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WWE 2K22 review: It hits different in all the best ways

Like the Undertaker, 2K’s wrestling game resurrects with new powers, a new form, and is the best iteration in years

courtesy 2K

Let’s start with an answer to the question on the minds of everyone reading this: Does WWE 2K22 indeed “hit different”?

Yes, it actually does.

WWE 2K22 is a huge improvement over its predecessor from many moons ago. That might not sound like high praise, but saying this year’s edition is an improvement isn’t a backhanded compliment. WWE’s latest video game, out today (March 11) shows the benefit of taking a break from annualized games. 2K and Visual Concepts didn’t twiddle their thumbs after not releasing a game in 2021; they rebuilt the game from top to bottom. This looks, and more importantly, feels like a different game, meaning those commercials promising a brand new experience aren’t just clever marketing ploys. WWE 2K22 succeeds because they simplified rather than making things more complex, creating an accessible game that doesn’t take a degree in quantum mechanics to learn the controls, but rewarding for wrestling fans who just want to emulate what they see on a weekly basis.

In more ways than one, WWE 2K22 gets back to basics.

Prior WWE 2K games seemed obsessed with taking the idea of a wrestling simulation very seriously. Reversals were limited and the grapple system was needlessly complex. This created an immediate barrier of entry for anyone who missed the previous year’s installment since the games built on what came before, but also made it difficult to just enjoy the game. Yes, for some, a steeper learning curve only increases their adoration, but that ignored the wrestling video game tradition. WWE 2K22 focuses less on simulation and more like an arcade game. Moves are easy to execute and easy to counter (with the right timing), with each wrestler’s strengths and weaknesses manifested in different ways.

Rey Mysterio still can’t lift someone like Andre the Giant, but the game doesn’t stack the deck in Andre’s favor either. Smaller wrestlers adapt their moves for bigger wrestlers without the user making a conscious effort to do so. If a back suplex isn’t possible, maybe it turns into a neckbreacker or Russian leg sweep. The grapple system is intuitive, taking notes from past wrestling games, like WWF No Mercy, adopting a less is more approach. Even submissions and kick outs, sources of constant consternation, are simplified. The absence of stamina bars or mini games makes the game a lot more enjoyable, which makes it necessary to jump into other parts of the game and see what they offer.

MyRise is MyCareer mode without the micro-transactions or endless grinding. Created wrestlers start as Performance Center recruits hoping to make it to the big time. Along your way to either SmackDown, Raw, or NXT, you make friends and enemies through different storylines. Do you risk going to an indie show with a friend even though you know you’re not supposed to go? Do you make nice with everyone or walk in looking for enemies? MyRise lets you answer all those questions and deal with the ramifications of each action.

But, best of all, with no set path or tedious upgrade system. WWE 2K22 let’s you focus on the wrestling experience without punishing you in the process. That said, your mileage may vary on being that good as a Performance Center rookie. Like with most modes, 2K22 walks the very thin line of being for the die hard wrestling fans, like you reading this review, and the casual ones who have no idea this site even exists.

MyGM makes it triumphant return and it’s really addictive. For the uninitiated, MyGM lets you become the GM of a WWE show, and run head-to-head with another GM for a maximum of 15 weeks. 2K22 takes you through a draft, then lets you book matches leading up to monthly premium live events pay per views. Triple H gives you an objective for the week, wrestlers slide in your DMs with their own requests, and it’s on you to fulfill those requests (or not), along with picking a venue, lights, marketing, and not run out of money.

That’s a lot.

The fun is finding which matches work and which don’t. Having too many wrestlers on your roster with the same style will lead to nothing but misery for your brand, as the fans react accordingly. MyGM is the puzzle game wrapped inside of the fighting game. I was trapped in a time vortex while strategizing how to wipe that smug smile off Adam Pearce’s face and burn SmackDown to the ground, which is always the sign of a good game.

Of course, it’s not all great. While the simplified controls lead to more fluid matches, some wrestler motions are still rough around their considerably smooth edges. Running still looks a little silly and there are still a few bugs that pop up here and there. During my United States championship match in MyRise, my wrestler tossed Tommaso Ciampa out of the ring, then somehow walked outside of the ring without going through the ropes, then walked back in the ring, and exited on the other side. These aren’t fatal flaws but they’re worth noting since the game still has a few kinks that rear their ugly heads here and there.

On the other hand, this is a pretty video game with character models eerily similar to their real-life counterparts. Seriously, Tommaso Ciampa looks like Tommaso Ciampa. Visual Concepts took advantage of the new hardware equipped in the PlayStation 5 and created a very pretty video game with details and lighting we associate with wrestling on television and not always wrestling video games. The creases in Finn Balor’s jacket, the studs on Charlotte Flair’s robe, or even the sweat dripping off Goldberg before he gets to the ring are recreated with painstaking accuracy. The camera angles add to the whole affair, mimicking WWE’s production style for better or worse but never taking away from the match. Refs might obstruct view from time to time, but, like I said, those are true to real life.

WWE 2K22 is a win for everyone involved because it remembers wrestling games are supposed to be enjoyable. Even this year’s Showcase, featuring Rey Mysterio, reminds players why they fell in love with the sport, Rey, and this particular video game genre. This is the most important game in WWE history based on the not-too-distant past. While 2K and WWE didn’t deliver a perfect iteration this year, they succeeded nonetheless with a very good entry that will keep players entertained far beyond WrestleMania season.

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