After a long wait, the WWE 2K franchise is back with WWE 2K22, which also marks the next/new gen debut for the series. We checked it out on a PlayStation 5.
When WWE 2K20 launched back in 2019, it was poorly received, and 2K skipped the 2K21 edition to make sure the next entry in the series lived up to fans’ expectations in terms of gameplay, visuals and performance. They filled the gap with the more arcade-oriented WWE 2K Battlegrounds, but WWE 2K22 marks the first mainline WWE 2K release in almost 30 months. Was it worth the wait?
For many casual fans of the WWE/WWF license, the games that are most fondly remembered are the classic arcade ones (ported over by the likes of Acclaim) and games like WWE All Stars from the PlayStation 3 era. And while WWE 2K22 doesn’t feature the kind of roster that centers purely on all-time great names in the business, it does feel like a return to form – while still reserving room for some of the all-time greats.
That starts with better gameplay mechanics for the fights themselves, one that does away with some of the biggest issues in the previous game, which included a limited number of times you could do reversals in a match. Having used them up, you’d be relatively defenseless, making for some pretty unbalanced fights. Now, you can pull out a reversal at any time, even late in the fight, turning the tables on your opponent when the crowd least expects it, in true WWE style. It’s also easy to string moves together for combos, with an excellent counter system where your opponent can block your move by pushing (and thus predicting) the same controls you’re using in your combo attempt. This is obviously more fun in a multiplayer setting when you can think “the computer cheats”, but it’s a system that works well.
The controls are, for the most part, more accessible as well. There’s a good mix of fluid controls and button mashing to please fans of other fighting games, relying less on timing each button press to a prompt. It makes for a more immersive experience that keeps you in the action, although part of the control scheme can still feel a tad unnatural and makes for a partial moveset that you have to actively try and learn and practice with – this is especially true when you start having to hold down a trigger while pressing a face button.
Most sports games these days have some kind of card-based mode, and this one’s no exception. MyFaction gives players a deck of cards and invites you to improve it by earning VC by winning matches and meeting certain objectives. It’s a concept that reeks of microtransactions at first, but luckily it doesn’t push these aggressively, giving you plenty of opportunities to gain access to the better cards in-game. Sure, WWE 2K22 is going to get plenty of post-launch DLC content and there’s all kinds of season pass, currency and boost-content available for it already, but the base game comes with a good amount of content that doesn’t rely on purchases. Sure, you’ll have to work for your rewards, but that’s the way it should be.
Additional game modes like MyGM let you focus more on the management side of a career, while MyRise is where you build your own character and rise through the ranks in a variety of ways – offering several career branches for you to follow. Prefer a more narrative-driven approach? Then there’s the showcase mode that features Rey Mysterio as its main protagonist. It’s presented well through specials animations and videos, and even has its own unlockable content. Not that WWE 2K22 is short on content, because in addition to recent stars you also get classic characters like Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, André the Giant, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior and The Rock.
Visually, the developers have done a much better job at polishing the experience this time. Gone are the glitches and lackluster character models from WWE 2K20, which is especially nice to see on classic characters who never looked better inside a videogame context. With a wealth of gameplay modes to use them in and plenty of unlockables, WWE 2K22 is a huge step in the right direction. The controls could still use a little streamlining, but this is a solid new starting point and we’re looking forward to 2K23 already in that sense. Until then, this one has more than enough content to keep wrestling fans happy for a while.