WWE 2K22 (Xbox Series X/S) Review

By Neil Flynn 14.03.2022

Review for WWE 2K22 on Xbox Series X/S

Here we go, 2K are here to show the world what they have been working on after 2 long years of development on the next wrestling instalment. After the subpar WWE 2K20, developer 2K took a long hiatus and heeded the warning that the WWE universe gave them. Glitches, bugs and complicated controls were just a number of the criticisms thrown at WWE 2K20, but having an extended period of time off should have benefited WWE 2K22 and allowed for new ideas to flourish with extra polish applied to final product. Furthermore, with the mysterious All-Elite Wrestling (AEW) video game on the horizon it is now more important than ever that the 2K franchise delivers. A bitter place, a broken dream, call it what you want but WWE 2K20 was not fit for purpose, with WWE 2K22 ready to hit the reset button what has come good?

WWE 2K22 kicks off with a huge number of tutorials for controls, modes and menu navigation, an overwhelming amount actually. For returning players and newcomers the tutorials are vital to pay attention to, there are a number of new and returning modes with slight nuances. Walking players through the tutorials is WWE cruiserweight wrestler, Drew Gulak, who schools players in a quick training session on the control scheme, with X for light attacks, A for heavy attacks, B for grapple, Y for block and reverse and RT+X and RT+A to execute signatures and finishers. Light and heavy attacks can be chained into a grab combo which does allow for a fresh take on combat and while the control scheme can take some getting used to it does end up working well, even if it doesn't feel too intuitive at first. Annualised sports games have begun to add layers on to their traditional offerings but often rotate modes in and out so that they don't offer players too much in one standalone game, the FIFA and F1 series are serial offenders of this and WWE titles are no exception to the rule. The five main modes featured this year are Showcase, Universe, MyGM, MyFACTION and MyRISE, alongside the usual creation suite allowing for wrestlers, championships, entrances, matches, moves and others to be created and edited.

Screenshot for WWE 2K22 on Xbox Series X/S

2K decided to introduce MyGM mode for WWE 2K22, something that hasn't been seen since the THQ era of Smackdown vs Raw games. The General Manager mode puts the player in the driving seat of booking matches, rivalries, managing rosters and budgets against a rival show with the options being Smackdown, Raw, NXT and NXT UK. The general managers that are included are Sonya Deville, William Regal, Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and Adam Pearce, who each come with their own management style perk that can be activated once the season has started. The U.I has somewhat improved from the previous version last seen in Smackdown Vs Raw 2008, showing active rivalries while booking matches as well as the best suited matches per the wrestler's style. However, the mode can only be played in increments of 15, 25, 50 weeks which is severely limiting compared to the endless season in the original General Manager mode in the Smackdown vs Raw games. The fun part is picking a roster to build the show, although not all wrestlers are present to be picked in the roster, which dampens the excitement somewhat, once the roster has been picked it is still possible to sign free agents and WWE Legends in a sub-menu, which is useful to plug any gaps in the fictional booking that is about to commence.

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Speaking of booking, while it is easier to see what rivalries are actively running, there are now no options to show what type of rivalry it is. In an utterly bizarre twist of fate the mode has been stripped of being able to book various match types, with only Single, Tag, Tables, Extreme Rules, TLC and Hell in the Cell available. There is literally very little excuse for this, and it is an unfathomable decision to make considering there are so many match types in the game. Each member of the roster has two main attributes to watch out for, Stamina and Popularity, the more superstars feature on the card then the more their stamina will decrease, more so if they are being pitted in anything other than a standard singles match. Superstars' popularity can rise or decline based on CPU controlled promos or by being off TV for too many weeks. A maximum of 3 matches per show are allowed and there are only two belts to vie for, the men's and women's title, with no mid card or tag belt in sight. There is certainly more to the show booking element, with a new logistics menu which manages the arena, crew, special effects and advertisement on the shows. Superstars will contact their General Manager in rather insubordinate tones, and can come in with some conflicting demands of wanting to be pitted against one wrestler one week and then complain about it the following week. Superstars can moan about not being in the main event and even when they had featured in the main event the A.I system wouldn't recognise that they featured in it. Not bowing to the superstars demands will see them act like a petulant silver spoon brat wanting to be either paid an enormous bonus to keep them satiated or they'll huff and they'll puff and walk out of the show. Furthermore, the GM's are being guided by Triple H, via text messages, but the dialogue doesn't change, which means Triple H could be schooling Stephanie or Shane on how to run a show, which is just utterly bonkers.

