WWE 2K23 (Xbox Series X/S) Review

By Neil Flynn 16.03.2023

Review for WWE 2K23 on Xbox Series X/S

Last year's WWE 2K22 was certainly the step up that was needed after WWE 2K20. However, little has changed from the previous iteration that came out in 2022 and that isn't necessarily a negative reaction. What WWE 2K23 does is ever so slightly iterate on the positives from WWE 2K22 and there certainly are advantages to this, but is it really enough for fans of the franchise to stomach starting their seasons and factions all over again? Read on to find out.

The tentpole feature of most modern WWE 2K games tend to be who features in the illustrious 'Showcase mode'. In Showcase mode, players follow the superstar of choice through their storied career, re-enacting matches from their past which have been spliced with real-life back catalogue footage and narrated by that wrestler. In previous years, Showcase has had smaller run angles, often showing more distinct rivalries rather than their whole career, more recent Showcases have included Rey Mysterio and Daniel Bryan, who have had their careers documented and now it is John Cena's turn. The twist this year is that players now get to control the opponents, which greatly mixes up the monotony of only playing with the select showcase wrestler for so many matches. John Cena's 20-year career has many great matches and there are tonnes of incredible bouts to get stuck into. The inter-spliced WWE footage still features random blurring of commentators, referees and certain fans, items of clothing, some advertising boards, hand gestures and a bunch of other seemingly innocuous items are also blurred. It is a little strange as these things aren't blurred on the WWE Network, which probably means there is a pay dispute to be featured in games, although it is interesting to see random fans blurred out or fan chants censored. Unfortunately, like previous games in the series, once showcase mode is over there is little to go back to, and this can be finished over the course of a couple of hours, meaning that the remaining modes need to feature more meat on their bones to make this a worthwhile purchase.

Thankfully, there is a steakhouse full of options when it comes other play options outside of Showcase mode. The next biggest addition to WWE 2K23 is the debut of a new match type, WarGames. The unique double cage match, created by Dusty Rhodes, makes its long-awaited debut, after only being featured in one non-WWE game before. Matches are either 3v3 or 4v4, but for those who are not familiar with the WCW classic match, or the NXT/WWE variant, then the rules are somewhat interesting. There are two full sized rings, surrounded by one large cage. The match starts as 1v1 but after timed intervals alternating members of each team are able to enter the match. Players can assume control of any of their team members on arrival, although not until they are inside of the cage. CPU controlled allies and enemies can bring items into the ring from the outside, but no player can escape the cage to go out and get more. The match cannot be won until all combatants have entered the cage, in fact the bell doesn't even ring until all wrestlers are inside the cage. There is no elimination style to WarGames, it is one pinfall or submission for the whole match, so be sure to keep an eye out on what is happening in both rings. Largely, this is an issue though, as a pinfall could begin to happen in one ring and there isn't enough time to hop over and break up the count. This is all part of the strategy though, so plan carefully and make sure that the match isn't getting too out of control. Otherwise, there is a plethora of match types that can be played in various modes or just the quick play option. Singles, Tag, Triple Threat, Fatal 4-way, 5 man, 6-man, 8-man, handicap, Royal Rumble and Tournament mode are all available, with then various of match types inside of these such as steel cage, extreme rules, iron man, falls count anywhere, backstage brawls and the list goes on. There are so many combinations of match types that any WWE fan will be very satisfied.

Screenshot for WWE 2K23 on Xbox Series X/S

Xavier Woods introduces most modes in WWE 2K23, such as the control tutorial, Showcase, MyGM and other modes when they are first booted up. As to be expected, these segments are very comical and they use a combination of his New Day and UpUpDownDown persona. Others turn up, such as Tyler Breeze and Drew Gulak to also vary up the combo. The only major changes in controls from last year is the new, optional, kick-out mini-game. Rather than rapidly tapping the 'A' button players can now accurately flick up on the right analogue stick while it is inside of the scrolling green zone. The sweet spot gets narrower and faster as the match goes on and the more damage that the wrestler has sustained. This option certainly allows for matches to go for much longer, as a luckily timed flick can get any wrestler out of trouble. The other major addition to the controls is the block and dodge mechanic. By holding the Y Button players can hold up their fists to block shots and also dodge out of the way of any incoming strikes. There are a huge number of wrestlers available to pick from, 180 to be precise, more if the Ruthless Aggression and Bad Bunny DLC packs are included and there are even coming as the year rolls along. There are certainly some omissions from the WWE Legends part of the roster, as some stalwarts are quite prominent in rival promotions such as AEW, but otherwise the roster is balanced, fair and incredibly varied.

