Sunday, March 3, 2024
EditorialIs WWE 2K22 A Good Game? First Impressions

Is WWE 2K22 A Good Game? First Impressions

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Following the disaster that was WWE 2K20, which drew the attention of gamers far and wide—including those that wouldn’t normally have any interest in a wrestling game—due to it’s often hilarious glitches, one question I’ve been asked multiple times since the game’s release has been ‘Is WWE 2K22 a good game?’

For those of you who want a quick answer; Yes. I’d go as far as to say 2K22 is a great game, especially in comparison to what we were given previously.

However, having played it extensively for almost a fortnight now, I have picked up on a few relatively small things that stop it short of being “one of the best WWE games ever made”, as some have claimed.

Although I’ve spent considerable time trying out most of the game modes, a fortnight certainly isn’t long enough to see everything this game has to offer, but here are my first impressions.

Visuals

WWE 2K22 looks fantastic in general, a real step up from WWE 2K20.

It’s worth noting that I have been playing it on a PS5 though, and haven’t seen the PS4 version in action. Given the jump in console generation, it’s to be expected the graphics would have improved. But even having said that, it still looks better than I expected it would, considering how WWE games have been off the pace in terms of cutting edge graphics in the past.

Some character models leave a bit to be desired, and although I can’t put my finger on exactly why, some of the arenas feel small and unpolished. Raw and Smackdown look a bit like a house show when you see the opening animation play, and not the spectacle we are used to on TV.

Overall though, there has definitely been a big leap forward in graphics, and it’s even easier to become immersed in the gameplay because of it.

Sound

Audio is a bit of a mixed bag.

There is a fantastic range of entrance music available, and all themes can be selected to use as menu music, which is great if you’re getting sick of hearing the 15 or so “normal” tracks looping over and over in menu screens.

This is important, as a lot of the game modes will see the player navigating menus for extended periods of time.

It seems like all the commentary has been re-done—something that was long overdue—and there have been special lines of audio recorded for specific sets of opponents.

For example, when The Miz faces Dolph Ziggler, Corey Graves might talk about Ziggler’s music and how it starts with the words ‘I’m here to show the world’. Then he will go on about how The Miz is there to set a good example to his daughter, rather than showing off globally.

I’m sure it’s something players will get sick of hearing, but it’s a nice touch and I’m looking forward to seeing what other pairings elicit this kind of unique dialogue.

My biggest criticism about the audio is that during some Superstars entrances, the volume of the entrance music is FAR too quiet.

It takes away from the ‘big entrance’ feel, and is especially noticeable when your chosen Superstar reaches the bottom of the ramp, where members of the crowd shout things that are WAY louder than the music.

Hopefully this is something that can be patched, because other than that everything in 2K22 sounds pretty good.

Gameplay

Before I get to the game modes, I want to touch on the actual gameplay itself, as it has been massively overhauled.

Players now have a weak attack, strong attack, grapple attack and block on the 4 face buttons of the controller, with the shoulder buttons being used to run, dodge and to apply a modifier to another action. Things like performing Signature and Finisher moves, ensuring a Submission hold is used rather than a power move, and to pick up or drag someone when in a grapple.

Stamina bars and limited reversals have been scrapped in 2K22, which on a personal level I prefer. It does mean matches between two more skilled players can end up in a never-ending reversal chain though, or with one player constantly spamming an attack with no detriment to stamina.

To counter that somewhat the reversal system has had an overhaul too, with a split-second guessing game being implemented to reverse certain grapples. If you press the same face button as your opponent when a grapple is attempted, it SHOULD trigger a reversal, if you get the timing right.

Most of the other mechanics stay the same (Submissions and Pinfalls are now button mashing affairs, but can be reverted back to the timing skill games in the options menu, if preferred) which brings a feeling of familiarity for long-time players, even though some of the fundamentals are now different.

Does it work? For the most part it does. Collision detection can sometimes be a bit off, and ground-based grapples seem to get reversed about 98% of the time, but other than that I’d consider it much improved.

Game Modes

With that covered off, let’s get to the good stuff; 2K22’s game modes.

In addition to the Exhibition Mode, which is self-explanatory, there are another five gameplay options to choose from…

WWE 2K22 Showcase Mode

Showcase is a mode I haven’t been keen on over the years.

Yes it can be cool to play through someone’s career, or big moments in WWE history, but I found it to be quite disjointed, almost like a glorified ‘painting by numbers’ exercise to hit all the clear conditions.

The life and times of Rey Mysterio wasn’t something that got me excited either, which is why I’m surprised at just how much I enjoyed Showcase in WWE 2K22.

The step up in graphical quality has allowed the developers the ability to near-seamlessly transition into actual footage of the matches, and then back out again, rather than the ‘key spots’ being cut scenes using the game’s character models; it works surprisingly well.

