WWE 2K23 Review | TechRaptor

WWE 2K23 Review |  TechRaptor

I stated that WWE was in a weird place when I looked at WWE 2K last year, and that really hasn’t changed. There’s a new king atop the creative mountain, and the weekly shows are a bit more watchable than they were in the dregs of last year, but it’s still a lot of the same. That would also describe WWE 2K23, an iterative sequel to last year’s shake-up that manages to improve a lot of missteps without introducing all that much. It’s a welcome change for someone who’s used to these games shaking things up dramatically on a regular basis, but it also makes for a review that might feel as stale as a Roman Reigns/Brock Lesnar main event at WrestleMania. To that end, I’ll try to bring my Seth Rollins energy to the table as I describe how this year’s entry succeeds and fails.

Whether you’re digging into the Showcase campaign, creating your character for MyRise, or just pitting Shanky against LA Knight as an exhibition, WWE 2K23‘s gameplay continues on the path blazed last year by developer Virtual Concepts. Fighting game-inspired combos and simple button combinations let you master each Superstar’s moveset with ease. If you don’t remember how Rey Mysterio sets up his 619, the pause menu provides an excellent reference for signature moves, finishers, and each wrestler’s unique abilities. While the in-ring action relies heavily on timing out counters and waiting for animations to play out, 2K23 continues the trend toward more dynamic moments in each match. The biggest improvements come in multi-man matches, letting you target multiple opponents around you with strikes more automatically than in years past. Loading five guys into a Hell in a Cell may still produce some crazy bugs, but at least your wrestler won’t be swinging at air most of the time. In fact, there were very few moments where I felt like I was going through the motions while playing as my favorites.

Speaking of, if you’ve enjoyed WWE programming over the last year, you’ll find at least one or two faces to latch onto on WWE 2K23‘s huge roster. While there are some notable omissions due to the rapid pace of arrivals and departures backstage at Stamford over the past twelve months, everyone you really want in the game is here somewhere. There aren’t many outdated gimmicks to snicker about this time, although that may be due to Triple H’s attempts to bring things back from the brink after an era of egg-based storytelling. I do wish that the developers kept in gimmicks from the past two games in addition to the newest characters just so players had more options, or at least let players choose from the fully built-out characters they’ve created for the MyGM mode as a collection of local jobbers ready. Anything to give players options that let their experience line up with the TV show is much appreciated.

Roman Reigns holding up a title in WWE 2K23
I acknowledge Roman Reigns as the Tribal Chief and the perfect man to lose to Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania.

As expected with a WWE game at this point, you can customize pretty much everything about the in-game roster if you like. Watching Kevin Owens perform The Worm as his finisher is funny in a surreal way, although the impressive authenticity of each competitor’s style is a big selling point for me. I miss the custom soundtrack options in the last generation of games, especially as WWE’s musical output has gone downhill severely. Not having the opportunity to revive the classic themes of modern superstars or let your created wrestler walk out to annoying dubstep is a rare step down from what came before. Everything else, from the option to download Donald Trump and photos of questionable intent to the ability to tweak a wrestler’s entrance in infinitely precise ways, all carry over. Customization has always been the heart and soul of WWE 2Kand they haven’t messed that up here.

This isn’t to say that WWE 2K23 lacks improvements over its predecessor. For one, the Showcase mode feels significantly improved over last year’s model. There is a shift in focus from Rey Mysterio to John Cena, but you’re not just dishing out Attitude Adjustments to everyone on the roster over and over. In a nod towards how divisive the leader of the Cenation can be, you play as his rogues’ gallery and take charge in matches where John Cena ended up lying under the lights. This addresses several problems with many of WWE 2K‘s single-player efforts simply by giving you new characters to play as. The constantly changing movesets and objectives that feel easier to achieve than ever before make this journey through WWE history one that is well worth taking.

John Cenas in ECW WWE 2K23
Vince’s dream matchup for the revived ECW couldn’t truly be realized until WWE 2K23.

Of course, even if you’re not a particular fan of Cena’s run in WWE, you’ll want to play through that mode. This is due to a generous number of unlockables hidden throughout the game, each corresponding with matches you take on as you play. As you repeatedly beat up John Cena, you unlock new wrestlers, historically authentic throwbacks of wrestlers already on the roster, meticulously detailed arenas from the past, and a ridiculous number of John Cena variants. WWE 2K23 supports up to eight wrestlers in one match, and I could quickly fill every slot with a slightly different version of Peacemaker. While it may seem ridiculous to a casual observer of WWE, the various incarnations all come with somewhat tweaked commentary and movesets that accurately reflect where Cena was at different points in his career, and the other wrestlers with in-game variants also get this treatment. This is something that WWE games haven’t always gotten right, so it’s great to see the current developers step up to the plate and deliver features that any long-time fan will love.

There are also plenty of unlockables to discover in this year’s version of MyRise, which is not as improved as Showcase but retains the charm it had last year. There are still two campaigns to play, one for each gender of custom superstar. I was happy to see returning characters from last year’s mode and new scenarios pop up as I reached the top echelons of 2K’s alternate take on WWE history. I didn’t like that some of the matches featured the same annoying objectives of Showcase mode, but there were still plenty of opportunities to play out matches in any way I saw fit. Overall, the experience fills the void of game-specific storytelling that has been absent from this series since its Smackdown VS. Raw heyday, and it continues to be a great addition that I hope sticks around for many years to come.

Eight John Cenas prepare to cause the heat death of the universe in WWE 2K23
Seriously, this isn’t even all of the John Cenas you can unlock. 2K23 has more John Cena per capita than WWE PPVs in 2006.

MyGM also returns with marked improvements over last year’s seemingly rushed offering. While it is still miles away from providing the simulator-esque experience I expect when I see a GM mode in a wrestling game, MyGM does provide a solid framework for local multiplayer fun with a group of like-minded wrestling fans. Players draft from a talent pool consisting solely of WWE stars this time around, although the goofy locals from last year’s incarnation do show up as free agents once the proceedings get going. Players take turns planning their match cards and cashing in perks that can reduce their costs or severely inhibit a rival show’s performance. You can also simulate most matches on the card using the in-game engine, although that could make a fun evening into a slog real quick. This quirky mode got just enough improvements under the hood to warrant a recommendation if it sounds like your friend group’s jam.

WWE 2K23‘s Universe mode and MyFaction also return with even more minor changes than MyGM, and they function just as you expect. Universe continues to provide players with simulated television cards and the ability to tweak as little or as much as you want, and that’s a fine way to continue playing after you exhaust the game’s other single-player options. MyFaction is still a strange trading card-based microtransaction factory that feels even more vestigial considering how improved the rest of the package has become. If I did want to play a WWE game online, I’d probably stick to the regular multiplayer modes on offer, but I guess it’s nice that 2K23 has options for just about everybody.

Johnny Wrestling walks to the ring in WWE 2K23
Johnny Wrestling still has the good version of his theme song in 2K23. Enjoy it while you can!

Even more so than last year, WWE 2K23 feels like a great experience, no matter your background with the genre. There are tons of modes, and a new player would likely be intimidated despite the numerous tutorials that pop up as you try everything new. Considering the sheer size of the roster and the numerous historical callbacks on offer, I’d say that this is one of the most complete wrestling games ever offered by House McMahon, and I’m hopeful that this continues to expand into the future with new modes and more experimental attempts to wring every drop of entertainment out of WWE.

TechRaptor reviewed WWE 2K23 on Xbox Series X using a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, and PlayStation 4.


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