Time played: 20 hours
If you remember the debacle surrounding WWE 2K20, your expectations for its sequel may be low. 2K20 was a disaster, ruined by widespread bugs and glitches. It was so bad the developer spent two years working on a sequel, skipping 2K21 entirely.
That hiatus has done wonders for developers 2K Sports and Visual Concepts. Boasting a redesigned gameplay engine, new controls, and MyGM’s return - the mode that sees you become a general manager -, this latest entry also celebrates Rey Mysterio’s lengthy career, who arrives as our latest cover star. Several flaws hold it back but make no mistake, WWE 2K22 is a great time.
WWE 2K22 price and release date
- What is it? A WWE sim from 2K Games
- Release date? March 11, 2022
- What can I play it on? PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4 Xbox One, PC
- Price? $59.99 / £59.99 / $AU99.95
2K22’s most significant change lies within standard gameplay. Our ultimate goal remains to pin the opposing wrestler, wearing them down through light and heavy attacks, using reversals for countering hits, and combos for more technical strikes. This time, we’ve got expanded defensive options like blocks and dodges, while predictable foes can be countered by matching their attack input, adding extra strategy.
Thanks to overhauled character animations and controls, 2K22’s combat feels fluid, everything’s more polished. Even from Drew Gulak’s initial tutorial, you can tell the difference. It still has off moments, such as attack animations landing awkwardly, but it remains fun.
The WWE 2K22 roster boasts over 170 wrestlers. Between current superstars like Brock Lesnar, Finn Balor, and Becky Lynch, to classic wrestlers like The Rock or Andre the Giant, fans of all eras can take their pick. There’s just one problem, and we must stress this isn’t the fault of Visual Concepts, but the real-life WWE business itself.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, WWE shed significant talent, releasing many wrestlers from their contracts, and 36 appear in WWE 2K22. That includes bigger names like Keith Lee and Mickie James. You could fill an entire Royal Rumble in-game with these wrestlers to put that into context. It’s not a massive problem, it just makes this line-up feel slightly dated even at launch.
2K22 includes some expansive modes. Showcase Mode provides a deep dive into cover star Rey Mysterio’s career, recreating some of his biggest fights. Real-life footage cuts through the gameplay at crucial moments, and Rey provides commentary like a mini-documentary. Unlike regular fights, your goal isn’t pinning opponents, as doing that ends a match early. Instead, you're hitting set objectives, hitting specific moves against your opponent.
Some moves are tricky to pull off, but achieving every objective unlocks the final match. It’s a fun mode, but we’re missing some of Rey’s biggest highlights. Big fights with Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle are absent, while questionable choices like a Raw Match with Gran Metalik cut. We couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
Showcase houses great moments like Rey’s match with Eddie Guerrero during WCW Halloween Havoc 1997, but the wider Showcase could have been more. Even with these omissions, 2K22 still provides a fun look at one of wrestling’s most notable superstars and for unfamiliar, an entertaining introduction.
Welcome to management
2K22’s real longevity comes from MyGM, a mode missing in action since WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008. Playing a General Manager, you’ll choose Sonya Deville, Adam Pearce, William Regal, Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, or a custom character, competing against an AI or another player (local multiplayer only). Here, you’ll control one of WWE's four brands: Raw, SmackDown, NXT, or NXT UK.
Fighting head-to-head to become WWE’s most popular brand, this builds towards a pay-per-view (PPV) event every five weeks, eventually leading to Wrestlemania. Booking 3 matches per week with two championships up for grabs (Men’s and Women’s singles), GMs must draft a minimum of eight superstars, sticking to a budget before setting up a weekly show. It pays to keep a varied roster between your opener, mid-card, and main event, as two similar wrestlers fighting just isn’t exciting for fans.
It’s essentially a balancing act, and if you blow your budget on drafting talent, you’ll learn this the hard way. Every match type costs money (regular fights excluded), affecting the fan ratings. A Tables, Ladders, & Chairs contest looks nice if you’ve got $5k spare, but an Extreme Rules fight? Try $20k. Fancy a better arena or improved special effects? Start paying up. The more exciting a match type, the more stamina a superstar uses too, and if that drops too low, they risk injury. Once a week’s over, your performance is ranked on four key factors: Star Power, Match Quality, Show Quality, and Rivalries.
MyGM is where we spent most of our time, essentially offering a Football Manager-type experience for wrestling. There’s surprising depth here, and while three matches a week doesn’t seem like much, it’s engaging. No online multiplayer is unfortunate, and the lack of Triple Threat matches is criminal, though if you can find a friend to play locally, successfully winning this rivalry is highly satisfying. Visual Concepts has mostly nailed it here.
Becoming a legend
MyCareer mode also returns, now rebranded as MyRISE. Letting you play in the Men’s or Women’s Division, you can choose one of four character backgrounds, such as a mixed martial arts (MMA) experience or rising through the indies. Each path brings unique story content, and according to 2K, MyRISE holds 50 hours’ worth of gameplay. How this story develops is your choice, becoming the hero or villain. Expect the usual shenanigans for a WWE storyline, but comparatively, MyRISE just isn’t as developed or as engaging as MyGM.
MyFACTION is another new addition, working as WWE 2K22’s FIFA Ultimate Team equivalent, and yes, microtransactions are present. Acquiring superstar cards of varying rarities to build up a faction, you’ll create a team to rival the nWo, collect new wrestlers, upgrade existing ones, and participate in weekly events. Unfortunately, MyFACTION lacks a multiplayer mode. Despite 2K’s efforts to flesh out the mode, it did little to bring me roundPersonally, I’ve never enjoyed this style of gameplay, so while I can appreciate the effort put in, 2K’s latest attempt did nothing to bring me around.
Universe Mode also returns from previous games, letting you book matches on the show card and determining who wins which championships. There’s one significant change -while you can still manage the entire WWE roster through Classic Mode, 2K22 lets you play as a single wrestler in Superstar Mode. It makes Universe a more focused experience, and if all you’re after is a ‘career mode’ based on your favorite wrestler, this is the best place to spend your time.
WWE 2K20 was a shambling wreck, and Visual Concepts has learned from that disastrous launch. WWE 2K22 is a much-improved outing that benefits from a longer development cycle, packed with expansive modes that’ll cater to a spread of fans. The overhauled combat system and returning MyGM mode are particular highlights.
It’s not perfect, mind. MyRISE does little to excite, WWE’s real-life talent releases made the superstar roster feel dated. Despite liking Showcase Mode’s documentary-style approach, several key omissions prevent it from becoming a definitive celebration of Rey Mysterio’s career. However, none of these issues were dealbreakers, and if you were soured by WWW 2K20, don’t write off its sequel.
- There are loads of upcoming games in 2022