Also On: PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Visual Concepts
Hey Yo! In the past year we?ve seen many returns in the wrestling industry; King of the Ring, CM Punk, Becky Lynch, maybe Cody Rhodes to WWE and now the WWE 2K franchise. The WWE 2K series has taken its bumps for sure and it had to take the year off before returning with 2K22. The former developer, Yukes, has been ?future endeavored? (and have since signed with AEW as most WWE outcasts do), and Visual Concepts took over the reigns of developer full time (they were previously assisting Yukes). As the resident WWE reviewer, I know I can be harsh on these games but that?s just because I?ve been a fan all my life and have played nearly every wrestling game along the way. So does 2K22 win the Money in the Bank or lose on Sunday Night Heat?
Let?s get into it right away, WWE 2K22 is the best WWE game in a generation cycle of WWE titles. In my opinion probably the best WWE game since WWE ?13. That?s nearly 10 years of average or straight up bad WWE titles, to which WWE 2K22 is a breath of fresh air. Is it a huge shift in gameplay and features? Absolutely not, but the work Visual Concepts did to retool and tweak this long in the tooth engine checked many of the boxes for me (but not all). 2K provided me with a code for the PlayStation 5 for this review and I can say this is far and away the best a wrestling game has ever looked. The presentation is top notch this year from entrances to menus to the Drew Gulak tutorial. Beyond the presentation is the renderings of the wrestlers, which is great for nearly all of the 150+, and the commentary takes a huge leap in the right direction as well. I found it to be far less repetitive than previous years, which I kinda expected based on Visual Concepts? history with the NBA and NFL franchises of years past. It?s not all championships and Meltzer ratings though, there?s still the gameplay.
That might seem like a huge lead in to a beat up session? but it?s not actually. Gameplay is vastly improved and following the day one patch I didn?t encounter nearly as many glitches as I would become accustom to in 2K20, even months after release. Gameplay is tighter than it?s been and tweaked to be more accessible for pick up and play, for better or worse. The buttons are way less complicated and with that sacrifice it appears like wrestlers have less moves. You would think with less moves each wrestler would have their move-set tailored to them, but I found some real questionable moves and combos when I was using Hollywood Hogan. Moves Hogan has never done, nor did many in his weight class. Also many moves seem like they should include multiple steps but one button press and you?ve lost control for a few seconds while your superstar completes a whole chain of events for a specific move. On the plus side, Visual Concepts removed the limits of reversing moves, which was something I really disliked about previous franchise entries. My favorite thing about the gameplay is its smoothness and that the matches flow sooooo much better while feeling more like matches you would watch on TV.
As I mentioned before the roster to 2K22 is massive! Even without the planned DLC (which will have a significant amount of added characters) there?s over 150 personalities to choose from. I?m glad they didn?t skimp on the legends roster, while I could always go for more (DLC wink wink) but there?s also a large portion of wrestlers that have since been released from the WWE. Some more recent than others, so it is odd which of the released wrestlers they decided to include and which they made a point to remove. For example, Braun Strowman and Lana were released in June but are both in the game, while Bray Wyatt and Adam Cole who were released after that are not. I?m assuming it was WWE?s call based on who already showed up for rival companies or who they assumed would show up. Having these released talents do work for making new factions or shows for the universe mode. Letting your creativity fly and making AEW or Impact shows and maybe have them invade? your version has got to be better than the WWE/WCW Invasion.
Now for the main event, the new and returning modes! To everyone?s delight, the MyGM mode has made its long awaited return. This was my most played mode during my time so far with 2K22. I really like the option of running my own show and creating storylines and roster moves. There definitely are some limitations that might cut your interest short in how many times you play through MyGM but I really dug it for multiple play throughs. The problem is the match limits you?re stuck with, which hopefully can be added to via patch or at worst added to for next years? release. You can only select one-on-one or tag team and a handful of match stipulations, but beyond that there?re plenty of things to do as you run your brand while also competing with a rival brand for fans and money. I look forward to making a custom draft class of superstars from the federation years or the attitude era, the options are all there, I just wish there were more match types to build your feuds. Speaking of feuds, we have MyRise which is essentially story mode for your created wrestler. Between MyRise and MyFaction (think Madden Ultimate Team) I haven?t played a ton of these modes but I did enjoy my time with them despite some of my fellow reviewers having issue with some mode breaking glitches in MyRise (I won?t get into the microtransations rant for MyFaction, all I?ll say again is Madden Ultimate Team).
Lastly, lets talk about this year’s Showcase mode. In the past we?ve had Showcase mode for Wrestlemania, Daniel Bryan, Steve Austin, and the attitude era (my personal favorite) to name a few. This year we run through Rey Mysterio?s career. While I?m not a huge Mysterio fan, I get why they chose him and his still-running career. Just like previous years, Showcase has unlockables that are given by completing match objectives, and like previous years, this gets tedious quickly. New to this years Showcase is the intertwined real footage from the matches while you play them with narration by Rey. This works better in some matches more than others, but it also harkens back to what I was saying before about feeling like the game is kind of playing for you. Also, extremely jarring in this mode is for some reason nearly everyone but the wrestlers in the footage are blurred out, like fans in the crowd and even referees. I?m sure there was some sort of legal reason behind this, but I?ve never seen it done before and it does make the clips a bit tough to watch and focus on. Outside of those minor gripes I enjoyed this year’s showcase a bit more than some of 2K?s last few attempts.
So that?s about it. I mean all the usual suspects of match types are available along with the always incredible create a wrestler(and other ?create? options). I really think this year is a step in the right direction for the franchise and is a buy for loyal WWE fans, possibly even for fans that have since moved on, with the large roster of legends available. Is it the best wrestling game of all time? Not even close, but it?s certainly progress and a really enjoyable time that has something for everyone, casual and hardcore marks alike. Now acknowledge me!? and get into the ring!
Note: 2K provided us with a WWE 2K22 PS5 code for review purposes.