PS5 Review WWE 2K22 WWE 2K22 PS5 Review

WWE 2K22 Review (PS5) – The WWE 2K Franchise Makes A Return For The Ages

wwe 2k22 ps5 review

WWE 2K22 PS5 review. WWE 2K20 was an unmitigated disaster. The nadir of what was the downward trajectory of an already fading franchise, WWE 2K20 didn’t just demonstrate the lack of imagination that had circled the previous few games prior, like vultures ready to pick at a soon to be fresh corpse, but it was also catastrophically buggy, dated in a hundred different ways, feature-regressive and generally about as much fun as getting dropped on your head by Brock Lesnar in a parking lot.

Unshackled from the creatively cloying confines of its annual release schedule and with a whole pandemic existing between it and the previous instalment in the series, WWE 2K20, WWE 2K22 has reaped the benefits of having nearly two and half years of development time, giving the WWE 2K franchise the fresh start it has sorely needed for so very long.

WWE 2K22 PS5 Review

WWE 2K22 Feels Like The Fresh Start The Series Should Have Had Years Ago

If you had to prioritise a single feature in the WWE 2K franchise up until now which needed a wholesale revamp more than anything else, it wouldn’t be the visuals, it wouldn’t be the creative suite – it wouldn’t even be the missing modes or single-player campaign (though arguably all of those features also needed a lot of love that wasn’t forthcoming), it would be the core combat system that WWE 2K20 stunk the joint out with when it released back in 2019.

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An absolute exercise in frustration, WWE 2K20 absolutely undercut any enjoyment that could be had with the game by only permitting players to only use a finite of reversals. This resulted in contests largely devoid of skill or fun where one player would simply wait for the other to run out of reversals before wailing on their defenceless foe en route to an easy victory. It wasn’t enjoyable. It wasn’t cool. It wasn’t wrestling.

WWE 2K22 thankfully ‘future endeavoured’ this concept, instead allowing players to unleash an unlimited number of reversals upon one another and thus restoring much of the frenetic nature of competition within the squared circle as nature intended. That’s not all – in addition to having infinite reversals, WWE 2K22 also brings a new combo breaker mechanic which allows you to snap the momentum of a combination attack; so long as you’re able to match the button press of the incoming attack with the same attack yourself.

Then there are the new evasions. Something of a first for the WWE 2K series, wannabe superstars can now deftly roll/cartwheel/dodge out of danger at a moment’s notice, simultaneously getting them out of danger while also forcing the enemy to readjust their position before the next attack. These evasions however cannot be used indefinitely as they require a small quantity of stamina to pull off – encouraging frugal and strategic use of them in each match.

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Taken together with the new hybrid combination system, which allows wrestlers to chain together strikes and grapples into a single stream of continuous aggression, WWE 2K22 is resolutely capable of replicating the sort of ebb and flow of the sort of real-life wrestling match that got us all watching and so compellingly engaged in the first place. Contests between two hoss wrestlers now feel appropriately devastating, while a match between a pair of technical savants is now filled with the sort of furious reversals and counters that one would realistically expect. Simply put, WWE 2K22 plays so much better than any WWE 2K game in the last ten years.

Speaking of the last few years, it’s a touch disappointing to discover that nearly twenty percent of the superstars from WWE 2K22’s roster are no longer with the company. Though I certainly appreciate that these rosters are finalised a fair way ahead of time, it’s somewhat bad optics to see so many superstars that are now with other competing promotions still featuring in the game; not least because it makes WWE 2K22 feels more dated than it actually is.

With two and a half years of development time on the clock versus the usual ten months or so that the series usually gets, WWE 2K22 shows a great many strides taken elsewhere in its design. At launch for example, I’ve yet to see a single glitch anywhere in the game after nearly 30 hours play – no wrestlers getting their limbs caught up in the ropes, ladders bouncing up into the heavens or faces exploding in the Create A Superstar mode. Nothing. And honestly, that feels great to say after the absolute, stoat-banging abomination that was WWE 2K20.

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Then there are the visuals. Though the same engine largely remains in place and a few older animations have still somehow remained, WWE 2K22 is a sizable step above anything that the WWE 2K series has put out to date – especially on PS5. Everything is quite simply much more detailed than before, with photo-scanned faces and bodies for all of the wrestlers which injects a much more lifelike level of sophistication into proceedings that helps to banish the qualitative gulf that existed between the top superstars and the, well, not so top superstars that would previously look like they were part of the Frankenstein Club.

It’s not just the wrestlers that are the benefits of WWE 2K22’s extra time in the oven. The arenas are all much more detailed than ever before, with higher resolution visuals bringing out the smallest detail in everything from the smallest NXT arena, all the way through to the eye-watering spectacle of WrestleMania, while the crowds themselves have also benefitted from this upgrade – boasting many more different character models (rather than the same few duplicated over and over) and all at a much higher level of detail than ever before.

While the smattering of visual upgrades that WWE 2K22 brings to the table are certainly hugely welcome, one other area of improvement that has been long coming – and now is finally enabled by the PS5 hardware – are the loading times. Greatly reduced as one might expect, players can hop right into a match in just a couple of seconds from the main menu, switch between each of the different menus and creative modes almost instantly, while kicking off a match filled with custom wrestlers and arenas loads in just a few seconds, rather than the 15-20 seconds that it would have taken in WWE 2K20 on PS4. It’s a massive improvement that cannot really be understated.

