The last WWE 2K game came out over two years ago, back in 2019, and it was a low point for the series. 2K20 omitted key features of past games, had tons of glitches that needed reworking, and its stale engine made the game feel forgettable overall, but at the same time memorable for all the wrong reasons.
- Refined and improved combat engine
- More ways to play defensively
- A plethora of modes to try
- MyGM mode is a great addition
- Graphics are lacking at times
- MyFaction mode lacks appeal
- Questionable design choices in MyRise and Showcase modes
Like any superstar, taking a break was what the series needed as WWE 2K22 enters the ring feeling refreshed and better in nearly all aspects. Its new engine makes the game fun again and its generous modes, while not perfect, are an improvement from those of past years. This is the comeback the series needed, and the fans have been waiting for.
A Revamped Engine
The glue that holds the game together and ultimately lets it shine is the revamped engine. 2K22’s tagline of “it hits different” isn’t too far off as the controls feel so much better than in past games and give fans a more fluid experience when in the ring. Plus, your attacks actually do hit differently, as combat has been reworked to alleviate some of the clunkiness of past games.
It’s not without faults, however, as some animations are still too lengthy, and you will often see wrestlers magnetize to an opponent or teleport into position when one move transitions into another. If you’re playing a tag team match, your AI-controlled buddy will fiddle around the ropes before running to your aid when you’re getting pinned, whereas your opponent’s partner will be there in a flash if tables are turned.
Still, combos now feel like those out of a classic fighting game, letting you play with light and heavy attacks, and grab combinations to pull off diverse chain combos exclusive to each superstar. Adding in a grab button at the end of a combo, for example, also lets you link certain moves into it like a devastating special move or finisher.
With the addition of dodges, blocks, and unlimited reversals, combat now feels a lot more dynamic as you have multiple ways to approach an opponent or escape from their attacks. In fact, the game feels more defensive than past titles, but balanced enough that it rewards carefully-timed input. While you can now do as many reversals as you want, just mashing the button won’t get you anywhere, so you still need to keep an eye on the screen until the reversal icon pops up for you to press it in time.
Breakers also let you defend against combos and grapples, but you need to press the same, light, or heavy attack button your opponent just did to counter it. These are hit-or-miss as it means you have a fifty-percent chance of your breaker being successful. The game features a helpful tutorial led by Drew Gulak, but even he doesn’t go all that in-depth with this new system, so you don’t always know when to hit that button. Also, because some moves still have flashy (but lengthy) animations, you may end up mashing the button too early for your breaker to work, even if you were pressing the right button all along.
Another welcome change is how you can escape pins and submissions by mashing a button rather than playing those timer mini-games from past times. This not only makes you, the player, work for that escape, but it also makes you rely on your own button-mashing stamina during some intense moments. You’ll most likely break a sweat if you see yourself getting pinned a lot, but isn’t that what real wrestling is all about?
Sadly though, you’ll notice the same silly facial expression from your opponent each time you escape a pin taking away from some of the realism the game tries to achieve. While a majority of character models look great – bald wrestlers like Goldberg have even shinier heads and the facial wrinkles on some of the older wrestlers like Shawn Michaels (sorry, my man) are spot-on – some graphics are lacking and make you wonder if certain superstars received more attention than others.
This discrepancy in visual quality is apparent when you see your newly created wrestler next to one of these veterans. It’s a jarring contrast, but it’s nothing compared to some of the flat hair textures that make Shotzi look like she’s from a different console generation. Arenas look great, and the pyrotechnics definitely give the game that Monday-Night-RAW vibe, but certain parts of the crowd do look strangely empty.
Long loading times make for some frustrating moments, especially when outfitting a character or choosing what moves you want them to have. It’s painful having to wait for an item to load for you to preview it on your wrestler, but it’s just as bad having to wait for the next scene in your MyRise storyline to load up.
Featuring only 12 tracks, the game’s soundtrack is also a letdown, as it will loop quickly if we spend a lot of time designing our wrestler or if constantly revisit the menu after matches when playing certain modes. The selection is what you would expect from a 2K sports game with tracks ranging from rock to rap, but more beats would have been welcome.
