The WWE 2K series has been the premier game dedicated to WWE wrestling for nearly 20 years, with the first title — WWF SmackDown! — launching back in 2000. However, the last game to release for the series, WWE 2K20, was a disaster for both Visual Concepts and 2K Sports. Fans and critics alike panned it, calling it one of the worst games in the series, specifically noting that it felt like quality had dropped well below the standards for what the games were known for.
Following the launch of WWE 2K20, Visual Concepts and 2K Sports took a year off, effectively putting the series on hiatus for two years. Their latest effort, WWE 2K22, is out now, and thankfully for fans of the series, it's a massive improvement over past entries, and shakes up the way players experience this wrestling simulator.
Bottom line: WWE 2K22 adds some big improvements to core functions like gameplay and combat, while also introducing new modes like MyGM that make the game feel much fresher. Add to that a big graphical overhaul, and WWE 2K22 is a major step forward for this franchise.
- Major changes to grapple/combat system
- Visual overhaul looks almost true-to-life
- MyGM mode adds more depth
- In-game action doesn't feel like real-life wrestling
- MyGM is still fairly barebones
- Combat can get a bit buggy at times
WWE 2K22: What you'll love
|Xbox version||Xbox Series X|
|Game size||37 GB|
|Play time||20+ hours|
|Players||Singleplayer, local/online multiplayer|
The sports game genre is one that is constantly criticized for its lack of originality, and perhaps no game was no notorious for that than the WWE 2K series. For years, it felt like the franchise had never really improved. Thankfully for those interested in WWE 2K, developer Visual Concepts seemed to hear the complaints, and delievered what might be one of the best and most up-to-date entries in the long-running series in some time.
Just like any sports game, one of the first things you'll notice when jumping into WWE 2K22 — especially on a current-gen system like the Xbox Series X — is how much better the game looks compared to previous entries. Thanks to the two-year gap in between titles, the stark difference between the last game and this one is evident, with WWE 2K22 looking nearly true-to-life in certain scenarios. Superstar entrances and pyrotecnics go off just as they do in real life, and there has been a clear dedication to making things look as they do on an actual WWE broadcast.
The commitment to realism has also extended well beyond simple updates to the graphics, bug fixes, or benefits from a more powerful console. WWE 2K22 also features huge overhauls to the way the game actually plays inside the ring. Combat in the game feels much more fluid, with the mapping being overhauled to include more simplistic attacks (weak and strong attacks) able to be stringed together into various combos. It actually feels much more like a choreographed battle between two superstars than in years past. In conjunction with that, the upgraded physics engine makes moves feel even more impactful. Landing a signature move or hitting a finisher feels like it's actually ending a match more so than just hitting another move.
There have been other big changes to gameplay, with the grappling system receiving a fairly sizable overhaul. Unlike past games, the grappling system in WWE 2K22 is much more combo based, and rewards players for stringing together combos rather than just timing button presses correctly. Specific moves are tied to the end of certain combos, so landing a huge suplex or special move is even more rewarding.
Other improvements to gameplay are less grand, but still make for a better gaming experience. Signatures and finishing moves are a staple in the world of wrestling, and they return here. Thanks to the updated hub that appears when you're wrestling, keeping track of your signatures is easier than ever, and each of the three "bars" that charge up your moves can each activate their own move. If you'd rather use your signature bars to break out of a pin, for example, you can do that. Of course, you can also save it up to hit a huge move that then leads right into a finisher.
Reversing moves is still relegated to simply hitting a button at the right time, but they feel a bit smoother than they have in the past. Whether you're battling against a computer opponent on a tough difficulty or an actual player in online modes, the match doesn't feel as predictable as it used to. Now, the game rewards you for studying your opponents moves and timing your attacks at just the right time, and once you master the combos, it feels much more rewarding to take down opponents.
Big changes to key game modes
While gameplay changes were appreciated — and in many cases were extremely necessary — WWE 2K22 really shines thanks to new modes. Perhaps the biggest inclusion is the MyGM, a mode that isn't very new to the world of other 2K titles, but that has been missing from WWE games for over 13 years.
Similar to how it operated in previous games, MyGM allows players to become the general manager of one of WWE's three brands — SmackDown, RAW, or NXT — and run the show as if it were their own. Because wrestling is a bit more than just the actual matches, players will have control over managing each superstar, filling out their roster, booking the perfect match to air on TVs and pay-per-views, all while trying to become the most successful brand the company has to offer.
