WWE games came back with 2K22, and it was a real return to form. The team clearly readjusted and sorted some issues out in the year off, giving us a comprehensive WWE experience for fanatics and casuals alike.
I'm slightly more on the casual side, although I do love to whack on the wrestling in the evening to see what new shenanigans my favourite cast of muscle-bound miscreants are getting up to.
With this in mind, I'm going into WWE 2K23 with fairly high hopes. I want the game to make large strides in the right direction, in a similar manner 2K22 made. At the moment, I'm very much thinking 'wait and see'.
My favourite aspect of last year's game was Showcase mode, and it's back for more in 2023. The focus is the Doctor of Thuganomics himself, John Cena, and it's something of an interactive documentary. Unlike last year, though, the player acts as Cena's opponents. That's right, you have to repeatedly smash poor Cena's face in to get through the mode in specific ways.
The mode does have its frustrating bits - like the time I got Rob Van Dam to jump off the top rope at just the wrong angle, meaning I had to reposition Cena for five minutes - but overall the scripting works great. It's really satisfying to get an overview of his career like this through different matches, and Cena himself talks you through the matches as they go, giving you his perspective on things. The devs told us that Showcase mode goes against the popular perception that everything went Cena's way throughout his career and he's had it easy - we get to see some of his toughest moments and watch him come back from them. I'm looking forward to playing the rest of the fights!
The fact that you can play as Cena's opponent is so key as well. Last time around, Rey Mysterio got a bit tiresome to constantly play as, using the same moves, hitting the enemy with a 619 to end most of the matches. This time around, you get to experiment with all manner of characters. I got to use RVD and Kurt Angle for fights early in Cena's career, so hopefully, we'll see a great variety of foes for the leader of the Cenation.
WarGames is here
Something the game wants to showcase is WarGames, a mode which puts two rings adjacent to each other in a steel cage. According to lead gameplay designer Derek Donahue, a whole load of technical bits had to be completely rebuilt for this to be even possible - it isn't as simple as just whacking a second ring next to the first.
It's a fun enough mode, and a hugely impressive endeavour to even make it happen at all. I did find things got a little janky and crowded though - it kind of brings to light a classic issue of WWE games.
WarGames treads a fine line of chaos. There's the wild chaos you get when playing. Nothing matters. You're swinging your foes around in a 30-man Royal Rumble, seeing what ridiculous moves you can pull off. Then there's the less fun kind of chaos. When you're actually trying to win a match but there are three guys in the ring and the game doesn't seem to understand which one of them you want to aim for. It's not really a problem that's easy to fix whilst still keeping the light-hearted vibes of the fights, and honestly, the best way to deal with it is probably to ignore it. WarGames has its frustrating moments, but if you're getting frustrated during a game of WWE 2K23, you're probably trying a bit too hard. Chill! Enjoy it. Have some silly fun.
More to come
It's a pretty safe bet that WWE 2K23 will be a good time. I look forward to jumping online and seeing how the community uses the creative tools on offer, indulging in the classic Royal Rumbles featuring SpongeBob Squarepants against Joe Biden, lovingly recreated in grotesque perfection.
There's always going to be jank in a game with so much going on at one time on the screen, but if you can embrace and learn to love it, like I'm sure I will, 2K23 should be a solid step in the series.