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Review

WWE 2K22 Review

Back at the head of the table

It feels like flogging a horse that’s been hit with a dozen F5s and pinned for the three at this point, but WWE 2K20 was messier than the Undertaker versus Goldberg at Super Showdown. Because of this, WWE 2K22 is a make or break title for the series, with faith in the wrestling franchise being at an all-time low after the disastrous last entry. Taking a year off, Visual Concepts has managed to execute a huge face turn, producing one of the most enjoyable and accessible wrestling games in years. Packed with content and boasting meaningful changes to core systems, 2K22 is a CM Punk-sized comeback for the series.

The gameplay in WWE 2K games has moved further and further into simulation territory with the last few releases. For those dedicated enough, this allowed for matches to be hyper structured and realistic, but that came at the cost of an insanely high learning curve. Gameplay in 2K22 has been completely overhauled, taking an arcade approach that allows you to pull off exciting combos and high impact moves without first studying menus and move sets. Light attacks, heavy attacks and grapples are all given their own face button, with visually (and physically) striking combos being dished out when hit in the correct sequence. Reversals haven’t changed and nor did they need to, with the tide being turned when the player being hit with a move presses the face button when the on-screen prompt pops up.

Still the most electrifying man in WWE

When it comes to changing the momentum of a match, a new addition comes in the form of breakers. Players on the back foot are able to interrupt a combo or move if they can correctly guess what their opponent is about to hit them with. This gives players getting wailed on a chance to get back into the fight without it being so easy that it feels cheap to the wailer. Finally, 2K22 introduces a block and dodge mechanic that lets your grappler absorb blows and roll out of harm’s way when things are getting dicey. An entertaining wrestling match flows back and forth, with each wrestler getting their own offense in and the combination of reversals, dodges and breakers does a great job at replicating that.

The greatest change to the core gameplay is with the way that grapple moves are dealt with. Previous entries had you input multiple complicated button commands just to hit a suplex, but 2K22 simplifies things and lets you get straight to the flashy moves. Locking up with the grapple button, you’re able to point the left stick in one of the four directions while hitting light or heavy attack to bust out one of the more devastating manoeuvres in your arsenal. Sure, it may not look as smooth because every move starts as a lockup, but it’s so worth it for the simplicity that this new system brings.

There’s a huge amount of depth to combat, with springboard, top rope, diving and weapon attacks all requiring different combinations of inputs, but they all make sense and come naturally once you’ve spent a bit of time with the game. The biggest triumph here is that gameplay is simple enough that a complete newbie could pick up the controller and have fun. You can still study move sets and get technical, but those new to the game can also have fun. It’s a brilliant, much-needed balance for a game about athletes dropping each other on their heads in flashy gear.

You best believe that I booked Drew McIntyre to win the WWE Championship…and every match he’s in

The gameplay can knock your knee-high boots off, but the modes need to facilitate it for the package to shine. 2K22 offers up five very distinct modes that each provide a unique way to play. Some are definitely better than others, but there will be more than enough content for players to get through even if they bounce off a few of the options on hand.

Showcase Mode makes a return this year, focusing this time on the career of the best luchador that wrestling has ever seen: Rey Mysterio. Putting you under the many masks of Rey, Showcase mode has you playing through a number of his standout matches, with the man himself providing kayfabe commentary while interspersed real-life footage breaks up the action. While some of these bouts are undeniably some of his best, such as his contest against Eddie Guerrero at WCW Halloween Havoc 1997, others are…less iconic. No offence, Gran Metalik. Whether they’ve jumped ship to AEW or they’re unable to be included due to real-life circumstances, some of Mysterio’s best feuds were excluded due to his dancing partner. I get that this is unavoidable, but it’s a bit disappointing nonetheless. Regardless, the Showcase Mode is always a good bit of fun and Rey’s is no exception.

As close to a typical career mode as you can get, MyRise sees you create your own wrestler and control them as they work their way from obscurity to success within the WWE. Beginning with an extensive creation suite, you’ll customise your look, gear, mannerisms, moves and entrance before being thrown into the Performance Centre. From here you’ll make friends, and enemies and further the storyline both in and out of the ring. Taking direct control of your Superstar’s choices and social media, you’ll interact with other up-and-comers and legends alike on your way to the top. Throughout your journey from rookie to WWE Champion, you’ll take part in a ridiculous number of storylines and situations, many of which contain the perfect amount of campiness to make them genuinely entertaining. It’s no Citizen Kane, and the voice acting leaves a bit to be desired, but it’s light-hearted fun that has a surprising amount to take part in.

The answer is no, my created wrestling Ryan Mercer can’t make that distance

If you’re a bit of a fantasy booker, the returning Universe mode will have your trunks in a twist. Giving you free rein to control the matches, rivalries and storylines for Raw, Smackdown and NXT, Universe Mode more or less gives you the platform to make your “they should be pushing Tyler Bate” couch comments a reality. There’s also an option to take direct control of a single Superstar and chart their course on the roster, aptly named Superstar Mode. If you have an undying love for a specific wrestler like I do for Drew McIntyre then you might want to head in this direction, but I certainly had more fun with the more open-ended nature of the classic Universe Mode.

