WWE 2k22 Review – 2K’s return is more midcard clash than Wrestlemania headliner

2K’s mediocre return doesn’t bring the pain

There’s something timelessly endearing about the WWF/WWE games. While No Mercy on the Nintendo 64 is heavily regarded as the best of all time, THQ’s Smackdown series has come close a few times to hitting the 3 count and snatching the championship from its current champion.

Smackdown 2 and Here Comes The Pain are two such examples of a near fall, before the series turned away from its arcade roots to become more of a simulation.

The Smackdown Vs Raw games were subsequently a bit of a mixed bag, before WWE 2K21 stepped up to deliver the worst entry of all time. Poor graphics, terrible bugs, frustrating gameplay and a lack of quality control from THQ almost tanked the whole series.

With the development changing to Visual Concepts this year, WWE 2k22 looks set to revitalize a franchise on its last legs.

Instead of Stone Cold kicking ass and winning the Rumble, this one’s more akin to a Goldberg Vs Brock Lesnar headliner; interesting concepts and a couple of nice spots but ultimately held back by an overwhelming amount out mediocrity.

WWE 2K22 boasts that this game “hits differently” and that is certainly true. The game has completely revamped its gameplay from the ground up. Some of the changes are welcome but a simplistic reversal system, wonky AI and a very repetitive pattern of play will make this title more divisive than it should be.

Attacks are mapped to a light and heavy strike, while you have your grappling and Irish whips mapped to the same button too.

A light tap of that button will tussle with your opponent, allowing you to press that light or heavy strike button to conduct different moves ranging from DDTs and suplexes through to chokeslams and powerbombs.

This works much the same way while your opponent is on the mat, with attacks differing whether you’re interacting with their legs, arms or midsection.

Much like previous games, using a combination of these attacks then raises your signature and finisher bar. Signatures are essentially a character’s most iconic moves, ala. Old School for Undertaker or the 619 for Rey Mysterio.

Your finisher is then (unsurprisingly) the devastating finishing blow to pin or submit your opponent… unless they wrestle free of course.

Pin kick-outs and submissions have been revamped too, returning to the old school method of button mashing rather than stupid minigames or the numerous other ideas THQ threw into this one.

The streamlined system this time around is very clearly designed for more arcade play and that does help with the general ebb and flow of matches.

Now, I mentioned reversals earlier and while playing against the AI is relatively straightforward, if you take your action online against other players, be prepared for a constant bout of reversing punches, kicks and moves.

It’s pretty exhausting and even more frustrating when it comes to finishers. With no limit to how many times you can reverse these (ala. Here Comes The Pain), there really is no consequence to just constantly reversing your opponent’s finisher. Playing online can honestly just turn into a constant back and forth of reversals, which gets old real quick.

Graphically, WWE 2K22 is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the wrestlers look fantastic and the inclusion of things like sweat and blood spraying around – especially during stiff punches and kicks – looks fantastic. By comparison, some of the NPCs in MyRise look terrible while animations are a mixed bag across the board. And the less said about the AI referee the better.

Outside of the arcade play though, WWE 2K22 breaks up its action into four distinct different areas. MyGM, MyFaction, MyRise and Showcase. The latter is by far the best part of the entire experience, which make it all the more disappointing that this is the shortest, over after a measly 2-3 hours.

Essentially, this mode takes a look at Rey Mysterio’s career, picking out 12 different matches and allowing you to play through them.

With narration from Rey himself between bouts, there are 14 different objectives to complete during each match. While you can ignore these, you’re incentivized to play these matches exactly as they were. In doing so, there are 2 or 3 segment that turn from an in-game cut-scene to actual footage from that match.

It’s a really neat inclusion and I hope Visual Concepts develop that further in the upcoming titles as there’s a lot of promise here.

Speaking of promise, MyGM mode is back with a brand new interface and ideas, albeit in a more stripped down, streamlined version. This was one of the more popular inclusions in the Smackdown VS Raw games and WWE 2K22 essentially adds more management additions, while simultaneously lacking depth.

For those unaware, this mode allows you to take control of one show, filling in the role of General Manager for that brand.

Whether it be Smackdown, Raw or NXT, your mission is to win the ratings war over the span of a chosen period of weeks.

