WWE 2K23 Review

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WWE 2K23 Review

I am my Kingdom... 

While 2K continues to dominate the sporting genre, Visual Concepts’ recurrent status within the WWE universe has held up to its acclaim for its redesigned Pro-Wrestling engine in WWE 2K22. The sports entertainment-riddled showcase enters its tenth iteration under its current banner, but is the twenty-third entry into the WWF SmackDown! franchise from its initial release for the PlayStation in 2000. After the departure of Yukes, and a nightmare of a development cycle with Visual Concepts picking up the scraps of the Japanese developer’s leftovers in 2020, 2K22 trailblazed a new path for the series, rebirthing an entirely new look and feel with excellent presentation that delivers an authentic, premium produced television show just as if a fan was tuning in every Monday Night to World Wrestling Entertainment’s flagship show, RAW.

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WWE 2K23 continues to impress with an insanely mammoth roster of superstars dating from modern day, NXT, ruthless aggression, attitude era, all the way to the classics. There is no shortage in who to pick, which match to have or what event to book it. With the addition of such an expansion roster comes new match types, new game modes, an entirely revamped GM Mode and its showcase covering this year’s cover star, the one and only John Cena and his twenty-plus year career in the WWE. While Visual Concepts have redeemed the franchise with remarkable upgrades to promulgate a quality of life toward the series’ longevity, those that are expecting an entirely new experience or an overhauled engine may be slightly disappointed, but this comes standard in an annual release cycle for sporting titles, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Adrenaline, in my soul...

WWE 2K23 gives us the opportunity to relive moments as fans, or create our own memories with dream matches that can only happen within our universe. How about a rematch between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania 38? You can do that. How about jumping into the online creators suite and downloading some fan made creations that are currently sweeping the indies, and have them debut on SmackDown! to take on the incomparable Intercontinental Champion Gunther? You can do that. Or how about a dream match for a different promotion? You know, something like CM Punk and FTR Vs. oh I don’t know, The Elite’s Young Bucks and Kenny Omega? Yeah, you can totally do that. Hundreds of superstars at your fingertips flood this lofty roster, reeling in a record setting 246 (Playable and non-playable plus Day One DLC) wrestlers to choose from.

Updates to superstar’s respective attires, additions to certain era’s some wrestled though such as John Cena’s Thuganomics, Chain Gang, and rookie years as the Prototype, or Batista’s OVW days as the Leviathan. Newest inductee Rey Mysterio gets his official purple garb from the 1997 Halloween Havoc classic with Latino Heat Eddie Guerrero, and what has become an annual tradition to include WCW Nitro, the nWo now with Eric Bischoff. Brock Lesnar gets his refreshed look with ponytail mohawk and beard, and the return of the American Nightmare brings his Kingdom back to WWE 2K after a seven year absence. An enthralling roster filled to brim with potential, and endless possibilities. Now, let’s talk in-ring physics. I give praise where praise is due to Visual Concepts for their re-appraisal to the in-ring mechanics that were polished plentifully in 2K22, however pre-patch problem did have me running into issues that I’m sure will be ironed out either prior to launch or just after.

However, those that spent enough time in 2K22 will have no problem adjusting here, while gamers that were deterred from returning to the series after an abysmal 2K20 will be surprised to see it as nicely designed as it is. Arenas have insane detail, character models look lifelike as they ever have, and you feel the impact of each punch, kick, dive or body slam. Nobody runs a show quite like World Wrestling Entertainment. The glitz, the glamour, the fame and fortune all come together in this action-packed experience, from the first pyro blazing the entrance, to the sweat and blood spattered ring mat as a new champion is crowned. I will mention that the diverse pinning system gives players a choice as to which way they want to kick out, with the simplistic button mash or the flick of an analogue stick.

WWE 2K23 is unmissable, relive greatness and become legend.

The submission system retains its tug-of-war like frenzy, indicating players to mash a certain button upon display as a meter will determine if you’re close to making your opponent submit, or submitting yourself. You health gauge entails a slightly streamlined approach to your character’s stamina, reminiscent of a WWF No Mercy, or WCW/nWo Revenge with a green or red meter slowly depleting over time, but a welcome return to the franchise after many years of absence is banking your player’s finisher. A sorely missed feature that was a staple to the SmackDown! franchise which was taken away, and re-introduced many times within each release, but returns to its traditional form with numerous slotted attempts stored for use. Signature show-boding taunts also earn you the slightest acclaim from the crowd as a babyface, earning you a finisher faster while heelish attacks such as sneaking in a weapon and using it with the referee blindsided will do the same for the baddies of the roster.

Something, Something Cody Rhodes...

SOLID POINTS

✔️ WARGAMES! Chaos encouraged, and complete fun.