Getting the chance to manage everything is incredibly fun in an environment like WWE, where booking the right match can be make or break an entire show. Likewise, setting the wrong match for a huge pay-per-view event can have disasterous consequences, as can doing something like not making sure your budget is secure.
MyFaction is another new mode, and is WWE 2K22's answer to other popular modes like Ultimate Team, Diamond Dynasty, or NBA 2K22's MyTeam. Just like those other modes, MyFaction allows players to collect cards of famous wrestlers to build up a roster of some of the most legendary superstars ever. Opening packs, completing challenges, and playing through matches reward players with in-game currency that will allow them to buy even more packs. While the mode itself isn't bad, it remains to be seen how a mode like this might stack up against others. Fantasy sports is one of the biggest industries in the world, and while wrestling is extremely popular, it didn't feel as fun collecting superstars in this game as it did opening cards in a title like NBA 2K22 or Madden.
The final new game mode, MyRise, is essentially a fully realized single-player mode. You create your own WWE superstar (with an incredibly robust and deep character creator) and then take them on a journey through their WWE career. You can complete objectives for other legends, take part in feuds with current WWE superstars, and battle your way to the top of whatever brand you choose to be a part of en route to trying to compete for a championship. It's a fairly barebones single-player mode, but it's still a great addition to a game that was surprisingly lacking in a fully single-player story, especially when you consider how much WWE relies on its own stories.
WWE 2K22: What's not so great
While WWE 2K22 has improved in leaps and bounds across the board, there are still some issues that have been plaguing the game that have been around for years. For as realistic and downright stunning pre-match and post-match cutscenes and animations look, in-ring combat still feels a bit choppy. Occasionally, I noticed moments where wrestlers would either not react to something I did, or would simply move wildly instead of doing what I'd been trying to do.
Similar to past WWE 2K entries, 2K22 also suffers from a particular issue that isn't really fixable, but is certainly noticable when playing. One of the best parts of watching any wrestling match is the choreography between wrestlers. Whille pretty much everyone knows that wrestling is fake, the matches themselves are so entertaining because of how well they're put on, due in part to both members in the ring already knowing the outcome.
Because it's impossible to pre-plan an outcome in a wrestling video game, matches and back-and-forth combat can often feel a bit stale, and not at all like the real life product. However, it's important to note that this isn't always the case, and WWE 2K22 does take massive leaps forward in presenting something that feels much more real than anything else in the past.
Elsewhere in the game, while MyGM and MyRise are both great additions, they do suffer from being a bit too barebones. MyGM, for example, only allows players to book one-on-one or tag team matches, and has a very small amount of stipulation or bigger custom matches available. In MyRise, conversations between superstars and doing objectives also feel like they take up way too much time. I found myself often feeling like I was doing more talking and choice-making in the mode then I did wrestling, which made me want to play it a lot less.
Finally, the MyFaction mode, while a nice addition, will likely suffer from the same issues that other "Ultimate Team" modes do — namely, microtransactions and the ability to successfully play the game as a free-to-play player. Thankfully, unlike in other sports games, the microtransactions in WWE 2K22 are almost exclusively locked to the MyFaction mode, so players who want to avoid it won't have to worry, although for those looking to experience the mode, it's something to beware of.
WWE 2K22: Should you play it?
As far as wrestling games go, it's currently tough for fans of WWE — or any other brand, for that matter — to find a game that accurately simulates wrestling. Thankfully, WWE 2K22 not only has arrived in a much better state than it has been in the last couple of years, but it gives the franchise a new set of building blocks to go forward on, which is not something it's had in a long time. As of now, it's hard to not reccomend this game for wrestling fans, and there is a path here for the WWE 2K series to become the new gold standard for wrestling games.
Alongside the changes to gameplay, WWE 2K22 has also finally addressed some glaring issues present in many of its past entries. These tweaks alone make WWE 2K22 a must-play for fans, but perhaps most importantly, make for a much better game for those who might be finally looking to come back to the series after years away, or those who may be picking it up for the first time.
WWE 2K22 retails for $70 ($60 on last-gen consoles) and is available on PC, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.