Stuffed with content, 2K22 has plenty of modes, each with their own unique appeal and style. Take MyRise, for example, a familiar mode that returns with even more branching storylines and choices for you to make that will shape your superstar’s career from the very beginning as he climbs to superstardom.
Unlike previous career modes, the overall storyline is a bit more grounded this time, but still features a range of impressive writing to lines that will rival some of the cringiness you see on television. Still, with lots of matches to complete and the mission-like style of certain paths rewarding you with skill point to further improve your wrestler, MyRise becomes and impressive mix of RPG and wrestling elements that will keep you busy for hours on end.
Universe mode returns and remains largely unchanged, but now lets you follow an individual superstar rather than the whole roster. This mode has always been considered a poor man’s GM mode that lets you control various aspects of a show and play the matches you want to play, so this small, but welcome update makes it more manageable and offers you even more control.
For players who want more power, 2K22 finally features a MyGM mode that returns after being absent since SmackDown Vs. Raw 2008. Beyond what Universe offers, this mode lets you control all aspects of a show including your weekly budget, types of advertisement, and of course, a show’s programming. Each week’s number of matches is rather limited, though, and will be the same unless you’re doing a special event like Wrestlemania, but it does make up for it in its attention to detail and business, sim-like features.
You start off by picking your GM, brand, and the AI-controlled rival GM that you will be competing with each week. The goal is to come out on top by creating popular shows that net you a profit, but you also need to juggle pleasing your fans as well as your employees. Superstars will often ask you for favors and your decision can impact their morale, health, and whether you gain or lose fans that week.
WWE 2K22 is pure entertainment and an improvement in so many ways. Its refined combat system, tight controls, and plethora of modes give you the tools and freedom to make it be as fun as you want it to be. It does, however, suffer from some design choices that keep it from achieving greatness. It has the glitz and the glamour you’ve come to expect from the series, but it also feels humble, more approachable, and can still offer hours of fun until the next, hopefully even better, installment comes out.
Unlike the Universe mode, MyGM ends after 15 or 50 weeks, but the sheer number of different combinations, possibilities, and choices you can make during your role as GM make for a different experience each time you play. Whether you spectate or participate in the matches you organize, there’s a lot to love about MyGM as it offers you a different, more strategic way to enjoy the WWE franchise.
This year’s Showcase follows the career highs of Rey Mysterio and lets you play some pivotal matches in his career – some more important than others. These matches also features objectives for you to complete to unlock some extra content like skins and designs, and it leads this mode to feel like an extended tutorial of sorts that lets you explore the various ways you can move in the ring. Some impressive transitions from classic WWE footage to the actual match makes for a fun cinematic experience.
If you play Showcase expecting some memorable Mysterio matches, however, you will be disappointed as much of his career is missing. Fights with Kurt Angle or Chris Jericho don’t make the cut, but a random match with Gran Metalik somehow does. This is mainly because some wrestlers are no longer affiliated with WWE so while it’s not 2K’s fault, you will wonder why they chose to highlight Mysterio in the first place.
Another questionable addition is the new MyFaction mode, which is 2K22’s version of NBA 2K’s MyTeam mode. Here you can collect trading cards of your favorite wrestlers and level them up with the points you get from playing matches and completing daily challenges. You can even purchase in-game currency if you’d rather level up faster, but why would you? You can’t even play this mode online with others, so the pseudo fantasy football feeling of similar modes from other games is lost here, making it lack appeal.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
WWE 2K22 is pure entertainment and an improvement in so many ways. Its refined combat system, tight controls, and plethora of modes give you the tools and freedom to make it be as fun as you want it to be. It does, however, suffer from some design choices that keep it from achieving greatness. When you notice something great about a particular aspect of the game, an animation, limitation, or even song comes along making you raise your eyebrow like the Rock. It has the glitz and the glamour you’ve come to expect from the series, but it also feels humble, more approachable, and can still offer fans hours of fun until the next, hopefully even better, game comes out.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com