WWE 2K22 Review
Saying that WWE 2K20 had problems during its release is a massive understatement. Where do we even start – The confusing control scheme? Nightmare-inducing character models? The glitch-filled gameplay? The lack of requested game modes? The laughable story campaign? Did we forget anything?
After taking some much-needed time off and skipping a year to go back to the drawing board, we fast forward to 2022 and the celebrated franchise is finally back just like The Undertaker rising from the dead. Does WWE 2K22 really “hit different”?
It certainly looks and feels different
Everybody loves a comeback story, and one of the most noticeable improvements in WWE 2K22 is in the visual and animation department, which is a far cry from 2K20. Not only do the character models look good, but those horrible glitches like messed-up hair and getting stuck on the ropes are now a thing of the past.
You can tell there’s an improvement when you often opt not to skip the wrestlers’ entrances in WWE 2K22, only doing so when you want to get the match started as soon as possible. There’s a deeper appreciation for the animation and expressions on and off the ring, like The Rock’s confident look as he raises his fist standing on the turnbuckle, or Road Dogg Jesse James’ dialogue while walking to the ring.
Realism is also greatly improved in 2K22. Hit your opponent’s face enough and it’ll eventually bleed, along with table pieces scattering and remaining where they are should you get to drive your opponent through them.
There are a few outliers though, like Alexa Bliss looking like her face is a little too smiley at times, along with some arenas looking a bit more polished than others. Nonetheless, to say that WWE 2K22 is better than 2K20 is a massive understatement. Apart from being looking and playing better, the revamped engine turns out to be a success because it actually works now, for the most part.
WWE The Fighting Game
Another major improvement in WWE 2K22 is the control scheme. The near-universal controls for each wrestler have been simplified enough that it’s easier to pick up and get used to quickly. All you got now are light, heavy, and grab buttons, with the reversal still mapped to one button to counter your way to victory.
Finishers and signature moves have been simplified as well, as it just requires holding the R2 (PS4/PS5) and pressing either Square or Circle. In fact, the closest thing to memorizing something in WWE 2K22 are the combination of Light, Heavy, and Grapple combos, which allow for a bit of button-mashing along the way.
WWE 2K22 adds a level of strategy because if you’re able to anticipate it, pressing the same attack button as your opponent during their combo will let you counterattack and give you the momentum in a match. It may not be too noticeable when fighting the AI, but it’s a different ballgame when playing with human opponents. It’s very satisfying when it works, and between both players, you can prove that you’re the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be (heh).
A fighting game heavily relies on its roster to deliver a great experience and WWE 2K22 has a total of 168 wrestlers at launch. It’s a bit of a drop from 2K20, and the roster is still filled with inaccuracies because of some being released during the development of the game. Longtime fans who follow the series will likely notice some names missing like The Fiend Bray Wyatt, and this is immediately noticeable since Alexa Bliss’ default look is still the one from the Fiend storyline.
Older wrestling-heads will get their fix though as superstars like the Macho Man Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior are on the list. It’s especially surreal seeing the likes Diesel and Razor Ramon and being able to pit them against more recent superstars like Titus O’Neil or Finn Bálor.
WWE 2K22 still offers the usual wrestling modes like singles competition, tag teams, Hell in the Cell, and a whole heap of other matches you’ve seen in WWE shows. Universe mode is also back and it’s still going to be a treat for all the WWE fans who want to craft their own unique experience, from making their own shows to shuffling the rosters, and even making your own belts and sharing it with other WWE fans.
Longtime fans can also rejoice as MyGM makes an appreciated return here in WWE 2K22. This mode was absent for the longest time but now we can see it’s a fan favorite for a reason. The mode really makes you feel like a genuine General Manager in the sense of having you put together a successful WWE show within your budget and the resources available to you.
Decisions like which wrestlers to draft and pit against each during shows along with arranging promos will put your managing skills to the test, especially considering you’re up against other WWE brands and you’ll need to impress the Game himself, Triple H.
