WWE 2K23 review – A step closer to becoming head of the table

WWE 2K23 is a great experience that successfully builds on the series’ newly established foundations, but it also lacks some of the improvements needed to take the franchise from solid mid-table to leader on the table.

Last year’s WWE 2K22 was a huge win for 2K Games. Not only did it show the wrestling community that the series could survive after Yuke’s departure, but it also set the stage for an even better future at the hands of Visual Concepts.

WWE 2K23 still isn’t your typical wrestling game, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Roman Reigns didn’t become tribal chieftain overnight. It will take some additional polish, features, and modes to take the series to new heights, but thankfully, 2K is less than a million miles away.

from unpopular to undeniable

WWE 2K23 looks a lot like many of the men and women in the huge roster. On the face of it, it doesn’t wow 2K22, but the graphics are much better. Lighting is realistic, entrances shine even more thanks to the addition of ray tracing, and improved muscle definition adds another layer of realism.

Almost all wrestlers look great. Cody Rhodes is perfectly back in the WWE video games, Rhea Ripley is glamorous as the goth mom everyone fantasizes about, all the new NXT men and women look like superstars, and Nikkita Lyons is especially fantastic. In addition to better hair and skin texture, each wrestler’s facial expressions and demeanor have been greatly improved upon entry and during matches.

Image credit: WWE and Take-Two Interactive – WWE 2K23 gameplay screenshots on PS5

Alas, not everything is perfect. While the visuals are nearly flawless, the sound leaves a lot to be desired. Reviews from Michael Cole, Corey Graves and metaphorical red-haired stepson Byron Thaxton continue to suck. Not only are the commentary lines and horrible jokes still boring, but the audience’s reaction during the game still isn’t good enough. As with all other 2K games, the artificial crowd still can’t replicate the energy that captivates a real-life WWE audience.

I come to play

While the graphics and visuals are fantastic, so are the gameplay and matches. It’s basically the same gameplay as WWE 2K22, but everything is more refined and polished. Wrestlers are less rigid, ropes are less flimsy, there are fewer awkward moments of no-sale, and there are plenty of brand new animations that add much-needed variety to reverses and kickoffs.

Speaking of kicks, the only new game mechanic is the brand new password system. This pin system requires the player to flick the right analog stick in time with the move stick before one, two, three for a successful kick. It’s easy at first, but after taking a lot of damage, the bar will get tiny and move back and forth quickly. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but it’s fairer and better than breaking a controller with button mashing.

Cody Rhodes makes perfect comeback to WWE video game, every wrestler’s facial expressions and demeanor have improved a lot

Visual Concepts tried to improve fatigue and stamina in WWE 2K23. The idea is that the longer the bout goes on, the more tired the wrestler looks and feels. Sadly, the system isn’t great. Wrestlers are some of the fittest people in the world, but Visual Concepts’ stamina system makes them feel fat, like they’re walking through pudding. The wrestlers punch in slow motion, they can’t run, they have to wait to execute the finisher, it all drags the fast and frantic gameplay to a snail’s pace.

Fortunately, players can turn off stamina and fatigue in the settings. These settings include the usual sliders that allow fans to improve the basic difficulty, but this year every wrestler in the game has added AI attributes. This is a huge feature that allows hardcore WWE fans to get more wrestling with each Superstar in matches and PPVs. This ultimately leads to a more exciting and realistic experience, both playing and watching.

Image credit: WWE and Take-Two Interactive – WWE 2K23 gameplay screenshots on PS5

become a booker

There are no new modes this year, just the return of MyGM, Showcase, Universe, MyRise and MyFaction. To fix things first, Showcase replaced Rey Mysterio with John Cena in WWE 2K23. And, while the variety in race mode is much better, the mode is still pretty boring. The commentary is completely replaced by generic elevator music, completing goals is a chore, and half the time is just watching slow animations transitioning to actual race footage. The only saving grace is one of the bonus games, which rewards players with Super Cena that you can’t really see.

Besides Showcase, another bad pattern is MyFaction. Granted, it’s better than 2K22, but it’s still an NBA card game that feels out of place. There is online play this year, but it’s pointless, utterly pointless, as it’s limited to quick play friendly matches. Live events and weekly towers are completely offline, as are faction wars. This makes everything about MyFaction a waste of time, especially since it expects players to spend real-life money on cards to simply play against the AI. For that, you have no chance at all.

