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Blaine Smith ReviewsGame ReviewsPlayStation 5 Reviews

WWE 2K23 Review

Official Score

Overall - 85%

85%

Ultimately, WWE 2K23 has something for everyone. Whether you're a casual wrestling fan looking to jump into the squared circle for a quick match, or a die hard WWE fan looking to create and brand your own WWE Universe, each game mode brings something new and exciting to the table - even if the depth is somewhat lacking. The gameplay and combat is the best the franchise has seen for over a decade, the customization suite offers near endless possibilities, and the community content portal is incredible. All this, but I still can't help but feel the game was so close to something more.

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With the recent history of WWE games struggling to meet expectations, WWE 2K23 faced an uphill struggle to impress. With the release of WWE 2K22 being a big step in the right direction, it was vital for Visual Concepts and 2K Games to continue with that momentum and see a return to form for the most dominant franchise in the wrestling genre. Okay, there’s not a ton of competition for that title…yet.

WWE 2K23 Review

I think the wrestling genre as a video game peaked about 20 years ago, when WWF No Mercy launched on the Nintendo 64. Some of the games that followed came close, with the best being the Smackdown VS. RAW games. As time moved forward players got less freedom, less features, and more micro-transactions. That being said, Visual Concepts and 2K Games have definitely started making steps in the right direction and a year long break for the franchise was definitely the smart idea.

Before we get into the endless bells and whistles that accompany the release of WWE 2K23, let’s dive into the meat and potatoes of the entire experience: the wrestling. When fighting a single opponent in any basic one on one match, WWE2K23’s combat is the best the franchise has seen for years. It’s fluid, fast, and impactful with the animations stringing together effortlessly. Put simply, it’s the total package. Reversals are time-based and sensitive, kicking out of pins and squirming out of submissions is intuitive and fair. It delivers in every aspect, well, until a few more folk get into the ring.

WWE 2K23’s wrestling starts to struggle when you’re playing in larger matches, with restrictive targeting and poor AI pathing being the major culprits to an otherwise stellar experience. The game doesn’t allow you to change targets while you’re stuck in animations or rolling around on the floor, making every change of opponent a mix of panic and frustration. When one is trying to pin someone when the referee spends several seconds running around chairs, tables, and other superstars, it’s a poor showing in a game that boasts so many incredible large-scale matches.

That being said, from the moment the pyro hits on the first entrance to the moment the winners hand is raised, WWE 2K23 is the best outing the franchise has seen for a very long time and the majority of issues holding it back are easily remedied.

If there’s one area of WWE 2K23 that left me a little confused, it was its game modes. There’s a good selection on offer, but while some are fantastic, others are a complete mystery. The MyShowcase mode makes a triumphant return as you follow the rise of John Cena beginning with his battle against Rob Van Dam at ECW One Night Stand in 2006, and it ultimately culminates in matches against the likes of Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, and The Rock. The presentation package as a whole is fantastic, seamlessly blending in-game action with iconic footage from WWE’s extensive archives. The combination of gameplay and archive footage is a true gem for long-term wrestling fans that recall these epic moments but even for more casual fans, seeing an in-game body slam transition almost perfectly to actual footage feels great, each and every time. The immersion is sometimes stunted with blurred faces, logos, missing stadiums, and the occasional middle finger, but unfortunately, that’s the product nowadays.

During these matches, you follow a strict sequence of objectives designed to imitate the events that took place in the real match. While immersive and exciting, certain objectives quickly become frustrating as you constantly pause the game to learn how to perform nuanced attacks and abilities. Between each match, Cena provides the narrative, explaining his emotions and motives, and discussing the outcome of each match. It’s a very rewarding game mode, and arguably the best WWE2K23 has to offer.

The other game modes, and there are a few, are more of a mixed bag. You can try your hand at MyGM, MyFaction, and MyRise to name a few. MyGM was easily the mode I spent the most time exploring, a game mode that I initially loved, only to be left disappointed towards the end. In MyGM you pick a manager and take over general duties for one of the five shows, RAW, Smackdown, WCW, NXT, and NXT 2.0. You then draft your favorite superstars and compete with the other shows to put on the best matches and biggest PPV’s.

On paper, it’s a fantastic concept and one that is so nearly executed well. However, there’s ultimately not much reason to play past the first season. Each card you spend money on staff, advertising, stadiums, and pyro effects as you attempt to build rivalries between superstars to increase your overall match ratings, earning bigger revenue numbers and garnering more fans the better the show you deliver. It’s a lot of fun for the first few hours, but it doesn’t evolve much past the introduction.

Superstars are restricted to just one singles rivalry and one tag rivalry. Rivalries can only really deliver for four to five weeks before they need to be ended. It is very rewarding trying to create WWE 2K23 versions of real-life rivalries and events, but the mode is very restrictive. There are limited match types, you can’t put singles titles on the line in anything but one on one matches. It doesn’t really recognize tag teams as actual teams, even some of the most iconic teams from the WWE Universe don’t work well as tag teams. As I started my first playthrough I was salivating at the potential, only to find that potential never reached. After entering the Hall of Fame, and being disappointed that I didn’t unlock any new managers or any real rewards at all, it’s unlikely I’ll ever return to the MyGM mode.

Other modes, while not my cup of tea, will offer a lot more value to most players. The MyRise mode, which features both The Legacy and The Lock, features two unique, narrative-driven experiences where players either take on the role of a custom female superstar looking to live up to her family name, or a custom male superstar trying to live up to the hype of a big debut in the WWE Universe. I didn’t dive much into The Legacy, but the time I spent with The Lock was a lot of fun, working alongside Randy Orton and reviving Evolution to aid with my climb to the top. Both modes feature choices that alter the story and events and there are enough branching choices to warrant multiple playthroughs to experience all of the outcomes.

Both the Universe and MyFaction modes just didn’t appeal to me. The Universe mode allows you to customize shows, build your own rosters, simulate running your own version of the WWE whilst the MyFaction just seems like a poor attempt to cash in on micro-transactions as you control a “faction” of superstars and compete in various modes and challenges. I’m sure there’s a lot of appeal for some, but I just found the mode to be rather pointless.

Playing through WWE 2K23 on the PlayStation 5 is, simply put, the best looking wrestling game ever released. The graphics, especially the wrestler models, are fantastic, and the in-ring animations are fluid and realistic. As a visual presentation package, no other game in this genre comes close.

Ultimately, WWE 2K23 has something for everyone. Whether you’re a casual wrestling fan looking to jump into the squared circle for a quick match, or a die hard WWE fan looking to create and brand your own WWE Universe, each game mode brings something new and exciting to the table – even if the depth is somewhat lacking. The gameplay and combat is the best the franchise has seen for over a decade, the customization suite offers near endless possibilities, and the community content portal is incredible. All this, but I still can’t help but feel the game was so close to something more.

This review of WWE 2K23 was done on the PlayStation 5. A digital code was provided by the publisher.
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Blaine Smith

Blaine Smith, or Smith as he prefers to be called as he doesn't have to repeat it four times before people get it, is one of the original founders of Gamers Heroes. Smith has been playing games for over 30 years, from Rex & 180 on ZX Spectrum to the latest releases on the ninth generation of consoles. RPG's are his go-to genre, with the likes of Final Fantasy, Legend of Legaia, and Elder Scrolls being among his favorites, but he'll play almost anything once (except Dark Souls). You can best reach him on Twitter

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