WWE 2K23 doesn’t break the mold of last year’s big re-debut, instead offering minor tweaks and additions to the elements that worked. The action feels similar but is a bit more polished, the modes have more features and are a more solid package throughout. While there are still some issues to be resolved, 2K23 is a respectable successor.
In terms of controls, 2K23 is identical to the previous game’s revamped setup, but a little smoother. Legacy issues remain, however, such as: B. how tricky it feels to pick up weapons. I’ve also grown increasingly frustrated with having to hit multiple reversal keys because I often do the tedious guesswork of deducing what input your opponent might be hitting. I would prefer a single, universal counter, as setting the timing is difficult enough on its own. In a nice touch of accessibility, you can now choose whether Pinfalls requires you to press buttons to escape, or become the “Stop the Needle” mini-game from previous WWE 2K games.
WarGames is the big new match type, faithfully recreating the fun and mayhem of the real version. Additionally, the usual offerings return if you remember them, although a more robust tutorial will improve player familiarization or refresher for the various nuances of combat. The roster this time around is impressively deep, looks good and is mostly up to date. I haven’t encountered any significant technical glitches either – always a good sign for this series. Overall, the gameplay hasn’t changed much. So if you liked 2K22, you’ll slip straight into 2K23. If you haven’t, this entry is unlikely to change your mind.
The documentary showcase mode has a fun twist and lets you relive cover star John Cena’s career as told through his greatest losses. This is a richer offering than last year’s Rey Mysterio Showcase, as you’ll be beating Cena against a wide array of his greatest rivals, from Edge to The Rock to Brock Lesnar. The general conditions remain unchanged; You can complete goals like performing specific moves to unlock additional goodies like era-specific versions of wrestlers. This can feel like work, but the rewards are generally worth the effort, especially if you’re a die-hard Cenation.
I enjoyed Cena’s narration of him praising his opponents as he talks about what he learned from those losses, though I do miss listening to the subject’s comments during mid-game transitions to real video footage. Viewing these clips in relative silence dilutes their effectiveness. The generic music played during these games is absolutely lousy, and what’s worse is that you can’t turn it off in the mode itself. Still, Showcase offers a decently entertaining trip down memory lane and ends with a delightfully silly and unexpected twist that almost makes it worth completing just for the sake of watching.
I’ve had a better time with MyRise compared to last year, which offers two separate story campaigns. As a newly signed indie darling or second generation prospect, both stories offer wildly different choice-based narratives that range from the silly to the sycophantic, with humorous inside jokes for keen fans (like Executive VP Shawn Michaels, who claims WWE have a “great track record” of repackaging superstars under new gimmicks). Although this adventure unfolds the same way – chat with Superstars backstage to take part in main and side quests while choosing fights in your social media feed – MyRise is a stronger package this year.
MyGM remains a fun time sink, offering new match types and other options to build your chosen brand. Additional GMs (including Xavier Woods and Tyler Breeze for UpUpDownDown fans), modifiers that alter the course of a season, and the option to face off against more players are also nice bonuses. I’ve never been a huge fan of the sandbox-style universe mode, and while it now offers expanded narrative control to guide a superstar’s career, it’s not enough to keep my interest very long. MyFaction, in which you collect, build, and customize teams of superstars via a collectible card game format, is pretty much the same, but includes competitive online play. As with everything else, minor adjustments strengthen their respective modes in ways that should please their existing fans, but may not be enough to attract new ones.
Superstar creation is a reliable treat, and the expanded customization options and larger number of Superstar save slots improve on that. Photographic face-mapping is a nice touch that, while difficult to use, allows you to recreate existing wrestlers with more accuracy than ever before. Uploading or downloading custom images to an online database is easy; I enjoy making my own Superstars, but I get an even bigger kick out of just viewing and downloading thousands of community creations. Creating custom arenas (which can now be used online), gates, videos, and championships isn’t much different than before, but remains a fun way to unleash my creativity.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, online play is a bit of a disaster. During the game’s early launch for Icon and Deluxe Edition players, I never played a match where my opponent(s) weren’t immediately separated and replaced by an AI. While this is a smooth solution for keeping players in the game, the inability to play uninterrupted is very disappointing. Things haven’t improved much at launch, so I hope it gets patched soon.
WWE 2K23’s incremental bells and whistles means it’s technically an overall stronger package than 2K22. Unlike last year, however, it doesn’t benefit from the pink excitement of being able to play a major wrestling sim again after a years-long absence. The similarities to its predecessor mean that 2K23 feels more formulaic than special, while still continuing the series’ overall positive evolution. Like watching a returning legend perform their greatest hits night after night, the novelty has faded, but I’m still excited to have her back — for now.
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