Like most young boys in the 90’s, I loved the then WWF. It was decidedly grown-up, yet theatrical and it was at the height of its popularity. As games shifted towards the 3D era, wrestling games exploded onto the scene and were massively popular. Like many people, I have a lot of nostalgia for that era and like a lot of people, I fell off the wrestling train. I haven’t played one of these games in years and to my knowledge, the series has had its ups and downs. As always, I’ll give any game a shot, so let’s see how WWE 2K22 stacks up.
Despite being a sports game, WWE 2K22 has a career mode called MyRise and this mode boasts a huge wealth of content. You create your character and choose your wrestling background (which comes into play throughout the campaign), then begin training and complete basic matches. This attracts the attention of managers and you start to move towards which brand you like. You form bonds and rivalries as you go and the morality system is tied to whether you’re a Face or a Heel. While this isn’t altered during actual matches, the down-time in between gives you opportunities to help your fellow wrestlers, or be a total ass. There is a level of randomness to these events and it does an awesome job engaging you as you play, if you want to switch sides or alter relationships, you’re free to do so. The plot itself is kinda weak, it’s not as barmy as the Attitude Era storylines, here it’s mostly texts and social media posts (yeah…I’m cringing too). All in all, it’s a surprisingly great time, and there’s also a separate story mode for female wrestlers. If you wanna see everything, this mode alone will eat up many hours.
Watch the gameplay trailer below:
WWE 2K22 has another mode called MyGM. This takes the form of a management sim. You pick your roster of wrestlers and push them to glory. It’s not a mode made for me, to be honest, but I’m sure a lot of players will enjoy it. You can even go head to head online to see who’s the best manager.
One of the main detractors of the series to me is the almost impenetrable gameplay loop. Anytime I’ve hopped into a co-op match with a friend, I’ve found I’m completely out of my depth. WWE 2K22 seems to have trimmed a lot of the fat. Everything feels smooth and fast, as opposed to the older titles, that made you feel like you’re trudging through molasses. That’s a huge draw to newcomers. The billions (and I counted!) of stamina and health bars are stripped back and a simple and smart finisher bar makes things very legible. While I don’t have the full context, I’m told of inaccuracies with the grappling system of previous titles and I can certainly say that’s not an issue here.
Striking boils down to simple light and heavy attacks but there is an opportunity to reverse any combo thrown at you. This is only limited to the first strike in a combo, you have to predict whether your opponent will use a light or heavy attack as the second move. It’s a bizarre choice, if you fail to predict correctly, you’ll have to watch your wrestler get beaten down with next to no opportunities to defend yourself. Perhaps it’s my novice level of play but this concept does lead to frustration. You can expend a portion of your finisher bar to have a chance to turn the tides, which nearly balances things out. One of my favourite things about the combat system is the fact matches don’t feel like slog-fests, they’re snappy and exciting.
On a visual front, this game looks awesome. The team have put a lot of effort into the presentation and it shows. The wrestlers look great and the camera does an excellent job of following the action. Voice acting is as cheesy as you’d expect and clearly, some voices were recorded from home (a sign of COVID, so I get it) but it’s endearing. The soundtrack is killer too. WWE 2K20 was notorious for its horrendous bugs and I’m happy to report, they’re all gone. At least in my experience, I’ve had no issues at all.
I got this review code and thought “Meh, I’ll give it a shot”, as I always give a game a chance. The first few hours were fine, but the more I played, the more I got invested. The story mode (Which was my focus) may not be narratively deep, but the game nails the atmosphere and kept me playing. There are also all the typical modes you’d expect. A bunch of multiplayer and co-op modes and an incredible character creator are a given and the over 160 (!) wrestlers mean there’s something for everyone. We gotta mention it, yes there are microtransactions. Thankfully, these are only tied to the MyFaction mode, which is the game’s answer to FIFA Ultimate Team, I can let that slide. The developers took a year off after the disastrous 2K20 and it’s definitely paid off. I came into this review expecting to leave feeling moderately satisfied but left really enjoying this game. If you want to dip your toes back into wrestling games, I absolutely recommend this one.
WWE 2K22 was reviewed using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Publisher: Take Two Interactive Developer: Visual Concepts Release Date: 11th March 2022 Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Also Available On: PC/Steam, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S