|Release Date||March 8th, 2022|
At long last, the WWE series of video games has made its return. It’s been about two and a half years since we’ve had a new professional wrestling game in our hands after the rough outing that was WWE 2K20. Developers Visual Concepts and publisher 2K Games decided to take a break to get the game up to the standards that fans have expected over the long history of the franchise. I have to give them props on that decision because it’s one we don’t see publishers and developers often make, even though it’s almost always the right one. The decision paid off here as well, as we have a much better product in front of us in 2022 than we did in the fall of 2019, and it’s one that I had a lot of fun with.
Over the years, the WWE series has become a convoluted mess of systems and controls that made the game increasingly more difficult for newer players to the series to pick up and play. In WWE 2K22, the developers chose to simplify those systems a little bit and find a happy medium between a deep control system and the ability to jump right into the match. The results speak for themselves. Gone are the chain wrestling minigames, rest hold minigames, and stamina meters. Now you simply have your regular health bar, special meter, and payback ability. It’s easy to digest and makes the game that much more fun to play.
The special meter is segmented and can be used for a variety of different things both offensively and defensively. Using one bar will allow you to immediately get up from the mat. This is something I routinely used in tag matches to get the quick tag in when my opponent thinks they have me dead to rights. Using two bars allows you to use one of the Payback abilities such as a timely low blow when the referee isn’t looking (if you’re a heel that is). If you fill your entire meter then you can use your Signature move. Land that move and you automatically get a chance to land your Finisher. It’s a fluid system that allows you to use the moves that will benefit you the most in the moment. Sometimes a quick return to your feet is more beneficial than hitting a Signature.
The one big change that I’m kind of on the fence about is the removal of the reversal stock system. This was implemented back in 2K16 and was primarily there so that experienced players didn’t just spend an entire match reversing every move until someone screws up. I’ve been in one of those kinds of matches in 2K22 and it really just led to things dragging on and on until I finally hit my finisher for pinfall. The problem with having them in the game is it can feel pretty unrealistic if you use them all up quickly and then struggle the rest of the match. I can understand why people would want them included in the game, but it should really be an option rather than just an outright removal even if I do probably prefer them to be removed if I had to choose.
Another welcome change to the fundamentals is a complete overhaul of the striking and grapple system to make it feel more like a fighting game in some respects. WWE 2K22 uses three differnt face buttons for light, heavy, and grab combos with a maximum of four button presses in each combo by pressing a button of equal or higher strength. Grabs will end the combo and it feels really satisfying when you chain something together in quick succession. It helps the match flow better than just doing random moves over and over again. Only the first hit of the combo is reversible. Beyond that you’ll have to guess what button your opponent is going to press next. If you guess wrong, you’ll be forced to take the full force of the combo. It’s a rewarding thing that is more luck based than the tradtional reversal system so it gives each match some unpredictability.
MyRise is WWE 2K22’s Career Mode and it might be the best one that this series has had in years after a couple of attempts at playing out a story in the last couple of games. This year’s edition scraps the linear story in favor of a much more open-ended experience. You have a lot of freedom with what you do with your character. You start out in the Performance Center and make your way up the ranks but you can choose your storylines and change those storylines on the fly using social media or talking to different people backstage or in places like the gym. You choose who you become allies or rivals with and what championships you want to go after. It’s a very simple mode but that’s a huge posittive for me because Career Mode has largely been pretty hit and miss over the years. It’s a mode that will keep you busy for a long time if you really want to go through the different storylines (althoough there aren’t many truly notable ones and some of the voiceover work leaves much to be desired), go after all the belts on all three brands and do both a female and male run. The best part about it is that there’s no progression system standing in the way of you customizing your character. It’s easy to update your stats and change your attire, entrance, and moveset. It’s not a perfect mode but the building blocks for the future are there and there’s still some fun to be had here.
Showcase Mode feels pretty similar to previous years which isn’t a big problem for me because it’s something I usually play in an afternoon sitting and never touch again. I was annoyed that I had to replay an entire match against Batista because I couldn’t get a move to function properly and he ended up pinning me after a Batista Bomb. It would be nice to add a checkpoint system so I don’t have to waste my time replaying a bunch of stuff I’ve already done successfully. This year’s Showcase focuses on Rey Mysterio and his emotional journey through WWE. I felt that they didn’t focus enough on his debut in 2002. They only had one WCW match which I felt was a pretty big miss but we have to consider who they have under contract when they put together these modes. There were some really awesome transitions between real footage and the game engine that I really enjoyed a lot. There’s even a special bonus match if you clear the main path.
There’s the traditional Universe Mode which is a great sabndbox that allows you to customize things as you see fit. You can even take one Superstar through the mode by themselves. I tried one with Rob Van Dam but after 45 minutes in a Money in the Bank Match with everyone still full of energy and not allowing anyone to grab the breifcase, I tosse that aside. I didn’t see any way to skip that match so I was just stuck but it could have been something I was missing. It’s fun to take your Superstar through and try to get title shots and make new rivalries though. There’s are so many roads you can take. MyFaction is a new mode that is full of microtransactions and allows you to assemble a team of Superstars to grind through matches. It’s alright but nothing I’ll sink much time into.
MyGM mode is the new kid on the block and it’s ncie to finally see it come back in its first iteration since Smackdown vs. Raw 2008. This mode puts you in the role of a Genral Manager for one of the brands in WWE. You can compete against the AI or against another player and choose the difficulty level. It’s not as deep as some of the older games in the series. There are only 3 matches on main shows and it’s either tag or singles matches which really drops the appeal level for me. I wanted a lot more variety than I was able to get out of this mode. I hope the developers can build off of this in years to come to create something that has much more longevity. Once you’ve played a few weeks, the fun factor wears off because you’ve done practically every type of match you can do.
The presentation of the game is fantastic. The character models look MUCH better than 2K20. The commentary seems pretty solid even if it can still get repetitive at times. Entrances look great. The creation suite allows you to make anyone you can possibly dream of and put them in the game. There’s a huge roster of characters and a lot of variants of the ones that are there as well. There’s evena huge backstage area to use as your own little sandbox complete with platforms to toss your opponent off of and tons of weaponry.
WWE 2K22 is the reset that this series needed and one of the biggest steps forward that this series has seen in quite some time. The bugs are virtually gone from 2K20, MyRise brings Career Mode into a better direction, Universe Mode is better than ever, MyGM is a decent first step, and MyFaction allows those that want to to assemble their perfect 4 person roster of female and male Superstars. It’s not a perfect game by any means but it is a game that returns the series to its Smackdown roots more than the simulation route that it was going to. If you’ve been on the fence about a wrestling game, this one is a solid pickup.
|Universe Mode||MyGM mode isn’t as fleshed out as I’d like|
|Presentation is great||MyFaction feels tacked on and fairly unnecessary|
|MyRise is a fun new direction for Career Mode|