We’ve all experienced moments in our everyday lives when a change of scenery can do wonders for our mood and perspective. This concept can also be applied to video game franchises. The WWE game series underwent a transformation beginning with WWE 2K22, following a year-long break. WWE 2K20 initiated the shift, and despite receiving criticism from gamers and industry experts alike, it paved the way for a new beginning that was embraced with open arms.
As a result, WWE 2K23 enters the scene with a wave of positive anticipation, aiming to build upon the successes of its predecessor. Alongside time-tested content, the game incorporates several innovative features to keep players engaged. Striking the perfect balance between old and new can be a challenge for development teams, but 2K and Visual Concepts appear to be up for the task.
By utilizing the solid foundation established in previous iterations, the developers of WWE 2K23 have incorporated updates to the roster and implemented subtle refinements throughout the game. While the changes may not be groundbreaking, they follow the familiar pattern of evolution seen in other annually released video games, such as the FIFA series. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
With WWE 2K23, the series makes its return to the annual release schedule. But does this mean that 2K Games and Visual Concepts are simply biding their time, neglecting to introduce significant innovations to the wrestling game? Our comprehensive review reveals that WWE 2K23, despite some weaknesses, is a consistent progression from its predecessor and surpasses it in various aspects. Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the world of this game in our WWE 2K23 review, sharing our thoughts and insights on this latest installment in the beloved wrestling game series.
Table of Contents
Capturing the Action: Enhanced Animations and Camera Work
If you had the chance to play or observe WWE 2K22 last year, you’ll find that the new installment closely follows the footsteps of its predecessor. The gameplay retains its powerful and impactful nature, striking a fine balance between intense fighting (with the combo system remaining unchanged) and paying homage to the series’ past. Despite the lingering presence of invisible walls, their impact has been significantly reduced.
Expanding on the Foundations: A Focus on Animation
WWE 2K23’s most noteworthy innovation lies in its expanded animation offerings. The game features not only new moves and stunts but also contextual animations that involve both characters and their interactions with the environment. One prime example is how characters now utilize ropes and corners to catch their breath, lean on, or even use as support to stand up. While these enhancements may not be revolutionary, they certainly build upon the strong groundwork laid by the previous installment.
We are quite impressed by what we’ve seen, as WWE 2K23’s simulation of the sport has reached an admirable level. The game’s stamina management system adds an interesting layer of strategy, compelling players to alternate between aggressive assaults and calculated pauses. This dynamic approach contributes to a wrestling simulation that closely mirrors the ebb and flow of real-life matches.
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A Spectacular Visual Experience: Cinematic Camera Angles
What really stands out in WWE 2K23 are the visually striking moves and actions. The game’s camera work enhances the overall experience, adopting a style reminiscent of WWE Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain from 2003, often regarded as the best wrestling game ever created.
During certain moments, the camera angles shift to create a more cinematic perspective while still allowing players to maintain control of the action. This emphasis on key moments effectively mirrors what viewers see in televised wrestling events, fostering a strong sense of immersion and authenticity between the virtual and real worlds.
In the Spotlight: John Cena Takes Center Stage
This year, WWE 2K23 features John Cena as the star of the show. Not only does he appear on the cover, but he also takes center stage in Showcase mode and serves as the game’s DJ. However, when it comes to the music selection, there’s room for improvement. With only a dozen tracks available, players may find repetitive tunes during extended play sessions. Nonetheless, the soundtrack includes top-notch songs from renowned bands like Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
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Mastering the Basics: A Comprehensive Tutorial with Xavier Woods
Upon starting the game, players are greeted with an obligatory tutorial led by Xavier Woods, also known as Austin Creed. Woods guides players through the learning phase, introducing Slingshot Tech—a feature that debuted last year, seamlessly blending cinematic render sequences with active gameplay. The immersive tutorial teaches basic attacks, blocking techniques, and ring movements through a series of matches against John Cena, showcasing some of his most iconic duels.
For those who played the previous installment, WWE 2K23’s controls and combos will feel familiar, allowing for a quick and easy transition. However, newcomers to the genre should not skip the tutorial. While the appeal of diving straight into the action is undeniable, the game also provides helpful overlays to assist players during their first few rounds in the ring. This feature enables players to execute standard moves with ease, even without completing the tutorial.
Mastering the Ring: WWE 2K23’s Enhanced Gameplay Experience
In the previous year, 2K Games and Visual Concepts took a bold step forward by streamlining the overloaded gameplay of their wrestling titles, resulting in a more enjoyable and fluid experience. Continuing on this trajectory, “WWE 2K23” features subtle adjustments to the combat system that have refined the overall flow of the game. Counterattack windows have been expanded, and the addition of new actions and counterattacks has made combat even more unpredictable and exciting.