It has the same gameplay as WWE 2K22, but with many new animations, everything is more refined and improved

Now that the bad mode is over, we can finally talk about the good stuff. Thankfully, MyGM is a huge improvement over WWE 2K22, and Universe Mode is finally getting a major update. First of all regarding MyGM, there are more match types. There can now be triple threats and four deadly ways, and managers can now book provisions such as backstage brawls, fall counts anywhere, Iron Man and submission matches.

A Hall of Fame challenge has also been added, a mode that greatly benefits from seasonality compared to last year’s 50 weeks. Sadly there’s no online multiplayer, but local co-op is possible, and there’s the option to compete against three other managers instead of just one. Still noticeably lacking the deals and storylines of yesteryear’s SmackDown Vs Raw era, MyGM has come close to perfection.

Then there is the universe. It’s the sandbox mode that should keep fans coming back to WWE 2K23 throughout the year. Most of these are the same as when they were first introduced in WWE 12, but now include Rivalry Actions. This allows players to choose which cutscenes take place before or after the match.

There are plenty of cutscenes to choose from, and the system is great because it allows fans to take on the role of bookers while also creating storylines. More updated cutscenes need to be added to WWE 2K24, but for now, the system is a welcome addition for everyone on Twitter who thinks they can book better than Vince McMahon.

Image credit: WWE and Take-Two Interactive – WWE 2K23 gameplay screenshots on PS5

Finally, MyRise is a fun story mode with some unlockables to earn. Male superstars have The Lock storyline, and female custom characters have The Legacy. Both are direct improvements over WWE 2K22, as they skip the dead show centerpiece. The Lock is an indie darling followed by a documentary film crew, while The Legacy is the daughter of a fictional Hall of Famer. Each story features memorable storylines with wit and utterly self-aware dialogue, and the voice acting of WWE wrestlers is far better than 2K22’s notoriously woody and zany vocals. Sami Zayn deserves a special mention because he completely stole the show with his hysterical performance in the opening scene of 2K Studios’ motion-capture performance of the game.

toxic attraction

The worst aspect of WWE 2K23 is the online servers, which really need to be improved post-launch and in-series. They are very bad. War Games are a great new race type, but they can’t be enjoyed online. Even with the best connections, all opponents will disconnect mid-match and be replaced by AI. This happens a lot during Royal Rumbles, it happens a lot in Elimination Chambers, and it happens in one-on-one matches.

There’s still no cross-platform multiplayer, but 2K needs to focus on getting the servers working before fans can even consider crying over cross-platform play. In its current state, WWE 2K23 might as well be completely offline, save for community creations.

While online servers are the worst aspect of WWE 2K23, community creations are the best, especially this year. 2K has significantly improved CAW’s skin textures, which means that created wrestlers are now finally on par with real superstars. There are many talented and well-known creators in the community, and it won’t be long before players add realistic CAWs, including MJF, Bryan Danielson, Jed Cargill, and basically, the entire AEW roster even before Fight For Forever was released.

Additionally, fans can already download CAWs of released superstars such as Mandy Rose, who looks much better than her WWE 2K22 model. WWE video games are truly the best for creation, and in WWE 2K23, everything from CAW to belts and premium entry to the arena is better than ever.

Image credit: WWE and Take-Two Interactive – WWE 2K23 gameplay screenshots on PS5

i admit you

WWE 2K23 is a step closer to what a typical wrestling game can deliver from Visual Concepts. 2K22 laid the groundwork for the series that followed Yuke, and 2K23 distills just about everything else.

The graphics are near perfect, MyGM and Universe modes have been vastly improved with new features, MyRise offers enjoyable storylines for both male and female custom superstars, and CAW can now truly be compared to real wrestlers in the game. It’s a pity that the series continues to remain a boring Showcase instead of developing something new, and MyFaction is a complete waste of time, and online play is limited to friendly matches.

And, aside from MyFaction, the online servers really need to improve in the future, as it’s currently not possible to play War Games, Royal Rumble, and more match types online with anyone. Still, despite some shortcomings, WWE 2K23 is still a great and promising upper-middle class, and the series promises to become a heavyweight juggernaut one day.

WWE 2K23 is available on PlayStation for PS4 and PS5, Xbox for Xbox One and Series X/S, and PC via Steam.

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