WWE 2K23 Review
Extra Features: Local (2-4) and Online (2-8) Multiplayer/Co-op, Leaderboards,
WWE 2K22 was like a “return to glory” for 2K after the disaster that was 2K20. WWE 2K23 picks up where 2K22 left off (in returning to glory) and it definitely is better than the previous installment. Even though 2K22 was great, it still felt lacking in some areas. 2K23 takes everything that we loved about 2K22 and upgrades many modes and even brings back some of the additions that were missing from 2K22. For instance, remember how entrance splicing (taping together parts of entrances) was missing from 2K22? Well, that’s back now and it's better than it was in 2K20. This game is definitely worth the upgrade if you enjoyed 2K22!
The overall graphics have improved a good bit since 2K22. It’s easy to see that the lighting is better and the hair textures on wrestlers seems a lot better than in 2K22. Honestly, I didn’t even realize how much the graphics had improved until I started messing around with created characters. The skin textures on wrestlers are much more realistic now. You can see minor skin imperfections and slight stubble along the faces of male wrestlers even before you add facial hair. Thanks to the upgrade in graphics, the created wrestlers look way better in 2K23 compared to 2K22. Hair has a more realistic shine to it now and facial hair no longer looks so flaky. Facial hair can sometimes still look bad, but it’s more realistic (overall) compared to previous installments. The higher resolution skin makes it to where photo captured faces go along better with bodies when pasting them onto faces. You don’t have as much of a “realistic looking face plastered onto a plastic-like model” type of feel when creating wrestlers in this game. As for wrestler models, just like in past installments, you can tell that more time is spent on popular wrestler models when compared to newer wrestlers. For instance, John Cena’s model looks more detailed than Bron Breakker’s model, etc. With the upgrade in graphics, this problem is getting a bit less noticeable, but it’s still there.
The loading has improved a good bit from 2K22. The game boots up much faster and switching in between modes and menus is fast as well. It’s honestly annoying to go back to 2K22 and see all the massive amounts of loading after playing 2K23. As usual, the soundtrack is hit or a miss. It really depends on your taste in music. I prefer rock music overall. I do feel the overall soundtrack is better than 2K22 (a bit more variety), but it still has many tracks that I chose to turn off. There is also a new War Games rule set for wrestling matches. This makes the 3v3 and 4v4 games much more interesting since it has two rings inside of a type of a fenced area. Anything that separates multiple wrestlers from one crowded single ring is a win in my book. As expected, the roster has been completely reworked with updated wrestlers – we lose some and gain others. I think this roster feels overall better than the one in 2K22. There are a lot of returning legends from that game also (Big Boss Man, etc).
The overall gameplay is still about the same as it was in 2K22, which is good! The gameplay seems a bit smoother this year. You have light and heavy attacks along with a block/counter button and grab buttons for face buttons. Triggers and Bumpers are for run, pick up objects, dodge/climb and special move modifiers. The directional pad is mainly for taunts and the right thumbstick is used for repositioning, pinning, and switching targets. It seems that hit detection is better in 2K23 when compared to 2K22 – I don’t notice attacks passing through wrestlers in this game. The overall gameplay is the best it has ever been in 2K WWE games. The only problem I still have is switching between targets when in a match with multiple opponents (especially more than two). You can press in the direction of them along with the attack button to target a new enemy, but this doesn’t always work. Clicking in on the right thumbstick switches targets, but this often isn’t fast enough to keep up with the pace of a match. This problem has been there for many installments.
In 2K22, the decision was made to provide players with an infinite number of reversals. Reversals could sometimes get out of hand in that game with the reversal option constantly appearing. 2K23 has minimized the option for reversals and has added in more options to reverse moves with other buttons. For instance, you can reverse heavy throws with the A button instead of using the reversal prompt that appears during the throw. You can also use the RB button to dodge out of the way of incoming attacks and grabs (just like last year). It seems like the window for performing reversals is WAY shorter with some grapples now. I used to constantly wait for the reversal prompt to appear in order to get out of attacks, but it seems that option doesn’t appear as much anymore.
The CPU AI has been upgraded somewhat. They no longer fall for the usual “run forward and knock down” trick that I used to perform at the beginning of matches now. If I try that now, they very often block it or knock my character out of the attack. The AI will still randomly (and sometimes VERY often) reverse your attacks – it’s around the same as other installments. You can still adjust the AI difficulty and AI reversal rate through the option menu just like in past installments. Just like 2K22, the difficulty adjustment (and reversal rate) will not affect My Faction matches. Still on the subject of AI, the CPU can still get wonky. They can sometimes get stuck doing some weird things such as caught up in a standing recovery animation outside of the ring instead of staying in their ring corner and waiting for a tag from their partner.
Last year’s installment established the My Faction mode, where you can choose from available cards to create a team of four wrestlers and then compete against AI-controlled wrestlers to unlock points, medals, and other wrestler cards. 2K22 had Proving Grounds, Faction Wars, and Weekly Towers modes. 2K23 still has the same single player modes and overall card setup. You can still upgrade your cards by performing certain tasks. The mode still rewards you for collecting cards and instead of simply logging in to gain extra points, the game now has a set of challenges (daily, intro and lifetime) to help you gain more points for meeting certain challenges.
