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WWE 2K23 review - not tapping out yet

The WWE series has had a tough ride in recent years, and while our WWE 2K23 review finds that this game is a return to form, it could do more.

WWE 2K23 review: Stone Cold Austin walks into the ring

Our Verdict

Despite some performance issues that are difficult to ignore, WWE 2K23 builds upon WWE 2K22, further cementing a return to form for the series with fun gameplay, an excellent My Showcase, and an enjoyable online experience for all.

WWE 2K22 was a return to form for the franchise after the disastrous WWE 2K20 caused many players to tap out and admit defeat to the bug-riddled game. Well, now it’s WWE 2K23’s turn to step into the ring, and while it certainly builds upon the success of last year’s game, it isn’t quite the Hall of Famer that we’ve come to expect from the franchise.

But let’s start with the positives. The action itself feels fantastic and the changes to the reversal system keep the games feeling more competitive than ever. Last year, WWE was plagued by button mashing, now you have to wait for the right moment – just like you would in real life. Combine this with the new dodge system, which allows you to stay on your toes and out of your opponents’ clutches, and the new pin mechanic, which allows you to kick out using the analogue stick, and combat feels fresh and intuitive.

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Fights flow more freely as a result, especially when wrestlers are grappling with one another. However, there are still some glitches that break the immersion, and often occur when flailing arms or legs clip through one another, often resulting in one bizarre looking entity. In one fight, I hit Nikki Bella so hard that she flew through the air and out of the steel cage, giving her the victory.

While these glitches can be both infuriating and funny, they don’t detract from the enjoyment of finally being back in the ring. Better yet, there’s an array of changes to the game modes that encourage replayability. For instance, this year’s My Rise not only features two distinct stories, one for a female superstar and one for a male, but each has numerous crucial choices that have an impact on the story. So, to experience all that The Legacy and The Lock stories have to offer, you need to play through them multiple times. Luckily, the narrative is entertaining enough to warrant the repetition.

Another feature that I like about the game this year is the ability to port your created superstars between My Rise and create a superstar, so you can use the exact same character across all game modes. While this is a minor thing, as someone that spends hours creating a wrestler only to throw them away in the end, I appreciate being able to hold on to the rare few that meet my ridiculously high standards.

WWE 2K23 review: John Cena stands on the stage wearing a baseball cap and a t-shirt

Mind you, there is one game mode that you can’t use a created superstar for, and that’s for My Showcase. This year, the popular game mode focuses on one of the most iconic figures in the history of sports entertainment (even if you can’t see him), John Cena. However, there’s a slight twist to the formula in WWE 2K23. Rather than play as Cena in some of his legendary matches where he picks up the win in career-defining moments, you play as his opponents in Cena’s career-defining losses. I love this switch-up, and listening to the 16-time world champion discuss the matches beforehand is a treat.

Such opponents include Randy Orton, Edge, The Undertaker, Rob Van Dam, Batista, and Kurt Angle, the latter of which is the first opponent John Cena faced in WWE back in 2002. Besides the unique perspective that the game mode offers, you can get all sorts of in-game goodies if you complete all of the match objectives in My Showcase, some of which are previous renditions of Cena.

Besides My Showcase and My Rise, GM mode and Universe return as well, the latter of which now features a superstar option if you want to form and follow the story of a single wrestler. Exhibition matches are also there for those looking for a quick match or two. Here you can take part in standard matches, be that one on one, tag team, steel cage, ladder, Royal Rumble, and more, either online or alone. Ranked matches offer those with a competitive edge a new arena, as does My Faction mode – something that rewards you with new superstar cards as you progress.

WWE 2K23 review: two wrestlers fight it out in the ring

However, while the changes to combat feels great and the game modes are clearly progressing in the right direction, it’s clear that this is still, for the most part, the same game as last year.

Don’t get me wrong, WWE 2K23 is still fun and it offers everything a wrestling fan could want: endless chaos, new and improved combat mechanics, and a single-player experience steeped in WWE history. It’s just that Visual Concepts has a little way to go yet to making the ultimate wrestling game.

With time, though, I’m confident it’ll come.