Fortunately, the WWE Creation suite is probably the best creator suite in any game imaginable. The huge number of options is somewhat quite intimidating, not just to the wrestler themselves, but being able to edit entrances, moves, shows, arenas and title belts. This isn't really anything new as such, the options were almost just as plentiful in WWE 2K22 although a couple of tweaks have been made, such as customised arenas now being available to be used in online matches and even more customised to create entrances. Luckily, for those non-creatives out there, there are so many community creations that should really satisfy any wrestling fan. There is an endless slew of creations, and thanks to cross-platform community creations the opportunities to download fan-created content is endless.

MyRISE is back again in WWE 2K23. MyRISE has two different stories to play, 'The Legacy' and 'The Lock'. Legacy is a story of potential nepotism, where the player can take control of a female character and go down the route of leaning on their own family's legacy to get preferential treatment, or to get over. Alternatively, this can be shunned in favour charting their own preferred path. The Lock, is very much the story of the up-and-comer male brawler who is branded as the next big thing on the scene. Customised wrestlers from outside of the mode, including community creations can now be used as well, rather than having to build one from scratch within the MyRISE mode. Likewise, this created wrestler can now be used outside of this mode as well, which was strangely locked to MyRISE in WWE 2K22. MyRISE allows for any given path to be trodden, if the player wants their superstar to make enemies with other developmental talent then they can choose a more aggressive path.

MyFACTION plays similarly as WWE 2K22 mode of the same name. Gain various cards, by either earning enough in-game currency, or spending real-world currency to open packs. Similar to FIFA Ultimate team. This year multiplayer is now an option, which is good to have. Nonetheless, given the price of the package it feels like this is a money spinner that shouldn't really exist. Players can play without paying, but there is the need to grind, and for those dedicated to the cause can certainly build up a roster of great cards and factions to compete in all of the various towers and challenges, but this mode and model, in a full price game, is not something that this particular reviewer can get behind.

Screenshot for WWE 2K23 on Xbox Series X/S

This year things have changed slightly, and for the better in MyGM mode. This is a manager mode where the player gets to book the matches, match type and select their roster. Matches can be played or simulated and the goal is to put on the best show possible. Selectable GMs include Adam Pearce, Sonya Deville, Stephanie McMahon, Xavier Woods, Tyler Breeze, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, and Eric Bischoff. Power cards can be used to gain advantages in the season and each GM has their own distinct advantage. Kurt has free charity promos and they double that week, Breeze has 20 stamina recovery as wrestlers get more tired the more frequently, they are fighting, Steph has the ability to earn double the amount a show would normally make, etc. Combine the GM with a show of choice between Smackdown, Raw, NXT, NXT 2.0 and WCW and there is a strategy to success. Other GMs can be human controlled players or CPU. MyGM mode is played out in seasons, and there must be 3 other shows to rival against, either CPU or human. At the start of each season each GM gets to pick their own draft from a set budget. As a minimum, there are 9 alternating rounds to the draft. It is encouraged to pick a mixture of heels and babyfaces, men and women, and wrestlers that have different types. There are 5 different types of wrestler; cruiserweight, bruiser, giant, fighter and specialist. Cruisers work well against giants, fighters against bruisers and specialists work well against any of them. Unfortunately, while this sounds like there are added layers of depth, it fails in the same manner that WWE 2K22 did.

Unlike last year, WWE 2K23 doesn't finish after one year of booking, but continues for multiple seasons, this is an improvement, however only 6 superstars can be carried over into the next season draft, coupled with high prices for wrestlers means that realistically the show is always inevitably going to have quite a small roster. Legends and free agents can be added to the show as a temporary or permanent fixture, but then this hard work is undone after a few weeks, or 'permanent' is not really the same as perpetual, as they end up being re-drafted at the end of the season. Frustrating the budget is reset at the end of each season, this makes no sense, what happened to all that hard earned cash! To put on good matches wrestlers need to be paired up in the desired fighter types (e.g Giants vs Cruisers) but unfortunately there is a lot of monotony in doing this. This is even further compounded when rather than utilising the 180 strong roster that the game has, 2K has instead insisted on using random CAW jobbers to fill out the bottom part of the card. This is really silly when there are plenty of NXT and WWE jobbers to fill this gap. Frustratingly, HHH will also stick his nose into the GMs business by insisting on random stipulated matches at any given time, or superstars will randomly get the hump with the GM and demand a random bung to stay on the roster. All of this makes for an incredibly arbitrary experience where there should be far more flexibility in what rivalries, storylines, match types should be used, instead GMs are boxed into creating a random Hell-in-the-cell match on an episode of RAW week after week to get the eyeballs, or constantly having to pair the same types of wrestlers in matches. Yes, there are other elements to the mode which largely entail looking after the shows budget, such as managing what arena to fight in and other show logistics. There are also power cards which can aid the show or block another show from using their number one star or any number of other stipulations. There is also GM rivalries with each of them aiming to get WWE Hall of Fame trophies (seriously, this doesn't even make sense within WWE lore). Earning Hall of Fame trophies are essentially GM achievements as to who put on a better show across the season or achieved seasonal challenges. Once the onion is peeled back the mode is far too formulaic for what fans want and ultimately doesn't deliver.

