary, which was repetitive, grating, nonsensical, and usually not at all related to what was happening in the ring. The 2K team heard these complaints loud and clear — probably because they were very loud, and very clear.
There will be a whole new announce team in 2K18, or at least a whole new pairing, as Michael Cole will be joined by Corey Graves and Byron Saxton. This was the team WWE wanted in the game, and it’s the team that 2K wanted, too. To make the best experience possible and piggy-back on the rave reviews that NBA 2K gets from its commentary, the WWE 2K team used the entire process NBA 2K uses in capturing commentary, from the same technology used to the same approach in direction.
Graves, Saxton, and Cole have been recording together since 2K17 came out. There have been a couple of sessions with all three recording lines together, but there have also been sessions of all three combinations of two announcers. 2K really wanted to make sure the commentary sounded like an actual conversation between people in the same location, which 2K17 rarely accomplished.
Along with the new commentary, the rest of the sound design has undergone an overhaul. There will be new chants, new arena sounds (as well as new arenas, of course), and a new ring announcer. JoJo will be joining the game as the across-the-board in-game ring announcer, and different sized arenas will no longer sound the same, in terms of acoustics and dynamics. Large arenas will still sound like large arenas, but in smaller venues like Full Sail, you’ll be able to hear individual catcalls from fans.
There will be a completely new drag and carry system in 2K18, which sounds exciting. They’ve improved the feature where you can drag an opponent from position to position, and have also added a new feature where, hey, you’re a wrestler; just pick up a person and put them where you want them.
The carry feature will also be usable mid-move, so if for example, you hoist an opponent up to deliver a powerbomb, you have the option of holding them in that ready position and then carrying them somewhere else before completing the move or doing something else. You won’t be able to do it forever, of course; when the stun wears off, your opponent will be able to fight out of it and break free.
There is also a new position feeding system, where both yourself and your opponent will no longer just lie around like a dead fish when being stunned. Using a robust logic system (and this is something that is intended to usually happen during the middle stretch of matches), you or your opponent will occasionally pull yourself into a different position while groggy, whether that be closer to the ropes, seated in the corner, propped against the bottom rope, and so on. This is intended to open up more options for attacks, so it’s not just “knock an opponent down, stomp, repeat.”
So many people
As noted earlier, one of 2K’s focuses was on multi-person brawls, and they dedicated a big chunk of the disc space on the new game to making sure you could have as many bodies in the ring as possible. WWE 2K18 will have the ability to have eight men or women in the ring at one time. You’ll be able to have ladder matches, Royal Rumble matches, and battles royal with up to eight participants in the ring at once. And there will be a new 8-man (or 8-woman) tag team mode, as well.
To this end, they’ve also revamped the AI in the Royal Rumble. The computer will be smart about allies attacking each other, or about focusing on specific opponents within the match rather than operating willy-nilly. Oh, and they’ve included the new version of the Elimination Chamber in the game, too, in all its plexiglass glory.
There’s a lot more news to come, of course. They promise the biggest roster “by far” ever, and an estimate by Little put the amount of wrestlers in the game at likely over 170. There will be a collector’s edition and a physical edition of the deluxe game, in addition to the Kurt Angle pre-order exclusive that was already announced.
But this is certainly a lot to chew on for the time being, and it seems like there’s a lot to be hopeful about in the new edition. Replacing Jerry Lawler with Corey Graves on commentary will probably get a lot of people to pre-order based on that alone.