WWE 2K22 Review

Gaming
7.5

Good

WWE 2K22

Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K
Platforms: PlayStation 4, (Reviewed) PlayStation 5 , Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Release Date: March 11, 2022 – Available Now
Price: $59.99 USD – Available Here – $99.95 AUD – Available Here

Overview

It’s crazy to think that is has been over two years now since we have seen a release of a mainstream wrestling title. After the failures of WWE 2K20, 2K and Visual Concepts gave us an extended break with the hope they could restore the name of their once great franchise. For some fans, the extra time in the oven was appreciated. Others have found new takes on the sport through independent projects. The once labeled “Smackdown!” franchise means a lot though, and to most, this was a last chance to see the squared circle done right. The big question is did they get it right, or is this yet another entry into the hall of shame? Let’s find out. 

Story 

There are two narrative driven modes within WWE 2K22. The first comes from the returning Showcase mode, this time featuring WWE mainstay Rey Mysterio. In this mode, players lace up their boots as the famed luchador as he retells parts of his career through various matches. From his famed bouts with Eddie Guererro to present day fare – where you enter tag-team action with his son. Showcase this year seems to be a short but heartfelt package to pay homage to a living legend. I usually detest the past versions of Showcase modes with 2K’s wrestling titles as they felt incompatible with the game’s own engine. Players are always required to not only play a match but also synchronize that match with the cutscenes that take place as moments are occurring in real-time. This time around, the flow works out much better with the new combat mechanics involved, allowing for one of the most fluid and enjoyable takes on the mode to really shine. That isn’t to say that there were not moments of frustration or glaring omissions to Mysterio’s storied career, but what is here is done well and most should be able to come away with a little respect for both the talent and development team due to how much effort was applied. 

MyRise takes the reigns of the “Season” mode of sorts, allowing players to create a Superstar from scratch, take to developmental, and watch as they rise (and falter) on the main roster. To its own benefit, MyRise is a much more streamlined product than the clunky story modes of the past, as it cuts out a lot of the currency driven fodder for simple storytelling that makes the player feel far more involved and in control. Players now receive most of their updates through a social media stream, and their own choice of shows, responses, and even gender will make each experience unique, adding some importance to the actions and reactions they make. Having these decisions also adds in some replay value as well, so even after the credits wrap – there are still a lot of opportunities to trek through other tales that take place within Raw, Smackdown, or NXT. Yes, simplicity works well enough this year, but at times it can be to a fault, as a lot of the stories feel dated or re-used from the actual show. MyRise also starts the player with very limited resources for creation and fails to really find a way to intertwine unlockable customization with the story as more options open. Sure, you may now have the ability to change your Superstar to your liking, but with mild difficulty and no real incentive to do so, why really bother adjusting anything other than stats if the story doesn’t highlight any character evolution? MyRise isn’t a bad story mode, but still never manages to capture most of the game’s touted features – making the experience overall feel a little hollow. 

Gameplay 

Gameplay is where it really matters. The past few entries of the WWE 2K franchise have had a lot of roughness that has driven away longtime fans for obvious reasons. From poor AI that made specialty matches a chore to timed input mini-games deciding pins, submissions, and everything else under the hood – we haven’t had a chance to really experience the product without tedious control or game-breaking glitches in years, and that goes back much further than WWE 2K20. This year, Visual Concepts have delivered a scaled-down version of the game’s old engine, replacing a lot of the unnecessary “depth” with simple fighting mechanics that for once feel fresh and intuitive. This is largely due to the new combo-driven combat system in place of the old grappling mechanics of the past. While most of the same moves can be executed, players now can string together a combo of attacks to unlock stronger techniques.  

No longer do players have to worry about limited counters either, as combos tie into reversals seamlessly, with the player able to now reverse almost everything based off their inputs. For example, every Superstar has a variety of strikes within their arsenal. Once a combo is flowing, you can then add in holds or attacks for a much more fluid combination, ultimately gaining the advantage in a match. Reversals may now be unlimited, but the combo system compliments the redesigned mechanic well, with the player having just one button to perform a counter. If that button is missed – you must now guess what type of attack the player is going to perform next (out of light, strong, or grapple attacks) to perform a counter, or ultimately take the full string as a lesson of your own timing. I get that the change may seem a bit intimidating for older players, but this new take on a fighting system feels far more enjoyable and accessible this year.  

I remember the first time I played a match with limited reversals online years ago. Every match nearly had the same result. No matter how seasoned you were, the opposing player always knocked you down, and then did light attacks and stomps to have you quickly eat up all counters available. Once your chosen combatant ran out of counters, you would then be objected to that same opponent slamming you over and over with strong attacks until they almost effortlessly picked up the win with very little work. It was broken, and this finally feels like a long-term solution to a problem that has taken a lot of the “simulation” experience out of the core gameplay. Call it what you want, but this may be the first title in the franchise (since the 2K takeover) to get it right with the gameplay as matches feel a lot less predictable and more exciting this time around. 

That pesky AI still has some issues, but largely has been overhauled as well. Specialty matches play out much better, with the opponent not only understanding the concept of how to win, but also continuing to fight in-between attempting to perform an objective. This means if you are Jeff Hardy challenging Undertaker in a ladder match, Undertaker will now try to weaken you before getting the ladder – rather than just constantly whipping the player out of the ring and running up to grab the briefcase after every attack. I truly cannot overstate how welcome the enhanced AI and new reversal/combo gameplay to the experience, as much like their tagline, it does “hit different” in all the right ways. 

