Thursday, February 02, 2023
After the fiasco that was the bug-riddled release of WWE 2K20, developer Visual Concepts came back fighting fit with WWE 2K22, not only rectifying the myriad sins of its first solo effort (no longer co-developing with Yuke's), but also proving that it could make a cracking wrestling game of its own volition. WWE 2K23, based upon this first hands-on, looks set to repeat the trick, with slick presentation, intuitive gameplay, and more modes than you can shake a steel chair at.
Chief among these match types is the 3v3 or 4v4 WarGames mode, a fan-favourite that sees two rings connected side-by-side, surrounded by a double steel cage. It's no surprise that WarGames is something that descends into complete chaos extremely quickly, especially with weapons (tables, chairs, lump hammers, stop signs) factored into the equation, and the fact that there's no escape – attempting to climb and leave the confines of the steel cage events in instant disqualification.
WarGames joins the ever-present suite of modes in WWE 2K23, like One on One, Royal Rumble, and the like, while the 2K Showcase is also being lavished with due care and attention, delivering a new take on 2K Showcases gone by. For this year's iteration, cover star John Cena takes the limelight, in what is being dubbed an “interactive documentary”. It all starts with Cena's bout against Kurt Angle in 2002, with the cocky young upstart wrestler attempting to take down the gold medallist with “ruthless aggression”.
Present day suited-and-booted Cena offers insights through interviews that frame the match-up, and you then play as his opponent, attempting to defeat 'The Prototype' while completing a range of specific objectives that follow the course of the real-life event. The next match has Cena pitted against Rob Van Dam during the ECW 'One Night Stand' in 2006, and playing as RVD serves as a welcome reminder of how great Van Dam was in his prime. The 2K Showcase objectives put in front of us prove tricky, but it's fun trying to complete them anyway.
Of course, you can ignore the objectives and go for a straightforward victory, but doing so defeats the object. The 2K Showcase will offer even more matches to relive, and, as you actually go up against Cena, you can rewrite WWE history so that he loses every single match. Imagine that. As ever, WWE 2K23 will also come with an expansive roster of Superstars and Legends, including greats like The Rock, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, and The Undertaker, as well as current grapplers like Seth Freakin' Rollins, Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch, Ronda Rousey, Kofi Kingston, Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley, and Cody Rhodes.
Gameplay mechanics feel like they've been tightened up, too, with counter windows making contextual sense, based upon the move you're defending against. Aspects like move steals, finishers, submissions, and pins have been tweaked, as well, and it all works to nicely replicate the back and forth of a proper WWE bout. Indeed, the pin system is completely new and works incredibly well, although anyone who swears by the old pinfalls can switch it back. In essence, then, WWE 2K23 may seem somewhat iterative, but it's a positive step in the right direction towards ensuring 2K's wrestling series retains its status as the undisputed champ.
WWE 2K23 launches for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC on 17th March, with three-day early access available with the Deluxe or Icon Editions of the game.