Universe mode does however give a sandbox creative experience, but without consequences it does feel a bit empty. Universe mode can be played where the whole show can be crafted with absolutely freedom and go through scheduling match after match. Personally, Universe mode is best played with a pen and paper and to write down what feuds you have going on and book matches with a long on-going feud. Alternatively, Universe mode can be played with a single wrestler instead, and this is where the season is generated around that particular wrestler on the show and that wrestler is automatically inserted into matches.

Screenshot for WWE 2K23 on Xbox Series X/S

WWE 2K23 visually looks fantastic. Wrestlers really look like their real life counterparts and animations, both in entrances and in-ring, look smoother and better than previously. John Cena has helped produce the "Even Stronger" soundtrack, which is mish-mash of 12 fantastic songs. Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Metallica, Bullet for my Valentine, Hardy, Ozzy Osbourne and Post Malone are just a few of the artists on the stella in-game soundtrack. Although WWE 2K23 is very menu heavy, whether in MyRISE, Universe mode or MyFACTION, players will often find themselves in menus, customising options and building shows. The same 12 songs can get a little grating after a few days, but as with all previous WWE 2K games, the in-game jukebox allows for all wrestlers' themes to be used in the menus as well. Therefore, there is a huge selection of quality music to listen to while playing.

This year is no different to other years in the packaging and sale of the game, which is very confusing for those that aren't buying WWE titles very often. There is the Standard, Deluxe and Icon editions, plus a cross generation bundle edition. The cross gen edition allows for the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S games to be on the same system, but also includes the Bad Bunny Bonus pack to be unlocked. The cross gen upgrade is currently $10/£5 more expensive than the base version. Then there is the Deluxe version, which is currently $100/£90, and this includes; the cross gen edition, the Bad Bunny bonus pack, MyRISE mega boost, Supercharger and the Season Pass. The MyRISE mega boost starts the MyRISE mode with 200 additional attribute points, the Supercharger automatically unlocks all WWE Legends and arenas from the get-go and the Season Pass gives eventual access to the 5-DLC character packs that come throughout the year. The real value in this edition comes with the Season Pass, as the rest of the items can be earned in-game by just playing through it. The Icon Edition includes all of the aforementioned but retails for $120/£105 and includes the Bonus pack and the Ruthless Aggression pack. The Bonus Pack is good for those who want to get stuck into MyFACTION mode as it includes 3 premium packs and a Paul Heyman manager card. The Ruthless Aggression pack features throwback version of John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar. All in all the editions are tiered appropriately, but the price of entry is fairly steep if players want to see everything WWE 2K23 has to offer.

Screenshot for WWE 2K23 on Xbox Series X/S

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

WWE 2K23 is certainly one of the better wrestling games of recent memory. In fact, it might be easy to say that WWE 2K23 is the best wrestling game on the market hands down. It is highly evident that WWE 2K22 has been the base that this was built upon. Those looking to go from WWE 2K22 to WWE 2K23 might really only notice subtle changes, outside of the addition of the WarGames match. Re-investing might be a difficult choice, particularly when the cost of admission is so high. On a positive note, the action feels smooth, the options are varied and community creations are as strong as ever. Showcase mode is fun for a weekend but there is little reason to replay it once done. MyGM mode still doesn't have the freedom that it should do and Universe mode unfortunately hits the other end of the spectrum, where there aren't really any consequences that matter. MyFACTION is microtransaction laden mode that should have no place in a game that can already cost $120/£105. However, just like other games with similar mechanics it can be played without partaking in spending more money, but the grind will certainly put some casuals off ever investing a lot of time. Despite this, WWE fans will most likely be pleased with the refinements to the wrestling and updated roster, and if that is the case it is certainly a warranted purchase, but WWE 2K23 still leaves a desire for more.

Cubed3 was provided the Icon Edition of WWE 2K23 for review by the publisher.

Developer

2K

Publisher

2K

Genre

Fighting

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

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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