I’ve been a fan of wrestling games for most of my life, having played most iterations or licensed western titles from the SNES right up to modern consoles, and the evolution of the genre has been a steady transition from arcade-type games right through to the current simulation era.
WWE 2K20 got a less than favorable reception, so the decision was made (for the first time in 20 years) to skip a year to curate and design a higher quality product that would hit home with the fans. With other franchises developing their own titles, and more indie developers tackling the genre of Wrestling, were 2K able to hit the mark this time?
In short, absolutely. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with WWE 2K22. It has been a long time since I enjoyed a game in the series quite so much. It controls well, looks fantastic and there are plenty of options here for new and old players alike.
The game is by no means perfect, yet I believe that it makes up for the misstep two years ago and more. So let’s do a little digging into why I think that you should at the very least give this one a shot.
- Solid, smooth gameplay, with massive customization for all player experience.
- Great Visuals, allowing for more immersion and superb attention to detail.
- Decent narrative, but can become stale over time.
What’s it all about?
WWE 2K22 is the latest of a long-running series of wrestling simulation titles, which encompasses a wide range of playstyles, customization, and a number of play modes to choose from, including;
- Play/Custom Matches – Choose a Superstar (Wrestler), a Match type, and get right into the action. You can customize rules (such as turning off disqualifications), and set up the match of your choice.
- Showcase – Follow the journey of Rey Mysterio, as you play through the most important matches of his career and unlock new features (Superstars, Costume pieces, Arenas, and more), all interlaced with a narrative from Rey himself.
- Universe – Set up the World of WWE however you want in a sandbox environment, decide who is on which brand, who holds the titles, and what matches will decide how the story progresses.
- MyGM – Returning to the series for the first time since 2008, This mode allows you to manage the show of your choice, as your favorite on-screen character (or one of your own making) and compete with other brands for supremacy.
- MyFaction – New to this year’s game, this allows you to build your own faction (wrestling group) through collecting cards, each with different strengths and weaknesses, and play through matches with them.
- MyRise – Create a Superstar and take them on a journey throughout the world of WWE. Form alliances, break friendships and partake in a varied range of stories and scenarios.
On top of these, the creation suite allows you to customize the majority of the game, from creating and editing Superstars, their motions/animations, and move lists, to designing Championship belts, Arenas, and TV shows.
You can build the Wrestling world of your dreams, create highlight reels and even design a briefcase! (the Money in the Bank case allows a Superstar to challenge for a title of their choice at any time within a year, which is usually won at an event or pay per view).
There are also a variety of online modes, from jumping straight into a match in Quickplay to joining online lobbies with friends/players across the world, or participating in tonight’s match, a rotating set of criteria for online matches which can limit you to, for example, specific match types, or superstars.
There are also leaderboards for the competitively minded, and there is an extensive community creation area, which allows you to download custom designs by other players, made in the creation suite. Some of these defy beliefs, as you would swear that the developers themselves made them.
These can be quite difficult to filter through, with (at the time of writing) over 10,000 pages of Superstars alone to work through. Thankfully the developer has included some reasonably robust search options, with Hashtags allowing you to search for free text, as well as a Most downloaded/Most Recent/Most Upvoted sorting system.
Playing the game is a treat, and (in my experience) the smoothest a WWE game has ever been. You have two attack buttons on the face of the pad (Light and Heavy), a Grapple button, and a block/reversal button.
The left stick moves, the right stick involves the positioning of your opponent, the D-Pad is for taunting (an essential in professional wrestling) and the shoulder buttons are relied on for Environmental actions and Special actions.
These can change depending on the match type/ positioning of both you or your opponent, and other factors. This might sound complex, but once I had a match or two under my belt I was able to adapt quite quickly, and the controls felt intuitive. The tutorial is robust, giving a full explanation of how the game plays, and the pause menu has a great reference system if you happen to forget.
Options available in-game allow you to change not only the overall difficulty of the title, but also allow you to alter AI behavior, by changing the frequency of reversals (counter-attacks that stop you in your tracks), recovery rates, and many more which is a welcome factor.
I played on the default settings and didn’t feel the need to change anything, although I did notice that occasionally the AI seemed to be able to reverse everything I was doing. I suspect this was related to my character of choice and who I was facing rather than the options though, as each Superstar has strengths and weaknesses in different facets of wrestling
I found that once I had the basics down, the majority of times the actions/contextual changes made sense, and although I did have to refer to that pause menu now and again, it didn’t interrupt my gameplay in a way that caused frustration.
Out of the modes included, the two that have a specific storyline are MyRise and Showcase.
MyRise involves creating a Superstar and taking them through training, then onto a show/brand and working your way through events and story beats. These are mostly managed via talking to bystanders or via social media callouts from your fellow competitors.
It can feel a little forced at times, with feuds starting over small issues or slights (for example, another Superstar hacked my phone and posted a lot of messages on my Social media, which then lead to me finding them backstage, teaching them a lesson and breaking their phone.), sometimes this doesn’t feel overly cohesive, as once these small stories are complete, there is little to no mention of them in the coming play.
On one occasion I won a title belt based on one of these interactions and the following week there was no word of it ever again. I had no belt. Initially, I enjoyed this mode, however, it started to feel somewhat stale after a time, and even moving to a different show didn’t vary up enough for me to continue.
