Is the King of the Ring back in true form, or will it struggle to survive the 3 count?

With the release of the previous entry being lambasted not only by critics but by long-time fans, WWE 2K22 has some mighty large leotards to fill. From absolutely broken gameplay to a plethora of bugs and glitches, many fans are cautiously optimistic about the newest entry in the series and are wondering if it is time to get back in the ring. Does WWE 2K22 deliver enough ambitions to bring itself back into the spotlight, or will this be another loss by submission?

Are the graphical upgrades, gameplay updates, new modes, and general feel of the game brought up to high enough standards to make this game good enough for those who are new to the series, and bring back fans who were scared away by the previous entry, or does it flounder, like a gimmick gone wrong, soon to be retired? Find out as we dive deep into what our thoughts were during our time with WWE 2K22.

The Macho Man is Back

The first thing that fans of the series will notice is the massively overhauled visuals that shine high, offering almost photorealistic takes on your favorite wrestlers. You’ve never seen them look this good, and while there are still moments of the uncanny valley, they’ve almost got it down to a science at this point. Characters that haven’t graced the screen in years look just as good as their current roster, with love and care poured into every character.

Fan favorites like Macho Man Randy Savage are back in the fray and they look astounding. Using the power of next-generation hardware, you’re going to be seeing a lot of sweat flying, characters bruising as the match continues onward, and hair that flows, slightly unnaturally, but looking better than ever before.

While some of the standard animations for attacks still look a bit stiff, Finishers and Signature Moves both look great, thanks to new camera angles, and ways to make everything look a bit more exciting. Even the standard camera for the match has been updated to be a bit more dynamic, coming closer to the ring and giving you a look at the future of wrestling. Stages also look great, and offer a lot of life through the match, and match the personality of their real-world counterpart.

While the faces, bodies, and stages of the wrestlers all look great, if 2K is going to devote time and effort to one part in the future, they need to work on the eyes of their characters, which feels nitpicky to say, but can also turn something from almost photorealistic, to a slight bit of the uncanny valley. Characters like Randy Savage look great with his signature shades covering his eyes, but when they come off, he looks empty inside, snapping you out of the overall immersion that you’re feeling.

However, besides this minor gripe, screenshots hardly do this game true justice, as it looks and plays even more stunningly on the big screen. Going from the play-dough amalgamations of WWE 2K20 to this in just a matter of a few years shows that 2K and Vicarious Visions are listening to the fans, and making sure that this game not only looks great but plays great as well.

The gameplay is simple to pick up and play, allowing just about anybody to pick up the game and enjoy it, while letting you learn the nuances that the game has to offer to make every match feel as exciting as what you’ll see on your television. Featuring two attacks, a block, and a grapple mapped to the face buttons, you can excel through a match if you need to, but you’ll be able to learn reversals, different grappling moves, drags, and more to bring the match more in your favor.

It’s Enough To Get Me To The Boiling Point!

If you ask a wrestling fan what the most important thing about their passion for the genre is, besides the wrestlers themselves, it’s the presentation. Thankfully, WWE 2K22 excels at this, with a major bout of passion going towards the commentary, and the Showcase Mode. Before diving deep into Showcase Mode, let’s talk about how this game makes you feel like you’re smack-dab in the middle of it.

As you begin a match, you’ll be treated to a 1 to 1 recreation of these wrestlers’ iconic entrances, with their theme music and everything. Seeing wrestlers who have long since passed come down the aisle on their way to the ring, rendered with love and passion, is enough to get your blood pumping. You’ll hear the iconic Pomp and Circumstance blaring as Macho Man Randy Savage makes his way to the ring, showboating only in the way that he could, or The Rock, making his way down with his signature smug on his face. It’s jaw-dropping at times, just to see how much detail is packed into something like an introduction.

Commentary keeps up with the pace of the match, with Corey Graves, Bryon Saxton, and Michael Cole delivering snarky one-liners that keep the drama of the match playing out in great fashion. There are a few times that rather than calling out a name, they’ll just use a generic description, however, this doesn’t take away from the overall feel of the intensity of the match.

The Showcase Mode is a love letter to the cover star, Rey Mysterio, a fan favorite of those both old and new, going through the story of when he started in the biggest match of his career against Eddie Guerrero and follows through to his more recent matches. As someone who may have fallen off of the bandwagon of the show a while ago, you’ll still be able to relive those glory days, and the action is interjected with live shots that blend in with what is happening with the in-game action is enough to invoke the nostalgia of the WWF days. It’s an awesome feature to be added to the game and is a great opportunity for an older wrestling fan to show their kids why they fell in love with Rey back in the day.

