It has certainly not been a smooth ride for video game wrestling of late, but 2K Games and Visual Concepts are hoping to change the narrative with the release of WWE 2K23, the latest offering bearing the brand of the most recognisable wrestling promotion out there.
Whether you are a fan of the MyGM mode, looking to relive John Cena’s biggest moments in the 2K Showcase, or hoping to make a big splash in the MyRise campaign mode, WWE 2K23 largely improves upon every aspect of the game in many ways, but there still remain rough edges for this aspiring superstar of a game.
As the game is an annual offering, there is a sense of familiarity with WWE 2K23. The combat hasn’t really changed much, which should not be a surprise considering that the overhauled system in WWE 2K22 was positively received. Striking retains a combo-like system, as does the setup into grapples, and the more simplified nature of it is actually a plus for players hoping to master the huge roster in the game.
That said, there are still some notable changes. For starters, there is the alternative of using the stick to kick out of a pin attempt instead of mashing buttons. It definitely feels more organic and similar to the real thing, especially with the timing involved to add to the excitement. Submissions and recovery, unfortunately, still requires furious mashing.
With the cover star being Cena, it makes perfect sense for the 2K Showcase to shine the spotlight on one of the biggest stars in the sport’s history. However, instead of celebrating his wins, the mode takes a sharp turn in highlighting his biggest losses instead.
Rather than controlling Cena, the action unfolds via control of his respective opponents from moment to moment, ensuring that no match feels quite the same. The downside to that is requiring players to learn the movesets of various superstars in order to complete the objectives. The magic is the interspersing of real-life footage with the in-game action, helping to tie in the flashpoints of each match quite adequately. This trip down memory lane in WWE 2K23 will do wonders for fans, but it is unfortunately not a perfect time.
The aforementioned objectives that require certain moves can be inconsistent in execution, leading to big moments that have players in control, while other times, playing things out extensively and making players feel like a bystander. There are significant misses in terms of wrestlers and matches in Cena’s history, likely omitted due to contractual issues. Even for the matches that made it in, the commentary and insights provided by Cena could have been more insightful. It seems a wasted opportunity not to make the most of the wealth of experience amassed by the legend.
On the flip side, we have MyRise, WWE 2K23’s dual campaign mode with two separate narratives focusing on the male and female wrestling world respectively. The Lock charts the rise of a male superstar, with players having to decide between conforming to company expectations or walking their own path, whereas The Legacy sees players attempting to step out of the shadow of a Hall of Famer aunt and the surrounding drama.
Both storylines have their peaks and valleys, ensuring that the entire experience is intrinsically tied to progression, both for the main plot as well as other side content. The semi-open-world structure is gone, and in its place is a menu system that takes away a little bit of the fun in exchange for a cleaner system that gives you all the important information.
It is always entertaining to see how things pan out when talking to fellow superstars, and the mode does contain a few interesting detours that bring more than just additional customisation options for your wrestler. Parts with voice-acting work done feel more natural than before, but the majority of developments are delivered in text, which can be a bummer.
WWE 2K23 does still have options for players looking for a more expansive way to play, with the Universe mode serving as the sandbox world to play as you see fit. Change up shows, plot feuds and form alliances between various superstars, no detail is too small, and there is always the choice of running through rivalries and title charges using a created superstar instead.
For those seeking a more in-depth simulation, then GM Mode is right up your alley, with WWE 2K23 making for a richer experience overall. There is nothing quite like showing off management chops than going up against other players, and with room for four GMs, smart promotion of your chosen brand, managers, and superstars will pay off in the long run. The addition of the Shake Up abilities that have a variety of benefits can turn the tide when used strategically, and all in all, the game has made it much easier to see everything that is going on and how your actions have an impact.
The multiplayer action extends to MyFACTION, now armed with online head-to-head action. By collecting and upgrading cards of their favourite WWE Superstars and Legends, players can participate in daily and weekly challenges while also competing online to earn rewards. Live events also spice up the fun every once in a while, testing the makeup of your dream team in different ways. Of course, microtransactions remain a talking point in this mode, as players can still choose to spend real money to get a head start. While the game does reward in-game currency, the artificial boost in progression remains an issue.
Having spent a considerable amount of time in the squared circle, WWE 2K23 has definitely improved on everything that was good in the previous entry, together with some new additions of its own to enhance the formula. The Showcase is still worth trying for the memories, MyRise has the potential to hit even greater heights, and the other modes all contribute to the feeling that this is a comeback for the franchise. In a market with few alternatives, WWE 2K23 at least keeps things tight enough to remain a deserved leader of the pack.
WWE 2K23 is available on the PSN Store for $99.00.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Rather than all-out innovation, WWE 2K23 consolidates its position by refining the work done before, and sets the stage for greater things to come.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 7.5/10
Presentation - 8.5/10
Value - 8/10