For obvious reasons, this could be a bit too much for players just looking for a straightforward wrestling experience. It is a simulation and should be treated as such, so it goes without saying that not everybody will appreciate this mode. For those that do, though, MyGM will certainly fill in the need to be your own Triple H.
WWE 2K22 also brings MyFaction mode, where you can supposedly form your dream team ala D-Generation-X or the New World Order. Think of MyTeam from the NBA 2K series, employing card collecting-based gameplay to build your group and take it to the top.
Seeing as this is a new mode added to WWE 2K22, longtime fans of the series may find it surprising to see this here. It certainly feels like a business decision, wanting to emulate the success of the mode from other games because of the potential revenue it might create. It feels par for the course because the rewards come in at a slow pace, often requiring upwards of an hour or two to earn enough rewards to purchase just a basic pack.
The push for real money purchase is definitely real if you wish to climb the ranks quickly, but one hitch is that MyFaction in WWE 2K22 is a single-player affair, so you can’t quite show off and compete with other players around the world. While this slightly addresses the pay-to-win scenario, card collecting on your own can get boring pretty fast.
Also gone is the silly campaign from WWE 2K20 and in its place for WWE 2K22 is MyRise. While this can serve as a pretty decent campaign of your created wrestler’s rise to WWE stardom, either as a Face or Heel, it takes quite a hit as the writing is pretty average and your time is spent either talking to fellow wrestlers or checking your social media to advance. If anything, it may feel rather surreal and nostalgic seeing the likes of Road Dogg and the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels looking older and mentoring the newbies.
One good thing WWE 2K22 gets right is the breadth of customization options available for the player, which is pretty extensive. Creating your ideal wrestler with the different fighting styles and costumes to choose from will definitely take a while, and one nice touch is that the customization options are even extended to the official roster, arenas, and even belts. So if you feel like changing Jeff Hardy’s facepaint or the colors of Alexa Bliss’s highlights, you surely can.
The Showcase mode is another highlight of WWE 2K22, especially if you’re a Rey Mysterio fan. The mode plays out like a documentary of sorts, with Mysterio adding commentary to certain points of his career as it is narrated in the game.
The mode is a well-presented tribute to the legendary high-flyer, with some surprise sequences along the way that may bring a tear to your eye. This is certainly a high point of the game and it would be interesting to see how this can be expanded in the next installments because we definitely would love to see more of it.
What we liked:
- Return of MyGM mode
- Improvement in graphics and animation over its predecessor
- Simpler control scheme
- Touching highlight on Rey Mysterio’s career
- Extensive customization options
- Diverse roster from the WWE’s various eras
What we didn’t like:
- Some arenas, including crowd animations, still look graphically outdated
- Roster is inaccurate, with a sizeable chunk no longer part of WWE
- MyRise can be a little dull
- MyFaction is stingy with rewards, promoting microtransactions
Verdict: Wait for it.
Putting things simply, WWE 2K22 is an improvement in almost every way, surpassing 2K20 in aspects that matter to merit a definite return to form. Some things like MyFaction and MyGM could be fleshed out a bit more, but it does mean that Visual Concepts has finally steered the ship back on track and could build bigger and better experiences based on this outing.
As fun as the MyGM and Universe are, along with the emotional story chronicling Rey Mysterio’s career, those modes eventually end, and you’re left with MyRise and MyFaction, with both modes needing tweaks and improvements to clean it up a bit more.
That said, fans of the series will definitely want to pick this up as it has been too long since we’ve gotten a proper wrestling game, and WWE 2K22 can certainly fill that need. Players will find a lot to do because the game is stuffed with modes, but not everything will appeal to the more casual fanbase. There’s more work to be done, but WWE 2K22 is already headed in the right direction.
*WWE 2K22 was reviewed on a PS4 and PS5 using a review code from the publishers.