Instead of shaking things up from last year’s massive revamp, WWE 2K23 refines and expands upon what worked well before. The gameplay is similar but more refined; the modes offer more customization options; and the whole thing just feels more substantial. There are some issues that need to be fixed, but 2K23 is a solid sequel.
The 2K23 control scheme is a carbon copy of the one found in 2K22, albeit with a more refined feel. I’ve grown tired of the time-consuming and annoying guessing game that involves trying to predict which input your opponent may hit and the resulting need to hit multiple reversal buttons. I’d prefer a single-counter system. You can now choose whether pinfalls require you to mash buttons to escape or convert into the “stop the needle” minigame from previous WWE 2K games, adding a nice accessibility touch.
WarGames is the dominant new type of match, and it captures all the excitement and mayhem of the real thing. Beyond that, everything is back to how you remember it, though a beefed-up tutorial does a better job of introducing new players to the game or reacquainting seasoned veterans with the game’s many nuanced combat systems. With such a large cast this time around, the roster not only looks great but is also relatively up-to-date. Also, I didn’t have any major issues with the game’s technical side, which is promising. If you liked the gameplay in 2K22, you won’t have any trouble adapting to 2K23. The entry probably didn’t persuade you if you didn’t.
Showcase mode, modeled after documentaries, adds a fun twist by allowing players to relive cover star John Cena’s career through the lens of his most crushing defeats. You’ll be able to defeat Cena with a wide variety of his greatest rivals, from Edge to The Rock to Brock Lesnar, making this a much more substantial offering than last year’s Rey Mysterio Showcase. The basic structure is the same as before: achieving goals, such as performing a certain move, will grant access to bonus content, such as throwback versions of wrestlers. Although this may seem like a lot of work at the time, the benefits more than make up for the toil, especially for a true believer in the Cenation.
Cena’s narrations, in which he praises his opponents and discusses what he learned from these defeats, are entertaining to listen to, but I miss hearing the subject’s commentary during the match’s midway transitions to real-life video footage. The impact of these videos is diminished when watched with minimal background noise. The generic music that plays during these matches is terrible, and you cannot disable it from within the mode itself, which is arguably the worst part. Showcase isn’t the most entertaining movie ever made, but it does provide a decently entertaining trip down memory lane and ends with a delightfully goofy and unexpected twist that almost makes it worth finishing.
The new MyRise, which features two distinct story campaigns, is much more fun than its predecessor. Both the indie darling’s and the second-generation prospect’s stories are decision-driven and can go anywhere from silly to cringeworthy, with some clever inside jokes for savvy fans (such as executive VP Shawn Michaels saying WWE has a “great track record” of repackaging superstars under new gimmicks). Despite the fact that the plot of this adventure is largely unchanged from last year—you still get to talk to famous people backstage, complete main and side quests, and pick fights with other players on social media—this year’s edition of MyRise is much better.
MyGM is still a great way to consume time, and the recent update brings new match types and other customization options for your chosen brand. Extra general managers (like Xavier Woods and Tyler Breeze for UpUpDownDown fans) and the chance to play against more opponents are also welcome additions. The sandbox-style Universe Mode has never been my favourite, and even though it now provides more narrative control for guiding a superstar’s career, it still isn’t enough to keep me playing for very long.
The increased personalization options and larger number of superstar save slots improve upon the already satisfying experience of creating your own superstars. I enjoy making my own A-listers, but I get an even bigger thrill just browsing and downloading thousands of the community’s masterpieces from an online database. Making my own arenas (which can now be used online), entrances, videos, and championships is no different from how it was before and continues to be a fun way to express my imagination.
Due to its improved technical specs, WWE 2K23 is a better buy than 2K22. It is less revolutionary than its predecessor due to its many similarities, but it nonetheless maintains the series’ generally strong trend. I’ll give the game a solid 8 out of 10.