After a brief hiatus following the disastrous launch of WWE 2K20, developer Visual Concepts has now returned to slamming superstars across the four corners of the ring with WWE 2K22. While the updates to the game’s engine haven’t addressed some long-standing issues with the franchise, the extended development time has certainly had an effect on the end-product – making WWE 2K22 one of the strongest entries in the franchise for quite some time.
Immediately upon booting WWE 2K22, you are greeted with a tutorial match that takes you through the basics of wrestling. Gone are the overtly complex combos of buttons, and taking their place is a simple and effective button layout. On PlayStation 5, the square button is used for light attacks, the cross button for heavy attacks, and the circle button for grapples. You can use any permutations and combinations of the three buttons to achieve different results. Reversal comes in two ways – using the triangle button in a short time frame to parry or pressing the appropriate heavy or light attack button when tussled in a grapple.
"Gone are the overtly complex combos of buttons, and taking their place is a simple and effective button layout."
In a similar vein, the health and stamina system is also simplified. Executing successful moves while maintaining some decent variety will fill up a three-segmented special meter. Once two bars are full, you can execute a special Payback move or you could pummel down your enemy until the meter gets fully charged to unleash the character’s finisher. It’s an effective and simple control scheme that works well within the context of the game and it manages to do so without putting the unneeded strain of remembering a bazillion button inputs – making it a lot more inviting to newcomers than prior entries in the franchise. Much like previous entries in 2K’s franchise, WWE 2K22 is chock-full of varied wrestling content for players to fulfill all their fighting desires. Players can battle out in a range of modes including anywhere from a standard 1v1 to Royal Rumble to Hell in a Cell and what have you.
However, the biggest highlight is definitely the returning 2K Showcase mode. It’s a tribute to the legendary cruiserweight champion Rey Mysterio as he makes his way in wrestling beginning from a nobody in the Mexican wrestling circle to facing the biggest superstars that RAW and SMACKDOWN have to offer. Players get to partake in many of Rey’s career-defining matches, each starting with a history lesson from the man himself about what matches meant to him, his opponents, and his career. The showcase matches require you to execute the same moves as he did in those matches as objectives. Upon completion, the gameplay neatly transitions to actual footage of the match – which makes these matches immersive. Completing them will net you rewards such as Superstar and arena unlocks, and additional attires. However, limitations on character moves in these matches can make them frustrating at times – especially if you jump into this mode straight away as I did. On the flip side, you do get to explore the entire width of a superstar’s moves – which will be beneficial when you move on to other modes.
" The 2k Showcase mode is a tribute to the legendary cruiserweight champion Rey Mysterio as he makes his way in wrestling beginning from a nobody in the Mexican wrestling circle to facing the biggest superstars that RAW and SMACKDOWN have to offer."
Another returning mode is the MyGM mode. In MyGM, you will be assuming the role of a general manager at either RAW, SMACKDOWN, or NXT. As the General Manager, it’s up to you to select superstars from a roster and book matches amongst them to run the show on a weekly basis on a strict budget. The main objective is to garner more fans for events like Wrestlemania and before the season ends. You will need to pair superstars with a positive persona against those with negative ones, giants against cruiserweights, and so on and so forth. You can also hire legendary superstars such as the likes of The Rock, John Cena, Brock Lesnar for a handsome amount to gain traction. As the season progresses, rivalries and relationships amongst the superstars will develop accordingly – and it’s your job to thrive off of them by booking those matches on the prime spot. Should you want to make these matches even more tense, you are free to play as the superstar of your choice instead of simulating the match.
It’s a fun and neat little mode that’s markedly different from others on offer, although it won’t likely be interesting enough for casual fans who want to engage with it in the long term. The biggest problem I encountered in this mode was the menus glitching out constantly, which made making selections, which by the way forms the majority of the gameplay in this mode, an exercise in pain.
"MyGM a fun and neat little mode that’s markedly different from others on offer, although it won’t likely be interesting enough for casual fans who want to engage with it in the long term."
Then there’s MyRise, a standard career mode where you create your custom superstar and undertake a journey from the bottom. There are multiple life paths to choose from such as the likes of an entertainment actor or an underdog wrestler. You will be interacting with a ton of fellow wrestlers, and choosing different dialogues will impact your public persona and your relationships with them.
Character progression involves investing points into your character points tree, which you get by completing storylines – which are basically quests such as taking part in a match against an iconic superstar. The whole system is not as fleshed out as a full-fledged RPG, but it’s serviceable for the job and a big step up from past offerings. And then we have the MyFaction which is an online mode where players have to grind out star cards (or pay up for virtual currency required to obtain those cards) to make their rosters more powerful. I haven’t spent time playing this particular mode, so I am reserving my judgment for the time being. However, given the micro-transaction-fueled nature of this mode, fans should exercise caution.
"Unfortunately for WWE 2K22, the game suffers from underwhelming visual presentation with embarrassing dialogues, hilarious facial animations, and other graphical glitches topping the list of technical inefficiencies."
Unfortunately for WWE 2K22, the game suffers from underwhelming visual presentation with embarrassing dialogues, hilarious facial animations, and other graphical glitches topping the list of technical inefficiencies. These problems have existed for a long time with the WWE 2K games, and it’s sad that an engine overhaul does very little to address these issues. On the other hand, the soundtrack curated by Machine Gun Kelly is composed of a sizable collection of appropriately headbanging tunes, tucking all the heavy strings to the adrenaline-fueled entertainment sport.
Looking at the big picture, WWE 2K22 is a much-needed improvement over the disastrous WWE 2K20. The revamped control scheme makes this entry a lot more inviting to newcomers, and the Showcase mode is a great nostalgia trip for fans of the sport. The returning MyGM mode has surprisingly deep simulation gameplay, but it caters to a very niche audience. However, underwhelming visual presentation and other glitches remain an issue with the latest entry – but it has a solid enough foundation for what’s to come in the future.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Simplified button layout; 2K Showcase Mode is a great new addition; Suprisingly deep career mode
Sub-par visual presentation especially in MyCareer, frequent gameplay glitches in MyGM.