✔️ Relive John Cena’s career and take the alternate route to see what could have been.

✔️ A polished Pro-Wrestling experience delivers the most authentic demonstration.

❌ Some bugs that can be patched.

❌ Showcase is now a tired experience that could be changed up.

Okay, it’s my turn to say it. WARGAMES! Wow, that feels great. The highly anticipated debut of the double-ringed event now has a home in WWE 2K23, and let me tell you, it’s pandemonium, and I love it. For the uninitiated, from the great mind of the late great American Dream Dusty Rhodes comes Wargames, an NWA/WCW founded event that first took place at NWA’s The Great American Bash 1987, then annualised to WCW Fall Brawl from 1991. The premise was simple, two rings would be seated side-by-side with a cage that covered both. Two men would start the match, with a coin toss determining the advantage with remaining members of the five man team entering at two minute intervals, with the first period being a five minute one-on-one encounter.

The only way to win was by pin fall or submission when all ten men were in locked inside the steel structure. Before WWE re-introduced the event, WCW’s cage would entail a roof, but when Triple H bought Wargames back in 2017, it was catered to the younger generation of talent in NXT, that were notorious for their high-risk spots off the top turnbuckle. Taking the ceiling off the cell would also implicate or encourage them to climb the walls and dive off the top. Sounds awesome, right? Well it is, but there’s an issue. Upon playing two different matches with two different characters, I praise 2K for its random choice that ultimately builds anticipation toward its participant’s order.

If I were to take a wild guess, this would indicate whether a character’s respective score – be it an 88 or 95 for example – determine if they enter first or last. My first experience inside Wargames was short. I was last to enter, hit a few people with a kendo stick, hit a Cross Rhodes, while my partner got the pinfall. I was in the match for about minute. My second time through, I had made the choice to instead pick my entrant’s number, and had an excitable experience throughout the entire match. The suspense was incredibly palpable, and had me engaged from start to finish. But only problem again is once we have the opportunity to pin or submit an opponent, the AI begins to go crazy in the match with every CPU character frantically trying to score the finish. While I can understand why this happens, it’s utterly annoying to those that may choose random, and end up entering last with the CPU scoring the finish. It felt so empty and unfulfilling that I had to go back and re-do the match with a fixed order. Hopefully this can be fleshed out a lot better next year.

John Cena’s showcase is a trip down memory lane, except it alternates events within his timeline. What if Cena won his match against Rob Van Dam at ECW One Night Stand 2006? What if his first night on SmackDown! he scored the win against Kurt Angle? As someone who watched John Cena’s entire career and the accolades he achieved, it was exhilarating to relive them all while having Cena himself, tell his tale and how he envisioned his curtain call. But as a showcase overall, there’s nothing new that excited me, nor made me completely engaged with it. I miss the original storylines tied to the games. I understand why they were inevitably removed after controversial topics began to tie-in with real life events, which were all purely coincidental, but the sensitive subjects were met with a negativity from fans, regardless.

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With that said, it’s been nearly 20 years since these entries, and it may be time to return to original showcases with enthralling stories of established stars. I respect the cover athlete trope that 2K have instated, giving fans an in-depth, or rediscovered look into their past but now’s the time to rid the tired formula and give us something new to look forward to in-turn of a WWE “Story Mode”. MyGM has been given minor improvements from last year, but is still the same experience as to is everything else in the game aside from new characters and their respective move sets. I do wish there were more to elaborate on, but the fact with most annualised wrestling games is, we receive a minor update to mechanics, additions to the roster, a new match feature or two, a brand new showcase and some physical and aesthetic upgrades. Is it all worth it however? Yes, if you love Pro-Wrestling as much as I do, it’s always worth the price every year. There’s nothing like the WWE games, and 2K23 is no exception.

WWE 2K23 is an excellent addition to the longstanding WWE video games library. The insurmountable polish that’s been applied to this love letter for fans is insanely generous. The largest roster in WWE 2K/SmackDown!/Smackdown Vs. Raw history, Wargames and notable legends included all makes this a worthwhile experience. Reliving NXT Black and Gold, to 2.0, paving your own path to WrestleMania, delivering stunner after stunner as Stone Cold Steve Austin or Kevin Owens, to making your mark at the head of the table, this is without question the greatest tribute to Pro-Wrestling video games that any studio has ever developed. Plus, you get to pummel Logan Paul as Bill Goldberg, so that’s a massive plus. WWE 2K23 is unmissable, relive greatness and become legend.

WWE 2K23 Review

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WWE 2K23 is a 2023 professional wrestling sports video game developed by Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports. It is the twenty-third overall installment of the video game series based on WWE, the tenth game under the WWE 2K banner.

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Showcase
7
Gameplay
8
Presentation
9
Sound
8
8

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