Review – WWE 2K22
For the first time since 2000, 2021 saw no release of a WWE title. Following a lacklustre and broken release with WWE 2K20 theinevitable next entry was delayed to completely rebuild the gameplay engine, implement a new control system and significantly improve the visuals. The extra time and polish has paid off with the impressive WWE 2K22. Arriving less than three weeks from WWE’s flagship event, WrestleMania, the timing couldn’t be better for the WWE Universe and its players to unleash chaos in the squared circle with a smoother, more satisfying experience.
Featuring a heavily cinematic Showcase mode that follows cover Superstar Rey Mysterio’s rise with twelve matches that proved pivotal to his legacy two decades into his career, there is the Universe mode which is essentially just a free-play mode but with a few new tweaks and three additional content heavy modes. The MyRISE mode allows players to create custom Superstars and take them through the NXT developmental system and all the way up to capturing the Championships on offer on the main roster, a card driven MyFACTION mode that lets players unlock cards and send their Faction into the history books and finally, the long awaited return of the GM mode in MyGM. MyGM gives players the power to book their own roster and compete against rival brands to drive theirs to the top.
WWE is back on consoles in a big way and with so many new features, mechanics and modes, WWE 2K22 certainly hits different.
The redesigned gameplay engine is immediately noticeable. Animations are a lot smoother, moves and counters in particular flow in a much more legitimate manner, and this all lends to the most cohesive and genuine gameplay experience a WWE title has ever seen. Matches no longer feel shackled to the more arcade-type vibe the series has previously been geared towards. WWE 2K22 certainly allows players to enjoy matches in a manner much more akin to an actual televised WWE event.
The addition of a block mechanic and the ability to dive roll out of harm’s way make the defensive gameplay so much more enjoyable and with the return of the standard reversal function, there are now three ways to avoid damage that overall contribute to a more genuine in-ring product. With defensive options more varied, there is less reliance on timing of a singular reverse button and now gives players the freedom to control their space in the ring and create some separation without remaining within arm’s reach of their opponents.
Light and heavy attacks are accompanied by light and heavy grabs, slight variations of previous mechanics that work in much the same way as prior WWE 2K outings. What has changed is the button layout which in many ways is a step back. Signature and Finishing moves have been changed from two face buttons pressed at the same time to a trigger and a face button, an improvement on 2K20 but still not as accessible and quick to execute as the singular button required for a decade’s worth of entries before.
The dodge/climb turnbuckle button is the same as the exit the ring button which regularly had me doing an action I wasn’t intending on, usually climbing the turnbuckle while trying to dodge or slide out of the ring. This would create an opening for my opponent to capitalise on and get some offense in, sometimes their finishing move which could lead to lights out on my hopes of winning the match if caught at the wrong time. This doesn’t mean the new control layout is bad, it just requires getting used to and a little more ring awareness from the player to avoid finding themselves in one of the four corners of the ring and at risk of doing the wrong action.
Signature moves are built up by dealing and receiving damage, and when all three blue bars are full they can be performed. Each Superstar has different Signature moves, much like Finishing moves, and some can only be performed in certain positions such a in front of the opponent, behind them, while running or from the top rope to name a few. Finishing moves are built up in the same manner and are tracked as a yellow bar directly under the Signature move and health bar of each Superstar’s health panel. Successfully performing a Signature move immediately awards a Finishing move and reversing an opponent’s will also provide one, allowing players the opportunity to prevent a match ending move and unleash one of their own for dramatic endings.
Boasting an impressive roster of 163 Superstars from the past and present, WWE 2K22 gives players the opportunity to recreate a multitude of iconic matches across the wide variety of match types available.
Unfortunately, despite the improvements in many areas of the title there are no new match types or returning ones that may have missed an entry or two since their last appearance. This does however line up with WWE’s on-screen product but the inclusion of legacy match types that fans have enjoyed in the past such as Casket, Inferno or Championship Scramble matches would have been a nice way to keep things a little less predictable and acknowledge the fun and popularity these have provided in the past.
An assortment of single, triple threat, fatal four way, elimination and tag team match variants do allow for a pretty expressive experience though, particularly as players can customise the rules of any match or even create their own custom match types with a variety of rules and options to play with. Battle Royales, Royal Rumbles and Money in the Bank ladder matches can feature up to eight superstars in the ring at once which is always an entertaining type of carnage that smaller matches can’t quite create.