You’ll only be pitted against one other GM, and your mission comes down to fans and revenue. Good matches and show stopping feuds leads to more money.

You can set up feuds and pit wrestlers against one another, although a match quality is determined by how you book those players, along with managing their fitness.

As we’re quickly told at the start, apparently big heavy powerhouses play better with cruiserweights. For anyone who has seen some of thE Lucha Libre matches, I’d be inclined to disagree but there we go.

Each show then builds toward a PPV, with the ability to increase money for marketing, staging, arenas etc. along the way for a ratings pop. I personally feel a more permanent unlock would have served the mode better, incentivising you to save up your cash and try to get good rivalries going.

Unless I missed it, there’s no option to choose who wins the matches either, which is a little annoying. There are “power-up” cards you can unlock with in-mode cash to remedy that but it’s only a one-time thing and random for when it becomes available.

The other issue here comes from the booking. This mode only allows you to book one on one or tag team matches. Want a fatal four way between four characters in two different feuds? Too bad. How about a six person tornado tag for the titles? Nope.

In essence, this mode feels more like a demo for something bigger own the line, and much like Showcase, let’s hope Visual Concepts develops this further in the future as there’s a lot of potential.

Universe Mode is essentially a more fleshed out version of the GM mode, but centers on a different superstar you take control of through their current career. You can take control of a pre-made character or create your own, and essentially you work to defeat different superstars to make it to the top.

It’s all pretty standard stuff and you can request all sorts of neat inclusions, like asking for a tag team, a different rivalry or changing from a heel to a face.

Another in-depth mode is MyRise, where you take a created character through a 20-30 hour journey to the top. You can choose where you start from the beginning of this mode – Raw, Smackdown or NXT – and then essentially play through as many matches as possible to make it in the bigtime.

You can gain fans through social media for your actions backstage, but the annoying inclusion of unskippable dialogue, long-drawn out segments and repetitive story beats make this feel tiresome in a hurry.

Having said that, MyRise now allows you to create either a female or male superstar for a differing journey, which is certainly welcome. How much you’ll get out of this mode really depends on how invested you are with your wrestler and how quickly you feel the repetitive elements of this.

Finally, we have the game’s crème de la crème of seedy microtransaction scum – MyFaction. For anyone familiar with Ultimate Team in Fifa, MyFaction is essentially WWE’s attempt at mirroring that formula.

Here, you collect different cards and form a team of 4 different superstars – 4 female and 4 male – to take part in various different fights. There are constant notifications to buy virtual currency, the actual rewards are drip-fed out in insultingly small portions while the level of grind excels well into 100+ hours if you intend to get all the achievements and collect everything. Honestly, save your time and money – it’s not worth it.

The mode has tremendous amounts of potential though and I can see this becoming the dominant part of Visual Concepts’s strategy going forward if people invest their time – and money – into this mode.

Right now there’s not much incentive for jumping in here but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see certain characters locked behind the grind in the years to come, with special players like Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho ’99 or even Brock Lesnar needing hours of playing this microtransaction-laden mode to unlock them. I can imagine this will become the primary focus of Visual Concepts in years to come.

Right now though, there’s absolutely nothing to recommend about MyFaction and while the microtransactions are egregious enough, combined with an insulting amount of grind, this one’s well worth steering clear of.

There are the usual smattering of creative options here too, ranging from wrestlers and belts through to arenas and entrance moves but the loading times for all this – especially on next-gen consoles – is ridiculous.

It’s a real shame too because some of the community creations are fantastic and blasting through MyRise as Shrek or Captain America is great fun. Unfortunately the load times significantly increase the more custom wrestlers and additions you add into the game, which stifles some of the fun here.

Ultimately, WWE 2K22 feels like one step forward and two steps back for the series. Compared to the early greats of Here Comes The Pain or the relatively decent Smackdown VS Raw titles, WWE 2K22 feels like a “Greatest Hits” of those games thrown together with mixed results.

There’s definitely potential here but it feels squandered; a promising wrestler buried under another mediocre Roman Reigns push.

Perhaps in a few years this game could be one of the greats but right now, this one’s a forgettable mid-card clash rather than a Wrestlemania headlimer.

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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