WWE 2K23 releases on March 17 (March 14 for Deluxe and Icon Edition). Is 2K’s latest installment even stronger than before? Let’s find out.
A year ago, wrestling fans finally got their hands on the highly-anticipated WWE 2K22. After 2K20 had left a horrendous taste in everyone’s mouth, 2K22 was a massive step in the right direction.
The WWE 2K team had to essentially re-code everything from scratch for 2K22 and the result was an excellent foundation to build off from. Luckily, 2K23 largely does just that.
You won’t find too many major changes – especially in gameplay. Things are smoother, sure, but the game plays essentially like 2K22 – and that’s a good thing.
But there are plenty of additions. War Games is obviously the big ticket – and the match is really fun and chaotic. However, there’s more than that. This year we get the return of advanced entrance creations, an image editor, adjustable wrestler-specific AI tendency sliders and branching rivalry actions in Universe Mode.
I’ve been playing wrestling video games since 2002. I go to professional wrestling shows when they’re in the area. I subbed to Peacock (sigh) so I could watch the Premium Live Events (double-sigh).
My point is – I’m one of you. I’m a fan of professional wrestling, not someone who dabbles in video games here and there. So I think you’ll be happy when I say…
All in all, I think 2K23 is in my top five of favorite wrestling games ever (it’s in the company of Here Comes The Pain, Shut Your Mouth, SmackDown vs Raw 2006 and WWE 2K19). So here’s a breakdown of the good and the bad.
You can’t see John Cena. But, throughout his amazing career in the squared circle, there have been wrestlers who could. And they secured pin falls on Mr. Hustle, Loyalty and Respect.
In WWE 2K23, instead of playing as Cena for multiple matches you step into the boots of those wrestlers who beat him – plus we get some fun surprises at the end that I won’t spoil.
Like in 2K22, the matches will switch from real-life footage to game footage pretty seamlessly. I think it’s really cool and it keeps you engaged in the cut scenes. Plus Cena’s narration between matches is really good – as you’d expect it to be. It’s a sort of mix between kayfabe and non-kayfabe, but Cena is so charismatic that it all works really well.
Having more general managers to choose from is awesome. Having more power up cards to choose from is awesome. Having more titles to book is awesome. Having more – well, you get my point.
Again, you could argue that a lot of what was added in 2K23’s GM Mode should have been in 2K22. That might be true – but it doesn’t change the fact that it wasn’t. Having secondary titles is really essential and having the mode run endlessly is cool as well.
My only real gripe with GM Mode is that the class system really isn’t doing it for me. I understand what they were going for, but there’s exceptional appeal in two giants squaring off, or two high-flyers. The fact that those matchups are usually frowned upon in GM Mode is kind of a bummer for me.
Okay. This mode… there’s some things to cover here. Apparently, this mode isn’t even worked on by the main 2K WWE team, but a different group entirely. That’s a bit of a problem for a number of reasons, but I think the biggest is this: the WWE audience is not the NBA audience.
We want different things from our games.
But, at face value, the mode should be kind of cool. And it is, to a certain extent. I really don’t like that certain models and attires are hidden behind the MyFaction wall. If you want me to dive into MyFaction – and maybe even spend extra money on it – then you need to give me those attires and models to use in EVERY mode once they’re unlocked.
Then I’d play it. And I’d love it.
As it currently stands, it’s something I kind of dabble in. And it’s cool that they’ve added online play. But at the end of the day, this mode just isn’t for me.
The stories range from fun and believable to fun and kooky. Which is to say, it fits right into the world of professional wrestling.
There are two options available – one for a male and one for a female superstar. I’ve only spent about an hour on each, but if you liked last year, you’re going to like this year’s version as well.
Plus, they’ve given you the ability to import/expert your MyRise player. So if you’re like me and aren’t very good at creating a superstar, just import one! Or, if you’re really proud of your creation, export them and use them in any mode.
This is where my bread gets buttered, so to speak. Universe Mode is where I dedicate 99% of my playtime with WWE games.
And finally it’s getting some much-deserved TLC.
2K has added rivalry actions into the mode, which allow you to pick from dozens of different cutscenes which will then play out in front of you – so you don’t have to use your imagination for your Universe Mode anymore.
For example, I booked a No. 1 Contender’s match between Apollo Crews and Cameron Grimes in NXT. I then selected an action that would see Bron Breakker approach Apollo after the match for a stare down.
Crews pinned Grimes, then as the ref is raising his hand, Breakker’s music hits. He walks down the ramp with the NXT Championship over his shoulder, gets into the ring, goes nose-to-nose with Crews and raises the belt up.
SO FREAKING COOL.
Combine this feature with the new, character-specific gameplay sliders and you’ve got a real winner. So, go ahead and turn down Brock Lesnar’s dives to 0, crank his heavy grapples up to 100 and go play.
I can’t wait to see what sort of perfectly tweaked formula’s the community comes up with for each superstar. This feature is nothing short of game changing.
WWE 2K23 – THE GOOD
- Showcase Mode giving you the opportunity to play as numerous wrestlers
- Showcase Mode entrance attires being in the game
- The return of Advanced Entrance Creation
- Wrestler-specific AI tuners
- Rivalry Actions in Universe Mode – seriously I can’t wait to dive into all of these
- An exceptionally up-to-date roster (attires, managers, etc. this is probably the most accurate at time of release we’ve ever had)
- The new menus look really cool and I’m glad I can get a preview of an arena before I select it
- Overall, the gameplay is smoother than 2K22. But this is definitely a ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach
- Crowd reactions are improved, especially during entrances
- GM Mode has made various additions like more GM’s, secondary titles, etc. and also extended the time necessary to unlock certain upgrades. It gives you more reason to play longer
- Most load times are extremely short
- Visually, game looks incredible. They’ve improved muscle physics and lighting – and these small details make a huge difference. It’s the sort of thing that you can’t always point to and say ‘Oh, this specific element looks so much better,’ but if you look at 2K22 and 2K23 side by side you’ll see a difference
- Double-title entrances are back
- WAR GAMES!
WWE 2K23 – THE BAD
- The soundtrack last year was a big plus for me. This year, sorry Cena, doesn’t really do it for me. Maybe you love it – and that’s great! But this music doesn’t feel like professional wrestling to me
- Some of the objectives in Showcase Mode get a little tedious, and I lost plenty of matches getting whupped while trying to accomplish one specific grapple or something. But really, this is a minor nitpick.
- MyFaction just kind of misses the mark. The exclusive models is a cool thing to chase – but not to use solely in MyFaction. There’s potential in the mode, but unless they make changes it will go largely untouched.
- There’s still some clipping here and there with attire parts/hair/titles
WWE 2K23 – THE VERDICT
Look, I didn’t really mince words at the beginning of this. WWE 2K23 is one of the best wrestling games I’ve ever played. It isn’t perfect, but the problems aren’t game-breaking things. If 2K continues to add and tweak each year like they’ve just done with 2K23, we’re on pace to get something incredibly special.
2K sent me a digital copy of WWE 2K23 for the purpose of this review.
This post contains affiliate links, where we may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.