A wide variety of things can be created or customised that truly gives the WWE Universe the power to play their way. Superstars, arenas, championships and move-sets are just a few of the things that can be created or customised. The creative freedom is liberating and brings the flexibility to create matches and experiences that transcend what can be watched on TV or expected from the WWE product. Create yourself as a Superstar, defend a championship you have designed in an area and show that you have personally created are wonderful instances of bringing your WWE dreams to life in WWE 2K22.
Rey Mysterio, the legendary masked lucha-libre that graces the cover of WWE 2K22 receives the spotlight in the cinematic Showcase mode. Covering twelve matches that range from his match against Eddie Guerrero at WCW Halloween Havoc in 1997, a first ever encounter with Shawn Michaels on the RAW tribute show to celebrate the life of the late Eddie Guerrero in 2005 and all the way through to teaming up with his son, Dominik against Seth Rollins and Murphy at Payback in 2020.
These matches each follow a brief video package of Rey discussing the match and shows footage from the actual matches. Each match has a handful of optional objectives that players can complete to unlock new Superstars to play as, arenas to compete in and championships to fight for.
The story/match-related objectives create some fun and seamless transitions from gameplay to real match footage which gives the Showcase a whole new level of depth and atmosphere in the context of the story Rey is narrating in these moments.
MyRISE lets players create their own Superstar and take them through a gruelling journey cutting their teeth in WWE’s developmental brand, NXT, and working their way up the rankings to capture the NXT Championship before moving onto the main roster shows, RAW and SmackDown. Cutting it in NXT is one thing but embarking on a mission to capture the most prized championships in professional wrestling, the WWE and Universal Championships will take players through some of the best in the business.
Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and Kevin Owens for instance have made names for themselves by surviving the life on the road that your custom Superstar now travels. The legacy your Superstar will leave behind is completely in your hands in this action packed, cinematic and choice-laden journey.
MyFACTION is possibly the least exciting addition to the game mode offering, tasking players with building a Faction of Superstars in a collectible card game format that has players compete in matches by using Superstar cards they unlock by purchasing with in-game currencies MyFACTION Points and Tokens earned by playing or completing optional challenges or via micro-transaction purchases of VC, Virtual Currency.
It is important to note that everything can be unlocked with in-game currency and no VC is specifically required, it is merely an option to allow players to unlock things without spending the lengthy amount of time it may otherwise take.
MyGM puts players in the role of one of a handful of General Managers, which they can choose from, compete against a rival GM to prove who has the better show. Setting up rivalries, managing roster injuries, scheduling fan-favourite match types and entertaining Championship matches are key to winning over the audience, gaining popularity for your brand and managing your income on Superstar contracts to ensure your audience is getting the best product. This allows for fantasy booking of fans who want to see what would happen if things played out between Superstars of their choosing, at events they think fit most and overall feel as though their choices matter and have meaningful, enjoyable outcomes that armchair booking could never achieve.
The Universe mode returns in pretty much the same state as prior 2K entries. Classic Mode is essentially just free play while Superstar Mode allows players to select their favourite Superstar and guide them through the calendar year not entirely unlike MyGM and establish rivalries, request custom matches or championship bouts, form tag teams or jump to another brand for example.
This plays out in a less cinematic and predetermined fashion than MyRISE with enough hints of MyGM to feel meaningfully different and incentivise players who like to stick to their favourites when having a casual play session.
Visually the series has never looked better. Smooth animations, better sweat detail and subtleties such as spit being knocked out of the Superstars when struck go such a long way in faithfully recreating the on-screen product that airs weekly across the globe. The attention to detail in the character models is astonishing, though some of the lesser–known Superstars fail to look as life-like as established stars such as Randy Orton, The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar or Roman Reigns.
An energetic soundtrack curated by Machine Gun Kelly keeps the menu lively as matches are set-up, options are explored and the creation suite is used. The sound design overall is significantly better with more faithful cues such as hitting the ropes, weapon use and impact on the mat or outside the ring to name a few instances. The audio-visual presentation of WWE 2K22 makes for an impressive tag-team that dominates every entry that preceded it.