Dubbed “the rebirth of the WWE 2K franchise”, WWE 2K20 is the latest version of Visual Concepts’ pro wrestling game. It’s out now for PS4, Xbox One and PC – we tested it on an Xbox One.
Let me just start off by saying that I didn’t quite get the “rebirth” references to WWE 2K20 ahead of the game’s release, as the list of new features didn’t strike me as revolutionary but rather as a list of changes to what was already there. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t, and some things that should have been changed didn’t get the upgrade they deserve.
Before you start playing, you can dive into the character creation tool, which has a ton of options available to you if you enjoy visually customizing your own character. If you head towards the MyCareer story mode, you can now also take a female character into the narrative, which is a welcome first for the series. In addition, you can also tune the look and feel of the game’s arenas this year, though I didn’t make much use of this during my time with the game.
If you skip past the character creation process rather quickly (which also includes the option to upload your own face into the game), then there’s a meaty MyCareer story waiting for you – which I thought was well done and probably my personal highlight of the game. It’s completely over the top, like last year’s story was, and has a good 15 to 20 hours worth of gameplay in it. For even more story-driven content, this year’s 2K Towers mode highlights the career of Roman Reigns.
The game’s Universe mode has been more fleshed out this year, with additional cutscenes that help you set up your own wrestling events/shows however you see fit. You can add more fights to an event and you have more freedom in terms of the types of events you include as well. They’re changes that mostly affect the avid Universe players and not so much the casual ones, but they’re welcome nonetheless.
WWE 2K20 also features a heavy dose of DLC-infused content which we weren’t able to play with yet. These mainly revolve around the “Originals” concept that feature popular superstars so as to incorporate more of that classic WWE vibe, but from my experience this did little but highlight the limited amount of exciting new content in the core roster (which is still huge).
Of course, what matters most is the core gameplay, and I figured that’s where most of the “rebirth” was going to take place. Unfortunately, it didn’t change for the better, and feels somehow worse than WWE 2K19 did. I liked last year’s game well enough, but the combat in 2K20 feels sluggish and at some points clumsy in comparison. This is especially true when it comes to characters and how hits are (sometimes not) registered, which too often results in a “what?!?!” reaction from the player. There’s already been a patch for the game on release day, so hopefully this will be ironed out over the next few weeks – along with the visual bugs/glitches we saw.
The audiovisual presentation of the game also isn’t quite the step up I’d been hoping for. Visually it’s on par with last year’s (and some have argued it’s actually worse), but after playing NBA 2K20 earlier this month what really gets me is the poor quality of the commentary. Rather than something that seems organic, the commentary track feels like a throwback to an era or arcade sports games we’ve long since left behind – at least when it comes to the TV-like presentation that a game like WWE 2K strives for.
With the lack of meaningful new modes and the buggy core gameplay, as well as the DLC-heavy approach to content, it’s hard to recommend WWE 2K20 at this point in time. I think that if I had played 2K19 last week, then 2K20 wouldn’t have felt like a step up. Definitely not a “rebirth”.