After a disaster of a launch with WWE 2K20, developer Visual Concepts went back to the drawing board with 2K22 to try and win the wrestling community back. The brand has unfortunately been one of the best examples of how to not launch a game, and for some, the bad experience still lingers in their memory.
Was holding back for two years enough for the franchise to make a comeback? Or is it just another flop to derail gamers further away from wrestling?
Even before the game’s release, the developers would post regular updates in their socials which included behind the scenes, dev diaries, showcasing new content to look forward to, etc. You get the sense that they really wanted to present WWE 2K22 as an entirely new product that learned from the mistakes of the past.
I’m happy to report that at launch, WWE 2K22 presents a strong foundation to build upon. While there are some design elements that are questionable, it doesn’t completely overshadow what Visual Concepts have improved upon. Although I do have to note that the bar was incredibly low to begin with.
Don’t worry, WWE 2K22 is not the broken mess that was 2K20. It’s here, it works, it looks damn impressive in doing so. While it may not be a perfect package, it’s definitely an enjoyable one for the most part.
It Hits Different
Visual Concepts wanted to emphasize how different WWE 2K22 would be from its predecessors with an all-new engine that was built from the ground up. This included overhauls in visuals, lighting effects, animations, and gameplay fixes that have been asked for by longtime fans.
Let’s talk presentation. The game looks great. Character models receive a significant touch-up from the past games with impressive skin textures and costume design. It may not be the likes of jaw-dropping visual fidelity of games such as Horizon Forbidden West, but the colors pop and everything else is much more elevated with the all-new lighting system. Just watch a comparison video between WWE 2K20 and 2K22 and you’ll see why.
The WWE Superstars would always seem to look like plastic in previous games which the developers would try to compensate with “sweat textures,” but with WWE 2K22, almost all of them look really great. This is the best looking wrestling game to date. But then again, that is what’s expected.
You do have a few outliers. John Cena in this game looks more like his character’s dad in the Peacemaker show and King Nakamura’s facial expressions during his entrances are the stuff of nightmares.
How does it all look in motion though? Visual Concepts claim that they recorded all-new animations and I came away really impressed with what I saw. The hits feel punchy and every superstar feels unique in their movesets. In terms of how the physics work with the environment and props, I pretty much have no complaints. Although, hair physics are still a bit janky alongside a few instances where clothing may or may not act in a way that clothes shouldn’t.
Nevertheless, WWE 2K22 looks great in action with barely any framerate hiccups on my end for the most part. Although, I did encounter two crashes during my play sessions and I wasn’t even playing a match in both instances. I was just browsing through the menus. I did also experience one game-breaking bug where my wrestler was just running into the corner no matter what I did.
In terms of gameplay, WWE 2K22 makes a few significant changes that turns the feel into a more arcadey one rather than a wrestling simulator — which is good in my opinion. I always felt like the gameplay loop of past wrestling games felt janky and unresponsive. Now, Visual Concepts focused more on a combo-based control scheme.
One button for light attacks, another for heavy, and another for grabbing. Deceptively simple and easy to get into, each superstar has unique moves to pull off alongside devastating combos once you master the control scheme. You can easily pull out a moveset for each wrestler in the pause menu and see what type of damage you can do.
Reversals can now be done in unlimited amounts. Gone are the annoying stamina meters and limited opportunities to counter your opponent. On one hand, this does make the back and forth between the wrestlers a fun tug-of-war as to who can pull off the perfect combo or time a reversal right but, it can also cause a lot of spamming especially for those who have a more advanced playstyle. Maybe a patch can be released in the future to place limits should the player choose. We just have to wait and see what the meta will be moving forward but for now, I’m having a good time with it.
Combo breakers are an excellent way to counteract those who would just spam a predictable number of light and heavy attacks. If you fail to hit the reversal button at the beginning of a combo, you can either be stun locked and take every hit or you can initiate a combo breaker. You can do this by anticipating what’s the next attack your opponent will do. If they’re about to do a light attack, press the button that corresponds to it. If successful, your character will counter and create an opening for you to do your own combo.
