WWE 2K22

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Sports
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Visual Concepts
Release Date: March 11, 2022


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PC Review - 'WWE 2K22'

by Cody Medellin on March 10, 2022 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

WWE 2K22 promises new controls, incredible graphics, and a redesigned engine for the most impressive WWE 2K experience to date.

Buy WWE 2K22

By all accounts, WWE 2K20 was a disaster, especially on the PC. Aside from the countless bugs found on the other console versions, the PC version had its own issues to deal with, from PlayStation prompts when using an Xbox controller to crashing to the desktop after finishing a few matches. A bunch of user videos appeared online, enumerating the bugs and graphical downgrades that prompted 2K to do the unthinkable for a yearly franchise and cancel WWE 2K21, citing the desire to create a better version. WWE 2K22 is here, so we can find out how the developer did after dealing with workplace changes due to COVID-19 and WWE's own changes.

Get past the opening credits, and the game whisks you into a tutorial where you'll play as Rey Mysterio, who's being coached by Drew Gulak on the basics of wrestling. It feels more than necessary this time around, since the controls have been heavily revamped from past entries. The flow of the fights is also more methodical, especially when getting up from the mat or executing combos, so the game feels more grounded, and that certainly benefits those with fighting game experience over pure button-mashers. Like NBA 2K, animation beats everything, so you need to take that into account if you want to perfect the timing of reversals and moves. That said, button-mashers get a chance to shine, since that's the technique to break out of submissions and pins.

There's also the matter of reversals, which are easier to execute thanks to a slightly larger window to hit the Y button. This doesn't turn the game into Dead or Alive, where you can reverse reversals in chains, but the system feels fairer than before. The game also allows for reversals in combos if you match the type of attack being used against you, but unless you know exactly what animations to look for, the chances of you reversing everything is rare. Aside from reversals, there's also the chance to stun enemies so they can't get pull off reversals for a while. Overall, the combat system feels more fluid and less spastic.

At the moment, those who picked up the nWo 4-Life edition of the game have a total of 168 wrestlers, at least five more than those who pick up the regular copy. The number drops more once you combine wrestlers like The Undertaker, who have multiple versions in different outfits, and while that makes the number looks paltry when compared to WWE 2K20, which had 238 (give or take a few repeats via costumes and the like), it still means there's a good wrestler selection. Current Raw and Smackdown wrestlers are represented, as expected, and a few legends are here, too. NXT gets some representation for both the men and women as non-DLC, and the same goes for a few notable members of the NXT UK roster.

The big elephant in the room for longtime wrestling fans is the roster composition. There are currently 41 different wrestlers who are still in the game but no longer with the company. Due to the development time needed for each wrestler, fans have come to expect the roster to be slightly outdated, but this is borderline ridiculous. Some of these are out of 2K's control, such as Cesaro and Johnny Gargano leaving, but the massive roster cuts that WWE has made over the past two years puts 2K in a pickle; removing people who are currently in AEW or Impact Wrestling gives the game one of the smallest rosters since 2K took over the games. It's an odd time capsule, since some of the cuts were done in late 2020, leaving plenty of time to get the roster sorted out.

WWE 2K22 features a number of offline game modes. Play mode provides a variety of match types with any number of players, but don't expect to see new ones. The default camera is a tad lower, so you get a better view of the action without getting blocked by ropes. While playing in multi-man matches pulls the camera back to give a better view, it doesn't do so if you're playing alone, so the focus is on your wrestler. You'll also note that the five-star match rating system returns, but it seems to get you to that ranking faster by having a long match instead of one with more move variety.

The modes feature some of the more infuriating things in the series, from before 2K took over the series. In particular, any match that's not one-on-one isn't enjoyable because the opposing partner always interferes with the pin, and your own partner is slow to retaliate or is blocked by the referee. Have your opponent kick out, and you'll always stall by reacting in disbelief or argue with the ref instead of attacking, even if you only reached a "one" count. We're still not at a point where the Royal Rumble matches the on-screen product; you reach a hard limit of how many wrestlers are on-screen, forcing someone to be eliminated before a new entrant can appear.

