I’ve been playing the WWE games since WWE Raw on the SEGA Mega Drive back in the 90s. War Zone, Attitude, Smackdown…been there, done that. Hell, I’ve even had the fortune (or maybe misfortune) to play the Dreamcast’s WWF Royal Rumble. That’s why, when I say I know my WWE wrestling games, I’m not joking one bit. WWE 2K22 just makes the latest game in a long line.
After the disappointing as all hell installment that was WWE 2K20, Visual Concepts was probably taken out back and given a hell of a lashing. Now, with WWE 2K22, they’re back and hungry to prove they can make as good a wrestling game as Yuke’s (the series’ previous developer) can.
Did they succeed?
What is WWE 2K22?
WWE 2K22 is the latest in the 2K Games’ WWE 2K series. It’s a arcade style pro wrestling game with wrestlers from WWE. After a year on hiatus, WWE 2K22 returns with a new engine which promises faster gameplay and tons of other tweaks. The game’s developed by Visual Concepts, with publishing duties by 2K Games.
Our copy was generously provided to us by 2K Games. Thanks a ton guys and gals!
After a dismal effort in WWE 2K20, Visual Concepts’ back with WWE 2K22. With a year off to work on the issues, WWE 2K22 is finally a game that’s worthy of the series’ pedigree. It’s smoother, faster, more fun and looks much better!
This year, the star wrestler’s Rey Mysterio Jr.
He gets his own mode (Showcase) where you get to step into the boots of the lucha libre wrestler and to fight in some of his most famous matches. Personally? I don’t really care for Rey Mysterio Jr so the mode’s kind of meh for me.
Despite that, I have to hand it to the developers…the presentation is top notch. The whole mode is framed as a kayfabe documentary, with Rey Mysterio Jr serving as commentator while we’re reliving the fights.
I’d have loved more background info and more archival footage (but hey, they’re all on the WWE Network anyways), especially of the LEGENDARY Rey/ Eddie feud in the early 2000s which is sorely underrepresented with only a single match. Talk about an injustice!
As you’re completing the given objectives for the fight, the match transitions from in-game visuals to archive footage of the real match seamlessly. It’s really cool to watch, and really shows off how good the visuals are.
Successfully completing the matches (as well as doing all the optional objectives) net you rewards, so you at least get something for finishing them all. You’ll want to finish them all too, because Showcase is the only way to unlock wrestlers like JBL, Eddie Guerrero and Shawn Micheals.
Powering it all is the new overhauled gameplay system. It’s now more arcade-like and very pick up and play. 2 attack buttons (A for heavy, X for light), a Block/ Counter button (Y) and a dedicated Grab (B) button round it all off. You do combos now by sequencing A, X and awesomely, B. Yup, you can now seamless segue from kicks and punches to grapples in one combo! FINALLY!
That’s not all! You can now counter during combos if you manage to guess what attack is coming next in the chain. If you guess (and press it) in time, you’ll counter, giving you a chance to retake the offense. This is on top of the Y button counter, which you can use at the outset of strikes or grabs.
Press the wrong button however and you’re stuck eating the punishment as you won’t be able to counter anymore until the next combo. It’s a definitely risk-reward system that the game sorely needs, especially with the new flexible combo fighting system. It does get a bit confusing initially though. Since grapples are countered with Y and combos with A, X, you might be thinking a move is a grapple when it’s a strike.
The best part of it all is that the Stamina system from past games is completely gone!
I’ve always hated it because it slowed momentum down if you’re on the offensive. You do a couple of attacks or throws and you’re winded and have to sit in the corner like a geriatric old geezer wheezing to catch your breath.
Yeah, it’s true that it’s real to life, but that doesn’t make it fun! I couldn’t be more happier that it’s finally gone!
Collision detection is mostly spot on, but there are a still a ton of moves that can’t be interrupted. AI is pretty decent though the referee AI needs work. It’s fine in single matches but throw multiple wrestlers into one ring and it has trouble getting into the right position to count pinfalls.
Sometimes it’ll get blocked by other wrestlers and just stutter around while you’re waiting for him to count somebody out. It’s frustrating at times, especially when you’re on the verge of winning and is perhaps the biggest flaw of this game.
There are a couple of weird glitches (mostly collision detection issues) that happen if you’re too close to the ropes and the ref’s nearby.
I’m definitely all for the new system though, not only because it’s speedier and more user friendly but because it’s about damn time the gameplay was in for an overhaul. The bloated crap that was WWE 2K20 proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt and it’s finally great that the series has had a gameplay overhaul!
