When it was announced that longtime WWE games developer Yukes would be stepping away from the franchise many fans were excited to see if this may mean a change for the better in future entries as it left only Visual Concepts, a team with quite a history of sports games under their belt, in sole control of the property. With this change occurring in August however, WWE 2K20 was left in the lurch and unfortunately rather than taking the time to get a handle on things the game was instead ushered out the door as a completed product. As a result, Visual Concepts takes a series that has already been dazed and confused over the past few years and manages to slam it through a table straight to the floor in what may be the worst game in the series since its inception.
This time around players are presented with a new double storyline in MyCareer as players will create their own male and female wrestling pair that, while named whatever the player chooses, are nicknamed Tre and Red respectively. The story centers rather oddly as a flashback as the pair reminisce about their rise to stardom through the WWE while attending their induction to the WWE Hall of Fame. After creating a notebook of their dreams in high school the pair have used it to chart their course through the company all the way from an awful cafeteria fight in high school to Wrestlemania years down the line that sees the pair taking on unaging wrestlers in pursuit of their goals.
Despite the large team of writers that WWE manages to squander on their weekly television broadcasts it is hard to believe that the writing in MyCareer could be any worse but WWE 2K20 manages to pull it off as Red, the core focus of the storyline, is as hot headed as her nickname sounds while Tre is a butt of most jokes and the pair rarely ever actually have fights together as a pair, leading to our lead characters being presented as fairly unlikable characters in an incredibly poorly written storyline. The only saving grace is that current WWE stars are presented in a great light and thanks to the fact that this is a video game, there are plenty of fantastical elements that work much better in regards to some of the more “mystical” characters that enter the story.
Outside of the core storyline of MyCareer players will also have the option to play through the Showcase Mode that follows the story of the Four Horsewomen of the WWE, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Bayley with the game featuring numerous interviews with the women and some blurry replays of various matches that players can then partake in while hoping to avoid any game breaking bugs or crashes. It is also worth noting that the other touted feature which is loudly advertised in the game’s main menu and starting screen, WWE 2K Originals, is completely inaccessible with the story locked immediately behind launch DLC.
There is a saying that when something isn’t broke, don’t fix it but rather than subscribe to that saying Visual Concepts instead chose to break what was previously working in an effort to match up with the rest of what was broken in their release of WWE 2K20. Rather than making things more streamlined the wrestling gameplay has been reworked to only appear more complicated than it was before and longtime fans will notice that many of the standard controls have been remapped to separate buttons. While this does make countering attacks easier as players no longer need to worry about the triggers, pressing Y to counter moves takes some getting used to while using signatures and finishers now requires two buttons to be pressed at the same time. Along those same lines there are now numerous move variations and targeting systems that make use of the trigger and shoulder buttons to allow for separate grapples that used to flow together much easier and even lifting moves, one of the”new” features that returns often glitches out far more often than it actually works.
Paybacks, limb targeting, stamina, and overall damage still work the same as usual however the same targeting issues that have plagued the series for many years remain an issue and non-responsive controls are exasperated thanks to the numerous inputs required for certain moves. Along those same lines players will need to struggle with AI that rarely finds a middle ground between simply laying there and taking a beating and countering with no chance for a comeback regardless of the difficulty setting and sliders, that is of course if it doesn’t spend half the match wandering around the arena when entered into anything more complicated than a singles or tag match, and be prepared for tag partner AI to be just as bad.
Players will find that they still have a plethora of options available to them as WWE 2K20 does feature probably one of the most robust rosters of wrestlers in recent memory, though some do remain locked behind in-game currency purchases, as well as many different match types to take part in. Standard play and Universe mode work the best in regards to long term play while the game’s online matches are absolutely atrocious as not only do they take quite a bit of time to load in but suffer from massive amounts of lag no matter how great the connection between players appears to be. If the match manages to hold together through the initial minutes of lag these online matches begin to work well enough but the initial struggle is hard to get through, especially in matches with more than two players.
Outside of these standard play modes there is the aforementioned Showcase Mode that sees players take part in more structured story matches that follow the Four Horsewomen but the problem in this mode is twofold. Not only does their more structured nature, with various story events that players can trigger by completing certain objectives, lead to matches with a slower pace but the lack of a proper move list for wrestlers can make triggering certain events a more tiresome experience than it should be as some events do not happen unless a certain move is performed. Add this to the fact that crashes and bugs that make a match impossible to complete remain a problem in this mode it also makes Showcase matches feel more like a race against the clock than the opponent in the ring.
Another major mode in WWE 2K20 is MyCareer mode and unfortunately this mode is filled with probably the most problematic aspects of the entire game. Not only are players given a very limited creation aspect at the beginning of the mode to create both their male and female wrestlers but nearly everything is locked behind the game’s in-game currency. Most moves, pieces of clothing, and even hairstyles are locked behind card packs that players will need to purchase in the hopes of getting a move or piece of clothing they might like, or they can be purchased outright at an extreme premium if you’re desperate. Even taking part in various “Tower” matches to unlock special gear or to help level up your limited pair of wrestlers rarely feel worth the effort simply due to how poor the reward systems are.
That isn’t to say that everything about WWE 2K20 is bad, as the game does occasionally have moments where it shines and a match can go off without any issues. These moments are few and far between and even then players will need to wait through some fairly significant load times for nearly every sequence. This only makes the aforementioned constant bugs that require a match restart or flat out crashes to the Xbox Home all the more frustrating.
Visuals & Audio
Generally when a game is released year after year the character models for returning stars tend to improve but whether it was due to the transition from Yukes to Visual Concepts or something else, WWE 2K20 looks like a massive step back instead when it comes to the wrestlers. Only a few select wrestlers look similar to their real life counterparts but for the most part many of the wrestlers look like they were simply created in the “Create a Superstar” and in a few cases even worse than that as some wrestlers even appear to feature the same exact face model with only their hair styled differently.
Thankfully at least the in-game arenas and the pyros used for entrances look rather amazing and a few of the “spots” where special OMG moments can be performed are acceptably brutal. It is odd however that some of the video footage that is shown of real matches, both old and newer, somehow are presented worse than they look even when shown through the WWE Network streaming service. The game’s soundtrack features all of the tracks that players have come to expect from the series and all of the wrestlers’ entrance themes are presented in their proper glory. As far as the commentary goes the most recent patch does appear to have fixed the commentators from glitching into talking about random body parts while the voice work from the actual wrestlers is surprisingly well handled and remain one of the best parts of the game’s story modes.
It is rather unclear just what happened behind the scenes at Visual Concepts and what Yukes took with them when they left but what is clear is that WWE 2K20 is a game that shouldn’t have been released. While the company may have been aiming to keep to their annual release schedule the result is a wrestling game that falls short in each aspect over its previous releases and manages to be a technical mess at almost every turn. With a mediocre storyline, gameplay that feels like a step back, and graphics we’ve seen better of since many years ago, Visual Concepts needs to put some serious effort into the next game to even hope of drawing fans back.