WWE 2K23 Is Shaping Up To Be The Best In The Franchise
It’s safe to say WWE 2K games have been rather hit-and-miss over the years. Despite this, the fanbase has remained loyal to the series and has returned every year to see the latest offering from 2K games and create some dream matches with their favourite superstars and legends alike.
Last year’s entry to the series, 2K22, felt like a great comeback for a series thought dead and buried prior to that, so the pressure is on WWE 2K23 to deliver.
And yet, from a recent hands-on event, it's hard to imagine anyone being disappointed by what's on offer here.
Straight off the bat, we simply had to try out the brand new and shiny game mode that has been added to WWE 2K23, Wargames. The whole idea behind the Wargames match originated in WCW in the late 80s and was not seen at all since then until NXT brought the match type back in the late 2010s before making an appearance at last year's Survivor Series.
This poses quite the challenge, though, with the match type having two identical rings next to one another, with a steel cage on top. And somehow, 2K has managed it - the movement between the two rings is seamless and the superstars, even when being controlled by the AI, seem to react very naturally to their hitherto unseen surroundings.
I played both a male and female Wargames match and both were spectacular. I started both of the matches as the first entrant, so had to both survive and battle it out until every other superstar had entered the match.
Every two minutes a new superstar would be added to the match and would make their way down from their cage which was situated on a platform above the ring. Before entering the ring, a number of superstars chose to grab some weapons from under the ring and slide them into the cage to use on their opponents. This felt natural despite my opponents and allies being AI, and the whole thing felt impressively representative of the TV broadcast.
The whole atmosphere and presentation of the match felt very true to the real WWE, too, with sirens and announcers combining to ratchet up the tension. With so many variables, I can see myself playing it for months.
The Devil's In The Details
When it comes to the visuals, WWE 2K22 was no slouch but one of the biggest issues in the franchise has been hair physics, with hair always feeling too loose, or too stiff, and never hitting the right balance in between. And yet, in WWE 2K23, it feels like the dev team has made great strides in making hair move and react naturally.
Sequins on costumes sparkle with the flickering arena lights, the crowd react to the parts of superstars' entrances they are supposed to and the announcers sell the brawlers like they're a million bucks. Every single movement, facial expression and taunt that you would expect from a superstar's entrance has been mimicked exactly in 2K23, and it makes this year's game feel much more exciting as a result. Hearing Brock Lesnar’s entrance theme filled me with dread, and seeing him surge down the ramp didn't quell that feeling, either.
Movement and holds in matches are smoother and more natural to transition between, with moves flowing into each other in a less stilted way than even WWE 2K22's excellent grappling could convey.
AI feels a lot smarter than some of the previous years, too, scouting your moves or countering at the very last minute to add some drama to the match. They won’t leave the ring as often as well to catch their breath as in previous games and there are moments when they are hitting you with a flurry of moves that simply cannot be countered that feels natural rather than brutally unfair, leaning on the in-ring storytelling that fans have come to know and love.
There was even a moment towards the end of a match when I accidentally clipped the referee with one of my punches, and while it did not knock them to the floor, the ref was a little more lucid when it came to the three-count.
Welcome to the Show
Showcase Mode has been a part of the 2K franchise for a few years, but it's never really found its stride thanks to needing to complete over fifteen matches with the same superstar. 2K is aware of that this time, though, and has flipped the mode on its head somewhat.
While John Cena returns as the focus of the mode this time (just like 2K15), the mode now has players stepping into the spandex of Cena's fiercest rivals. As part of this event, I was able to play his debut match on Smackdown against Kurt Angle, and his ECW One Night Stand 2006 encounter with Rob Van Dam.
The matches themselves felt very fluid, with less of a focus on bonus objectives. On occasions where there were objectives completed, the match would switch between actual footage from the real-life match and back to the game with no loading screens.
Once you're done taking down Peacemaker himself, there's a huge roster of Superstars to tackle. We can't reveal ratings yet, but 2K confirmed they're based on a superstar's TV appearances, location on a match card, and by fan reaction.
Worried about coming up against an unstoppable foe? AI sliders can now adjust Superstar ratings - I can envisage we will be seeing quite a few 1 rated Roman Reigns character after his recent antics at the Royal Rumble.
Overall, 2K23 felt like an extremely polished update to last year's game. It’s cliche to say, but you do truly feel like you are a WWE superstar, thanks to vastly improved broadcast quality and more polished wrestlers and animations.
While we only had access to a certain number of superstars for the preview, the level of detail and character that have been put into each makes them feel larger than life, and I have really high hopes that WWE 2K23 is going to go the distance, grab the brass ring and knock it out of the park.