In-between the fights, there’s also a new MyGM mode, where you can pick from one of 4 different GMs (or use a Custom Wrestler) and then run one of the WWE’s shows.
You’ll be able to tweak the options but essentially, the mode is a 1 on 1 managerial mode where you try to outdo the competition.
You do that by booking matches, setting up storylines and building heat to get the crowd hooked. It’s not as in-depth as I’d like (there’s not a lot of options of what to do per week) but as the foundation of what will hopefully be built upon for the new few years, it’s pretty fun…but VERY basic.
For example, there’s no way to invade the rival show and cause havoc. There’s no way to interfere with the other show’s superstars or steal them away from your rival. No way to set up RAW vs Smackdown rivalries like on TV. GM and superstar interaction is limited too, with a GM only being able to interfere in matches…pretty lame. Otherwise, it’s all just email messages and how you choose to respond.
You can’t do any of the fun things you see in the weekly shows. No stable formations, no alliances…and you don’t even get to do a ton of match types! Only normal, TLC, tables, Hell in a Cell or Extreme Rules. There’s no way to do a handicap match, Money in the Bank, Ladders or even a Battle Royale!
Even setting up the house shows doesn’t take much. You just choose crew and setting that’s to your liking and within budget and that’s it. Not much depth to it.
I really hope Visual Concepts flesh out the mode in future iterations though because it has a ton of potential if they focus on making it more in-depth!
If you’re hoping for more of a career mode, then MyRISE is what you’ll want. Here you get to create a custom wrestler (male or female) and have them progress through multiple storylines that you can pick from depending on your choices.
You can even pick to be a heel (bad guy) or a face (good guy) through the choices you make! Plus, the wrestlers are voiced by their real life counterparts so it all feels like a real WWE TV show like Tough Enough.
MyRISE is fun, but it’s hobbled by obscene load times between matches. It’s a shame because there’s actually a cohesive storyline in it…it’s just peppered between long load times that you’ll need to sit through.
Then there’s the MyFACTION mode.
This one is a single player card game in the vein of WWE Supercard where you get wrestler cards with various rarities.
You then use the cards you have to take on themed challenges, earn points and use that points to buy booster packs with (hopefully) better cards to use. Of course, you can also buy coins with real world currency.
It’s decent fun though you have to grind a bit to get enough points for the card packs, and even then, you’re not guaranteed on getting a good draw. It’s a bit too luck based for my liking, though the mode itself is fine.
I’d like the mode more if you got more points per match instead of having to grind insane amounts. A booster pack can range from 2,000+ to 4,000+ (depending on the series) and you can get about 100+ initially per match. That’s a LOT of grinding for just ONE pack.
Like it or not, no matter how good the fighting engine is, it’s the wrestlers that make or break a wrestling game.
Unfortunately, the roster in WWE 2K22 isn’t as good as it could be.
While there are understandably exclusions because a wrestler’s working for a rival promotion (which is what I assume is the case for missing superstars like Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan), that’s no excuse for missing old school wrestlers.
I mean what good is having Road Dogg without the inclusion of fellow New Age Outlaw Billy Gunn? Where’s Hacksaw Jim Duggan or Sergeant Slaughter? Bob Backlund? Owen Hart? Lex Luger? British Bulldog? Mick Foley? Arn Anderson? Where the hell is Sting?!
It even goes for other teams too, such as the APA. Acolyte Bradshaw is not in the game (only his JBL persona is), but Farooq is. Ted DiBiase is in, but where’s his tag team partner IRS? Jeff Hardy is included but where’s Matt? Hell, where are the Dudleys?! Why no Legion of Doom? You can’t even form DX!
Women representation is all fine and good but again, severely lacking.
Where are the original Divas? The men have their legends (such as Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and even Andre) but women trailblazers like Lita, Luna Vachon or Sable are all MIA. Only Chyna, Mickie James and Trish Stratus are representing the legends.
Also, why isn’t Ronda Rousey in the game despite being an active superstar currently? She’s a huge name, and her omission is like the game missing out on somebody like Mr Perfect, Jimmy Snuka (his daughter Tamina is in though) or Christian.
Oh waaaaaaaait…they’re missing too!
These omissions have me scratching my head because they just don’t make sense!
Then, there are the wrestlers in the game but with only one variation while multiple others have a couple of different versions of themselves included. Kevin Nash? 3 different versions. Undertaker, 6 (SIX!) different versions. Coverboy Rey Mysterio Jr? NINE! Holy crap!
