WITH the WWE 2K series getting back on track last year after a year off, all eyes were on this year’s WWE 2K23 release to see what improvements and if it could sustain the previous year’s success carrying through to this new year. Well after putting many hours into the title, I’m here to let you know that if you want to get lost in the WWE Universe, this is the best place to do so.
With so much to do, I want to break down each section of the game and review each area based on its merits and how you will be spending your time.
The Showcase section of the game is where WWE 2K23 will aim to focus on a wrestler’s career, This year it features the one and only John Cena. Showcase normally has you playing out a wrestler’s best matches by setting goals to complete in the matches, to set off big ‘spots’ that occurred during the contest. This year not much changed with Showcase section – except that instead of playing as John Cena, you play as his opponents in the matches he lost.
Gameplay will consist of hitting certain spots during the match such as beating the opponent down in a certain way or performing a certain move. If you are not sure how to activate a certain section, have no fear! You are easily able to access the menu button where there will be instructions on how to complete these tasks. I must admit, I needed this a few times during my playtime in Showcase mode.
When you get to a certain section of the match, the gameplay will switch over to achieved footage of the original match and let it play through some of the matches. Some maybe just a quick section while some may end the match entirely. I don’t mind these areas but sometimes I really just wanted to do these myself.
With a few of John’s main feuds over the years, there were a few omissions, this is understandable seeing as WWE is no longer the only show in town and certain wrestlers are contracted elsewhere.
I must say I really enjoyed not playing the same character for the many matches you will take part in, it was refreshing. However, the small learning curve of learning each wrestler’s move set for every new match did take some getting used to but ultimately I feel this was for the best.
The main part I loved about the Showcase mode in WWE 2K23 was the commentary by John Cena before the match starts. John’s insights into these matches are articulate and genuinely interesting to listen to. He will go in-depth about his feelings and lessons learnt at that point in his career.
I had an absolute blast with the Showcase mode as it was informative and fun to replay these matches against the 16 time World Champion.
This portion of the game is the career mode of the WWE 2K23 series. Where you will create your own wrestler and take them from mediocrity to main event status.
From the days back on the PlayStation 2 to the end of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 days, these would consist of taking your favourite WWE Superstar and have them ultimately do the same thing. I must admit, I miss this way of gaming in the WWE games. Sure it’s fun creating your own characters and living the dream, but sometimes I just want to take a favourite and jump right into it.
This year career modes are called ‘The Lock’ and ‘The Legacy’; where the Lock story mode is a male character and the Legacy is a female.
With both having two different origin stories, The Lock is a WWE appointed ‘next big thing’ in the company, where you play a gimmick role you are not too fond of from the start. Gaining success right away, not only are you fighting against others who want to knock you down, but you are arguing with management over your career and where it is heading.
For both of the careers in WWE 2K23 you will encounter side missions that will take you off to a side story, some are quick single-match deals where you can earn upgrade points and attribute points where as some of them may take part in a tournament or month-long story.
These are all optional but if you want to build your character to the max, it’s best to give these a go. Some of them can be a lot of fun, but some will ultimately miss the mark. But after you finish them, there is always a main storyline you are aiming to complete.
It’s the same with the Legacy My Rise section of the game except you start off as the niece of a former (made up) WWE wrestler who is given a chance but at the expense of the locker room’s respect that you haven’t paid your dues.
While I really enjoyed my time with the My Rise portion of the game, I couldn’t help but hate the fact there were so many tag team matches and stories put together for time padding. The tag team matches go on way too long due to the fact that your opponents will always manage to break up your pin or submission attempt with your tag partner always missing a beat and not stopping them. The only success I had with this match was when I hit my finishing or signature move to run at the tag partner and knock them off the apron to allow me to score the win.
I don’t mind taking part in tag team matches but I really with the 2K team would address this and either make your partners AI react quicker to help you win the match. Maybe next year.
This was probably my least favourite mode of the game. There are two options to compete in, Superstar or Classic mode.
Superstar will let you take on the career of any WWE Superstar and take control of their career. I’ll admit when i started this I thought this was something I would really enjoy, as I previously spoke on, sometimes I just wanted to take a current wrestler and fight as them.
Depending on what brand you work for you will be added to a weekly wrestling show on Raw, Smackdown or NXT 2.0 Now you are able to let the system decide things for you and pick your rivalries or you have the option to create your own and decide when it’s time to compete for a championship belt.
