Enjoying the Cluster that is WWE 2K18

I generally consider myself a pretty cultured guy. But I do allow myself one mindless indulgence: wrestling video games. Throughout my life, I may have given WCW/nWo Revenge more hours than any other game. While I readily admit that the annually-released WWE 2K series is a low-effort cash grab, that hasn’t been enough to keep me away from the series.

So when 2K18 was finally ported to the Switch, I was excited. Being able to mindlessly thumb through cage matches while I watch Netflix with my wife or ride the bus sounded like the perfect game.

Shortly after the release, there was a firestorm. While the whole series has filled its pockets through low effort, the Switch port was a new low. Video reviews showcased the damage. The game was laden with low frame rates, long load times, and glitches galore. Everything I saw assured me that the game wasn’t worth the $60.

But when it showed up in the Switch eShop for 50% off, I jumped on it.

All of the warnings proved true–few more bugs and this game would be unplayable. But for all of the glitches, there’s enough here to make for a fun experience. When the gameplay isn’t lagging, it’s a blast. Wrestling is a difficult physical language to capture in a video game. Most games feel lumbering and clumsy, but the 2K18 enginge (like the rest of the 2K series) has plenty of room for nuance and fluidity. Unfortunately, that fluidity only lasts as long as you don’t add too many wrestlers to a match. One-on-one matches run well most of the time, but even triple threat matches are jerky. Royal Rumbles basically run in slow motion.

The saving grace here is the roster. There are over 180 playable characters, featuring different variations of certain wrestlers. This includes A-listers like Seth Rollins, John Cena, and Randy Orton, as well as emerging stars like Shinsuke Nakamura andFinn Bálor (both the plain-faced and demon varieties).

The roster also boasts an impressive amount of icons spanning decades, like André the Giant, Ric Flair, Macho Man Randy Savage, five variations of Sting, and the three faces of Mick Foley. Unfortunately, Hogan is missing, due to his 2015 scandal, so it’s not a complete roster of legends. But there are more than enough brawlers to create the match-ups every wrestling fan has dreamed of. Have the American Dream Dusty Rhodes give his son Goldust a lesson. Fight alternate universe matches, like Kevin Nash vs. Diesel or Scott Hall vs. Razor Ramon. Pit Goldberg against the Ultimate Warrior in a battle of the Military Press Slams. Or, finally have the Sting vs. Undertaker match that was teased for so long before the Stinger’s retirement-causing injury. In fact, the roster is deep enough to deliver on the promise of 2004’s disappointing Showdown: Legends of Wrestling.

WWE 2K18 also offers a plethora of game modes, such as Elimination Chamber, Ladder Matches, and the infamous Hell in a Cell. Each arena also has a backstage area that seems to go on forever (I’ve done some exploring, and I can’t find the end). Though the more elements you add to the arena, the laggier it gets. The MyCareer story mode is completely worthless.

But despite the game’s glaring and obvious flaws, it gives me exactly what I want: a mind-numbing button masher that puts the pantheon of WWE superstars at my fingertips. And for the price I paid, that’s all I need.

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