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Players have the option to wrestle matches or simulate through them as they see fit, but despite putting on an amazing showcase, which would normally score 4 or 5 stars, the MyGM mode could score it a 1- or 2-star match if there was no suitable rivalry build up. The arbitrary scoring system is frustrating and the lack of match choice is bizarre, players who have no prior knowledge of what the GM modes looked like in games over a decade ago may not understand how much of a step backwards 2K have taken with GM mode, and this is even more disappointing especially given the additional development time taken.

MyRISE mode takes a created wrestler through the ranks of the Performance Centre all the way to the big time. Building character traits through obvious heel or face decisions just as obviously willing to do things that WWE management wouldn't be happy with or by towing the party line. At times 2K go a bit meta with these decisions, as some of the heel type bad behaviour decisions are what the dirt sheets normally report on for WWE superstars getting released. There are fully acted cut scenes with genuine voice overs, although, the lines can be delivered so stiffly that it surreal to think that these are WWE's top A-listers doing them, it is almost as if they have been forced into a recording booth and made to read lines. If it isn't the half-hearted read lines then like most people in the world, the created wrestler is glued to social media, which is where most of the in-game decisions are made by replying to posts and DM's. Despite these factors MyRISE is well worth a playthrough, with fun progression and choices that feel like they make an impact it certainly is worthy of the time taken to go through it.

Screenshot for WWE 2K22 on Xbox Series X/S

Showcase mode is a trip down memory lane, this time with long time veteran, Rey Mysterio and his journey from WCW to the top of WWE. This mode cleverly splices moments from real life matches of the past, by guiding the match to recreate the in-ring action in game alongside commentary from Rey Mysterio. Previous versions of WWE 2K have included Showcase mode which have featured from Daniel Bryan to the Four Horsewomen, and each time they have served as an enjoyable experience. The unfortunate downside is that this mode is fairly quick and could realistically be completed in one sitting. Universe Mode, much like GM mode is about putting on and customising shows, rosters and booking, although this time much to the players own pace, there is no money management or pressure to book rivalries.

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MyFACTION is a new mode that will be off-putting to older gamers and yet overly familiar to younger players who are used to microtransactions filtering through into their games. In the same manner that FIFA has FIFA Ultimate Team, WWE 2K now has MyFACTION, a roster-based mode where the player can build a small faction by purchasing packs of cards for in-game currency or real-world money. Like FIFA, this mode starts off fairly innocuous, offering packs for low prices, or free to help players get hooked, but after the initial freebies the grind begins. There are three modes within MyFACTION to play; Proving Grounds, Faction Wars and Weekly Towers. Proving Grounds features 5 chapters, each with their own sub-chapters that pits the player against a number of objectives and challenges. Faction Wars is an endless run of 4 vs 4 matches, which sounds like fun until the realisation of the tag mechanics requires the player to knock down all of the A.I tag partners on the apron to prevent them interfering in breaking up the pin. In the end this turns out to be a repetitive slog of weakening down the A.I opponents and hoping that all three of the non-legal superstars stay down long enough to get the three count. Weekly Towers, as its name suggests, is a set of weekly challenges, not too dissimilar from Proving Grounds, however the variety of matches and opponents is more varied allowing for less repetitive gameplay.

