Did a year off seriously help 2K Games and Visual Concepts fix its WWE 2K video game franchise? Yes, it damn sure did.
It’s no secret WWE 2K20 sucked and was an absolute embarrassment for the video game studio that blesses us with the NBA 2K franchise, which is a model of consistency despite some recent shortcomings. After enduring numerous complaints and tweets featuring hilarious clips showcasing how broken the game was, 2K and Visual Concepts decided to shelve WWE 2K21 and focus on WWE 2K22, promising a new game rebuilt from the ground up that would essentially “hit differently.”
We were cautiously optimistic about the WWE 2K22, at one point, even worried because we received our review code for the game a day before the embargo lifted. Game reviewers know that’s usually a bad sign, signaling the studio isn’t too sure about its video game, meaning, more than likely, it stinks. This leads us to our review, and we are happy to announce that WWE 2K22 has restored our faith in wrestling video games.
In all honesty, after watching the clips and reading all of the complaints, we avoided WWE 2K20 like the plague, and heading into WWE 2K22, the bar was understandably low. Still, the team at Visual Concepts and 2K understood the assignment and easily cleared it.
Visual Concepts Laid The Smackdown on Presentation & Controls
WWE 2K20’s gameplay mechanics were as bad as legendary jobber Brooklyn Brawler in the ring. The clear mission for WWE 2K22, make a fun wrestling game and fix those janky ass controls. The game’s developers accomplished that mission. While WWE 2K22 is no WWE No Mercy or WCW x NWO Revenge, it almost gives us that exhilarating feeling of pulling off our favorite wrestler’s moves while playing those games on Nintendo 64.
Thanks to a more simplified control scheme that features a light attack, heavy attack, grapple button, plus a dodge and reversal system, WWE 2K22 is no longer the overcomplicated mess it once was. Gone are the days of having to input ridiculous commands to pull off a Rock Bottom, Stone Cold Stunner, or RKO. Each wrestler has four special moves, their finisher, signature, a special reversal called a payback, and of course, a submission movie. To execute each of those moves, you have to build up your special meter during the match. The player has to hold down the R2 trigger and press the corresponding button when the meter is full. Also, keep in mind depending on which wrestler you’re using, their moves call for particular situations in the ring to be met. Thanks to a very simple tutorial mode featuring WWE superstar Drew Gulak you will get acclimated with the improved controls in no time.
Games like NBA 2K are widely appreciated for always capturing the real-life energy experienced while at the game or watching your favorite team on television. The WWE 2K22’s developers kept that same energy. We can’t honestly think of a game that delivers an authentic WWE experience. While the crowd visually is nothing to marvel at, it’s how they respond to the action going on in and out of the ring that stands out. Whether singing along to a particular wrestler’s entrance music or starting chants at the right time, 2K and Visual Concepts shows off its flair for recreating sporting event experiences in its video games.
The arenas also look fantastic. Whether it’s Monday Night Raw, Smackdown, NXT, or a pay-per-view event like Wrestlemania, each WWE show’s set looks excellent. Even the Thunderdome, the WWE’s pandemic setup, makes that cut and is accurately reimagined in the game.
So Many Modes
With the most important part of the game easily fixed, how do the modes stack up? This is where WWE 2K22 stumbles a bit. Once you press start, you will be greeted by six modes:
- Play (Players can play in 11 different kinds of one-off matches)
- Showcase (Allows players to relieve Rey Mysterio Jr’s greatest moments)
- Universe (A simulation of the WWE calendar allowing players to use a WWE superstar and participate in scheduled matches)
- MyGM (Lets players become Vince McMahon and run the show)
- MyFACTION (Lets players build a stable of WWE superstars by collecting card packs)
- MyRISE (A fully-voiced story mode where players take a newcomer to WWE stardom)
A casual wrestling game fan might be a bit overwhelmed, while all of these options might be right up a hardcore wrestling stans alley. In MyRISE, you take a created player (not the one you make using the superstar creation tool) on the journey to becoming a WWE superstar. This could serve as a great learning tool for those new to the WWE 2K video game franchise because it’s fun and gratifying once your created superstar finally makes it to one of the televised wrestling shows and brings home a belt. Our biggest complaint has to be about the cheesy dialogue you encounter throughout MyRISE that definitely sounds like something done during a pandemic.
MyGM is not for everyone and is geared towards the wrestling fan who takes absolute joy in the intricacies of professional wrestling, like putting PPVs together, booking matches, building your own arenas, and keeping WWE superstars happy by giving them decent storylines. If you always wanted to step into Vince McMahon’s shoes, this mode gives you the perfect opportunity to do so.
Unlike the other modes, MyGM requires more of your attention because it’s like babysitting, with you having to keep checking the morale of your superstars.
If you enjoy MyTEAM in NBA 2K, you will enjoy MyFACTIONS in WWE 2K22. It’s built on the same premise, with players acquiring card packs to build a stable of wrestlers they can use to compete in unique matches to complete challenges to obtain points to get more card packs to unlock wrestlers. This mode was mid for us. We also didn’t care for the grind, which will eventually lead to you spending real-world money to obtain VC to purchase more card packs.
Finally, Showcase mode is something we really enjoyed. This year’s edition highlights the high-flying cruiserweight Rey Mysterio by taking players on a journey through his career and reliving some of his legendary wrestling moments. Now, granted, there are some big matches missing due to clearance issues ( or Vince being cheap), and wrestling fans will notice. Still, we definitely loved playing the mode and how it flawlessly switches between gameplay and actual WWE archive footage. It also truly helps you appreciate the wrestler it focuses on and their long road to the top.
With WWE 2K22, 2K Games, and Visual Concepts proved it’s okay to take a break from annual releases and allow the game to breathe. It’s clear the team went back to the drawing and really put thought into the game and listened to fans delivering them a pretty damn good wrestling video game they could be proud of and excited to play. No, WWE 2K22 is not perfect, and some modes require more polishing in particular areas. In the end, it delivers thanks to an incredible roster of talent that will grow thanks to DLC releases and its great new game engine delivering better gameplay.
With WWE 2K22, we smell with 2K Games, Visual Concepts is cooking, and we love it, and we think fans will too.
*WWE 2K22 review key for PS5 provided by 2K Games*
Photos: 2K Games & Visual Concepts / WWE 2K22
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