Disclaimer: At the time of writing, developer Blind Squirrel has yet to patch the significant performance problems hampering WWE 2K18 on Switch, so we've published our review - and a score that reflects its current state - in full below. However, we do know that a patch is being worked on, so in the interest of fairness we will be updating this review as and when a fix goes live.
The wait is over. Fiiiiiiinally, WWE has come back to a Nintendo platform following five long years away. It should be a dream homecoming, fans leaping for joy in the crowd while pyrotechnics boom in every direction. Unfortunately, that returning fan favourite has stumbled on the ramp, fallen flat on their face and caused everyone within a five mile radius to facepalm in toe-curling embarrassment. Those fans have stopped cheering and the pyro has gone out with a whimper, because WWE 2K18 is one of the worst ports on Switch to date.
On other platforms, the latest addition to Yukes and Visual Concepts’ long-running sports entertainment sim is a comprehensive if ultimately uninspiring instalment. While it offers the biggest launch roster yet and plenty of online and offline modes, it lacks any real innovation to justify the full-fat price tag. In theory, such an iteration should be revitalised on Switch, by the simple virtue of once again being under the Nintendo banner and offering wrestling action on the go. But in practice, WWE 2K18 is a port that simply wasn’t ready for release, one dogged by performance issues that render some modes painful to endure and others simply unplayable.
Graphically, we all knew a triple-A game as big as this was going to take a hit in order to fit on Switch, so the reduction in character model details, the absence of many lighting effects and the noticeable lack of activity from the crowd are to be expected. For the most part, the visual downgrade isn’t that much of an issue - especially in handheld mode - but it’s consistently inconsistent, with some models looking not too far removed from their PS4/Xbox One counterparts while others look like they’ve just walked out of a PS2-era locker room.
It’s an element you could forgive for a first swing of the Switch-shaped bat if it weren’t for the woeful performance issues that dog WWE 2K18 at every turn. Right from the main menu, you know something’s amiss. Even the static character models in the background shudder as they move to reflect your transition though match and mode options. When you finally kick off a match, the problems start to snowball. Entrances suffer from horrendous slowdown, causing wrestlers with time-sensitive intros to move in a bizarre slow-mo while their music plays at normal speed. You’ve not experienced the true meaning of cringe until you’ve watched Finn Balor’s entrance as he flings his arms into the air, missing his audio cue every single time.
Okay, so the menus and the entrances are off, but we can skip those, right? It’s the meat and potatoes of the in-ring action that matters. Well, prepare to have your enthusiasm laid out by an RKO outta nowhere because the frame-rate problems persist. Having any more than two wrestlers on-screen at one time causes the game to plummet to single frame figures. A maximum of six wrestlers can be in the ring at any one time, but by that point you’re basically playing a flipbook version of Monday Night Raw. It’s so bad the developers straight up removed any of the eight-man match variants present in the other versions of the game. Eight wrestlers on screen would probably have made the game card catch fire in your Switch, so count yourselves lucky.
One on one matches run relatively smoothly by comparison, but even then the action in the ring moves at a slightly slower pace, as if it’s been dialled down to 75% speed as part of the porting process. This small adjustment in turn throws off many of the game’s timing-based mechanics, such as nailing reversals or landing a running grapple. If you’re new to the series, such a change might not be such an issue, but if you’re double dipping from other platforms you’ll find that muscle memory all but useless.
It’s clear 2K wanted to the Switch version of WWE 2K18 out before the end of the year - because nothing makes a game sound out of date like launching in the same year as the one stated on its box art - but that doesn’t detract from the fact this port simply isn’t fit for purpose right now. NBA 2K18 also had launch problems - and was subsequently patched it a much more agreeable state - but that doesn’t excuse a publisher asking for £50 for a broken shadow of multiformat game, and we fear that the problems present in WWE 2K18 are beyond patching.
It’s a shame because there’s just so much content stuffed into the Switch version. The MyCareer and WWE Universe modes are here, enabling you to take a customised Superstar from the Performance Centre training facility to the Grandest Stage Of Them All at WrestleMania. Road To Glory also makes a comeback, with its focus on players competing online for ‘rasslin dominance. Having these modes present and their entirety makes WWE 2K18's technical failings rankle even further.
It's an issue that brings down everyone of the game's potential highlights, including a new carry system that enables you to take your opponent up onto your shoulders in four different ways (opening up for a more depth when it comes to grappling). Even the ability to go online (or play locally) with up to three other players is torpedoed by the sheer fact the game runs slower an Undertaker WrestleMania entrance.
The unrivaled depth of the character creation suite is here in all its majesty, too - you haven’t lived until you’ve built a virtual monstrosity with the most ridiculous attire, laughable entrance and physics-defying finisher. Even having access to over 170 wrestlers from yesteryear and today is a selling point in itself. But then comes the crushing reality that your meticulously built creations or beloved Superstars will have to wrestle in a game that can barely stand unaided, never mind perform a shooting star press from the top turnbuckle.
While co-developer Blind Squirrel has stated publicly it is working on implementing some post-launch improvements, it doesn’t change the fact WWE 2K18 ever existed in this form at all. Switch has had an incredible 2017 and played host to some truly awe-inspiring ports, but as it stands the latest slice of sports entertainment is best enjoyed elsewhere. Wrestling fans with a Switch deserve better games than this sorry jobber.