by Jamie Butler
I’ve had time to get hands-on with the new WWE game from 2K Sports and it’s a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it is a marginal step up from its predecessor which was released over one and a half years ago but at the same time, it is more of the same which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing.
I’m going to break this down into the core categories that have made or broken WWE games in the past. Graphics, Gameplay and Content.
Let’s start with the graphics… they are a considerable step up from 2K20. The circumstances that led to the abomination that was 2K20 were through no fault of 2K Sports. If the reports are to be believed they did the best they could after Yukes left halfway through development and told them to figure it out and figure it out they did with this game. Visual Concepts did a wonderful job amending the engine for their NBA series to make some of the most lifelike models yet. They are that lifelike they are bordering on uncanny valley levels of realism and can be both breath-taking and unnerving at the same time which is a testament to how great that engine is.
The 2-year breathing room for development has benefitted the team to no end. The way light reflects on materials in particular is a huge high point for me. The best example of this for me is that Velour, Leather and Vinyl are all shiny materials but they all shine different to each other and really look like what they are supposed to be whereas cloth is a very matte material and behaves as such and this blew my mind when I saw it.
Now we have to get onto the more confusing part of the game… the gameplay.
The gameplay has been advertised as being completely revamped and the tagline is “It Hits Different”. As a seasoned player of WWE games going as far back as the Sega Mega Drive and PlayStation 1 era that doesn’t feel the case to me. The addition of an arcade-style combo system sounds great on paper but I found myself forgetting they even existed and stuck to playing how I played in 2K20.
The animations on offer this time round do feel a lot smoother and it felt fun to play a WWE game again so I guess you could say it did hit different to an extent but it also felt incredibly familiar at the same time. The significant drop in the number of glitches from 2K20 makes this a dream to play if not slightly underwhelming if you are expecting a total rehaul of the mechanics.
Now comes the part you’ve all been waiting for… Content.
There is plenty on offer here. You have MyRise which is where I have spent most of my time with 2K22. MyRise is a career mode of sorts where you take a user-created character from the WWE’s training grounds all the way to the big time at Wrestlemania.
It is enthralling what kind of situations you can get yourself into but it also feels like a collection of side quests haphazardly sewn together with little cohesion between each story. You basically check your Twitter to see if anybody is calling you out and decide whether you want to accept the “story” and get locked into this tiny little microcosm until it is complete.
Do enough of them and your General Manager will give you a main quest so you can progress. Then you rinse, lather, repeat. It is a lot more fun than it sounds, the variety of “stories” means you’ll never get bored. Different outcomes depending on if you win or lose adds to the replayability of the mode and I commend the effort put into this mode.
You also have the creation studio where you can create custom Superstars, Entrance videos, Title belts, Money in the Bank briefcases, etc. This is vastly unchanged as far as I can tell except for one major omittance in the form of advanced custom entrances. You are forced to use preset entrance motions instead of being able to cut and paste them together to make something unique which only slightly hinders the individuality of your custom characters a lot less than I thought it would.
Now we move on to the new additions to the game in MyFaction and MyGm modes. MyFaction is essentially WWE 2Ks take on something like EAs Ultimate Team it is riddled with Microtransactions and Daily login bonuses to get the best cards and progress through the many towers and online matches available in this mode. Thankfully this is where the MicroTransactions begin and end. If you are a fan of those types of modes you will feel right at home here. If you don’t there is plenty on offer in the other modes this game offers. MyGym is a mode that has been greatly requested for many years but unfortunately delivers the bare bones. You play the role of a general manager and have to book the best show from week to week and try to beat a rival GM in the ratings. It does exactly what it says on the tin and I can’t really fault it for that.
Universe Mode is relatively unchanged from previous iterations outside of the addition of a superstar mode where you pick a WWE Superstar and play as them and only them ad infinitum. Is it fun… yes. Could it be better… also yes. Hopefully, this is something that can be worked on in the future as I see a lot of promise in this mode.
The coup de grace, the main event, the granddaddy of all the modes Showcase follows the highlights of Rey Mysterio’s career. This is where things really fall flat for me. The choices of matches from his career left a lot to be desired but the commentary from Rey himself through vignettes between the matches were really insightful and a joy to watch. If you do play this mode play it for that alone you will not be disappointed. The biggest sticking point for me with this mode is that at key points in the match the game transitions from gameplay to actual footage from the match which I found incredibly jarring and severely ruined the immersion for me.
Most importantly is the roster. There are over 125 wrestlers on the roster, 35 of which have been released by WWE within the past year so it does feel slightly outdated in that respect but then you have characters and gimmicks that have debuted very recently on tv. That confuses me. Although I will say it is nice to have a wide variety of wrestlers to play as even if it does feel outdated it is still a lot more current than previous games and that can only be a bonus.
All in all the best thing I can equate it to is a Jaffa cake. You know what you’re buying. You know you will enjoy it but you can’t help but think to yourself that it’s lacking something. As a starting point for the reboot under Visual Concepts, it is a great Launchpad and given enough time on its sequels could be even better! As it stands right now I would suggest buying just to see the new animations and the graphical improvements but I would strongly advise tempering your expectations