Here’s a video of the first match: Rey Mysterio Vs. Eddie Guererro at Halloween Havoc 1997, so you can see for yourself (if WWE haven’t blocked it in your country due to copyright claims on the real-life footage.)

All the key moments are narrated by Mysterio, and the commentary has been replaced by dramatic music, which makes it feel like a cool little Rey Mysterio documentary with some interactive parts thrown in.

A fun way to unlock some goodies and enjoy some of Rey’s best matches.

WWE 2K22 Universe Mode

For the most part Universe mode is unchanged from it’s previous incarnations, in fact if it wasn’t for one big difference I’d go as far as to say it hasn’t been touched.

There IS a new way to play though, which lets you select a single Superstar and play as them each week, with an the option to do things like “Have a Title Match”, “Form a Tag Team” or “Start a rivalry” offered to you on a scheduled basis.

It sounds like a fun concept, but I played for around 15 weeks as Dolph Ziggler and in that time I faced The Miz about 10 times, randomly squared off against my tag partner Robert Roode with no explanation or consequence, and failed to get a Tag Title shot despite being #1 contenders for 2 months and specifically choosing “Have a Title Match”.

If you enjoyed Universe mode in the previous games you’re going to enjoy it here too, but just be aware that a lot of the problems and inconsistencies in those previous games don’t seem to have been addressed.

WWE 2K22 MyRise Mode

This is a big step in the right direction, especially in comparison to last years bizarre, cheesy, polarising career mode.

MyRise allows the player to create a male or (for the first time ever) female Superstar, and progress their career from the Development Centre right to the Main Event of WrestleMania, increasing stats and gaining new abilities along the way.

Superstars will be able to shape their path by making decisions that align them as a heel or a face, and that attribute shapes further interactions as they move on. I think this aspect needs some fleshing out (often your GM will ask you to flip from a heel to a face on a weekly basis) but it’s a strong jumping-off point.

My first impression of MyRise was that my actions weren’t having an impact from one week to the next, and everything was a bit samey.

As an example I won the 24/7 Championship by responding to a DM on Twitter, but after a few matches it was forgotten about. I don’t carry the belt with me, I don’t get attacked in the back, it’s not mentioned anywhere that I’m the Champion.

It all felt a bit… throw-away.

But the longer I played the more I realised there are some meaty storylines built into this mode, such as one where your Superstar tries to pull together a WCW Reunion night.

I have no idea how much longevity this mode will have, but I’ve sunk a good 10 hours into it already and I’m still having fun.

WWE 2K22 MyFaction Mode

I’d love to talk more about MyFaction as it looks really fun, but almost every time I’ve tried to play it I get kicked to a screen that says ‘You must be connected to the internet to play this mode’ or something to that effect.

I did wonder if it was my internet connection, but everything else on my PS5 seemed to be working OK, so I have to assume the 2K22 servers are taking a while to bed in.

The handful of times I DID get to play, I quite enjoyed it.

It’s WWE 2K22’s answer to NBA 2K’s MyTeam, which is in turn 2K’s answer to FIFA Ultimate Team, and sees the player putting together a 4 person, 1 manager faction.

The faction can then be used to complete various “challenge” matches and “Towers” to earn more randomised packs of cards. These packs contain more Superstars, cosmetic items and disposable items such as contracts, which are required for your Faction members to wrestle more matches.

It’s an infinite gameplay loop that has been proven to work amazingly well in the FIFA series, both in terms of engaging gameplay and parting players from their hard-earned, real-life cash.

Glitches

I couldn’t write a first impressions piece about a WWE 2K game without having a section on glitches.

It didn’t take long for reports of glitches to come flooding in, but personally I haven’t experienced that many.

The game crashed completely once during Universe Mode, and I lost a match because my tag partner got stuck in a loop of climbing the turnbuckle rather than leaving the ring, leading to a 5 count and a DQ, but that’s about it.

It’s not perfect, but in comparison to 2K20 where every other match would have some degree of madness going on, it’s a huge improvement.

Final Thought

Let’s address the elephant in the room first.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention General Manager Mode when I just covered off Game Modes. It’s something I’ve wanted to see make a comeback in WWE games for well over a decade.

I even went as far as to drunkenly harass THQ Game Director Cory Ledesma at a boozy WWE ’13 pre-launch press event, demanding the mode be reinstated; it didn’t work.

I fully intended to cover it off here, but I realised I’d rambled on way more than I expected to already, and I have A LOT to say about G.M Mode.

So much so I decided it would be best addressed separately, at some point in the near future.

Aside from that there is still A LOT of ground I haven’t covered in WWE 2K22. The creation suite looks gigantic this time around, there is a lot more to MyFaction than I’ve been able to see and there is a ton of DLC in the pipeline.

But to loop back to that initial question; is WWE 2K22 a good game? Yes.

It’s not the best of all time, everyone knows that accolade belongs to Royal Rumble on Dreamcast No Mercy on N64, but things are definitely moving in the right direction!

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