This year's release for the long-running sports entertainment franchise is close at hand, and it’s bringing a slew of promising new features to the ring. Coming off the mixed reception of WWE 2K17, developers Yuke's and Visual Concepts have been hard at work refining this year's entry to provide players with a new and improved experience. 

From an enhanced career mode to an expanded array of backstage interactions and gameplay options, WWE 2K18 has more than a few exciting additions. This includes the roster, which is the biggest in any WWE game to date; it features wrestlers past and present from each of the main shows, including stars from the more recently established 205 Live and NXT.

"Our roster philosophy is relatively simple: We work to be as up-to-date with WWE’s current superstar roster, where possible, while continuing to deliver great WWE legends or hall-of-famers – such as The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, or Andre the Giant – from multiple eras in WWE history," says Visual Concepts' executive producer Mark Little. "It’s hard to select just a few folks as being the new exciting additions because every WWE fan has his or her own favorites.”

A brand new MyCareer mode offers players expanded freedoms in how they interact with other characters and how they shape their WWE superstar's legacy. The new mode has two distinct story lines for players: The Company Man, where players side with the general managers to ensure their support and favor, and "The Fan Favorite," where players rely on the help of their fans and fellow WWE superstars to rise to the top. Both paths include their own specific challenges and build the player’s legend up in different ways.

"We wanted MyCareer to be more experiential this year and enable players to spend more time interacting with the unique personalities across all the WWE superstars and supporting personnel," says Visual Concepts' designer Jason Vandiver. "Rather than looking at menus to find out who you should ally with or make your rival, you can simply go talk to these people or ambush them in the backstage environment. Want an interview with Renee Young? Simply go up to her and ask for an interview. Don’t like the WWE superstar she’s interviewing? Go up to him or her during live TV and interrupt that interview."

The mode is also bolstered by the game’s refined rivalry mechanics. Rivalries can occur naturally or be triggered by the player, and while each show can only support three rivalry storylines at a time, each superstar can hold several potential and active rivalries. Pursuing a rivalry leads to confrontations between the superstar and build up to high stakes matches in the ring. Depending on the intensity of the rivalry, the superstars’ backstage interactions can range from friendly and competitive to explosive and violent.

Online play is receiving new changes and enhancements as well in the form of the Road to Glory mode. Timed alongside WWE's real life pay-per-views, specific challenges and matches will be held among players online for new character gear, moves, and in-game currency. However, players have to work for their slots. "Just like in WWE, you aren’t handed a PPV match," Little says. "You need to earn your way into the PPV weekend, so between PPVs, players need to earn their way into the upcoming PPV by completing matches and earning stars in nightly challenges."

Both modes are further enhanced by the newly expanded carry and drag mechanics. This system now offers four different carry positions determined by weight class, allowing for more freedom in choosing how to send opponents against the ropes with throws or down to the mat with finishers. Lighter characters can use an opponent’s weight against them, while heavier characters can lift opponents one-handed and deliver ring-smashing slams. By adding more than 100 new environmental interaction options, the developers hope to encourage players to explore and use the arena to their advantage. “You no longer have to lean your opponent against an object before slamming him or her into it,” Vandiver says. “You can now lift the opponent into a carry, walk up to any object, and seamlessly transition into an environmental attack.”

Yuke’s and Visual Concepts seem to have learned from their past mistakes for this year’s entry. Hopefully, they can pull off a comeback when WWE 2K18 hits on October 17 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A Nintendo Switch version will also release sometime this fall.