Meanwhile, The Rock only has 1. Why no Rocky Maivia or the Nation of Domination The Rock or the Corporate Champion The Rock? Even Triple H is gypped this time around with having only one version of him (some past games have multiple versions) playable.
At the very least his Wrestlemania King of Kings version should be selectable, considering his outfit parts are present for custom wrestlers.
If you’re a casual fan, you probably won’t care. Hardcore fans (who I think are the target audience here) will!
Thankfully, the series’ wrestler creation tool is powerful enough to recreate anybody who’s missing. If you’re lazy, chances are the community will pick up the slack. The game’s not even out yet (as I’m writing this review) but there’s already an Acolyte Bradshaw user created wrestler available.
This shortage even extends to the arenas. With so many WCW, ECW and WWF/E arenas to choose from, only a handful are represented. There have been 37 visually distinct Wrestlemania arenas, yet only 1 made it in. Think about that for a moment.
Match choices are thankfully better, but the gimmicky matches you might have seen on TV are missing. There are no Inferno, Casket or First Blood match types though most of the usual suspects (Royal Rumble, Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber) are included.
I understand why Inferno and Casket matches aren’t included but First Blood (where the first wrestler to bleed loses) seems like a simple thing to implement. Still, being able to play local multiplayer on the multiple men modes does salve the burn a bit.
Loading’s pretty decent on the Xbox Series X too, with only a single 5 – 8 second load at the outset of every match. Once that’s over, there’s no more loading throughout, with the game transitioning smoothly from entrances to gameplay.
…But there’s a catch. The fast loads are ONLY for regular matches. Customizing stuff takes a while to load, and there’s even loading when you change gear! MyRISE also has some killer loading, which is mighty disappointing since everything supposed to be lightning fast this generation.
Wasn’t that the promise Microsoft and Sony made?!
The frame rate stays smooth thankfully, even when there’s a ton of activity on-screen. The Royal Rumble plays without a hitch and so do the rest of the game’s matches.
The upgraded (or maybe it’s all new?) engine’s also much better with cloth and hair physics and shadows. One of the best examples of that is if you watch The Undertaker’s (Ministry of Darkness) entrance and see his luxurious cloak and hair billowing behind him as he walks down the ramp to the ring.
The wrestlers themselves look leagues ahead of the plastic looking models in WWE 2K20. Faces are tremendously better, though some still have the dead eye stare (American Badass Undertaker for example). At least they look like their real life counterparts, so that’s something to be thankful for.
That’s not to say that they’re all good. Some, like Kevin Nash (NWO), still look decidedly low rent…still leagues better than everybody in WWE 2K20 though!
Wrestler entrances are glorious too and it’s almost the price of admission alone. Visual Concepts’ replicated most of them to be spot on to the real thing on TV. From Vince’s weird ass walk, to the People’s Eyebrow, it’s all there.
The OST for the game sucks but that’s no problem.
If you love the WWE, chances are you love the wrestler themes and you can just use them as background music for the game. The catch (there’s always one with WWE 2K22) is that each wrestler only has their current theme.
It’s a damn shame (again) because some really cool songs are missing.
Triple H’s missing his King of Kings theme (though the outfit is in as Custom Wrestler parts), Undertaker’s American Badass persona is missing Limp Bizkit’s Rolling as his entrance theme, Seamus doesn’t have Written in My Face as his music…I even miss Roddy Piper’s old bagpipe theme.
Commentary isn’t so hot either.
The lines repeat and sometimes they don’t exactly follow the action on-screen. For me, any commentary team without JR and The King isn’t anything to get hyped about. Hell, I’d welcome a return to the commentator’s table for Vince McMahon too! Just like when he was ringside during the late 80s/ early 90s!
The Bottom Line.
WWE 2K22 is a great effort from Visual Concepts after an abysmal first effort. Nearly everything that was wrong in WWE 2K20 has been addressed, which makes for a better game all around.
There are still a ton of issues that need fixing (lack of fan favourite wrestlers, lack of stages, weird faces) but all in all, it’s a return to form for the series.
Better than WWE 2K22 but still lacking in areas.
- Fast, fluid gameplay.
- Mostly great facial reproduction of wrestlers.
- Tons of customization options.
- MyRISE and MyGM modes are fun.
- Showcase unlocks are cool.
- Lots of fan favourite wrestlers are MIA.
- Loading times in MyRISE and customization.
- Some wonky collision detection.
- MyGM could be more in-depth.