Stamina management has become a more critical aspect of gameplay in WWE 2K23. Players who are careless with their energy expenditure by continuously stringing together actions will find themselves out of breath and vulnerable to enemy attacks. This added layer of strategy encourages players to think tactically during matches.
The new pin system, which utilizes the right analog stick, is a significant improvement over the button mashing mechanics of previous installments. This innovative feature allows for more precise control and a more engaging experience during pin attempts.
AI Modifiers: A Step Toward Perfection
While not yet flawless, the introduction of AI modifiers has enhanced the in-ring experience by emphasizing the unique characteristics and abilities of each wrestler. These modifiers lead to surprising moments, such as John Cena’s “Never give up” attitude, where he’s able to recover from a finisher and continue the fight. In one memorable playtest, Roman Reigns executed a stunning comeback, nearly defeating the player with a powerful Superman Punch and Spear combo. Although there is still room for improvement, the direction taken by 2K Games and Visual Concepts is undoubtedly positive.
A Wealth of Game Modes in WWE 2K23
The true strength of WWE 2K23, developed by Visual Concepts, lies in its wide range of game modes: MyGM, MyRise, MyFaction, Showcase, and Universe. These modes allow players to assume various roles within the WWE hierarchy, including Superstar, General Manager, owner, and event booker, catering to diverse playstyles and preferences. While the core elements of these modes remain consistent, several minor innovations make each mode unique and engaging.
MyRise: A Tale of Two Stories
MyRise now features two distinct stories that explore different aspects of the wrestling narrative. The first, “The Legacy,” follows the journey of a young wrestler born into a family of wrestling legends, much like Cody Rhodes, who must live up to the expectations that come with a prestigious surname.
The second story, “The Lock,” revolves around a rising star navigating the challenging world of independent wrestling companies and dramatic comebacks. Both stories are rich, engaging, and full of twists, making this year’s MyRise the best “career” mode in recent memory.
MyGM: Expanded Managerial Possibilities
MyGM introduces new features to enhance the managerial aspect of the game. Visual Concepts has increased the number of available titles, extended playable seasons, and introduced unexpected events (shake-ups) that add depth and replayability to the mode.
Showcase and Universe: Evolving and Engaging
Both Showcase and Universe modes retain their familiar structures, while offering enhancements for a more immersive experience. Universe mode now features an improved cinematic presentation and a new “Momentum” system, which allows Superstars to experience momentum shifts following remarkable or hard-fought victories. These pivotal moments can influence rivalries and career trajectories.
In Showcase mode, John Cena takes center stage, following the footsteps of Rey Mysterio in the previous installment. Although Cena’s inclusion is a welcome addition, the mode’s formula feels somewhat repetitive and primarily serves to justify the presence of a cover wrestler each year.
MyFaction: Room for Improvement
MyFaction, the weakest mode among the lineup, struggles to stand out among the more engaging options. The limited roster in WWE 2K23 is ill-suited for the mode’s FUT-style gameplay, which would benefit from a more extensive selection of wrestlers and available cards.
An Array of Features in WWE 2K23
While WWE 2K23 excels in many areas, there is still room for improvement, particularly in the game’s roster. The absence of some of wrestling’s most iconic figures is noticeable, and although licensing and contractual issues might be a factor, it would have been great to see some long-forgotten legends make a return. Despite this, the game’s audio and musical aspects, as well as the character creation options, are noteworthy.
WWE 2K23 offers players an impressive range of creative possibilities when it comes to character creation. The extensive customization options for athletes, arenas, logos, and more provide a truly engaging experience. One of the most appealing features is the ability to share these creations with the community, often leading to astonishing customizations, humorous memes, and memorable characters.
Community Contributions: Filling in the Gaps
The game’s active community plays a significant role in compensating for the limitations of the official roster. By sharing custom creations, players are able to fill the gaps and expand the game’s roster beyond its original scope. In addition to the impressive character models, the developers have also expanded the variety of match types with the introduction of War Games, a popular stipulation in recent years. Though it may be a variation of a familiar concept, it adds a fresh element to the gameplay experience.
WWE 2K23 boasts strong technical and graphical features, shining game modes, and solid gameplay mechanics. However, improvements could be made to the roster by including more iconic wrestlers from the past. Fortunately, the robust character creation system and the contributions of the game’s community help to address this shortcoming, adding depth and diversity to the experience. With a few refinements, WWE 2K23 has the potential to be an even more impressive wrestling game.
WWE 2K23 continues to improve upon the strong foundation established in its previous iteration. As fans eagerly anticipate what Visual Concepts will bring to the table in their next release (with the third year typically being the most substantial), the current game offers an enjoyable wrestling experience despite some minor shortcomings in the Showcase mode and MyFaction mode.
- Technically impressive visuals and gameplay
- A highly engaging MyRise mode with captivating storylines
- A shining MyGM mode that offers enhanced managerial features
- Lackluster Showcase and MyFaction modes
- A desire for an even more extensive roster of wrestlers