WWE 2K22 restarted the franchise on the right foot, and 2K23 looks to build on that success. The improvements and additions from last year’s game remain and are partially expanded. The legendary John Cena gives his blessing by gracing the game’s cover and starring in the heart of Showcase mode. That’s all well and good, but the addition of the long-awaited WarGames match might be 2K23’s most exciting point.
I visited San Antonio to get a hands-on tour of WWE 2K23 during a preview event hours before the Royal Rumble to get a sense of how it’s shaping up. After playing a few matches, my first thought was that if there are any major gameplay differences between this game and last year’s, they are subtle. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The gameplay is a bit faster and tighter, but it doesn’t feel like a significantly different game than 2K22 than what I’ve been playing. This includes some old annoyances rearing their ugly heads, such as: B. how tricky picking up weapons can be.
An overhaul of how pinfalls work represents the biggest exception, although it’s more of a return to their previous form; The pinned player stops a meter inside a moving, gradually shrinking box to punch out. I’ve never particularly liked this mechanic, so I’m glad it’s optional; You can switch to button presses to escape pins in settings. Speaking of pinfalls, 2K23 is adding female judges for the first time. Based on the superstars and performances I’ve seen, the presentation looks as sharp as usual, although some wrestlers’ faces, like Ronda Rousey, appear less polished than others.
Showcase, WWE 2K’s playable documentary mode, explores the career of John Cena but with a unique twist. This time, you’ll experience Cena’s journey through the eyes of the opponents who dealt him his most crucial losses. For example, I controlled Rob Van Dam and beat Cena for the WWE Title at one of the most iconic – and infamous – shows of John’s career: ECW One Night Stand 2006. Cena’s first loss to Kurt Angle is also playable.
Showcase still challenges players to complete in-game objectives to earn unlockable bonuses such as playable Cena variants, and the games offer the nifty mid-game transitions from gameplay to actual gameplay. Older matches also feature era-specific lighting, giving the idea that you’re playing a match from yesteryear, something I loved in last year’s Rey Mysterio Showcase. Cena also provides commentary in well-produced sit-down interviews and video packages. With an outstanding 20-year career, Showcase has the potential to offer a strong catalog of games and moments to relive, and its premise should particularly satisfy the “Cena Sucks” crowd.
I have participated in several WarGames matches, both solo and with human opponents in multiplayer. Visual Concepts faithfully recreates WWE’s spin on this former WCW staple, which, for the uninitiated, consists of two rings connected side-by-side, with a giant steel cage wrapped around both. Two teams, either 3v3 or 4v4 in 2K23, compete against each other, with the match beginning one on one before members of each team take turns individually joining the match at regular intervals. Pinfalls or submissions cannot take place until all participants participate and the first team to either score wins the match.
I had a lot of fun with this match. If you’re playing as one of the starting wrestlers, you’ll need to deal as much damage as possible before potentially getting double-teamed by an opposing teammate coming into the match, depending on whether you have the turn advantage or not. I also felt the same fear that wrestlers express on television when they see teammates being destroyed while waiting for my turn to even the odds. Superstars entering the match can bring weapons into the ring. After all, it’s not a WarGames without a few chairs, stop signs and tables.
2K also captures unique spots that you only see in this game. At one point I saw Cody Rhodes jump from the top rope of one ring to the other and then hit a springboard elbow drop. You can also push gorilla enemies from one ring to another and slam them onto the metal plate between the rings. Of course, you can climb to the top of the cage where you can take it out with anyone chasing you, or risk it all by making a death-defying jump. WarGames offers a fun and unique objective, even more so when you can fight five other friends. It’s a welcome addition to the package.
Although they weren’t available in my demo, other modes return from last year’s entry with expansions. MyGM adds new General Managers and more options to build the best shows and brands possible. The story-driven MyRise, in which you take a customized rookie from the Performance Center to Wrestlemania, is back with separate storylines for the men’s and women’s divisions. MyFaction now supports online multiplayer and offers a new way to build, manage and fight factions with four people. Universe mode has an overhauled story system, among other updates. Finally, the robust Creation Suite now includes cross-platform community creations, and custom arenas can be played online.
WWE 2K23 capitalizes on the positive momentum of its predecessor and the resurgence of quality at WWE TV led by Triple H. We hope this creates an equally enjoyable product when fans get in the ring on March 17th.
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