After about two weeks into the career, the instructions popped up telling me how to control the career and I decided to wrestle for a title belt. This match was given to me right away without setting up a storyline or any build up and I simply won and went about my merry way.
Now I know after playing this a lot longer that I could have requested a rivalry with the current champion and let it played out which could have then scratched my itch for better storytelling because if you really got involved in this mode, there are so many options to make up the stories in your own mind and play them out.
The same goes for Classic mode where you won’t take on a particular Superstar but you will run all 3 of the brands and basically be the architect of many possibilities. I can understand why some people might love this, but it’s all just a bit too much for me to take on and remember who is fighting who and what is where.
According to the internet and social media, My GM is the most popular mode of the WWE 2K23 game. I myself have never dabbled in it but after putting many hours into this mode, it’s hard to argue with.
The start of this mode has you decide which GM you wish to take control of. There are six in total five of them real life WWE personalities and the option to take a created character and take over a show.
You can compete against up to four different shows, Raw, Smackdown, NXT and NXT 2.0 with the start of the mode being a draft. In this draft, you are given a budget to contract many Superstars from the WWE and NXT. This gives you a risk/reward option. Do you sign a small number of big-name wrestlers to start off with and then as more money comes in, sign free agents or legends for up to 10 weeks or do you sign mid-card wrestlers and build them up? The possibilities are endless.
You then decide who fights who each week on the show with each match being given a rating out of five stars, then depending on how your weekly shows are going in the ratings the cash will come in allowing you to sign wrestlers, buy cards to help with recovery from injury time, block other brands from being able to use a certain Superstar or just buff your current card to make sure your rating improve.
You can of course earn these for free by completing certain tasks given to you at the start of each week such as putting on a certain match type or giving a wrestler the week off.
The good thing about this is that if you have two wrestlers fight it will add to their feud meter and if timed right can come to an end at the PLE (Premium Live Event) at the end of each month which can maximize your match ratings. Along with then end of the PLE cycle, you will have the option to select a ‘shake up’ at the end of these that have risk/reward features for the next amount of shows.
Also in between all the weekly shows you may have some of the talents on your show come and ask if you will let them team up with someone the next week or even request a specialty match such as a tables match in the next two weeks. On the flip side, if you don’t utilize a certain wrestler at a PLE or for a few weeks, their morale may drop and end up with them not wanting to re-sign with you.
So this is a SIM in the truest of senses and very easy to get lost in as injuries may occur if you put them in too many steel cage matches and this could result in your champions missing time. But on the flip side, you may be approached and have a request made to borrow your main Superstars for a movie where you might be without them for four weeks, but you will be compensated with money which will help you sign other talents.
There really is a lot to do in this mode and I for one will be sticking to this for a long time moving forward.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it comes to mind with this year’s iteration of WWE 2K23. While much of the gameplay stays intact, it just feels slightly better than last year’s game.
The reversals have a small margin of error to pull off which I feel makes it for the better, otherwise, there would be reversals all the time making the matches too easy.
Animations for all the moves are done really well with no clipping on the ropes and the presentation is really top-notch. I only ever encountered a few glitches in the game as of the time I was playing the 1.03 version of the game and would sometimes see outside interference bug out where they would seem to fly from one area of the ring to the area they needed to be at but this happened rarely. The only other bug I encountered was missing characters in My Rise during a cut scene where I was being beaten up by an invisible man – I just put it down to John Cena attacking me (One of his lines is ‘you can’t see me’).
I will say, at the start of the game I was not a fan of the combo system where you would chain together light and heavy strikes with the ability to end it with a grapple, but the more I played with this, the more I enjoyed it and saw it merits as a way to perform other moves outside of the light and heavy grapple system. The pause menu also made this easier by showing which combos were available.
The payback system is also a great way to change up your wrestlers and how they respond to certain situations, giving you the option of two to select and change at any point in between matches such as low blow, resiliency, poison mist, comeback and even move theif. There are many options to customise your character.
WWE 2K23 is the most complete wrestling game out there. With so many options and the ability to download created wrestlers from people across the world, this has more than enough to keep fans of the game busy until the next year’s iteration comes around. Everything about this game shows so much polish with the exception of a few bugs. WWE 2K23 is definitely #EvenStronger as the marketing team describes.