While the game claims that spamming the buttons will negate your chance to do combo breakers or reversals, I still find myself being successful in doing so from time to time. It’s not exactly clear when’s the right opening for a combo breaker is, but on the other hand, reversals are telegraphed with a pop-up button icon on the screen. This is especially easy to do against AI enemies. Some tuning for both moves should be done in the next few patches. I can already imagine online play being plagued with players who can just counter every single attack all the time.
Speaking of which, online play is a little bit of a miss for now. While the servers weren’t up or as populated in my first few days of playing, once I got into a lobby that claimed I had low ping, my game just started to freeze, slow down, and rubberband all throughout the latter half of the match. 2K servers are notorious for being inconsistent and best and unplayable at worst so fingers crossed that WWE 2K22 will hold up in the long run.
“Ultimate” Wrestling Experience
WWE 2K22 surprisingly has a lot of modes to offer from the get-go. The WWE universe has a vast array of personalities, storylines, and iconic events that the game does try to simulate with varying degrees of success.
My personal favorite belongs to the man featured in the box art himself, Rey Mysterio. The dude is just oozing with style and charisma in everything he did in and out of the ring. Plus, he’s such a nice guy to his fans. What’s to hate about him?
Given that he is my favorite WWE Superstar, I was pretty excited for Showcase mode. This will let you experience some of Rey Mysterio’s iconic moments throughout his legendary 20-year career in WWE.
An opportunity to play through iconic matches against iconic WWE Superstars? It seemed like a formula that would be hard to screw up. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with what was given.
It is interesting to have Rey Mysterio give context before every match, talking about what it meant to him and what he was feeling at the time while also narrating the fight throughout. You’ll be given a few challenges to accomplish such as doing a light combo attack or drive your opponent off the ring and hit them there. If you are successful, the game will smoothly transition from the actual footage of the match all those years ago while Rey narrates us throughout, and then it’ll transition back again to normal gameplay. It’s very intuitive and impressive. I just wish there was more of it.
There’s only really a handful of matches to play with here and it just leaves you wanting more. You’ll be noticing a few key moments missing such as Rey’s wins in Royale Rumble (although matches with multiple people in the ring is still borderline unplayable in this game so maybe it would’ve been a nightmare for them to code a storyline into that). It’s also worth noting that aside from the occasional narration from Rey Mysterio, there are no commentators in any of the matches. You just have to deal with the crowd (which has spotty sound mixing across all game modes) and generic background music.
The concept of Showcase mode is really fantastic and I hope they build this up more in future installments with other iconic WWE Superstars. But for now, what little they offer in 2K22 is already the best part of the package for me.
WWE 2K22 also houses the much requested return of the MyGM mode to the franchise. In here you can be the GM yourself as you plan out shows, schedules, matches, rules, etc. across the different networks. You call the shots. That’s the main selling point.
Unfortunately, that’s not entirely the case. For a mode that boasts the fact that you are making the decisions, it does put a lot of restrictions on your end. An example would be you’re only allowed three matches per show and you can’t even fully choose which superstars you want to pit against each other. The game will tell you that pitting Superstar A against Superstar B won’t get as many views as Superstar C.
The game will go out of its way to tell you that your decisions won’t be okay rather than letting you deal with the consequences yourself. It’s little things like those that hinder MyGM as the ultimate managing experience for WWE.
The mode doesn’t completely suck. It is a good time waster every now and then but I did find the limitations a bit too annoying for me to stick around any longer than I had to.
MyFaction is WWE 2K22’s answer to the money machine that is FIFA’s Ultimate Team. I know what you’re thinking. Oh boy, here we go. That’s the same thing I told myself when I first heard of this mode.
