WWE 2K22 got the series back on track after WWE 2K20‘s wretched launch sent it to the injured reserve for a year. It was a major overhaul, which was needed, but means that WWE 2K23 isn’t quite as flashy or eye-catching. However, it’s a solid yearly addition that builds upon the core of WWE 2K22 and polishes up some rough edges in order to better the overall experience. It’s the type of iterative sequel that is commendable even if it doesn’t totally supplant its predecessor.
While last year’s refined gameplay was the big talking point, WWE 2K23 doesn’t really have one. It largely keeps the same core as last year, which is a good thing, especially given the great shift to the more combo-heavy system. Other than changing the timing-based pin system to be much more engaging, there isn’t much different here — just additional layers of polish on a gameplay system that, although much rarer when compared to past entries, is still prone to the occasional graphical glitch.
The biggest relevant addition to the gameplay is the ability to take part in a WarGames match. There are six and eight-man variants for the match, which is a real visual marvel with its two rings and large cage. While multi-man matches are still a general weak spot for the series, the staggered introductions of team members and lack of tagging make this far more bearable. It is worth noting that it’s just the NXT variant of WarGames that has been added, so those looking to recreate the classic WCW version of the match will be a little let down.
The 2K Showcase is the other heavily advertised feature, which this time focuses on the career of John Cena. Ever the humble guy, Cena had the team focus on his failures rather than his triumphs, so you get to play through different matches where his opponents not only saw him but beat him. Getting to play as a lot of different characters adds a welcome bit of variety, but it’s not as cohesive. Only seeing Cena’s losses doesn’t get players a chance to experience his highs, and that’s generally the point of the mode and why it works. It also doesn’t help that the presentation has taken a bit of a hit due to the lack of commentary since now generic rock music just plays during the entire match. It’s a pretty so-so entry in a mode that has been a real highlight at times.
The create-a-player mode MyRise also returns with two new story modes called The Lock and The Legacy that put players in the shoes of a former WWE star’s family member or a hyped prospect that is heavily pushed upon entering the company. It’s a bit more focused and overall story-based than last year’s mode while still having plenty of side missions. However, it’s not a substantial improvement since the player-created character is unlikable no matter what path they go down. Despite those setbacks, there’s enough charm and fun moments to make both modes worth a playthrough, even if it doesn’t get quite as weird as WWE 2K20‘s story.
MyGM, the simulation mode that has players managing a wrestling brand, has seen the biggest overhaul. Both William Regal (who was let go and rehired during the game’s development) and Shane McMahon (who has been once again cut out of the family business in a goofy Succession-style move) have been replaced by Xavier Woods and Tyler Breeze, who bring some nice UpUpDownDown synergy and sit alongside legendary GMs of the past in Kurt Angle, Eric Bischoff, and Mick Foley.
Overall, the mode just has a lot more to offer as you can keep the booking-based mode going for multiple seasons (it used to just end), choose WCW and NXT 2.0 as brands alongside the three original offerings, and play with four other players, all of which add more depth. With all these additional options, it is truly becoming the simulation mode it is meant to be, making it more than just a one-time novelty and something enjoyable enough on its own merits to continue playing.
There are plenty of other modes and a robust creation suite, all of which were in last year’s game and have only gotten minimal changes. MyFaction remains an unappealing card-based grind looking for players to spend real money, while MyUniverse features plenty of depth and some new story scenarios that freshen up the open-ended mode. This is still a dense package filled with content; it’s just not particularly a new one.
WWE 2K23 is a decent sequel that builds off last year’s foundation in several meaningful ways. MyGM has been heavily improved, and the two new story modes feature some interesting scenarios and carve just enough of their own new and interesting paths. While the Cena-centered 2K Showcase mode is a disappointment, the general polish the rest of the game has makes it a worthwhile upgrade over its overhauled predecessor.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7.5 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.
Disclosure: The publisher provided a PlayStation 5 copy for our WWE 2K23 review. Icon edition reviewed on version 1.002.000.