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WWE 2K23 Review

WWE 2K23 Review

Annual sports titles are often regarded as little more than roster updates with a few minor tweaks under the hood. Things feel a little different with WWE 2K23 however, building upon the colossal restructure of the series that we saw with WWE 2K22, the grappling franchise is seemingly bigger and better than ever. Whilst it may not seem as big of a leap as last year's title was when compared to the utter disappointment of WWE 2K20, it’s hard to deny just how much work has gone into the latest squared circle simulator.

If you’re already familiar with WWE 2K22, then you’ll already know practically everything in terms of gameplay mechanics, as nothing has really changed, which is mostly good news. Combos of light and heavy attacks and grapples still allow you to get a flurry of offence in, whilst combo breakers and reversals will quickly put a stop to these. I’m not overly enthusiastic about the guessing game style of reversals (pressing light, heavy, or grapple when your opponent performs that specific move allows you to counter them) and had much more success when a move allowed me to reverse it with the dedicated button prompt. This does — especially on Legendary difficulty — often break down into reversal after reversal where no one wrestler can gain the upper hand, but it can lead to unexpected drama with a much faster pace than previous titles that had the limited reversals mechanic.

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Those new to the series will be pleased to know a dedicated tutorial (hosted by none other than Xavier Woods) is included that will get them up to speed on the game's fundamentals. The basics are easy enough to pick up: two face buttons are assigned to light and heavy attacks, one is for grappling — which then allows you to use one of the previous buttons for a light or heavy grapple, or perform an Irish Whip — and the final face button is for reversals (or blocking if it’s held down). These attacks are context-sensitive and will perform various attacks depending on the position of both you and your opponent. For example, if a wrestler is face down on the mat, or you’re running towards them, different moves will occur, giving you a huge arsenal of attacks to lay the smackdown.

Things get slightly more advanced from there, with moves that allow you to carry someone (perfect for positioning them to get thrown through a table), springboard attacks that see you leaping off the ropes, as well as environmental attacks that use the areas surrounding the ring to deal extra damage. If you’ve seen it being done in WWE, chances are you’ll be able to pull it off in the game, although I can’t remember a backstage brawl ending with someone falling 30 feet onto a concrete floor, so it’s not completely grounded in realism!

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WWE games have always encapsulated the grandiose nature of the company rather well, and WWE 2K23 is certainly no exception. It isn’t apparent at a glance that anything has changed from last year, but the massively improved lighting system makes a big difference, especially during wrestler entrances. Speaking of the wrestlers, there are over 180 to choose from, with series mainstays such as Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch, alongside legends including Chyna and Kurt Angle, and wrestlers making their WWE game debut like Bron Breakker and Gigi Dolin, to name a few. The majority of the models look fantastic, and have been well-crafted — even if many of them feature outdated attires or entrance music.

It’s not all flawlessly executed though, with a lot of clipping issues (particularly with hair and title belts) noticeable constantly, and the occasional high-flying move defying the laws of gravity in order to adjust to the correct position to land. Most moves do look great, however it’s impossible not to notice the occasional janky looking animation or wonky weapon physics.

Sound is quite hit-and-miss, whilst things such as entrance music and the crunch of a steel chair cracking a skull sound great, the crowd noises and in particular the voice-overs leave a lot to be desired. Certain wrestlers lend their voices to the MyRise career mode, and some are clearly less than enthusiastic to be there. Equally, this year's ring announcer sounds like he’s desperate to get his lines finished so he can go home, and the quality of the entrances really suffers from the lack of weight put behind a superstars' introduction.

Online tends to run a lot smoother than perhaps ever before, although it’s still not flawless: the timing-based reversals don’t seem to suffer from as much input lag, nor do the matches slow to a crawl; even if loading into a game takes a while. Community creations also benefits from this improved connection, as it now takes noticeably less time to preview and download everything you need to create a full roster of AEW wrestlers (just me?)

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There is no lack of variety when it comes to game modes; with the main focus of WWE 2K23 being John Cena’s Showcase. In a twist to previous Showcase’s, you’ll actually be playing against Cena to hand him some of his more legendary losses (no Money in the Bank 2011 against CM Punk, unsurprisingly) as the man himself talks through each one between matches. It’s let down by a lack of commentary or narration from Cena during bouts, instead we get some incredibly generic music that left me feeling less than engaged. It’s fine, and the transition from in-game cinematic to real match footage is a nice touch, but I found myself rushing through it just to unlock the plethora of content earned from completing each matches objectives.

We also have the return of MyRise, which feels a lot more focused on telling a cohesive story this year, with both “The Lock” and “The Legacy” featuring some enjoyable narratives to experience with your created wrestlers. MyRise still allows you to speak to people backstage, with optional storylines and bonus matches to play, but it definitely feels more consistent than last year.

MyFaction and Universe are both largely unchanged from WWE 2K22, with the former still being an Ultimate Team-esque card collector that, whilst offering microtransactions to purchase card packs, never felt pay-to-win. Universe has a few additions to the mode, with the best perhaps being the ability to completely customise how you want rivalries to play out. This sandbox approach to playing through a calendar year of events (be it WWE programming and/or a mix of promotions you’ve created) has always been the mode I play the most, and this year will be no exception.

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Finally, we come to MyGM. A management mode that allows you to pick a general manager, a brand to run, and a roster of superstars to hire and fire. It feels a lot more fleshed-out this year, with up to four GMs vying for the top spot and earn the most money across multiple seasons. It’s a fantasy bookers dream mode, with lots of abilities to keep the opposition guessing, or outright hinder them!

A lot of quality of life changes and some nice new additions (including the much-requested War Games match type) make WWE 2K23 more than just a simple “roster update” that so many annual sports titles feel like. If you’re a wrestling fan, WWE 2K23 has more than enough content to keep you busy for a long time to come.

8.50/10 8½

WWE 2K23 (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

From undesirable to undeniable, WWE games have come a long way in just a few years, and WWE 2K23, with its plethora of models and solid gameplay, is a strong contender for “GOAT” status.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Mike Crewe

Mike Crewe

Staff Writer

Bought a PS5 and won't stop talking about it