The most exciting aspect of 2K22 for many is the long-awaited return of the beloved MyGM Mode. Taking on the role of one of the three brand’s General Managers, you’re challenged to go head-to-head with another night’s show to see who can book the best show. Given a budget of $2 million, you first draft a roster of talent that you’ll build your brand around, ensuring to include a number of male and female wrestlers that specialise in different, complementary styles. Oh, and you’ll definitely want to wrangle yourself a good mix of babyfaces and heels, because no one wants to watch a fair sporting contest, we want blood feuds.

Each week’s show consists of three matches and three promo spots that you, the all-powerful GM, must book. You’re able to throw your talent in stipulation and tag team matches, bouts for the title or just plain old one-on-one contests, but you’ll need to take budget, compatibility and fatigue into account before making brash decisions. It’s tempting to just have a card packed with TCL and Hell in a Cell matches week after week, but you’ll soon have injured Superstars and empty pockets, so you’re best to build to bigger blowoff spectacles at the various pay-per-views.

Straight from the bingo halls to the biggest stage

To get the leg up on that pesky rival GM, you can spend cash to better your lighting and pyro, play power cards that hinder your opponent or buff your wrestlers and sign free agents to bolster your roster. It’s a balancing act that does make you feel like a backstage playmaker, albeit one with a hand tied behind their back. The max number of playable weeks is 50 and only two belts are up for grabs, so your creative options are fairly limited, especially coming off the playground that is Universe Mode. It can also feel a bit awkward at times as well, as you’ll end up making choices that go against your better judgement to appease the arbitrary-feeling requirements to put on a popular card. I’m endlessly grateful that GM Mode is back and it’s great fun, especially when played against a friend in couch multiplayer, but it does feel a bit thin.

Lastly, a mode that I’ll spend very little time talking about, is MyFACTION. The name alludes to an awesome offering that has you creating an unstoppable stable that takes over a brand, but it’s actually a take on the annoying microtransaction-pushing MyTeam Mode. Focusing on a card collecting mechanic, you’re tasked with opening packs to gain and upgrade Superstars as you put together a four-wrestler faction that will take on other quartets. Grindy and fairly uninteresting, this one just wasn’t for me. I know that this will appeal to some with ungodly patience, but I fully expect most players to play this for 20 minutes before heading back to the other, more engaging modes.

Touting over 200 Superstars, the roster sure does sound impressive on paper, but it’s actually a bit wonky overall. With some legends making the jump to rival promotions there are some sizable omissions, but the most uncomfortable aspect is that you could fill a full, 30-man Royal Rumble with wrestlers that have been fired from the company. I know that this can’t really be helped due to development time, but it causes a cringe from time to time all the same.

You’ll notice a trend here I’m sure

Lastly, I need to mention the visuals and performance, which, unlike 2K20, is all-around positive. The vast majority of the roster looks incredible and quite life-like. Of course, some look better than others and the odd Superstar on the bottom of the roster looks a bit janky, but the big stars like Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and The Rock are stunning. The animations are a huge place of improvement as well, with moves being snappy and impactful. Hair still moves like it hasn’t been washed in a year and belts interact with bodies like they’re magnetically opposed, but the technical performance is night and day compared to 2K20.

Final Thoughts

I had my fingers crossed that 2K22 would be a return to quality for the series, but I didn’t expect it to make such a grand entrance. With a ridiculous amount of content on offer, the lowlights of MyFACTION and the shortcomings of MyGM are eclipsed by the heights that’re hit with MyRise and Universe Mode. The true standout, however, is the overhauled gameplay that manages to be accessible and deep at the same time. Putting on five-star classics has never been so approachable and fun, and that’s a feat that any wrestling game should be striving for.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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WWE 2K22 Review
The Champ Is Here
Kicking out at 2.9 and coming back to win the match, 2K22 hits the ring with a huge amount of content and a revamped control systems that welcomes newcomers and rewards the dedicated.
The Good
Fun and accessible gameplay
Content galore
Solid performance
Showcase Mode is a good entry point
MyRise is good, campy fun
The return of MyGM
Visuals are great for the most part
The Bad
MyGM needs more depth
The roster is wonky
MyFACTION is a bit pointless
Odd Showcase Mode matches
8
Good
  • Visual Concepts
  • 2K Games
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC
  • March 11, 2022

WWE 2K22 Review
The Champ Is Here
Kicking out at 2.9 and coming back to win the match, 2K22 hits the ring with a huge amount of content and a revamped control systems that welcomes newcomers and rewards the dedicated.
The Good
Fun and accessible gameplay
Content galore
Solid performance
Showcase Mode is a good entry point
MyRise is good, campy fun
The return of MyGM
Visuals are great for the most part
The Bad
MyGM needs more depth
The roster is wonky
MyFACTION is a bit pointless
Odd Showcase Mode matches
8
Good
Written By

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal

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