The eagerly anticipated WWE 2K18 dropped on October 17 and 2K have given us plenty to sink our teeth into.
It seems that this franchise has made strides with each release over the past few years, but this is undoubtedly their boldest effort yet.
The pressure has been on 2K considering the huge success of the career mode in their NBA iteration to produce a similarly fitting version for the die-hard wrestling fan base.
There's no doubt they've taken big leaps forward in that department, but they've expanded the game in several areas.
Below, take a look at the major developments in this year's installment.
- The Create-a-Match feature makes its first appearance since WWE 2K14.
- The new Road To Glory mode enables players to use their MyPlayer characters to qualify and compete in events, similar to the one game found in WWE SuperCard.
- A new commentary team of Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, and Corey Graves.
- Universe mode has been revamped with a new story system, new cut-scenes, power-rankings, and a goal system.
- Eight-man matches for the first time ever with ladder, battle royal and tag team stipulations available.
- My Career now allows your wrestler to roam backstage prior and after your matches. You can create enemies and alliances, decide if you want to prove yourself in the ring or get ahead in the business playing politics and decide which of the eight fighting styles you have.
- Gameplay wise, there is a new drag and carry system with multiple variations.
GiveMeSport got their hands on the game a few days early and gave all of these new features a spin and we were pleasantly surprised with the risks the game has taken to feel like a more authentic wrestling experience for the fan.
Every wrestling fan of a reasonable age knows about the backstage element in the business. 2K have prudently opened up that world to fans and have given them plenty of incentive to dive deeper into that world - and the rewards are there if you do.
Want to link up with Paul Heyman? Get on Triple H's good side? Or perhaps you want to be a lone wolf (sorry, Baron Corbin) and, excuse the pun, 'Be Like No One'.
However you want to do it, you can. The fact that you have more control over your career is the single biggest stride the mode has taken. There's no more of Vickie Guerrero telling you they have nothing for you this week or trying to climb a ranking system you have no idea how to.
2K has done a brilliant job of making your career your choice and how quickly you progress to where you want to be depends on what you're willing to do to get there.
For instance, once we created our character, and got through our basic training, we headed to our first NXT show. You are free to speak to everyone backstage, but eventually, you encounter your backstage producer.
He gives you the options of what you want to do to best build interest in your feud. Instead of having multiple matches with Bobby Roode where the danger of losing interest is high - as has been with previous titles - they allow you to cut promos, attack Roode in various ways or, indeed, have a match. How you fare in all of those choices heavily influences the feud.
It's a subtle change that takes away the predictability that shackled this game in the past. Having to walk all the way to the car park to exit the show is a slight annoyance that gets old quick, but considering who you can talk to on the way and the freedom it comes with, it's a small price to pay really.
You still can't have your own music when you create a superstar, but 2K have made an attempt to offer some of their own soundtracks to make our player feel as original as possible.
The thing that impressed us the most was the slick gameplay. For all the bells and whistles attached to games, the actual gameplay is the lifeblood and 2K are renowned for getting that right.
Considering all of the proverbial chefs in the kitchen, the six and eight-man matches feel as smooth as they could be. The eight-man dynamic is especially surprising as something as new and complex as that normally comes with its issues the first time around.
The one-on-one aspect is as aesthetically pleasing as it gets. The crowd are refined and detailed. The arena is like a carbon-copy of the real deal and, as has been noted for years, the detail of the superstars is literally insane.
Because of all these little things, it's easy to immerse yourself in the game. The fact that countering moves or switching your attention in the ring are now more seamless than ever, it makes you wonder how 2K19 will be able to improve.
The bottom line is (sorry, Stone Cold), this incarnation of WWE 2K is a huge step in the right direction. Finally, fans can feel like they are a part of the real product in the career and the gameplay is a rewarding experience, not a chore to see where the career takes you. That's key.
It would be nice to give your superstar the music you really want - we assume there are legal reasons preventing that - and your superstar walking around like a snail backstage may get annoying, but all in all, it really is the most comprehensive wrestling game ever made, all things considered.
The concept of the game is 'Be Like No One', and in that vein, 2K have given you an enormous array of tools to do just that.
WWE 2K18 is rated PEGI 16 and is available NOW on PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One and Windows PC, and will follow in the Autumn 2017 for Nintendo Switch™. Grab your copy here.
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