With seeing the rise to fame that Rey accomplished, you may be interested to start your journey in the world of WWE, and that’s where the myRise mode comes into play. You’ll be taking your own created superstar through the ropes, and it’s nice to see that they didn’t just copy and paste the story for male and female characters, as they each feature their own unique storylines. It’s surprisingly deep and offers mild RPG elements, which is a surprise, and you can choose and customize just about every aspect. It tells you that you should expect to play through it multiple times, to be able to experience everything that it has to offer, and it’s engaging enough to warrant it.

The soundtrack of the game, managed by Machine Gun Kelly, is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some bangers on this soundtrack, but the soundtrack is pitifully small, offering less than 20 tracks. This means, since you can spend a lot of time in many different modes of creation, you may run into repeated tracks that may cause you to reach for the mute button, rather than turning the volume up. However, the music tracks that are in there are great but can get a little old after a while, and it would have been great to see more music on this soundtrack, especially since previous games have always had a large assortment of tracks to choose from.

Bring The Pain

If you’re someone who has been away from the world of wrestling for quite a while, the roster is a great mix of both legacy wrestlers and new ones. Featuring anyone from Hulk Hogan to Otis, you’ll find a varied roster of superstars that all play incredibly differently. While Otis is a hulking figure, he’s quick on his feet and delivers devastating blows, while the high flying antics of Rey Mysterio allow you to leap from the top ropes with ease, allowing you to get the drop on unexpecting enemies.

Finding the right wrestler for your playstyle is easy enough, but mastering them is where the real beauty of this game shines through. Through its new control scheme, you’ll find yourself reversing moves, delivering epic drops, and piledriving your way to victory in no time. And thankfully, if you get bored of one, there are so many more to choose from, that it’s almost staggering.

The amount of customization doesn’t just reach the Create-A-Wrestler mode either, as you can customize almost every aspect of the match. Rules, locations, belts, and more are all up for grabs, as you can choose to have a Hell-In-A-Cell match that takes place in the 90s with New Age superstars, or take a blast to the past and relive some Wrestlemania moments. It’s hard not to gush over the environments, the wrestlers, and everything else in between, but the extreme amounts of customization put the icing on the cake.

Multiplayer lets you bring the noise to friends and family, on the couch, or over the internet with a robust online mode. The customization that you’ll be able to futz around within single-player carries over to these modes, as well, so you’ll be able to create the matchup of your dreams. Want to see Andre the Giant fight Oney Lorcan in a David vs Goliath situation for a belt during a TLC match? You can make anything happen, and it’s an awesome addition to the gameplay loop.

However, one way that you won’t be able to bring the pain is to players on other consoles. Your multiplayer experience is locked to your console of choice, so if you have a PlayStation 4 and a friend has a PlayStation 5, you will not be able to play against one another, which is a shame since 2K has implemented this feature in previous titles in the past. WWE Battlegrounds had crossplay, why can’t its bigger-budget big brother carry that along with it? You will be able to share Created Items across systems, however, as long as you create and sign in to a 2K Account. 

Rise to the Top of the Challenge

As you complete matches, you’ll unlock credits that you can use to unlock more cards in the myFACTION mode, which is essentially a Trading Card Game that involves you getting your favorite wrestlers, and duking it out with their stats. It’s a really neat and interesting idea, that some players who are very much into the WWE Universe may fall in love with.

myGM makes its triumphant return in this entry as well, allowing you to step into the shoes of one of the General Managers of the WWE, and help lead your team of Superstars to victory. Budgeting money, promotions and more await you in this mode and allows you to get deep in the nitty-gritty of what makes this exciting and fun for their real-life counterparts.

You can draft your dream team of superstars, and run with them, or bring new members onto your team at any point, the choice is up to you. There’s a lot on the line in this mode, and you’ll find yourself getting more involved than you’d ever think you could.

One thing that comes up with 2K and their sports titles quite a bit is their tendency to put large amounts of Microtransactions in their games. Worried fans can breathe a sigh of relief, as beyond the Season Pass, which is bringing more and more wrestlers to the fray in the upcoming months, the only other major purchase that can be made is for the SuperCharger, which unlocks almost all wrestlers besides those locked in Showcase Mode for $5. Let’s hope that this is a trend that sticks around for a long time.

The Verdict

If there was a word to summarize how fans will feel with this title, it would be Surprised. Surprised to see how much love and care was put into this title, from entrances to the sheer amount of things for you to customize within the world. Visual Concepts knocked the ball out of the park with this entry, but there are a few little things that hold it back from being the greatest of all time. Is it one of, if not, the best wrestling games of all time? Yes, absolutely, but the lack of cross-play, and some wooden animations and goofy faces fail to sell you on the full realism that it’s so close to achieving. They have completely paid everyone back for the mess that was 2K20, and can only get better from here.