It has been an exciting year for wrestling with the new AEW actually giving WWE a run for its money. The latter scene has been standing still for a long time and the quality hasn't been as high as one has come to expect from WWE. Sadly, we can't praise WWE 2K20 much either. In fact, this year's instalment in the series is so bad that it's hard to know where to begin the review. The more we think about it, the more we realise that nothing about it is that good.
Granted, 2K Sports were put in a tough position following the departure of long-time WWE game developer Yuke's ahead of this year's instalment. The developer had created wrestling games since 1995 and had a role in the creation of every WWE game since 2000. This departure had 2K switch studios to Visual Concepts for 2K20 and they, in turn, had to start from scratch. Now, when the game has officially released, it's clear that the developer didn't have enough time to create the game they would have wanted because this is far from complete. It's honestly almost shameful how broken things are at times.
The graphics have somehow managed to get worse since the last game in the series with character models looking like absolute garbage. Randy Savage looks like Lord Farquaad from Shrek and perhaps the most iconic superstar ever, The Rock, looks horrendous. The hair physics are remarkably bad. In the story mode, which you can read more about a bit later, the hair is living its own best life during the cutscenes; it flies around all over the place like the strands are all Medusa snakes blowing in the wind. If your character has a beard it doesn't move when your mouth does so your facial hair often ends up inside your character's mouth. This game is hideous. A lot of aspects seem taken from a bad game from the last console generation.
Up to this point, we haven't even mentioned the insane number of bugs that this game is filled to the brim with. Ahead of this review being published, 2K announced that a patch is coming that will hopefully fix the issues. It's still unforgivable to release a game in this state though. There are referees that either end up three metres in the air or stuck in the floor, athletes that sing through the ring, and matches where faces are missing and eyes with mouths are hovering above the neck. Some real horror, just in time for Halloween. This are just three examples of the game's almost countless issues and you just have to do a quick Google search to find the rest.
What's worse is the fact that some bugs are game-breaking. In the career mode, you can't load the next chapter if you've edited your athlete and put a logo or emblem on your outfit. This feels particularly odd, considering how important customisation is for players wanting to create their own custom character. If you've added an emblem you'll end up stuck on the loading screen forever. Apart from this, the game also suffers from crashes. When we tried the Universe Mode for the first time the game crashed after we finished our very first match.
The aforementioned Universe Mode, the game's manager/sandbox mode, is just more of the same from previous instalments albeit with some minor changes, such as the fact that you can have four rivalries (which is still way too few if you're trying to build an interesting show) and new dialogues. None of this will make players jump for joy, and we still miss the GM mode from over ten years ago.
The career mode is trying something completely new this year and has you play as two best friends, a man and a woman. It's a good idea but it's not executed well. The story starts at the end and the duo has ended its career. They then reminisce over their previous accomplishments through conversations with other superstars. You can, for example, have a conversation with AJ Styles at the start and he'll remind you of that match you had once upon a time. You then get to choose whether or not you want to play this match, as a side mission of sorts, or continue on with the main story. "Talk to AJ Styles" - well, kind of - he's speaking through recorded dialogue but his mouth isn't moving. The game is, as we mentioned before, in rough shape.
The story could have been interesting, but sometimes it seems as though it was written by a 14-year-old. Trey, the male athlete, gets his name after slipping on a lunch tray and there are plenty of badly written teen-rated jokes. Another thing we found annoying was the fact that you always look exactly the same no matter the point you are in the character's career. In the high school flashbacks, you look like you're fresh into retirement, with a full beard if you've chosen to have one, while the kids in the background look more like they're 10 years old. The idea behind the story is interesting but it's executed horribly and the horrendous visuals almost hurt the eyes.
Another good idea, in theory, is this year's Showcase Mode. In this, you can play through every year of a superstar's career. This year, the "women's revolution" is the focal point, which had female athletes get more screen time and negated the fact that they used to be sexualised afterthoughts for a toilet break (the wrestling scene used to be a rough space for women, after all). We get to follow the careers of The Four Horsewomen (Bailey, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks) from NXT to Wrestlemania Main Events. Again, it's a good idea with an important theme but it's executed badly. Every match has you do the same thing over and over again; "get x's health down to red", "do a standing attack in the ring", and so on. This follows over to the career mode's setup as well. In between matches you'll get to watch interviews and real match footage from their matches. This is a fun idea, but why does it feel like each clip is around 240p? Licensing obviously isn't the issue, since this is an official WWE game, so why on earth do you not get to watch them in HD?
All of this would have been forgiven if the game was fun in the ring, but alas, it's not. Swing and miss is a baseball term that fits this game's mechanics as you'll find yourself completely missing your opponent when attacking and sometimes you don't even swing the right way. The button configuration has been completely revamped to cater to new players but it doesn't always work. Another thing: why does everything have to be a mini-game? Submission? Minigame. Comeback? Minigame. There has to be a better way to make these things work. Apart from this, the AI tends to counter your "finisher" almost every time.
This is a game that you should steer clear of even if you happen to be the biggest wrestling fan in the world. Every aspect of the series has been made worse in this year's instalment. The graphics are bad, plenty of bugs are present, the career mode is laughable, and it's simply not fun in the ring. There's not a thing that makes this game good. There are games that are bad and there are games that are broken - WWE 2K20 is both. It may not be as bad as the fiasco that was WWE 2K18 for Switch, but it's not far from it.
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