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To build a Faction players need to assemble 8 Superstars, 4 women and 4 men, as well as a manager, each of whom consume 1 contract per match. Superstars are broken down into elemental gemstone names, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire, Diamond and Amethyst. Superstars can cross over into different Elemental types, e.g WWE Superstar, Otis, can have a Silver card and also a Emerald Card, depicting a higher levelled Otis. Competing in matches players are rewarded with WWE Tokens and MF (not a Mattitude Follower), which serve as the currency to purchase new cards. Tokens can be used to buy new Superstars outright, and MF is used to open randomised Packs. If grinding isn't your thing, and 2K really hope that is the case, then it is possible to purchase VC, real-world currency to be used in game to open up randomised packs. This practice, popularised in a number of games has no place in a full priced retail game, let alone one that has multiple editions including a Deluxe Edition and the "nWo 4-Life Edition" costing up to $120/£105.

Screenshot for WWE 2K22 on Xbox Series X/S

Gameplay is hard hitting, with each shot feeling like it is inflicting real damage and the ring itself has not felt this tight in such a long time. The cadence of match momentum feels quite close to the end product too, with the ability to reverse and change things around in an instance. On harder difficulties this can be a brutal lesson of endurance and one wrong move will be fatal, but that is the half the fun. What isn't fun is the clueless partner A.I, which will cost dearly in tornado tags as they appear to do literally nothing, whether that be attack, defend or help break up pin falls and submissions. There is also the issue of collision detection, or lack of it, often instigated from attempting to do a top rope move or a running attack, both feel like a casualty of making the ring smaller. These issues aside the action itself can be fun to execute and the matches certainly have a good ebb and flow to them allowing for enjoyable play sessions.

The presentation is also something to take note of, with decent character models for the most part and realistic entrances, although some WWE Legends such as The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin look quite oddly inaccurate when compared with the more current roster. Speaking of which, the roster, is in somewhat a strange state of affairs, with WWE being relentless in releasing talent from their contracts the roster is somewhat outdated. It is bizarre that certain talent such as Braun Strowman, Ric Flair and Keith Lee appearing in the game and with other current stars or other WWE Legends nowhere to be seen. However, given the tumultuous past couple of years and developers having to work from home, plus WWE releasing, re-signing and ostracising talent it is probably fair to not expect 2K to be able to get this completely right. This also extends to Showcase mode where a WWE personnel have their face blurred while being shown in archival footage, such as the referees, commentators and strangely random members of the crowd. Luckily the community are saviours in helping fix the roster gaps as there are a huge number of Superstars that can be downloaded from the Community tab to fill in anything 2K have left out…and more. The roster is also going to be extended by the aforementioned nWo 4-Life Edition which includes a number of bonuses from alternative versions of Rey Mysterio, The Undertaker, as well the nWo versions of Scot Hall, Kevin Nash, Syxx (X-Pac) and Hulk Hogan. The "nwo 4-Life Edition" includes the season pass DLC, which is going to be released over the course of the year and includes a number of WWE legends such as Rikishi, RVD, Cactus Jack and The British Bulldog to questionable celebrity leg-ends from Logan Paul and Machine Gun Kelly.

Screenshot for WWE 2K22 on Xbox Series X/S

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

WWE 2K22 certainly hits different, go check the score again, it certainly has not come out a perfect ten. The redeemable qualities, thankfully, are the wrestling mechanics themselves, which ironically might not be everyone's cup of tea, and MyRISE mode which offers a good amount of content to keep the average WWE gamer going. It has taken over 2 years for the game to finally release and while it is an improvement on WWE 2K20 it still serves up disappointment in other ways, such as an outdated roster, a pathetic attempt at recreating General Manager mode, and a disgusting ethical issue of microtransactions in MyFACTION mode, albeit optional. MyFACTION mode is enjoyable, and can be played without using real-world money to progress, but the fact of the matter is that this mechanic should not exist in a full priced game. If you came to play then there is certainly a price to pay.

Developer

Visual Concepts

Publisher

2K

Genre

Fighting

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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