Showcase mode, however, was a different beast entirely. As mentioned above, this takes you through Rey Mysterio’s greatest matches and allows you to experience his career with his heartfelt narration guiding you. This felt very nostalgic, and I feel that it played on my history with WWE as a whole.
I’m not certain what appeal would be there for younger fans, perhaps though it would allow them to learn more about Rey, and how he got to where he is now. The story feels much more structured, and as a result, a more fluid tale is told. I much preferred this to MyRise, although it does have considerably less overall playtime/matches involved.
In Showcase, I especially enjoyed that matches changed from real footage to play quite smoothly. I was given the objective to follow a particular sequence of actions which transitioned into a video of that moment in the actual match itself then back again after the story was told.
This looked great, and the positioning of the in-game Superstar models (upon starting and ending the video) was meticulous. initially did find this transition a little unnatural as I wasn’t expecting the change to video, but I felt that after getting used to it, it was a clever way to highlight some key moments from each match without taking the player’s agency away fully.
WWE 2K22 looks great, with Superstars being immediately recognizable compared to their real-life counterparts There are a few missteps here though, with the usual odd-looking hair modeling in some instances. In MyRise, the characters you speak to outside of matches seemed a little lifeless, they were fully voice acted, but all stood in the same position and felt a little robotic.
I noticed some clashes in player models occasionally, This was especially evident with created Superstars, with the most prevalent example being when I won a Championship belt (the first of many) my character hoisted it onto their shoulder, and it immediately clipped through their shoulder pad. This is understandable to a degree, as the creation modes have so much flexibility it may be difficult to account for every option available there, but it was jarring at the time.
Arenas and environments look great, with attention paid to minimal details, down to the designs on the chairs the audience sits on. Some of these areas did feel a little lifeless though, such as the backstage area which, although I understand there wouldn’t be a crowd there, perhaps a group of crew members or wrestlers watching the action wouldn’t go amiss.
Overall, I felt that this is the closest to watching the TV product that I’ve seen yet, and bearing in mind that I was playing on a PS4, this is exceptional work.
The menus of the game are clean and crisp, leaving little ambiguity or confusion, each section leads you exactly where you expect to go, and on top of this, upon first entry to each area the player is given a short brief on what the section entails. These were not intrusive and could be dismissed quickly with the press and hold of a button.
In-game tutorials were similar, though these were a little more counterintuitive to the game flow. In the initial matches, the action stops entirely to describe how to perform actions, which broke a little of my immersion, thankfully they were brief and provided clear instruction.
The UI of the game itself is clear, giving you the right information as needed, including your health, special action meter, and flashing up with button presses (if enabled) to help time reversals. One thing that wasn’t immediately apparent was how the health bar/special meter actually worked.
The Special meter was segmented into three parts and built over the match as actions were performed and health seemed to consist of two bars overlaid with each other, green then red. I don’t recall an exact tutorial on these, however, I then went and played the tutorial mode, which cleared things right up for me and explained what they meant in easy-to-understand terms.
This is a game that you could feasibly come back to again and again and experience something different. Between Universe mode, MyGM, MyFaction, and potentially My Rise, as well as Play/Custom Matches there are a wealth of options.
Universe, MyFaction, and MyGM offer multiple options to play through as different characters, on different shows or brands, and could easily soak up a considerable amount of time. In saying that though, I don’t think I’ll personally return to MyFaction.
As it is based around cards, there is a limit to how much you can collect, and the packs can be bought either with in-game currency (which I found to be ponderously slow to earn) or via microtransaction. I feel that unless you make some kind of investment at this point, it would be a slow burn, which did not offer enough to keep me interested.
Universe and MyGM could be replayed quite a bit, as there is a myriad of options for play between superstar and brand combinations. I can see myself investing a lot of time in MyGM, as the overall running of a product appeals to the management side of my tastes.
I will likely play MyRise as a different created Superstar again and try to work through the substories, or play on the alternate shows, but likely only once more as I already felt that the mode was feeling a little stale (as mentioned previously).
There is definitely more here for most players, and the range of options should appeal to a wide range, but personally speaking, I feel my enjoyment will come from playing with friends, or delving into the created superstars online and recreating some classic matches.
- Multiple modes to choose from
- Extensive customization
- Great visuals
- Smooth controls
- Some modes felt Stale very quickly
- Showcase mode could be longer
- Some lifeless areas/characters
- Slow progress in MyFaction caused a loss of interest
- AEW’s new game is still in development, but will likely be the main competition for this title, with the developers (Yukes) being renowned for earlier wrestling titles. No Confirmed release date as of yet.
- Retromania (2021) – Arcade-themed title with some well-known wrestler names attached, and a 15 bit/retro art style.
- Fire Pro Wrestling World (2017) – Classic wrestling franchise that has made a resurgence in recent years, a little dated now but is considered the purist’s choice.
- Wrestling Empire (2021) – Mid 90’s themed wrestling indie title that heavily plays on Nostalgia
This is a solid return to form from a year break, and the effort involved in this is evident. The inherent customization, the community creations, and the Showcase mode were the stars for me, while the improvements in control and fluidity throughout made this a fun experience.
If you have even a passing interest in Pro Wrestling, I recommend picking this up.