The biggest change to My Faction is that you can now compete against other players through the Quick Play option. There is also a “Live Events” option that allows players to engage in new matches that update every few days – these matches offer certain rewards once completed (such as new cards or points). This new option is sort of like a Weekly Towers that goes away after a certain amount of time. The only problem that I have with My Faction is that there is no way to play your created wrestlers in the mode. The developers should give us some sort of “Created Wrestler” card that would allow us to play at least one of our created wrestlers in the mode. With how much better the created wrestlers now look, it makes me want to use them even more in this mode.
My Rise is around the same as it was in 2K22. This year, you choose from either playing “The Lock” or “The Legacy” storylines. You might as well just call them the “male” and “female” storylines however since that is basically what they are. Each storyline contains its own unique plot and fights. As usual, the mode is super campy and full of jokes that will make you facepalm. The entire mode is set up just like it was last year. You start out after just joining the WWE and you’ll engage in side quests and major storyline events after speaking to people or reading your social media. The voice acting is about the same as it was in past installments – nothing amazing, but nothing really bad. There are now branching paths in each story to where you can choose between two options on the direction the story will go. This adds some replay value to each story since you can only make one choice per playthrough. The biggest change to My Rise is that you can now import and export (yes, both) your created character(s). It’s awesome to be able to finally import a created character in the mode – this gives you access to being able to use TONS of downloaded created wrestlers in your own storyline. Surely, you want to watch your downloaded custom Cobra Commander or Curious George climb through the ranks of the WWE. Big tip for those that haven’t played this mode yet – make a created wrestler in the “Creations” mode and import the character or else the game will create a character for you for the first match before allowing you to make your own.
Last year, the My GM mode was released and this was a mode that allowed you to take control of a WWE program (as a manager) and work your way through several months in a type of strategy game. My GM in 2K23 is nearly the same as it was last year. It has almost the exact same setup and overall look. It has more managers this time and it still has the option to play as a created wrestler. This year you go up against three other opponents (AI or human) instead of just one – you can choose only one opponent however. The game now lasts for several seasons instead of only a few chosen months. My main complaint with this mode from last year is that it lacked purpose once you finish one game, but this time it keeps on going. Each season is around 25 months. You also unlock medals as you continue to work your through the mode. At the end of each major program event, you get to choose a bonus that shakes up the next few months quite a bit (such as having match types not cost anything, bonus stamina for superstars, etc). The mode still has cards that you can use to gain advantage. My GM is in a better place when compared to 2K22, but I still feel the mode could use a bit more excitement. It’s much better than the “one and done” My GM mode that we got in 2K22 however. At least this year, I can say that I would come back to it or replay it. I do feel they should try online multiplayer with this mode – maybe an optional “drop-in, drop-out” multiplayer where an online player could take over for one of your AI opponents while they remain in the game.
Universe mode still pretty much stays the same as it has always been. The mode allows players to play through several months of a chosen WWE program as either a full creator (classic mode) or through the eyes of a superstar (superstar mode). If you choose a superstar (default wrestler cast or created wrestler), you only play the matches that your chosen superstar is involved in. If you choose the other route, you get to simulate or play through each match of your choice per show. The coolest part about superstar mode is that you get to basically create your own story in your own WWE universe or watch as it randomly unfolds. It’s pretty amazing the amount of control you have in this mode while playing in classic. The overall menu setup and navigation is a lot better than it was in 2K22 for me. Universe is a pretty good mode overall and it keeps getting better with each year.
Showcase is around the same as it was last year. This year’s Showcase is all about John Cena and his most memorable matches. Like last year, the mode is comprised of cutscenes that lead into or trail out of gameplay. You have the choice of beating your opponent to progress or you can try to perform all objectives given to you to advance the fight even further and unlock many collectibles in the process. There’s really not too much to say about this mode – if you enjoyed the mode from last year, you’ll enjoy this one just as much. To me, the chosen wrestler piques my interest in Showcase the most and, in this case, I’m more of a John Cena fan than I am a Rey Mysterio fan, so 2K23 has the better showcase for me. John Cena’s interview has him behind a mic while standing in a studio room making it more interesting to watch the interview segments compared to just sitting down and talking to an off-screen interviewer (like Rey Mysterio did).
Overall, WWE 2K23 is better than 2K22 and it’s worth a pick up for hardcore fans and especially those that missed out on 2K22. The graphics engine really does help in making all wrestlers look better and it definitely makes created wrestlers look better. The loading is way, WAY shorter on 2K23 compared to 2K22. The additions are more like “touch-ups” when compared to the complete overhaul that we saw in 2K22, but it definitely tunes up modes in the right areas and makes them more interesting in the process. Just like 2K22 made me not want to return to 2k20, WWE 2K23 makes me not want to return to 2K22, so that in and of itself makes it worth the purchase.
+ The updated visuals look great for normal and created wrestlers
+ The gameplay is still solid and is even more fluid
+ Many single player modes to keep you busy
+ The War Games rule set is an interesting addition
+ The ability to splice created entrances is back!
- Why not let us use created wrestlers in My Faction? (personal negative)
- A few random bugs here and there (still minor and no “2K20” bad)
- My GM mode could still use more excitement
Final Rating: 85% - WWE 2K23 feels more like WWE 2K22+, and that is a good thing since 2K22 was already so good!
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.