Bad Times Don’t Last, But Bad Guys Do

HIGH The improved wrestling system makes every match exciting.

LOW The camera hinders the player’s depth perception.

WTF Why so much kayfabe?!

WWE 2K22 is a wrestling game that feels fresh and innovative thanks to heavily revamped and revitalized combat mechanics. In fact, it’s such a big step up from its predecessors that spending some time with the tutorial is a must, even for returning fans. Luckily, this new iteration’s intuitiveness and fighting-game-like depth easily keep a player’s attention.

Unlike previous WWE titles, in this one each member of the impressively large roster receives their own separate combos, and striving to get familiar with not only those moves, but with everything in an opponent’s bag of tricks is one of the most immersive aspects of WWE 2K22.

When we are the attacker, we have three options — light strike, heavy kick, or trying to initiate a grapple. What makes the system so interesting are the sub-categories that branch out from these three origin points. By learning these moves and how to correctly apply them, players are able to counter an enemy’s start-up attack and prevent them from countering our counter. Done well, we build combos and hopefully chain a visually appealing string of moves.

For example (depending on the chosen wrestler) we can perform either three- or four-part combos, comprised of both light and heavy attacks, and certain combos naturally evolve into a grapple. Next, we can opt to continue the offense by following up with a strong grapple, carrying the opponent around, sending him running to the ropes and then back to our elbow, and so on.

The catch? WWE 2K22 allows for the reversal of each move, except for the ones in the middle of a combo. So, all it takes on the opponent’s side is to correctly guess whether we’ll go for a grapple or a kick next. If they press the correct corresponding button, our momentum will be halted and they’ll get the option to start things off again. However, if we remain observant, we can immediately regain control. With a system like this, there’s rarely a dull moment once the bell rings. Plus, it’s all presented as a spectacular pay-per-view event with commentators and an audience that diligently follows the action in the ring.

Adding to this, the visual fidelity is worthy of high praise. Simply put, this is the most lifelike wrestling game of all time. The in-game models are impressive and clearly resemble these superstars, all the way down to the tiniest details like hair movement and believable sweat. Of course, the trademark entrances and bombastic finishing moves further sweeten the deal.

WWE 2K22 is also rich in the number of game modes and match types, and I was able to recreate almost every famous WWE or WWF bout I could think of and was grateful that fighters from several generations back make an appearance here — pitting the likes of Stone Cold, Goldberg, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, The Undertaker, and more against each other is far more alluring than any of today’s feuds.

It’s also worth noting that 2K22 offers a story mode that revolves around Mysterio’s legendary career. In it, we control him through a handful of defining matches, accompanied by his commentary and even short video interludes. To advance, we need to follow the on-screen script and perform moves in the order they actually happened during the match in question. If we pull this off, we are rewarded with a seamless transition into a recording of that historic event as it aired on live TV before the control is given back to us to finish the job. Needless to say, this mode offered a lot to look forward to! Unfortunately, Mysterio’s narrations drown in kayfabe, which isn’t a substitute for the real insight that I’d actually appreciate.

Aside from that issue, the camera hangs at a slightly curved angle this time around. It does result in making each successful heavy throw more visually impactful, but it also makes evaluating the distance toward an opponent on the ground trickier than I’d want. As a result, Rey Mysterio missed a great number of running grapples, and even when I was certain that the next jump from the ropes would connect, I often landed on my own back, mere inches away from the target.

After the last few installments, WWE 2K22 succeeds in bringing the zest back into this long-running franchise. Each match is intense and exciting, and I couldn’t stop myself from exploring different play styles and re-enacting some of my favorite encounters. Even if the whole WWE circus only exists to present a cheap power fantasy, games like this one triumph in highlighting the best side of the affair.

Rating: 8 out of 10

— Konstantin Koteski

Disclosures: This game is developed by Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports. It is currently available on XBX/S, PS4/5 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to the game and the game was not completed. Around 1.5 hours were spent in co-op, either local or online.

Parents: This game has received a T rating from the ESRB, and contains Blood, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes and Violence. In short, it’s what you would expect from a wrestling game that that mimics the matches you’ll find on TV.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Sound is completely unimportant for finishing this game. I played several rounds with the sound turned completely off, and didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I’d say it’s fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: This game offers a controller diagram, and the control scheme is not remappable. However, I found it intuitive as the face buttons are used for kicks, while combining them with a bumper results in various advanced techniques. That being said, running finishers require some getting used to, as they can be tricky to pull off in the heat of battle.

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