WWE 2K23 is here and it faces the tough ask of revolutionizing the formula from last year’s 2K22, while also appeasing nostalgic wrestling fans who have been playing since the days of Here Comes The Pain. For the most part, it does a pretty decent job of walking that tightrope, although it may not be the sort of arcade-like title that some people may be expecting.
Over the years, WWE games have slowly crept across the genre divide going from being an arcade-like button mashing experience, to something more technical and precise, almost akin to a role playing game. And WWE 2K23 is the peak of this shift; it is a vast, layered experience that wrestling fans could potentially sink hundreds of hours into. Essentially, WWE 2K23 is several games all stuffed into one robust package.
WWE 2K23 is out now and is available on PC, PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
If WWE 2K23 is one game that contains several games within, the question is; are these individual modes all worthwhile experiences? Is this package worth more than the sum of its parts? The answer is difficult to pin down without going through each mode individually, as certain modes will likely appeal to a specific portion of gamers, while others may favor something totally separate. Two diametrically opposed players could respectively get a great deal out of WWE 2K23 for completely different reasons.
If you happen to someone who has been playing WWE games for a long time, then the first mode you will likely want to check out is My Rise. The My Rise storyline allows you to role play as either a person on the WWE roster, or as your own custom character. That character’s rise through the WWE to eventually become World Champion is then shown via a plethora of cheesy cut-scenes and a range of specific matches, featuring real life WWE stars who you can either side with, or start a rivalry against.
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The concepts for the plotlines in My Rise are quite fun, playing out differently based on whether the player decides to play as a male or a female superstar. In the style of Batista, or John Cena, the male character makes his debut under a cheesy name designated by the WWE bosses. A brief personality crisis plays out before he character earns his own name and goes on to become a major player within the WWE. Providing you are willing to sit through some extremely cheesy cut-scenes, playing through the matches in this mode is a lot of fun.
I chose to play through My Rise as a custom character. The customization options in the game are pretty robust. My own personal custom character ended up looking a bit like John Wick in a red Japanese hannya mask. Due to the fact that I wound up covering his face with a mask, I didn’t pay too much attention to the facial reconstruction sliders. However, if you did want to make your character look like someone specific, then that is definitely an option here.
With that said, I did come across a noticeable loading interval when switching between apparel options; while it was not egregiously long, it was long enough to notice. Perhaps this is something that can be ironed out in a future patch. Loading screens are also present between matches in My Rise and when going from the main menu to any of the game modes. Again, these screen don’t appear for an outrageously long time, but the fact that they are present in a recent AAA 2023 title is surprising, as is the frequency of them.
Another thing that may come as something of a shock to players returning to the franchise for the first time in years, is WWE 2K23’s level of presentation. Everything looks and feels passable, but there is a level of polish missing that one would expect to be present in a game of this scale. Despite the inclusion of in-depth character design options, custom characters always seem to come out looking like something from the previous generation. Whether this is down to poor textures, or is a character modelling issue I am not sure, but something is undoubtedly off. Even the WWE stars who appear in the game all look like the own-brand version of their real life counterparts.
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Another mode present that is a lot of fun to play through is the Showcase mode. Where last year’s Showcase mode featured Rey Mysterio’s rise through the wrestling world, WWE 2K23’s Showcase mode features John Cena. Interestingly, it focuses on Cena’s losses over the years instead of his wins, with players getting to play as each opponent who defeated Cena during his meteoric rise to the world title.
MyGM mode, Universe mode, Sandbox mode, and MyFaction make up the rest of the game’s modes. They are all worth checking out and bring a different flavor to the WWE formula. MyFaction wasn’t really my thing due to the encouragement of microtransactions in order to build a capable stable of fighters, but the handful of online matches that I partook in were quite good fun.
Across all of these modes, players will experience the new control systems that have been put in place within the moment to moment gameplay. Gone are the days of button-mashing your way to victory, with more thinking now being required for a player to gain the advantage over their opponent.
Once the fundamentals sink in, combos become a lot of fun to play around with, but don’t expect to be able to just pick up a controller and instantly get a feel for it. This level of complexity in the gameplay does somewhat clash with the nostalgia being delivered by things like the Showcase mode. It is as if WWE 2K23 wants to dine out on nostalgia, while also moving the needle from a gameplay perspective, which can come off as somewhat confused at times.
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In summary, WWE 2K23 is a pretty solid experience for wrestling fans hoping to live out their title fight fantasies within a virtual environment. The sheer amount of modes present in the game is extremely impressive, as is the level of depth and detail found within each of them, with both the quantity and the quality boxes being ticked. Unfortunately, the game’s slightly dated presentation holds it back from being truly great, but overall wrestling fans could do a lot worse.
WWE 2K23 – 7/10
WWE 2K23 was reviewed on PS5 with a code supplied by Premier Comms.
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