This mode also shows how some of the presentation is outdated and out of whack. RK-Bro is listed as the Raw Tag Team Champions, and the announcer (who was let go last year) calls each of them as part of the team. Riddle and Randy Orton tag together, and they don't come out together under their new music or Titantron. The augmented reality stuff may look terrible in real life, but not having Apollo Crews come out with the lion statues or the Street Profits with their airborne red cups is strange (and welcome, for fans who hated those additions). Otis can come out with Tucker as Heavy Machinery, even though that team broke up in 2020 and can come out with Chad Gable as American Alpha, but no one else gets that treatment. Both Sheamus and Becky Lynch are a few wrestlers who come out to their old Titantrons, and the list of other outdated material goes on and on. One nice touch was the inclusion of the Thunderdome, complete with the optional video wall crowd. Even though it is reminiscent of those crowd-less months, it's important for the novel history of it all.

This year's Showcase mode focuses on Rey Mysterio as he goes through some of the big moments in his wrestling career thus far. Much like previous titles, your main objective is to win the match, but to get more unlocks like older arenas and different outfits, you'll need to complete objectives that emulate that match. What makes it more compelling is that you get some commentary from Rey at some of those important points, but he stays in character instead of giving you his real thoughts. The game also takes some moments to transition to the actual footage, and while that part is impressive, it loses its appeal once you see how many faces, including the ref, are blurred out. The sea of blank faces makes for an impromptu horror film.

The mode isn't that long, but you get the sense that there are a ton of other matches that could've been included for the sake of completion. The WCW days are only highlighted by a match against Eddie Guerrero, while his championship wins have been glossed over in that company. The same goes for any championship wins in WWE, and some can be attributed to not having the rights to some wrestlers, like Kurt Angle or Chris Jericho, there are a number of existing roster members who could've been used.

MyRise is the story mode, where you create a character and take them all the way from the beginning to the top of WWE. Unlike 2K20's more linear mode, this is much more fluid. You have 10 save slots and the chance to create a male or female wrestler, though some choices for the character background are odd, especially "actor," since most of the wrestlers became actors after a WWE career, and "indie," which seems to be less of a focus for the company. You choices lead you down a path, with lots of variation about where the tale goes. Like last year's version of the mode, your journey is populated with a variety of past and present WWE wrestlers as well as a few rookies, including the person who played Ribby from the previous game.

The MyRise mode can be fascinating, but it runs into a few issues that drag down the experience. The character creation system suffers from very lengthy load times between each piece. We played the game on both an SSD and nVME drive, and the load was bad enough that it felt like we were playing on an old HDD instead. The acting is fine for the actual wrestlers, but it's comically stiff for the created ones. The graphics are also pretty bad, with most of the game's bugs popping up. From hands that hover on ropes when they're supposed to be leaning on them to lips that tremble more than move, it looks amateurish, especially when the rest of the game looks more polished.

Universe mode returns in WWE 2K22 and remains a giant sandbox for those who want to live out their wrestling fantasies of booking match types without any restrictions. This year's iteration is more fascinating due to the ability to play as just one wrestler, which makes it great for fans of a particular person. They can take the wrestler through a very lengthy career that seems to go on without end.

Finally, there's MyGM, a mode that has been requested for close to a decade give its popularity in UpUpDownDown. You start by picking either Raw, SmackDown, NXT, or NXT UK as your promotion, and your general manager. You can even create a character to specifically be in the GM role. Go into draft mode with a budget of $2.75 million, choose your roster with the cash, and proceed to make your brand dominant. You'll control everything from match types to promos and even locations and advertising, with an eye on keeping everyone happy while still making money.

Since this is the first time the team has tackled this type of mode, it's a good base for those who like the management side. It still feels limited since the only championships on the line are the major ones. You can't do tournaments of any kind, so anyone hoping to have people fight to become the first Intercontinental Champion will be disappointed. It's also disappointing to see that the longest campaign you can run is 50 weeks, making it short for those hoping for Universe mode with more teeth. The variety of perks from making good choices keeps things interesting enough that you might be compelled to run through it more than once.

