WWE 2K22 Review: Dusting off the ring rust

After a two-year hiatus and a much needed revamp, does 2K and Visual Concepts have a champ or chump in WWE 2K22?

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Similar to how Vince McMahon’s pro-wrestling empire has dominated the space over the last 20 years, WWE has also dominated the pro-wrestling video game section in that same amount of time. The Fire Pro Wrestling series comes close but WWE’s roster of superstars were never part of that game. On top of that, Fire Pro Wrestling had a fairly steep learning curve that made it hard for younger or casual gamers to pick up and play.

So when 2K and Visual Concepts decided to take a two-year hiatus after the bug-filled and glitch-ridden launch of WWE 2K20, wrestling fans such as myself have been yearning for a game that would let us play as our favourite wrestlers and also live out our wildest dreams of becoming a pro-wrestler performing in the squared circle.

With that being said, I was incredibly apprehensive when WWE 2K22 was released in March. I waited after a month before finally pulling the trigger and picking the game up on Steam as it had a discount. To my surprise, instead of wanting to ask for a refund, I ended up spending around two hours just creating a bulked up virtual version of myself and enjoying the MyRISE (renamed MyCareer) mode for more than 10 hours.

WWE 2K22 is the best there is, for now…

The last WWE game I played was WWE 2K18 and I really didn’t enjoy the game due to its simulation-like gameplay and reliance on microtransactions in MyPlayer career mode. So I am really quite glad that 2K and Visual Concepts have given the series somewhat of an overhaul and along with it improvements and upgrades that even the most casual of fans will be able to appreciate.

WWE 2K22 comes filled to the brim with content even if you didn’t purchase the Season Pass, Deluxe Edition or nWo 4-Life Edition. There are multiple game modes for you to play such as exhibition modes, the aforementioned MyRISE career mode, 2K Showcase mode, Universe mode, MyGM and MyFACTION mode. In terms of superstars, the game has a huge roster but it is also incredibly outdated as over 30 of these have already departed WWE. On top of that, the game also splits certain wrestlers and their personas into separate characters with individual stats; for example, Finn Bálor and his alter ego “Demon” Finn Bálor or the late Scott Hall and Razor Ramon.

The flamboyant Asuka is always a welcome sight.
The flamboyant Asuka is always a welcome sight.

In the two months since its release, the game has received numerous updates and two DLC packs, namely the Banzai and Most Wanted packs that add even more superstars to the roster. One of the nice things about the updates is that besides fixing bugs and glitches, it also adds ‘normal’ versions of a superstar to the game such as Dominik Dijakovic who also appears as T-Bar and Alexa Bliss without her fiend persona.

Speaking of bugs and glitches, even with the multiple updates (the game is currently in version 1.12), there are still some glaring problems but they aren’t game-breaking. Some of the glitches that still pop up are wrestlers’ limbs being twisted out of proportion, the ring ropes merging together and the age-old ‘hands not in the right position to execute move’ issues. All in all, these are really minor compared to teleporting around the ring or glitching through the ring and never reappearing.

Right out of the box, 2K22 is definitely in better shape than 2K20. You have a slew of modes to enjoy and the game isn’t a highlight reel for ‘botchamania’.

Time to play some games

Moving on to game modes, I have clocked in over 30 hours in the game and most of it was spent in MyRISE mode. This is the career mode that lets you live out your fantasies of being a WWE superstar. You start off as a rookie in WWE’s Performance Center and from there you make your way up the ranks on either NXT, RAW or SmackDown, going from jobber to WWE champion in the course of your career.

I found this mode to be the most fun because it essentially is a role-playing game where you get to fine-tune your character from being able to choose their humble beginnings as an MMA fighter, indie wrestler, pro athlete or entertainer to customising their stats, move list, entrance and attire.

The storylines in this mode are also incredibly entertaining with a mix of camp and seriousness, similar to the storylines in WWE’s programming. The more realistic stories bank on things such as challenges from other superstars and betrayals of a tag-team partner while the campy side comes with the inclusion of being attacked by demons or arguing over how another superstar chooses to post social media messages. You are also given the ability to choose whether your superstar is a ‘heel’ or ‘face’, essentially good or evil, and by doing so will not only open up new storylines but also alter the way they react to situations.

