The WWE franchise has failed to really get off the ground ever since 2K Games got hold of the license, and in recent years, it feels like it’s progressively gotten worse with each new game- that downward trajectory has continued this year. Long-time series developers Yuke’s jumped ship this year as they ended their partnership with 2K and went off to work on their own wrestling game, but new developers Visual Concepts – of NBA 2K fame – haven’t been able to turn things around. In fact, WWE 2K20 is the lowest point for a series that has seen no shortage of low points.
WWE 2K20 takes a step back in the areas where its predecessor made at least some improvements, with both MyCareer and Showcase being disappointments after last year’s decent showings, but even in the more fundamental areas, the game fails to do the bare minimum. The most egregious of its flaws arises in its gameplay, which the worst it has ever been in the series.
"WWE 2K20 is the lowest point for a series that has seen no shortage of low points."
Beyond modified controls, which admittedly do work pretty well, rather than making improvements upon last year’s game, much of the mechanics and systems have bee brought over as is. The targeting system is still something of a mess, and makes throwing even the simplest of kicks and punches an exercise in and of itself, while the game’s over-reliance on reversals hasn’t changed one bit. The necessity to perfectly time reversals every time hits from opponents come in is not only annoying, it also gets repetitive very quickly. The lack of a dodge move or a block in a fighting game still baffles me.
What’s worse is that WWE 2K20 not only doesn’t make improvements, it actively makes the fighting worse because of a spade of issues. The biggest of these is the AI, which ca be dumb as a bag of rocks at the worst of times, but even other issues like hit detection or a smattering of bugs makes even the simplest moment-to-moment stuff not work more often than not. And that smattering of bugs is, in fact, the second biggest issue with the game, if not tied for the biggest.
WWE 2K20 is in a sorry state. It’s surprising that this is a game that 2K Games deemed to be in a state worthy of launch. Undoubtedly, there’s going to be countless montages of hilarious glitches going around the internet over the next few months, and if you do decide to play the game for yourself, chances are you’ll run into many of those bugs yourself. From clipping characters to invisible characters in cutscenes, from ugly visual glitches to harsh frame rate drops, from commentators talking about things that have nothing to do with what’s going on in the ring to the crashes. Oh boy, so many crashes. From booting me out of modes to flat-out forcing me to restart the game, I’ve encountered crashes in WWE 2K20 on multiple occasions.
"WWE 2K20 is in a sorry state. It’s surprising that this is a game that 2K Games deemed to be in a state worthy of launch."
Outside of the fundamentals and moving into modes, WWE 2K20 falters with MyCareer as well. Last year’s game set down a decent foundation with its own career mode, that at least had a functional story, solid acting, and an interesting framework. It was something that could be taken into interesting directions with successive iterations- and while that’s still possible in future instalments, that hasn’t happened in 2K20’s MyCareer.
The framework the game uses for the career is, to be fair, quite interesting. You play as Red and Tre, climbing the men’s and women’s wrestling ladders with the two of them, but it happens in a series of flashbacks of sorts, as the two of them reminisce about their careers and the paths they took. Certainly, it’s an interesting way to frame a narrative, and does enough to set it apart from last year’s story. When 2K20’s MyCareer started out, I thought it could actually be a pretty interesting experience. I was ready to like it.
Well, I didn’t. Writing is the biggest issue of all. This being a WWE game, you expect some level of cheesiness and over-the-top stuff- hell, you even want it. There’s plenty of that in there, but it can at times get so corny, it’ll almost get on your nerves. The leading characters are immensely unlikeable, and the banter between them is never really sold very well, while the script’s at humour just come across as grating and facile. The story’s interesting framework isn’t really made proper use of either, and it just ends up feeling like you’re going through the motions.
"WWE 2K20 falters with MyCareer as well."
Worse, the actual gameplay aspects of the career mode haven’t seen any improvements either. WWE 2K19 drew criticism for its crippled progression and customization mechanics, and those issues have been brought over into its successor as is. Customization is still dependant on in-game currency, and it’s still ridiculously grindy and unrewarding. But that’s still only cosmetic, and would be easier to forgive if the actual mechanical progression wasn’t at least as grindy- which it totally is. Upgrading your characters is a slow, crawling affair, and you never really feel like you’re making any meaningful progress. It’s all enough to combine and make you feel really detached from the experience. If you’re not really being rewarded properly for any progress you make in your career, why would you ever be invested in any of it? I certainly wasn’t.
Showcase mode makes a return as well, after having made an impressive debut – at least conceptually – in last year’s game. This year, the focus is on the the Four Horsewomen, namely Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Bayley, and Becky Lynch, ad undoubtedly, it’s great to see the Women’s Revolution of WWE being represented and getting its time in the spotlight. The objective-based gameplay of Showcase, mixed with interview and real footage from historic moments and matches, is still intact, and for fans of WWE, there’s at least some enjoyment to be had here.
There are issues here as well, though. The objectives in Showcase mode can be weirdly specific at times, and the game doesn’t always do a very good job of communicating them. More importantly though, the biggest issue boils down to the one thing that acts to the detriment of WWE 2K20 in every area, whether that’s Showcase or MyCareer- that the game is mechanically imperfect (to put it mildly) and just doesn’t work as it should a lot of the times. When the fighting itself isn’t fun or solid, all the interesting framework, real footage, and objectives in the world can’t salvage the experience.
"WWE 2K20 is rotten on the inside and broken at its core."
WWE 2K20 is rotten on the inside and broken at its core. It fails at doing many fundamental things properly, which actively take away from the experience. Then there’s the fact that it does’t improve upon any of the ideas of its predecessor – and in some cases, actually takes them a step back – and that it’s an absolute technical mess riddled with bugs and plagued by bland, sub-par visuals. Even for hardcore WWE fans, this one is hard to recommend. The best all of us can do is wait for a year, and hope that Visual Concepts and 2K somehow manage to bring this franchise back from the dead, Undertaker-style.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
MyCareer has an interesting framework; Showcase Mode's objective-based gameplay can be fun.
Mechanically shoddy and broken; Riddled with bugs, glitches, and crashes; Bland, sub-par visuals; MyCareer has a disappointing story; Crippled customization and progression in MyCareer.