You can collect, manage, and upgrade different WWE Superstars through a card system. Weekly challenges and regular updates will be done to keep things fresh. You can purchase card packs using four different currencies – MyFACTION Points, MyFACTION Tokens, and Virtual Currency. The latter would be purchasable with real money. That’s right, microtransactions!
The catch is that MyFaction is a singleplayer only mode. That’s right, you can’t show off or compete against other players whatever cards you get because it’s all offline. The one saving grace of Ultimate Team was you get to brag about your team to everyone online if you got a good set. WWE 2K22’s MyFaction mode basically has no point to it in the long run.
And last but arguably the least as well is MyRise. This mode lets you build your own WWE Superstar as you climb the ranks of a lowly trainee to become a legend. Your journey will be determined by the choices you make. The mode can easily hold you for a good 50 hours if you choose to do both female and male storylines but then again, you might not want to.
While it is amusing to see whatever abomination (or impressive) wrestler you made in the admittedly extensive customization system, go through cutscenes, and compete against famous WWE Superstars, the writing and presentation of it all just feel so dull and boring.
Some WWE personalities lend their voices to this mode but that doesn’t do anything to elevate it whatsoever. Everyone sounds so bored and annoyed and in some cases, you can almost tell that some of the lines are recorded in quarantine. There’s no easy way to say this, the writing sucks.
The mode is also riddled with loading screens. I played on a PS5 so loading across all modes were pretty fast to be fair but MyRise is the glaring exception. Play a match, loading screen, dialogue option, loading screen, talk to this character, loading screen, make a choice, loading screen, play a match, and rinse and repeat. It just pulled me out of an already unimpressive experience and it just made MyRise such an annoying chug to go through.
If you are able to set all that aside, I’d say MyRise is a great guilty pleasure. Make the ugliest wrestler you can make and watch it climb to the ranks of WWE legends and be taken seriously. You make your own fun with the absurdity of it all.
Start Ringing The Bell
The game so far has been a relatively enjoyable experience for me. I like the visual upgrades and gameplay changes, Showcase mode shows a lot of potential for future development, and MyGM, MyFaction, and MyRise as flawed as they all may be set a foundation that can easily be improved upon with a few tweaks.
With a roster that has about 180 superstars (221 if including DLC), there is a lot to play around within 2K22. While it is missing a few key features such as legacy costumes and looks for some superstars such as long-haired Tripple H or a younger version of Shawn Michaels, I’m not going to complain as much as it seems like what Visual Concepts is trying to do with this title is making it as polished as it can be.
Maybe they’ll add those missing features later down the road with updates (hopefully they’ll be free but a big part of me doubts that) or they’re saving it all up for WWE 2K23 should there be one.
I know I sounded like I was bashing this game to bits throughout the review but I actually had a decent amount of fun with WWE 2K22. I guess I’m attracted to what the game can turn out to be because looking at it now, it is a great fresh start for the franchise.
Final Verdict – 7.5/10
It’s not the mess that was WWE 2K20. Compared to its last entry, this game is a masterpiece if we’re just judging it from a technical point of view. It’s unfortunate that we’ve come to a point where we praise a new game release just because “it works” but that’s exactly what WWE 2K22 is. It just works.
For wrestling fans, WWE 2K22 is a great package to pick up. If you’re a Rey Mysterio fan like me, the Showcase mode will definitely bump up the value significantly.
The game may feel a bit outdated in terms of accuracy since some of what is happening in the shows aren’t exactly reflected in the game. To be fair, it is hard to catch up to changing storylines in a live show with a game that requires months and months of development time. So expect a few superstars belonging to some networks that they’re not a part of any more or something of a similar concept.
WWE 2K22 has a lot of potential. It’s a great new fresh look for the franchise that was heavily squandered by a botched release back in 2019. Almost every change it tries to do is an improvement over past titles and the extra modes show a lot of potential. While it may not be the perfect package for wrestling fans, as it stands right now, it gets a solid 7.5/10.
This review was made using a game code for PS5 provided by the publisher.