Hulk Hogan had it easy – he never had to deal with the toxicity of social media
Hulk Hogan had it easy – he never had to deal with the toxicity of social media

Other than that, I have spent just a bit of time in the 2K Showcase mode where you get to relive the career highs and lows of the Greatest Mask of All Time, Rey Mysterio. This mode is really nicely done as a homage to the luchador as he narrates his journey and showcases various video highlights of his various feuds with the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Batista and more. Going through this mode also unlocks new characters, attires and arenas.

MyGM makes a welcome return as well as this was one of the most requested modes by fans. It essentially lets you play as Sonya Deville, Adam Pearce, William Regal, Shane McMahon, Stephania McMahon or a custom character to run one of WWE’s four brands, Raw, SmackDown, NXT or NXT UK. You will then compete with the other GMs to create the premier brand by booking shows, drafting superstars, managing contracts and controlling costs.

Big match feel

So it is established that there is plenty of content and fun game modes but all that would come to nought if 2K and Visual Concepts botched the presentation side of things.

Gladly, this is not the case. The majority of wrestlers look and move like their real-life counterparts. Of course, there are a few that would make you go “What?” when they first appear on your screen but overall, 2K22 models are a whole lot better than what we got in 2K20. In this edition, The Rock looks like the mountain of a man that he is and not someone cosplaying as him.

2K22 also nails two very important aspects of WWE, that being the entrances and commentary. Entrances look great with the new and improved lighting and as mentioned, superstars behave like their real-life counterparts. Commentary has also been improved and you will hear less repetitive lines. Also, if you were to pick two superstars with a legendary feud and history together, such as The Rock and Rikishi or Randy Orton and John Cena, the commentary team will actually give you a brief history lesson as the match begins.

Everybody loves a little Money in the Bank. Don’t you?
Everybody loves a little Money in the Bank. Don't you?

Finally, the revamped and simplified controls or gameplay engine makes it less tedious to play but some might say that it is too simple. Gone are the stamina system where superstars have to catch a breath every few minutes and the painful ‘stop the needle’ minigame. In 2K22, stamina only comes into play when you decide to run around for too long. And to kick out of a pin or submission, you just have to mash the right buttons on screen.

The new Breaker system for counters also makes the game more unpredictable and fun since it gets rid of non-stop countering. Now, you will have to predict if your opponent will be pulling off a light, heavy or grapple attack and it is incredibly satisfying especially when you are able to stop your opponent in their tracks and unleash your own brand of whoop-ass on them.

Almost a 5-star game

It is easy to acknowledge that WWE 2K22 is a real solid entry to the franchise and is a good step forward. It is packed with content and that is not even taking into account the Creation suite that enables you to create incredibly accurate wrestlers from other promotions for you to host your dream match. AEW’s Kenny Omega versus Roman Reigns? Make it happen in your game. In fact, you probably won’t have to create your own, as you can just download really good recreations with accurate attire and movesets from the online community.

Thanks to the online community, you can make your dream Kenny Omega match happen
Thanks to the online community, you can make your dream Kenny Omega match happen

If you are a fan of WWE or pro-wrestling in general, WWE 2K22 is a worthwhile buy as it does more things right than wrong.

Pros:

  • Revamped fight mechanics make matches more exciting
  • MyRise mode’s interesting storylines and branching paths
  • Majority of character models are top-notch
  • Robust character creation suite

Cons:

  • Outdated roster
  • Notable bugs and glitches
  • Long load times
  • Multi-man matches are messy

WWE 2K22

  Graphics - 7/10

  Plot - 6/10

  Gameplay - 7/10

  Addictiveness - 8/10

  Verdict - 7/10

Like other sports-related games, WWE 2K22 will mainly cater to fans of the sport and its drama-filled storylines. Even after the last few patches, there are still bugs and glitches but these are not game-breaking so you will still have a fun time going through the various modes included.

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