WWE 2K22 - A Fight Worth Coming Back For
It is no secret that the WWE video game franchise was in the toilet. After a steady progression of increasingly dull entries, WWE 2K20 did its very best to kill the franchise for good. It did so much damage that 2K took the unprecedented step of cancelling 2K21 and giving the developers an extra 18 months to complete the next entry. Well, that extra time is now over, WWE 2K22 is with the public and is hoping to win back both fans and respect. There was little doubt that this entry was going to be better than the last, but the question remains, just how much better? Will it be enough to right the ship?
The thing that is immediately apparent is the vast improvement in the presentation aspects of the game. 2K20 was abysmal, with in-game wrestlers barely recognisable and the commentary annoying and more often than not, incorrectly commenting on what was happening in the ring. Both of these elements are significantly upgraded. Wrestlers look like their real-life counterparts, from the lowliest NXT star to the WWE Hall of Famers and it is clear that there has been a huge amount of work put into just how the stars move and fight to further enforce the power fantasy. The commentary has also taken a giant leap forward, with it now accurately describing what is happening during the match and providing colour comments to keep things interesting. It isn’t at the level of commentary heard in NBA2K22, but it does the job without becoming intrusive or too repetitive.
Gameplay in this iteration has been wisely simplified. Gone are the complicated right-stick+button move lists and in its place is a three button system that makes much more sense and gives players of all skill levels a way to both get into the game and advance their abilities. A light attack, a strong attack and a grapple are the three main buttons. All of these can be modified depending on the situation and performing finishers, signatures or submissions is simply a matter of holding down the right trigger when pressing the attack buttons. The final button needed is the block button, which also doubles as a reversal button in a lot of situations. In WWE 2K22 there are unlimited reversals and quite a generous window in which to hit the correct button so matches really become a back-and-forth battle as both competitors aim to get into an unreversable combo or land a big grapple move.
There are some glitches in the gameplay though that are worth mentioning. These usually revolve around the more chaotic multi-man matches. The simple fact is, no matter how much you beat up on an opponent, they get up too quickly to complete particular objectives. During my career mode, I got stuck in a 6 man ladder match that I couldn’t win and neither could the AI. I just couldn’t keep five other wrestlers on the ground for long enough to climb the ladder and take the prize. I tried for nearly 90 minutes on that one match before I got too frustrated and quit out. Since that point, I have avoided these types of matches like the plague, which is a real shame because a lot of the fun of WWE events is this type of crazy action.
Speaking of career modes, in 2K22 there are two fully fleshed out story modes that players can partake in with their created wrestlers, one for males and one for females. These stories start at the WWE performance centre and diverge out from there based on choices made by the player. It is a lot of fun despite the fact that some of the storylines feel like they have been written by 12-year-old fans (which, to be fair, can be said about the WWE in real life.) There is a lot to do in this mode and it should take up a huge chunk of time before players get tired of it.
There are a host of other game modes for fans to sink their teeth into as well. My Faction is the WWE version of 2K’s traditional card collecting, daily challenge mode. At the moment it is a little light on in terms of matches and rewards, but I expect this to expand as seasons come and go and new events are added to mix things up. The MyGM mode is an interesting, if a little simple, management mode that allows players to book, manage and participate in their own shows while competing against other brands. Finally, the Superstar mode is the story of Lucha superstar, Rey Mysterio’s illustrious career. It lets players take a deep dive into his multi-decade career, replaying famous matches from his past. This is a lot of fun if you are a Rey fan, but for everyone else you might just want to play through it quickly to get access to the unlocks.
The last thing I want to mention is something that no matter how bad the series got previously, was always a highlight of the game and that is the creation modes. In WWE 2K22 just about every element of the game can be created and customised. From the wrestlers to the stadiums to the finisher moves to the entrance routines, there is a set of powerful, yet easy to use tools that allow players to make their perfect WWE experience. Thankfully this year there is a huge amount of clothing and cosmetic options available from the get-go and there is no need to spend VC or complete insane in-game tasks to unlock the vast majority of items.
The fact that just so much has improved in this entry of WWE 2K has this tired and jaded wrasslin fan smiling from ear to ear. There are still annoyances and glitches, things are far from perfect but so much has been done well it is hard not to be happy. It may be that because it feels like an age since there has been a genuinely enjoyable WWE title I am being overly excited about the level of competence shown here but I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game. I hope 2K takes notice and keeps the two-year release schedule instead of returning to the yearly title system. This is proof that with more time the developers can create a quality product, I am not sure that quality will remain with a shorter development timeframe. What’s more, if the franchise has improved this much with a 2-year dev cycle just imagine how good WWE 2K24 could be. It is almost too much to hope for right?
WWE 2K22 was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by 2K Australia.