With all the praise of what’s new, there is a lot to be said still for issues 2K22 has. While the gameplay is refined, new bugs manage to bring down an otherwise stellar product. The collision detection is a major step back, with the player unable to connect or pick up weapons without a lot of extra effort. Table matches and other focused match types involving a weapon finish now feel like a chore as character models do not get interrupted unless the timing and placement are near perfect, meaning just grabbing a chair will have you fumbling while the once downed opponent gets to their feet. There are other animation bugs when it comes to interaction with the environment, and hopefully we will see these addressed in patches in the future. 

The creation suite has all the options you could want to create anyone you can think of, but the amount of crashing and backtracking to different portions of the suite is frustrating to say the least. I spent a good deal of time creating two former WWE Superstars. Once I finished one attire, I needed to add an entrance, grab an image online with the uploader, and add it in as a render for the in-game selection menu (which is a nice addition – I might add). On both occasions, the loading times just going through costume parts were excessive and exiting out and going back into other portions of the creation menu caused the game to crash. That was just my own experience on the Playstation 4 version of the game. It’s almost as if the game is too large to fit within its own package.  

Creation isn’t the only headache. Online play may be better due to the new gameplay engine from a competitive standpoint, but players now quit frequently with no timeouts or punishment for exiting a match. Imagine, you spend over six hours perfecting a Superstar to take online and show the world, only to have the player quit during a pin. What if Andre the Giant just said “nah” to Hogan after that scoop slam and rolled out of the ring? Lobbies have made the online mode more organized and playing with up to seven other players is a great concept – but the servers are still fickle and can drop frequently. Add in players quitting almost every match and the novelty for fighting the world grows thin to non-existent in record time. 

Rounding out this year’s entry is the inclusion of MyFaction, as well as MyGM – a redesigned GM Mode, which hasn’t been featured during 2K’s entire tenure as the publisher of the franchise. MyFaction is basically like the mobile card games WWE offers but adds in real gameplay to mix things up. Players create their faction of talent by opening packs of cards, receiving bonus attributes and buffs for other cards they equip. They then fight in matches, and based on the outcome, get to climb various ladders of progression in what feels like a never-ending trek that has little point other than to add microtransactions into the game. MyFaction is kind of an intriguing concept and certainly not a bad addition, but it doesn’t really feel like it fits in this year’s game. This mode also keeps some versions of Superstars exclusive within its own walls, meaning you may get to see The Godfather or Nikki Cross (pre-Nikki A.S.H.), but you can only experience them within this tacked-on mode. 

MyGM is a general manager mode of sorts – but stripped down a bit to just focus on singles and tag matches. Players select a GM, choose a roster, and must properly budget their way to ratings success, unlocking boosts and buffs that can hurt their rival or increase their own production of their show. I’ll admit I had a bit of fun here and finished a whole 15 week set in one sitting. Even though there is untouched potential here, what is delivered is fun and a step in the right direction for what we could see in the future. 

Visuals 

This may be the best-looking wrestling game to date. Most character models look fantastic, and fluid animations and a heavy amount of detail do a lot to make this feel close to the actual product. I remember years ago wishing that how Superstars looked within entrances could be replicated in matches, and this is surely the closest we have come. There are some clipping issues at times and the usual odd model morphs, but it feels like a lot more effort was made to the presentation this year without harming most of the offerings within. Sure, you will see variances in quality with wild hair and occasionally bland textures, but the amount of visual easter eggs and realistic actions do enough to outweigh the negative, making for a great wrestling game to show off to friends. 

Audio 

Your enjoyment soundtrack for 2K22 will come down to your tastes. I personally am not big on modern rap but changing to entrance themes utilizing the game’s jukebox is still available and continues to be a nice feature. Commentary isn’t too shabby, either. Our team now focus on calling moves and don’t bring up random conversation as much as they used to, making it feel far more like a play by play and less like three men arguing in a disjointed conversation. Some Superstars also voiced their own characters, which has mixed results in terms of effort applied as hearing a bored wrestler during an otherwise exciting scene can damper the special moments that 2K22 attempts to deliver. 

Overall 

I have been with this franchise since the first Smackdown title debuted on the Playstation. I have seen it at its highest of highs and lowest of lows. It has been a ride, to say the least, but one I honestly left after the last entry with no intention of getting back on. This isn’t just the only mainstream wrestling series left. It was a home, a special place for fans to create a community and come together, celebrating the sport that we all love for different reasons. For some people, this was their entry into wrestling altogether. For others, it was a way to re-create and reinforce why they continued to give the struggling television program another chance. That is why it was so important for Visual Concepts to deliver this year.  

WWE 2K22 is a game with a good number of bugs and other issues that bog it down. At times, it feels that the game is tripping over its own feet just trying to stand up. That said, it also offers the most needed update possible to an archaic design in order to finally address real reasons that fans stopped playing. For that – it is easily the greatest entry in the franchise in over a decade. I didn’t play wrestling games to get sold a product, or to trudge through glitches due to cumbersome ideas that were never fleshed out. I played to have fun, and to relive a product that has brought me a lot of joy since I was a kid. WWE 2K22 does that, as it’s accessible, enjoyable, and finally makes the player feel like they are back in control. It does hit different, and thankfully – this is all for the right reasons.  

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

Summary

WWE 2K22 turns a corner for the long-running franchise, making it one of the best wrestling sims to hit shelves in over a decade.
7.5

Good

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