After the failure that was WWE 2K20, the series is now back after a year break.
The WWE 2K series is back and better than ever. WWE 2K20 was so extraordinarily bad and buggy according to both gamers and media, so bad that even the developers and publishers seemed to have nightmares about the grotesque characters, sometimes with no faces at all. They therefore decided to simply skip releasing a version last year and instead put all their efforts into making a good WWE 2K22. Konami tried the same thing with the Pro Evolution Soccer series, but instead released eFootball, the game we voted as last year's worst game. Given that and how mediocre wrestling games have been for quite a few years, I didn't have high hopes for WWE 2K22 at all. I'm glad to tell you I was wrong.
It didn't take many seconds for me to see that this really is a big improvement. Gone are those faces that might scare little kids and instead most of the characters actually look good. Sure, there are of course some misses, but it's a line-up of over 160 people and most of them are very well done. The same can be said for the wrestling itself as well. It's been almost completely redone from the fiasco we saw a couple of years ago. Everything flows much better and gone, for the most part, are all those problems where attacks were missed completely or where your wrestler did something extremely buggy. Sure, they still climb up into the corner of the ring when I don't want them to or throw a dropkick next to the opponent. But it's hard to describe it as something else than a huge improvement from 2K20. It's like night and day, and now it's actually fun to play. Also gone are most of the little mini-games during pins and submissions, for example. They've been replaced by good old fashioned button mashing, which I actually prefer.
The moves now rely on a combo mechanic, think a slower version of Tekken or Street Fighter. The last button pressed determines what kind of combo it will be. For example, X, X, X, A (on an Xbox controller) means three light attacks followed by a final heavier attack. The B button can also be mixed in as it is used for different grabs. What bothers me a little bit, but certainly not a major problem, is that every time I go for a grab attack with the B button and then follow it up with another button press to select the type of attack is that every grab attack has basically the same animation. I always have to go into a so-called lockup before I can make the next attack. This also applies to an Irish Whip where I throw my opponent away towards the ropes or the corner of the ring. This now requires a lockup before I can do it, which is a somewhat unnecessary change and I think this will make players prefer kicks and punches instead of holds, which is the opposite of what wrestling should be. It's not Fight Night, after all.
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Countering opponents' attacks can now be done in three different ways. The first is the classic counter where you press a button just as the attack is coming. The second is to predict what attack the opponent will use. By pressing X or A at the opponent's attack, you can counter if they use the corresponding attack. The last way is to simply roll away from the attack like Aloy in the Horizon series. I haven't seen any reason to use anything other than the first way. Probably because it's the same way used in wrestling games since the beginning of time. There is no limit this year to the number of counters (or reversals if you will) we can use. The right timing is all that is needed. Sometimes it can lead to a countering fest where everything gets countered from both fighters.
In this year's return for the series, a couple of highly interesting game modes have also been added. The first is MyGM, a mode I've wanted since Smackdown vs. Raw in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Each year I've hoped in vain for it to come back. Now it's finally here again... and is a huge disappointment. It's thin as a sheet of paper. It starts off well with us getting to pick a GM or create our own and then draft a bunch to Raw, Smackdown, NXT or NXT UK and the opponent does the same. But the joy doesn't last beyond booking the first show. You can only book three matches per show. Compare that to Smackdown vs. Raw in 2006, where you could book twice as much. How am I supposed to book all my wrestlers with only three matches? The solution to this, the developers thought, was to scrap almost all titles. The only belts left to fight for are the men's and women's main belts. So no titles like the Intercontinental Championship and no tag team titles either.
The question is why I should even be interested in putting together a duo when there are no belts to fight over. It also doesn't help that there are only singles matches and tag team matches available. No triple threat or multi-person matches at all. It's not even possible to play a full calendar year. The choices are 15, 25 or 50 weeks in length. They try to make things interesting with different things like Power Cards for each GM that give different bonuses and booking different types that wrestle against each other to get the best match ratings. But it falls flat. This really wasn't what I wanted.
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The other new mode is MyFaction, which is WWE's equivalent of the NBA 2K series' MyTeam (or Ultimate Team from EA). It was no surprise that this was added considering the money they make from these modes. Yep, it's card packs that apply here too, which can be purchased for real money. So it was quite a surprise to notice that the mode cannot be played online against others. It's an Ultimate Team mode against the computer. Which of course completely removes the reason to play these modes. The content is basically copied entirely from NBA 2K22 with various challenges, card collections and the likes.
Universe Mode is back, which is arguably the best game mode in the game. It's basically a sandbox where you can create your own show and schedule it exactly how you want. Here you can spend hours and hours either simulating the shows and perhaps watching some underdog climb all the way up or playing all the matches yourself. New for this year is the ability to play as a specific wrestler, something the developers call "player lock". It's Universe Mode, but we only play as one of the characters. Showcase Mode this year focuses on Rey Mysterio and his career. It's well done and blends video from the real matches to seamlessly transition into the virtual match. There are a total of twelve matches to play from 1997 to the present. It's hard to argue with the choice of Mysterio here given his long career. Completing various missions in the matches also unlocks things, like characters and venues.
Finally, we have MyRise, which is the game's story mode. The last time we were able to play this, it was like it was written by an 11-year-old where Samoa Joe got a robotic arm and we slipped on food trays at school. This time around, it's much more focused on fighting your way into the spotlight. It starts in NXT's Performance Center and it all plays out through conversations with other characters. The choice is yours, respond like a real bastard or like a nice bastard. This leads to different branches of the story and it's possible to have completely different experiences from one playthrough to the next. In addition, the stories differ if you choose to play as a man versus a woman. A step in absolutely the right direction.
WWE 2K22 isn't perfect, but compared to the fiasco of two years ago, the wrestling series is finally back on track. This is the best game in the series in years.
7 / 10
Lots of content. Mostly good looks. Well done showcase about Rey Mysterio's career. Well written story mode. Wrestling is finally fun again.
MyGM is a real disappointment. Ultimate Team mode and MyFaction is only offline. Long loading times. The game crashes sometimes.