If you’re a gamer and wrestling fan, this has been a big, long-awaited week, as the first new WWE game finally appeared after more than two years.
Yes, WWE 2K22 has launched. And for this fan, it’s been well-worth the wait.
Following the disastrous WWE 2K20 (which I found virtually unplayable, mainly because of its horrible graphics), 2K took a year off from its usual annual release schedule to rethink the wrestling franchise and their approach to it.
With its new, redesigned gameplay engine, one that harkens back in many ways to classic titles like No Mercy and Wrestlemania 2000, WWE 2K22 is far easier to pick up and play, something that many of the previous installments were definitely lacking. That is a huge plus for this gamer, and matched with its exceptionally gorgeous next-gen graphics (I’m playing on PS5 with a review code supplied by the publisher), WWE 2K22 feels like a significant step forward.
As one expects from this series, there are many, many different ways to play, from setting up your single player matches with loads of match-types, to creating your own Universe however you see fit, to playing through the Showcase highlighting the legendary Ray Mysterio and some of his classic battles from WCW and WWE. There’s also MyRise, in which you take your created superstar (male or female) through their own WWE career, starting at the Performance Centre under the tutelage of Road Dogg Jessie James and Shawn Michaels, and all the way to the big time of Smackdown, Raw or NXT. As well, WWE 2K22 delivers the long-awaited return of the MyGM feature, in which you play the role of booker (here’s hoping you’re more Tony Khan than Vince McMahon right now).
WWE 2K22 also features the traditional, robust Create A Wrestler mode, along with the tried and true ability to access Community Creations and download various wrestlers, arenas, titles and much more.
Clearly, there’s a lot to dive into here, and depending on what you like, you may hit all these features, or stick to your favourites. For me, I’ve spent most of my play time trying out various roster members, downloading as many AEW talents and arenas as I can find and incorporating them into my own custom Universe, and playing through the beginnings of MyRise. I’ve been extremely impressed with all these features so far. While I have no interest in designing my own CAWs (I don’t have the patience for that), I absolutely appreciate the resolve and determination of the huge number of creators out there who have already worked hard to give us fans so many more wrestlers to add to the game.
As mentioned, for me the success of WWE 2K22 comes with its graphics and gameplay, both of which have left me really satisfied. That’s not to say things are perfect, mind you. While so many of the character designs are incredibly lifelike (check out Goldberg’s entrance, which could have been lifted off Raw or Nitro), there are other characters whose looks seem rushed or just messed up (I don’t know whose face is on Ric Flair’s, but that ain’t the Nature Boy). Meanwhile, while the addition of NWO legends Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sixx and Eric Bischoff are cool for this retro fan, the character design for the standard yellow and red Hogan feels far more cartoony than the other wrestlers found in the game. Is this a deadly killer? Not at all, but it’s these sorts of discrepancies that stand out in a title that’s full of stellar designs elsewhere.
One aspect of WWE 2K22 that is definitely improved, but could still use a more significant overhaul is the commentary. Compared to other sports games I’ve played, wrestling game commentary lacks the fluidity that I’d like to hear. Things are certainly better in WWE 2K22 than in past efforts, to be sure, and the banter between Michael Cole, Bryan Saxton, and Corey Graves feels more natural than ever, but there’s still a disconnect between calling the match and random comments that doesn’t quite work for me.
The biggest issue in my mind for WWE 2K22 isn’t the gameplay or the commentary, though. It’s the fact that the game already feels dated. This in no way, shape, or form has to do with the work of 2K and developer Visual Concepts. This is because of how WWE does business. WWE 2K22 features dozens upon dozens of talents that are no longer with the company, many of them the victims of either pandemic-related cost cuts or the recent decimation of the NXT brand. For gamers in the know, it’s a bad look when Road Dogg Jessie James is one of the lead characters in MyRise, and he was only recently let go from the company. The same can be said for William Regal, until recently the figurehead of NXT but now a member of the AEW roster. Not to mention Keith Lee, Kyle O’Reilly, or Jeff Hardy, all of whom are also part of AEW but are included as characters.
Ultimately, the main question for any game in a franchise is whether it’s worth picking up, if the tweaks, changes, and additions are worth it. Considering many of us have been playing WWE 2K19 for the last few years, and taking the gameplay redesign and next-gen graphic enhancements into consideration, to me WWE 2K22 is a must-have for wrestling fans. Though it’s not perfect, and depending on what you like to do in a game like this, those imperfections may be more noticeable; for me. this title feels like a next step and new beginning for WWE games.
It will certainly be my go-to when I want to get in the ring.