The WWE comeback continues for 2K, as this year’s game builds on the success of WWE 2K22 to become one of the best wrestling games of all time.
After the disaster that was WWE 2K20, developer Visual Concepts took a year out to rethink their approach, with last year’s WWE 2K22 being a massive improvement. And now the comeback is complete, with the best wrestling game of the modern era.
From the get go, this feels like a more complete game than fans have had in a long time, with smoother action, deeper story modes, and an overall more immersive experience.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, after the great strides taken last year, WWE 2K23 makes enough tweaks to nail the feel of the real deal.
Whether it’s the dramatic new kick out mini-game or the new Fire Pro Wrestling style selection of sliders, making every wrestler behave like their real life counterparts, the developers deserves full credit for the work done here.
Reversals and interactions flow seamlessly, letting you feel more like you’re in control, with plenty more options for moves around all areas of the ring and backstage areas.
Graphically, the game takes another step up, although some longer hairstyles still look a bit strange and we spotted one occasion of a wrestler’s arm passing through their opponent like a ghost.
While all the main match types are back WarGames is this year’s big addition, and Visual Concepts have absolutely nailed its gaming debut.
The match is set in two rings surrounded by a huge steel cage, with two wrestlers starting the match and other opponents joining every few minutes from their own cages in the crowd.
The developers have been open about how the bout required an entire rethink of how the game worked, to enable the two rings approach, and thankfully they’ve done a great job of recreating the drama, including incoming stars being able to get weapons from ringside before they enter the cage.
Just like their real life counterparts, these matches quickly descend into absolute chaos, with the addition of tables, chairs, and more bodies only adding to the drama.
The other game modes have been given a boost this year too, with the latest iteration of Showcase providing a twist, as you’re tasked with beating John Cena in a number of his historic defeats.
It keeps things fresh with plenty of variety, although the necessary blurring of the referees during live action footage, and the ack of commentary, can be a little distracting.
The addition of Cena appearing on screen to break down the historical significance, and his memories of each bout, is a very welcome touch, and getting to play such scenarios as Rob Van Dam at ECW One Night Stand 2006 or Kurt Angle in Cena’s 2002 debut are a ton of fun.
MyRise features two distinct storylines this year: one for a female wrestler with family history in the business and one for a rising male star hailed as a ‘lock’ for success – with several different branches to encourage replayability.
Without giving away spoilers, the stories are entertaining, with side quests offering a chance to earn more attribute points to upgrade your wrestler, and adding depth to an entertaining mode you can lose hours on.
MyGM has seen major updates, with more general managers to choose from and the chance to play through multiple seasons with fresh objectives keeping things interesting.
It’s not perfect though, with some tasks not making much sense, like being told to put on a Hell In A Cell match during a random episode of Raw. A full calendar style GM mode, like the SmackDown vs. Raw series, would also have made it a more immersive experience.
Even with its flaws, this is still a major step up from last year, so the team deserve full credit for the deeper mode.
When it comes to Universe mode, the addition of being able to add ‘rivalry actions’ before and after matches makes things more exciting, with the Sandbox mode giving you total freedom over the shows.
MyFaction is back too, as are its microtransactions and virtual currency. It’s unwelcome but it’s important to note that anything that you can purchase with Virtual Currency can also be unlocked with MyFACTION Points you earn through gameplay.
Everything you do here – objectives in matches, weekly towers and more – unlocks currency to be used on new packs with name plates, wrestlers, logos, and boosts.
This year, you can also take your faction online and compete for global dominance, or compete in Weekly Towers and Faction Wars, while new themed card packs and goals roll out regularly throughout the year.
There are heaps of unlockables for use elsewhere in the game – arenas, championships and superstars to add to the vast roster – which are purchasable through in-game currency (earned simply by playing other modes), while five DLC packs and a deeper creations suite leaves plenty of scope for dream matches.
WWE 2K23 manages to build on what’s come before it, with a user friendly, entertaining, and engaging take on the wild world of wrestling, and it nails it every step of the way.
WWE 2K23 review summary
In short: An improvement on last year’s already firm foundations, WWE 2K23 continues the franchise’s rebirth with steady improvements, beefed up game modes, and an epic recreation of WarGames.
Pros: The gameplay is a lot of fun, as a recreation of WWE’s weekly TV shows. John Cena’s Showcase provides plenty of variety, with MyGM, Universe and MyRise offering lots of replay value.
Cons: Even with the DLC there are some unfortunate roster omissions, with Cena’s Showcase missing significant matches against the likes of CM Punk and The Big Show. Microtransactions are as unwelcome as ever.
Formats: Xbox Series X/S (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC
Developer: Visual Concepts
Release Date: 17th March 2023
Age Rating: 16
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