Online players are going to be in a bind with WWE 2K22. The game has a few different ways to wrestle online, from Quick Play to setting up rooms and selecting a match configuration and hoping someone else does the same. Due to a lack of cross-play, finding opponents is quite difficult, since most players will likely play on the PlayStation or Xbox family of consoles rather than the PC. During our time with the game, we got into a few matches but, the performance was so bad that every opponent left, giving us a chance to finish matches against the AI. The saving grace comes from Steam Remote Play, since that performance was much less prone to lag and stutter, which is a testament to that technology and 2K's network code needing more work.

The other online mode, MyFaction, is handicapped anytime the servers go down because there's no offline version; its contemporaries at EA Sports handle this more gracefully by including an offline version. As you might expect, this mode has you creating your own tiny faction of wrestlers residing under the SmackDown, Raw, or NXT banners. You can take on the Weekly Towers and Proving Grounds for a variety of match types, but the big rewards come from Faction Wars, where you'll play in 4v4 matches for bigger prizes. Despite being an online mode, there's no online play that we can see, which can dampen the enthusiasm of those who are willing to deal with different virtual currencies to power up their cards and get contracts. Those willing to dive in will get hooked by the ability to strengthen cards by completing objectives instead of pouring cash into them.

When it comes to the creation modes, the game still provides one of the more elaborate suites. Aside from the slow character creation mode, you can create anything else, from belts to arenas to entrance movies and match types. There's plenty of space to save this stuff, but the lack of infinite space is perplexing considering that an average PC has plenty of room to keep a ton of custom stuff. As one would expect from the community, there are a bunch of custom items available for download so you can create your own custom game, but the inclusion of image uploads mean that you no longer have pictures of in-game models competing against professional photos from the built-in roster.

Graphically, WWE 2K22 is fairly good. The character models look correct, especially the faces, which no longer look like they were salvaged from old PS2 files. The facial animations look awesome, as do the general animations when moving and attacking, but there are still moments when delivering aerial attacks looks choppy, and you end up warping from spot to spot. Arenas look fine, as does the crowd, which is less repetitive. As mentioned before, MyRise is where the game starts to look rough, but if you don't plan on playing that mode, you won't see an issue.

For the PC specifically, there are issues that seem unique to the platform. The lack of extensive graphical options is always a letdown for PC enthusiasts, but some of the essential things are missing, like VSYNC, so the game constantly has torn frames that ruin the image. The game runs at a very high frame rate, but it's concerning when intros and special shots of powerful moves drop to 30fps. What we don't know is whether the game is running on the previous-generation graphical base as opposed to the current one. It can run at 4K without an issue, but considering that Visual Concepts still hasn't made NBA 2K22 on the PC run on the PS5/Xbox Series X graphical base, don't be surprised if what you're playing on the PC is a souped-up PS4/Xbox One version.

The audio is as good as expected. The sounds of people hitting the mat and steel steps hit with a great amount of force, while the grunts from wrestlers when they're hit are fine, if a little surprising since you rarely hear that in a real TV match. The commentary team does a great job of sounding natural, even though some of the lines are repeated often, and the banter you'd hear between guys like Byron Saxton and Cory Graves is minimal. Despite making a big deal of having Machine Gun Kelly be the music producer, there are only 12 licensed tracks, so there's not much to choose from when crafting your wrestler unless you're settling for the generic themes.

If the recent rumors that EA Games is going to start developing WWE games turns out to be untrue, then WWE 2K22 serves as a fairly good base to work from for future offerings. The fighting alone is much improved and enjoyable to work with, and the graphics look quite nice, even though some flourishes are missing and the PC version isn't up to expectations. The modes are pretty hit-and-miss, and the legacy issues and hilariously outdated roster show that this isn't quite the comeback many people were hoping for. There's enough fun to be had here, despite the issues to warrant a look for those craving a "good enough" wrestling game, especially from those who were heavily burned by WWE 2K20.

Score: 7.0/10

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