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On the content side of the equation, WWE 2K22 is every bit as generously stuffed as you might have hoped. The Showcase mode returns once more, except this time rather than providing players with a selection of superstar careers to play through, you get just the one this time for non other than arguably one of the greatest high-flyers of all time, Rey Mysterio.

If you’ve played the Showcase mode seen in previous WWE 2K games, you’ll know what to expect here too. Each match essentially relives Rey Mysterio’s professional wrestling career – starting off with his feud with Eddy Guerrero in WCW before working up to star-studded spats with the likes of the Undertaker and Samoa Joe in WWE. As before, each match insists that the player completes a number of set objectives per match that mirror exactly what happened during the real-life encounter in order to proceed.

There’s an incentive for doing this too, because if you manage to complete all of the objectives across all of the matches, you’ll unlock a ‘special’ superstar at the end of it all – though it’s hardly someone that could be described as a true surprise for anyone who has kept up with the product recently. Though this year’s Showcase mode is thin on content and is largely something of the ‘one and done’ variety once you’ve done everything in two or so hours it takes, it’s worth noting that this is certainly the most polished Showcase mode seen in any WWE 2K game to date.

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Not only is each match linked by a super slick video package that has Rey Mysterio waxing lyrical about key moments and milestones in his legendary career, but WWE 2K22 also does this super cool thing where it switches between real-time visuals and full motion video of the actual match in an almost seamless fashion, serving to further engross players in this interactive chronicle of one of the greatest wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots.

Further afield, MyRise returns and assuredly stakes its place as WWE 2K22’s premier, narrative driven single-player campaign. Miles better than in previous games with a branching non linear storyline that sees your superstar rise through the ranks of NXT, Smackdown and Raw en route to main eventing pay per view extravaganzas like the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, MyRise is now a legitimately worthwhile (if occasionally cringe) single-player campaign that extends the longevity of WWE 2K22 substantially.

When it comes to longevity of WWE 2K22 however, the Showcase and MyRise modes are just the tip of a very, very large iceberg. Universe mode makes its expected return, providing some additional structure to otherwise casual exhibition matches that I’d normally play in isolation and thus providing a single-player campaign of its own that essentially never runs out.

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Then there is the brand new MyFaction game type which makes its debut in WWE 2K22. A neat mode that allows players to build their own stable of wrestlers to rival the likes of D-Generation X, the nWo or the Inner Circle *cough*, MyFaction actually turns out to be a lot of fun as players collect wrestlers and upgrade them while taking part in dynamic storylines and special weekly events. It’s also worth noting that while there are microtransactions that allow you to skip ahead somewhat in this regard, it doesn’t feel nearly as predatory as in other 2K games and instead encourages (and more importantly enables) players to amass an impressive collection of superstars through just playing the game. As it should be.

One of the highlights of the whole package is MyGM, which returns after an extended hiatus. Here, players take the role of a WWE General Manager and must choose from the Raw, Smackdown, NXT and NXT UK brands before being given a pile of cash with which to draft in a range of superstars and legends in order to kick things off. Adding a bit of spice to the proceedings, you can choose from different GMs and brands, each of which have their own special traits. William Regal for example can sign his first legend for free, whereas the Smackdown brand increases the popularity of six random superstars and so on. Luckily a handy recommendations tab points you in the right direction when it comes to sorting out your first acquisitions; so it’s not at all overwhelming in the early going.

Once you’ve drafted in a varied roster of superstars, you are then tasked with booking all manner of matches, rivalries, events and more in order to come out top of the ratings and thus become the dominant brand. Where things get interesting though, is in the creative freedom that the MyGM mode affords. Whether you’re content to wield power behind the scenes, be an on-screen authority figure or even take part as a superstar signed to your brand, MyGM is just one more example of the sheer amount of single-player focused content that WWE 2K22 brings to the table.

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And if that wasn’t all enough, in addition to the usual online and offline multiplayer matches (in which arguably a huge amount of WWE 2K22’s appeal resides in the latter when played with friends), the creation suite returns with aplomb; offering up a frankly massive amount of creativity in the form of custom wrestlers, arenas, match types and so much more besides to ensure that WWE 2K22 has legs for the rest of the year and beyond.

In a way, the fact that WWE 2K22 has turned out so well is somewhat bittersweet. Though this is a series that has long craved this sort of redemption, it comes at a time when interest in the real-life WWE product is at something of a low thanks to shoddy booking and the gutting of the previously stellar NXT brand. Nonetheless, the sort of turnaround that Visual Concepts and 2K have wrought here is nothing short of astounding.

Sure, WWE 2K22 isn’t perfect – but it corrects so much of what has historically been so very wrong with the series while adding enough new features and fan requested modes to cement its place as easily the best WWE 2K game to date and quite possibly the best wrestling game of the last decade – oddly faint praise as that may be.

WWE 2K2 is out now on PS4 and PS5.

Review code kindly provided by PR.



The Final Word

Though it's hardly a tall hurdle to clear, WWE 2K22 is the best WWE 2K game since they started appending '2K' to the title. Much more than that though, it's the best wrestling game to come along in a long, long time and one which almost completely banishes everything that has been historically wrong with the franchise, while also managing to strike out in a bold direction for the series' future. Here's hoping that the likely return to the annual release schedule doesn't result in a lapse to bad habits and lazy innovation because, well, we've been there for the last ten years or so - and it isn't fun.